Tina Makereti: I’m going to start with the VUP blurb for the book, because it’s not an easy story to put into a few words: ‘In a radically changed Aotearoa New Zealand, Van’s life in the swamp is hazardous. Sheltered by Rau and Matewai, he mines plastic and trades to survive. When a young visitor summons him to the fenced settlement on the hill, he is offered a new and frightening responsibility—a perilous inland journey that leads to a tense confrontation and the prospect of a rebuilt world.’
It’s been interesting, already, to try to explain what the book is, and to watch others try to explain it. I think it defies easy genre categorisation, just as it defies attempts to explain the world you’ve built in the story. And for me, that works, because the future should be strange and unfamiliar, and it should make us think about the present.
'. . . the future should be strange and unfamiliar, and it should
make us think about the present.'
Lawrence Patchett: When I started this story, there was just a scene with two characters—Van and Rau—and a dead relative on a raft, burning. A grief scene. It seemed to connect to my own family history and background—via burning—and to the swampscapes I’ve always lived in, and I knew it was taking place in some sort of future world, but that was really all I knew. But I followed those characters, and the novel grew from there.
My fiction tends to go into whatever borderland of anxiety I’m negotiating at the time. Writing in a garage next to a roundabout that was loud with traffic, and 200-odd metres from where a vast new motorway was being hammered through, I was really worried about climate breakdown and its impact on our daughters. At the same time, I was learning te reo Māori in a dedicated way for the first time, and that learning was making me think more about my own identity as a Pākehā person, and about the legacy of history and colonisation that I’m part of. So, I found the fiction began to find ways to explore both those things: climate crisis, and my own place as a Pākehā in the system of colonisation. More: Victoria University Press