Female Planet

After finishing The Forest of Life I actually suffered some kind of withdrawal symptoms – detachment from the characters, and scenes – and even though the process of writing it was broken up and quite unusual I still enjoyed it, and putting it together at the end had shown me that writing a book could be fun, and a great way to get my narrative ideas out there – so all up I was keen for another one.

Jodie is bored with her life, despite a steady job and a loving partner, life is somehow unfulfilling. Her greatest wish is to have her own daughter, but her partner Sal isn’t ready yet.

Sal is working hard as a landscape gardener and starting her own nursery business, and there simply isn’t the perfect time to have a daughter.

Until one day the penny drops and Sal just knows it’s right.

Overjoyed they attend a fertility specialist, but in the Earth of three hundred years into the future where there are no men, getting pregnant is a complicated matter. They eventually agree on a stimulated stem cell procedure, and the implantation and pregnancy proceed successfully.

Jodie and Sal enjoy all the ups and downs of the early stages of the pregnancy until Jodie has a routine midterm scan.

What they find tears at their relationship and threatens their pregnancy and the very basis of their whole society.

The Forest of Life is pretty thick with ideas, and I wanted to do something, that although it had ideas was pretty story focused – I tossed around a lot of the ideas I had and decided that Female Planet would be the best story to write next. I had a treatment I wrote for it in August 2014 but hadn’t done anything with it since then. I wrote the treatment for it to be a film, but I knew it was pretty solid story wise and would work quite well as a novel.

So I started writing it as a book in July 2017, and even then the idea of writing a character out of your direct experience was a hot topic – but this didn’t worry me. I felt if I researched and listened I could get the perspective – or at least as right as I could get it. And I think that’s something that a lot of people miss – I can only ever write my perspective of a story or scenario. There are as many different perspectives as there are people, and everyone has the right to write their perspective on something, whether it’s through the medium of a narrative story, or whatever they like. Me writing this story in no way takes away someone else’s ability to write their story or perspective of these themes and ideas. I can only ever express my view on something, not a culture’s view of itself (whether it’s my culture or not) – and that’s to say nothing of the fact that there is no one definition of any culture or sub-culture – there are as many versions of it as there are participants in it, and people thinking of it.

But ultimately my main belief underpinning doing it was, it could be done and done well because we’re all human beings – there’s a commonality that transcends all the differences and ways we identify ourselves, and if I could work from that first, it would work as a book and a depiction of people first and foremost, regardless of their culture and identity. And if I couldn’t do that then what does that say about humanity? That we are eternally different and fractured? I just don’t believe that.

At the same time I was nearing the end of my degree in Anthropology, and one of the fundamentals underpinning the whole science of Anthropology is that you can see other people’s perspectives. Anthropology wouldn’t work if you couldn’t – sadly though it took well over a century for the science of Anthropology to come to that realisation, and to start listening and accepting and not judging and classifying people. But that’s another discussion – suffice to say in modern Anthropology it’s called the emic perspective and we are even taught techniques in how to practise it ~ but it’s not hard – it’s just basic human respect for another person and their experience.

So armed with all that the first thing I did was draw on what I had been told over the years by friends of mine who are lesbians, and then reading and researching – but most of all just listening and letting people and their messages communicate to me, without judging it or filtering it ~ just hearing it.

By May 2018 I had the book finished to a state I was happy with.

Most of the book is science fiction of course – set in a future where there are no men, so a whole world and back-story had to be invented around that, and I was a little bit miffed to work out there’s no way I could make it fit in with the universe in The Forest of Life – so it had to be a totally separate universe to that. I decided to set it around where I was living at the time (the northern suburbs of Toowoomba) just for fun and to give me a realistic touchstone to work from.

The thing I like about the story is it is pro both men and women, homo and hetero relationships – whilst still being critical of some things now that need it. All this can be lost in a superficial reading of the book though, but thankfully most people haven’t read it that way.

I did a giveaway through the blog Women and Words, and the response was quite positive, which meant a lot to me. In fact if you listen to the accompanying podcast (at 38:44) you can hear the hosts Andi and Jove discussing that this is the first time they’d ever been presented with a book by a cis gendered heterosexual male, and what to do. They mention that they’d talked about the possibility of this happening in the past, and they always wanted to provide an inclusive space for anyone who is respectful of what they are about, regardless of that person’s background. And I think that’s just a beautiful and fundamentally decent approach, which is a great example to the idiots who criticise them for the lives they lead.

I was fortunate enough to get some good coverage in Style Magazine, which covered many things, including the book, and the Book Tree in Toowoomba stocked it as well.

The only time I ever got any blow back was the from the State Library of Queensland Bookshop – they had a few on consignment and after a few weeks received a complaint about the cover and so removed the book from sale. I didn’t even know about this until I happened to call them a few weeks later about something. Needless to say I was shocked and disappointed – I thought the book store gave in when they shouldn’t have. I think really it wasn’t the cover (I’ve seen way more explicit ones) but I think it was the subject matter that offended some prude and they used the cover as a way to get it pulled.

I spoke to some friends about it, who were just as enraged as I was – and said I should go to the media – and well I tried but no one was interested!  LOL {So much for the publicity that could have bought! ha ha}. So I wrote a letter to the Qld Premier, The Arts Minister and the Director of the State Library. After a while I got a letter back from the Director of the library, apologising for what had happened and telling me the library endorsed different view points etc etc, and the book was back on sale.

The cover has always been an interesting point – it doesn’t convey anything about the story, and I wanted something to express a soft sensual feeling, which I think it does really nicely. I’m open to other cover ideas, but I don’t see anything wrong with this one.

So that’s it – I’m quite proud of this book – I think the story works really well – and could make a great film one day too.

The debate about writing “the other” still rages and I felt compelled to do a little video about it, but essentially if it’s done respectfully I think it’s alright – if it’s not, then blerggh! What a waste of time – my idea is I want to listen to people because I want to portray their culture accurately, which is what I did when I travelled to North Queensland to learn about the culture of the Jirrbal Aboriginal people back in ’98, and it’s been my approach ever since – I mean if you don’t want to portray a culture accurately then what do you want?

But anyway I don’t want any of that to overtake the book – it’s just a great story, a love story – with a really exciting and moving ending – and there could be a sequel one day too – thematically and narratively it’s really right for one

Interviews and web links