Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Block: THE STARS DOWN UNDER by Sandra McDonald

A wee bit late posting this today, but here's installment #3 in the series! As I said, there will be different formats depending on the authors. =) And we've got another author named Sandra up to the plate!

Written by Sandra McDonald

Title: The STARS DOWN UNDER by Sandra McDonald
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: March 18, 2008
ISBN: 978-0765316448

Building Blocks: Indigenous Australian Mythology

As a young ensign in the U.S. Navy, I once flew from rural Guam to Australia for a week's R & R in cosmopolitan Sydney and the surrounding Blue Mountains. Years later, my admiration for Australia and my experiences as a female military officer came together in a series of novels about love, duty and really big spaceships, including my most recent, THE STARS DOWN UNDER (Tor, 2008). Indigenous Australian mythology - along with its complexity, symbolism, and relative obscurity to North American readers - is a cornerstone of the series and the problems my heroes face.

No unified system of gods or beliefs holds true for all Indigenous or Aboriginal Australians. Hundreds of different groups across the continent have shared and adapted each other's myths during fifty thousand years of nomadic wanderings. For instance, many different regions have legends about the creator god known collectively as the Rainbow Snake. This creator god can be male or female, benevolent or malevolent, and has many different names and variations. I chose not to stick to a given one, such as Wawi or Kajura, because I didn't want to be tied to any single region of the country.

Myths linked to specific areas can sometimes be advantageous, however. In the first pages of THE STARS DOWN UNDER, a boy in the long-distant past is murdered by his own people after refusing go through with an initiation rite to manhood. The boy's corpse becomes the foundation for Burringurrah, an enormous red monocline in western Australia. This story from the Wadjari people parallels the refusal of my hero Sergeant Terry Myell to undergo military hazing. Burringurrah is twice the size of the better-known Uluru (Ayer's Rock), and when I needed a dramatic Australian setting for the resolution of Myell's arc, the amazing platform of rock came in quite handy.

A lot of fun I have with THE STARS DOWN UNDER is using not only Indigenous place-names (Myell comes from the planet "Baiame," which is the name of a very masculine hero) but also in bringing these legends to new audiences. Some people may still remember "walkabouts" from the Crocodile Dundee movies, but to go on a true walkabout is an endeavor fraught with the mystery of the natural and supernatural worlds. Meryl Streep made famous a certain catchphrase involving dingoes but those animals, along with many others, are useful in Indigenous storytelling and show up in my novels to symbolize the eternal Dreamtime.

If anything, researching and writing THE STARS DOWN UNDER and its companion books has given me a new way of thinking about the natural world outside the traditional European-American worldview. Exploring Australian on vacation was fun, but exploring its vivid mythology has been even more of an adventure for myself and, I hope, my readers.

Where To Get The Book: Amazon

Sandra's Website: www.sandramcdonald.com


Patrice Sarath said...

I want to get this book. This sounds great.

Chumplet said...

Congratulations, other Sandra!