ELSE FITZGERALD is a Melbourne-based writer. Her writing has appeared in various places including Visible Ink, Australian Book Review, Meanjin, The Suburban Review, and Award Winning Australian Writing. Her work has been recognised in awards including the Grace Marion Wilson Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Awards, the Fair Australia Prize, and the VU Overland Short Story Prize.
Her short story ‘Onder’ appears in The Suburban Review #14: DETRITUS.
Our Associate Editor, Andy Browne, interviews Else about her work.
Even though your story ‘Onder’ is set in the future, it feels so relevant to now. Did you feel it was an important story to tell, especially given its message about climate change and the lack of action taken?
Thanks! I’ve been writing climate fiction for a couple of years now, and I think these are important stories to be telling. Cli-fi can imagine unknown futures, both from utopian and dystopian perspectives. I hope in a way that this genre might function as a form of protest and act as a means of giving voice to alternative futures, and that showing people what the world could be like, how bad things could get, might possibly inspire behaviour change. I’ve been working on a collection of short speculative fiction that explores possible futures for a while now, and part of it is also about me trying to find a way to articulate my grief and struggles with all the science and research, with what is happening to our planet. Sometimes I just find it overwhelming and so writing about is a way to channel that.
The characters can understand each other’s emotions through the advanced technology of the story. This is a wonderful concept. Can you tell us what inspired this choice?
I’m really interested in the ways technology is going to impact the way we communicate with each other in the future, given how much it already has changed our interactions. The idea of Marijne and Pieter communicating through a neural implant and being able to ‘feel’ each other adds a layer to their relationship that I think is cool and maybe possible? It would be so weird to have someone in your head, able to feel what you’re feeling. I wonder in what ways this kind of technology will alter language—in the story they still speak to each other using words, both verbally and via the link, but I wonder if we actually would have less use for words if we can communicate in these sophisticated ways… A weird thought for me as someone who uses words for their work!
The character of Pieter has a passion for creativity while Marijne longs for a connection to her past. Are these elements of the characters drawn directly from you own life?
I guess in a way all the characters I write are in some way expressing a part of me or how I feel, but neither of these characters are direct representations of me or anything. There’s definitely a part of Marijne’s longing to see the ‘old world’ that is an expression of that same grief I have about the world we are losing right now. But in a way I also think with Marijne there’s a bit of a frustration for me in the way she’s looking back with all this grief and anger, which of course is natural, but also it’s a bit like what we’re doing right now. There’s not much of a sense in the story of them trying to do anything about the current situation, to look forward, using the technology they have to help others or the planet—they are sort of a bit passive. But to be honest I don’t think I was really thinking about that while I was writing, it’s only reading it back now that I’m thinking that!