When Melissa Ferguson was a kid she wanted to be an author because she loved reading. When she was a preteen she wanted to be a choreographer because she loved dancing, or a zoologist because she loved animals. When she was a teen she wanted to be a dietitian because she loved food. She ended up obtaining qualifications in biology and human nutrition and found herself working with things she didn’t love, like blood, faeces, placentas, cancer cells and flesh-eating bacteria (okay, maybe she loves blood a little bit). She didn’t return to her love of writing until she was in her thirties and her debut science fiction novel, The Shining Wall was published in 2019. She still loves food and animals but doesn’t get to dance as much as she’d like to. You can connect with her on twitter @melissajferg
1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?
My debut novel, The Shining Wall, was published by Transit Lounge Publishing in 2019. It is set in a futuristic society where the divide between rich and poor has resulted in the emergence of a walled corporate run city surrounded by slums. There is advanced technology such as brain implants and also Neandertals have been cloned as a cheap labour force with none of the rights of Homo Sapiens. The story follows a young woman called Alida who lives in the slums, as well as Shuqba a cloned Neandertal security officer, as they navigate the collapse of their unsustainable civilization.
Right now I’m working on a novel I’ve called The Vine. It’s about a carnivorous alien vine on a planet across the galaxy that connects members of a deteriorating human exodus cult with survivors on a devastated future Earth and gives three women the power to save or destroy the remnants of humanity. I started writing this story to explore reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in a post-apocalyptic setting but the themes have spiralled out from there to include gender and sexuality, possible human futures, consciousness, the environmental impacts of human civilization and our link to Earth as a species. It’s ultimately a hopeful story about healing and could be classified as solarpunk.
2. What has been the best publishing or SF community experience of your career so far?
I’ve really enjoyed participating in cons. Particularly Continuum in Melbourne. For the first couple of years I was very much a wallflower but I forced myself to get involved with panels and as a result I’ve met some wonderful people. I also had a lot of fun presenting Deep Dives on De-extinction and Neandertal Representation in Popular Culture.
The support and welcome I’ve received from authors in the SF community has been amazing. There are too many to mention them all and I’m afraid I’ll unintentionally leave someone out, but I’ll give a special shout out to Marlee Jane Ward and Meg Elison who blurbed my book (getting both of them was a dream come true) and Jane Rawson who launched my book even though we’d never met.
3. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge?
I’m really enjoying Kaaron Warren’s work at the moment and I think Eugen Bacon is a star on the rise. I also enjoyed James Bradley’s latest, Ghost Species, because it includes de-extinction and cloned Neandertals.