Monday, 6 June 2016


Recently, I've been treating myself to a re-watch of Babylon 5. I missed this iconic 1990s Sci Fi series on its first run, and was only introduced to it a decade after it first aired; this is the first time I've watched it since.

One of the things that struck me on this viewing was how much the colours and soundtrack reflect the ambience of the 1990s. Pan flutes and orchestral bell glissandi fill the background; the walls are a mottling of blues, purples and pinks; the technology is built around crystals.

It feels like being 16 again.

The New Age tenor of the 1990s was one that drew me in as a teenager. I remember the scent of incense in the air, whale song and pan flute relaxation music in the background, cheesecloth and stretch velveteen, crystal pendants, blue-purple paintings of fairies touching noses with dolphins under a mystic moon. Sun-drenched days when my friends and I would take the train to Fremantle, eat ice cream from waffle cones in South Terrace Piazza, and lose ourselves in the (often unattainably expensive) mixture of cute, eclectic, romantic, spiritual and mystic wares in The Pickled Fairy, Ark of Joan and Into Camelot. Back then, every shopping centre had its "crystal shop" packed with geodes and prisms, slices of dyed agate, figurines of every mystic tradition from Ireland to Peru and back again, candles and oil burners, books and CDs, and cheap silver jewellery. I bought it, too... I had candles galore, crystals at every window, Tony O'Connor cassettes, glittery posters, cheesecloth outfits. Perhaps mercifully, I don't have any pictures handy to prove it. Have a very 90s fairy figurine instead:

Given to me at Christmas 1992. Her name is Lilia. I
shouldn't really still know that, right?
Photo: CSF
It's easy enough to create a sensory experience when you have the senses to play with, but it's more challenging when all you have is words. In fantasy, it's so easy to fall into the sensory shortcuts that the reader recognises - the pseudo-Europe of cold stone castles and oak trees. The Kingdom of the Sunset Sea is no such place. It's a sun-drenched land of red gravel and eucalyptus, of hot thunderstorms and dust, of cubic plaster houses and domed turrets replete with geometric designs. Every time I edit, I see more places where I can hint at the palette that paints the ten-towered world.