Kage Baker was fascinated by Australia.
Many people are. It’s an astonishing place from just about any angle of contemplation. Initially settled by a unique band of people, who chose a lifestyle quite unlike any other representatives of Homo sapiens. Home to thousands of animal and plant species found nowhere else in the world; possibly with the largest proportion of poisonous lifeforms in the world, including the only known poisonous monotreme. Edged by the largest construct ever raised by living beings; centered on the largest single stone in the world. Rich in minerals that are valuable, rare and/or radioactive.
Australia, yeah – it’s a hell of a place. Kage got a lot of lovely letters from the inhabitants, too, who appreciated her having Mendoza raised there. Kage admitted that she chose Australia because it was empty of nosy Europeans for a long, long time, and killed most people before it was finally, sort of, settled … plenty of time and room and Outback wherein to hide a Company Base and a constant tide of baby Operatives.
She always meant to write some stories about life at the Australia Base; she figured it had to be wild and wooly, if only because raising little super-intelligent cyborgs has to be a job that will turn even an immortal’s hair grey … I have various notes, not only from brain-storming sessions: from her and from me, as well. It’s impossible to resist a fascination with Australia and its environs, especially in regard to its wild array of peculiar mammals and birds. I did lots of research for Kage. She took everything we found, ran it through the Rube Goldberg machine in her head (which science fiction writers rent as a franchise …), and produced Notes On Life In The Immortals’ Boarding School for me to read.
In Australia, the Company must have been able to keep and raise endangered animals on ranches – enormous, isolated ranches, where nowadays the Aussies raise sheep and cattle and horses. Many species were probably naturalized and simply turned loose – who’s to say why so many parrots live there, or how they got there, or why they didn’t survive anywhere else? Ditto for giant lizards – among them being the goanna, a giant monitor lizard that is technically extinct, but is still reportedly sighted from time to time. Surviving giant monitor lizards would also include the ones the Company eventually re-settled on Komodo, which is only about 820 miles from Casuarina (a nice beach city), in the Northern Territory.
From our notes on Casuarina … it’s named for the native casaurine trees, a species of not-quite conifers that grow fast, have good, hard wood, lower soil Ph, fix nitrogen, and produce a rosin that is edible to humans and turnip moths … They’re a ferociously invasive plant elsewhere, as they exude compounds that can kill other plants (of course) that don’t enjoy an acidic soil. And that straight-line distance to Komodo Island? It also intersects one edge of Flores Island – home of the little hominins knows as Hobbits.
Those Hobbits are actually Homo floresiensis, a dwarf species of the Homo genus. There is evidence they are descended from Homo erectus, along a path none of the rest of us took. Interestingly enough, although it’s fairly well known when the Australian Aboriginals arrived in Australia – and when the British felons did, too – remains have been found of what appear to be quite another species. None other than Homo erectus – full sized ones. Kage thought they might have journeyed on from Flores, retaining their stature and eventually colonizing Australia: at least until the ancestors of the Homo sapiens Aboriginals got there. Although the Aboriginal peoples seem to be very nice folks, the initial entry of Homo sapiens into a neighborhood always raises problems and lowers property values …
And of course, both groups would have donated kids to the Company. Kage really wanted to write about a Hobbit Operative, too.
There’s more in this particular vein. It’s coalesced from my restless wanderings through old notes and general weirdness lately; I’ve found amazing old stories, uncanny reports and weird ideas, and had a few more of my own. I think I’ll be speculating on this more tomorrow, Dear Readers – if anyone is at all interested?
Think about it.