Friday, July 10, 2009

Kelly Country - an Australian future?

What if Ned Kelly escaped police capture in 1880 and led a successful Irish-Australian rebellion against British authority? A. Bertram Chandler’s novel Kelly Country (1984) explores an alternate history in which the bush ranger Ned Kelly was not captured and hanged but led a successful revolution, ultimately becoming the president of an Australian republic, which degenerated into a hereditary dictatorship with the result that Australia becomes a world power.

The books synopsis centres around a mental time traveller who organises Kelly's escape. In the nineteenth century, Ned Kelly (and friends) lead a revolution against corrupt colonial government in order to establish a republic. They use various technologies available at the time (but not all widely used), including a precursor to airships, rail and gatling guns. A number of other historical figures, events and technologies affect the story. This book fits into the SF genre of Steampunk.

The story shifts between the nineteenth century and modern times. When the time traveller wakes up the world has changed with Australia rather than the United States embroiled in the Vietnam War. All because Curnow never stopped the train (he ended up getting his brains bashed in instead)! The Australia has now shifted to a future where "The Kelly" is a hereditary dictator.

Arthur Bertram Chandler (28 March 1912–6 June 1984) was an Australian science fiction author. Born in Aldershot, England, he was a merchant marine officer, sailing the world in everything from tramp steamers to troopships. Chandler emigrated to Australia in 1956 and became an Australian citizen. He commanded various ships in the Australian and New Zealand merchant navies, and was the last master of the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne as the law required that it have an officer on board while it was laid up waiting to be towed to China to be broken up. Chandler wrote over 40 novels and 200 works of short fiction. He was most well-known for his John Grimes novels and for the Rim World series, which have a distinctly naval flavour. He won Ditmar Awards for the short story The Bitter Pill (in 1971) and for three novels False Fatherland (in 1969), The Bitter Pill (in 1975), and The Big Black Mark (in 1976).

‘Kelly Country’ was originally published as a short story in Void, 3 May 1976 and received a Ditmar nomination and was the basis of the novel of the same name.