Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Bookish Tuesday: All At Sea

by Jeanette O'Hagan @jeanetteohagan

I was born in far inland, in semi-arid outback Queensland. Water was scarce until first one and then two big dams were built. Each year we would spend time on the coast, and, when I was on the verge of ten years, we sailed on an ocean liner across the Indian Ocean from Melbourne to Durban, part of our journey to another inland abode, Kitwe Zambia. Two years later we repeated the journey.

A visit to the beach is one thing. Two weeks on the southern ocean something else altogether. At the beach the ocean is (mostly) tamed, It comes in and breaks upon the shore in curly waves. Okay, not altogether tame, it has a limit to it. In fact, ancient sailors (before compasses, and sextants) often sailed within sight of the land so as not to get lost in the vast trackless wilds of the ocean. Even so, sailors in the Pacific Island used wind, currents, birds and other signs to venture out into the wild, blue deep.

For me, those two weeks swaying, slipping and staggering on the ship's deck, fighting nausea, was still a magical time. The sparkling blue-black waves stretched as far as my eye could see in every direction. Albatross and gulls followed the wake of the ship. Flying fish, dolphins, jelly-fish brought wonder and fired the imagination.

In a few of my recent stories, I've recaptured something of that wonder of the ocean. It got me thinking about books set at sea.

Jonah and Paul

In the Bible, the ocean is often a symbol of chaotic, unruly forces arrayed against God, forces that he has subdued and tamed. We can see this in the story of Jonah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New - where a disastrous storm brings fear and devastation - yet also God's sovereign control, as a great fish swallows Jonah, while Paul and all his companions lives are saved despite shipwreck. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus both calms the storm and walks upon the waves. However fierce the ocean may be, God is stronger. After all, He created it.

The Classics

A number of classic books are set at sea. Books like Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe,  Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, Moby Dick by Herman Melville or The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway to name a few.

Migration stories

In Australia - many early historical stories (both fictional and non-fictional) start with the First Fleet (the perilous journey, and the arrival and establishment of the convict colony in Jackson Bay, Sydney) or later ship arrivals in the eighteen century. Carol Preston's Mary's Guardian or Kate Grenville's The Secret River are examples.

No doubt there are also a great many stories surrounding the Pilgrim Fathers a couple of centuries earlier, stories which also include the privation and dangers of the voyage, as well as the challenges of settling in a new land and encounters with the original inhabitants. Mercy Clifton: Pilgrim Girl by Peter Marshall and David Manuel is a charming example aimed at young adult readers.

 The Light Between the Ocean

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman is set on a lighthouse on remote (fictional) Janus island situated off the coast of West Australia and between the Indian and Great Southern Oceans. While technically land, this small rock is at the mercy of the might waves and wind. The beautiful, wild, remote setting is integral to the dramatic ethical dilemma that confronts the main characters, Tom and Isabel and Stedman's descriptions are exquisite.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader 

C S Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is part of his Narnia series and is almost wholly set at sea. King Caspian sails to the end of the world in search of the banished seven lords, friends of his father. He is joined by the youngest Pevensie children and their insufferable cousin, Eustace. The ship's company face dangers and stop by on a number of strange and perilous islands on the way. From Eustace's transformation, to the albatross that leads them out of danger, to the Far Country and Aslan appearing as a lamb, there are numerous biblical and spiritual allusions woven into a delightful adventure story.

Rose of Admirias

I loved Charis Joy Jackson's floating kingdom in her Beauty of the Beast adaption Rose of Admirias. This story is rich in imagery and has an allegorical undertone. It is a story of betrayal, of bitterness, revenge and forgiveness with great characters in Averie, the Beast, the Elderpine Bryce and others.

Jewel of the Stars

Adam David Collings first episode of his Jewel of the Stars series, Earth's Remnant introduces us to a crew and passengers of a cruise ship - with two main differences. The ocean this 'ship' sails on is between the stars (or space) and, early on in the cruise,  it becomes clear that earth is under devastating attack by an alien force. The Jewel of the Stars is on its own and must flee earth space to survive. Earth's Remnant kept me flipping the pages, and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

On my to-read list

While many stories are set at or by the beach, an ocean is setting is less common.  With a bit of searching, I found some other Christian Fiction with a marine setting such as Forsaken Dreams by MaryLu Tyndall - a voyage to Brazil to establish a utopia in 1866  -  or My Enemy My Heart by Laurie Alice Eakes - with heroine facing the capture of her father's ship in 1812 by a privateer on the high seas.

In the world of Nardva

Earlier this year, I wrote Before the Wind for a collection of my stories  Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories (released in March 2018). Tamrak leads his people across the ocean to search of safety after his island is attacked. Researching and writing the effects of the winds and waves, the type of sailing crafts, ancient ways of navigation was both challenging and exhilarating, but most of all, I love immersing myself in my characters.

"... he dropped like an anchor-stone beneath the foaming surface.
       Cold gripped him and the roar and thunder of waves and winds, the hoarse shouts and cries from the other wakans were doused in a sudden muffled silence.
      The currents tossed him this way then that like a strand of dried seaweed in a high wind. Trails of silvery bubbles tracked their way to the surface, joining the foam of the crashing wave and collecting along the bottom of the hulls.
      He had to surface before he ran out of breath and the ocean claimed him. Clamping his mouth shut and tightening his chest muscles, he held what air he still had and kicked upwards.
      Something jerked him backward."
Before the Wind in Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories

With my near release Stone of the Sea (release date, end of the month; novella 3 in the Under the Mountain series), Delvina and Zadeki continue their efforts to save the under the mountain realm, including a sea voyage of a crystal powered White Ship into unknown dangers. 

And earlier this year, I wrote a short story for an anthology (due release later this year). My story, Maroon's Sanctuary, is set deep in the ocean beneath the icebound surface of a frozen moon.  The story required another foray into pressures, depths, moons, breathing underwater, and cloning, as I explored the depths of the ocean. While the other two stories are epic fantasy, this one has a more futuristic slant. 

The ocean can be both mysterious and dangerous. Sometimes we need to leave the safety of the shore, to risk the storms and unseen perils.  But even in the storms of life, we know our Lord is with us.


Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children and new release Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

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  1. I felt a similar sense of wonder on my cruise, looking out and seeing nothing but water and sky.

    Can't wait for Stone of The Sea.

    1. It is an amazing experience. And I love that the cruise experience informed writing Jewel of the Stars.

      I should have ARC copies of Stone of the Sea available soon.

  2. What a great list, and probably excellent for beach reads. Easy to imagine the motion of the waves and smell of the salt just thinking about them.

    1. LOL That's a fantastic idea for a even greater immersive experience, Paula. Glad you enjoyed the list :)

  3. beautiful website.. Love it. well set out.

  4. I enjoyed this thanks. Read it late last night actually. I love the beach (land) but I love to gaze at the ocean in all its moods. Great description, Jenny.

    1. Thanks, Jeanette, glad you enjoyed it. At the beach we get to enjoy the ocean from the relative safety of the land - but nothing like being surrounded by ocean.

  5. I understand, Jeanette--I live in a desert, too.