The story behind The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton

So, it seems I have a thing for bones. And rubbish. Put them both together and I get really excited! Or so I've learned, from The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories.

None of the stories within this anthology were written with a collection in mind. But, you know, they seem to work well together anyway. And I think that's all down to my strange fixation with bones -- and rubbish -- a fixation I never even realised I had, until seeing them all together like this.

All of the stories in this anthology came from different places. I wrote The Bone Chime Song after a yoga class. You know the bit at the end where you're supposed to sit there for five minutes and meditate? Yeah, I'm no good at that. Instead, I was listening to the wind chime outside the window, and wondering what it was saying. Does a wind chime sing the song of the wind, or the materials it was made of? Somehow, this idea turned into a murder-mystery with necromancy and forbidden love, and a wind chime made out of bones.

Out Hunting for Teeth started with the Goya etching of the same name. Google it, have a look, it's creepy and amazing. It depicts a witch stealing the teeth of a hanged man to use in her magic. The first time I saw this drawing, I was entranced. I knew it needed to become a story -- and so I created a mechanical witch in a derelict spaceship. Her spells are disturbing half-human, half-machine creatures sent out to hunt the remaining people on board, to use their bones and their neural networks in her "magic".

I really enjoy this kind of blending of the technological and the biological. It speaks to me on genre lines -- science fiction is the tech, fantasy is the organic, but they're both so much more interesting when you mix them together. Tied to the Waste does it too. This story started when the first line popped into my head -- "Leichhardt watched me as the waste rolled in" -- and a single image of someone in a wheelchair, with a dead bird on their lap. It turned into a post-apocalyptic landscape, sandpapered down by massive scrap-storms, and a witch and her engineered cats making magic from the detritus of civilisation.

Can you see the pattern? Bones, and rubbish. The strongest example of this has got to be Sanaa's Army. This story was inspired by a friend of mine, who really does use the bones of dead animals in her artworks. But in the story, there is a connection between the creation of art and the very integrity of the main character herself. She uses discarded things -- from scrap metal to road kill -- to build her works, and in doing so calms the restless bones inside her own body.

These are just a few of the stories, but I think this imagery is there in all of them, sometimes obvious, sometimes not. But why? I've been trying to work this out. I didn't set out to do this, and the inspirations for these stories are all so different. Why do I come back to bones, and rubbish? It's not a morbid fascination with death, I think, or an over-zealous urge to recycle. It’s something about their discarded nature. Bones are just bones because there's no body left to need them. Rubbish is like that too. Every little piece of random plastic was necessary, once. But now they're both... lost.

I think there's power in that loss. Once upon a time these bones and bits of scrap had meaning, and the memory of that meaning hangs around like, I dunno, a kind of potential energy. They make for powerful symbols and, in my worlds at least, powerful magic.

Either way, it's yet another example of the writerly brain going off and doing it's own thing when we think we're writing something completely different. But the writerly brain knows what it's doing, and I've long since learned not to fight it. Just go along for the ride.


Joanne Anderton
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