Aurealis 89 – The Lighthouse at Cape Defeat

Aurealis #89, available now on Smashwords, leads off with my short story ‘The Lighthouse at Cape Defeat’. I won’t say anything specific about the story, not before the statute of limitations on spoilers expires, but I did want to say something about where this story came from.

I have a strange relationship with the concept of duty. The notion of holding to an ideal so strongly that you give your life over to it, that you surrender part of your identity in service to some greater cause, fascinates me.

In this story, each of the three main characters are motivated by their sense of duty to their personal cause, but each of them comes to it via a very different path. One sees no other choice than to serve so that order can be restored, one serves in order to preserve their privileged position, and another acts from certain knowledge that giving up will have disastrous consequences.

I look at people in my life with a genuine dedication to an ideal, a principle or a community – hell, even a sports team – and I wonder how they do it. I’m not talking about blind, unquestioning devotion here, which I think is generally unhealthy. Rather I mean nose-to-the-grindstone, do-what-has-to-be-done persistence in the face of nagging obstacles, fair-weather support or the sheer impossibility of their objective.

I wonder how deep my own reserves of persistence go. I wonder what circumstances would drive me to throw myself into a daunting quest with passionate determination. I wonder what it would take to convince me to change my life to pursue some (hopefully noble) great cause.

My strong suspicion is that the answer would disappoint me.

I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I wrote the story. I just wanted to spin a yarn about a cranky veteran’s solitude being invaded by an annoying bureaucrat, plus ghosts. But as I wrote it I kept coming back to the question of duty and dedication. What started as a mildly spooky image of ghosts burying bones at the foot of a lighthouse turned into an exploration of different expressions of duty.

By the way, the mule is just a mule, but if you want to think of it as metaphor for stubborn, obstructive bureaucracy, I won’t stop you.

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4 Responses to Aurealis 89 – The Lighthouse at Cape Defeat

  1. Not a Real Clam but I am a Real Dr says:

    Smashwords reminded me that I already had an account when I followed the link to buy Aurealis #89. I found that I had bought ‘Next’ before, ’cause of it also having a story in it by my old mate Dave, and THAT ONLY I HAD WRITTEN A SMASHWORDS REVIEW OF IT 🙁

    What is wrong with your other five ‘zine subscribers? They should drop everything, now, go and get their own copy of ‘Imported Goods: Aisle Nine’ + backing stories, and then review it. Posthaste. Dammit. And for non-subscribers reading this post: subscribe to Dave’s newsletter, then do those things.

    I am getting into grant-writing mode so feel quite comfortable in writing the following statement: This transformative fiction of David Versace’s will have a real impact, not only in terms of bringing new insights to our fundamental understanding of the universe, but in adding value to key Australian industries, improving their environmental sustainability, and potentially, to markedly raise the quality of everyday life for consumers both in Australia and overseas.

  2. Lexifab says:

    To be fair, I’m not sure that many people *do* write reviews at Smashwords. Which is certainly a pity, but not unexpected. Personally I do Amazon and Goodreads reviews, and not always then.

    To be fair to the other zine subscribers, at least two of them have a similar conflict of interest to mine in reviewing that particular anthologised work, and another one is my Mum, who might struggle to appear impartial. 🙂

    “Grant-writing mode” appears to be a euphemism for “descent into a nightmarish jargon-fugue from which neither light nor hope may break free”.

    (But thank you. You are too kind!)

    • Dr Clam says:

      You can never have too many glowing reviews from your Mums sock-puppet accounts. IMHO. I do recall there were many more ‘Next’ reviews in those other places, come to think of it…

      • Lexifab says:

        Speaking for myself, I think of Smashwords primarily as “the place to go to buy the book because that’s where the book I want is being sold” rather than a place where I’ll search for my next book. Something about the navigation rubs me the wrong way.

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