I took a few minutes to talk with Rebecca Langham to pick her mind about Beneath the Surface and to see what she had upcoming. Fun fact, Rebecca Langham is Australian!
What drew you to writing about ‘aliens’?
“One of my favourite things about sci-fi is its ability to consider social and political themes using a distant frame. The Outsiders were always about the concept of humanity’s fear regarding difference, as well as our own obsession with being superior as a species.”
Why did you call them Outsiders?
The concept came from a lot of reports I kept seeing about how the Australian government treated asylum seekers. Then there were all the HORRIBLE comments on Facebook articles, with everyday people always saying they were “illegal” and we shouldn’t waste our resources to help them…but there’s actually no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker because Australia has ratified multiple UN declarations that ensure the rights of people fleeing persecution.
‘Outsiders’ is all about the rhetoric of public discourse. The irony of the term becomes clear by the end of the novel. None of us are Outsiders — but words and attitudes can make us feel that way.
I myself see a lot past historical events in this book like segregation and even events here in America now. What appealed to you to write this?
As a History teacher, I’m fascinated by the notion of memory. There’s not a specific historical event reflected metaphorically in BTS, but rather a thematic discussion around the ways that ‘self’ is defined by the past. The difficulty is that the past can be controlled and manipulated. Women’s history is an obvious example of this, but there are many. The notion of ‘revised history’ has gained a lot of traction in recent decades as a result.
Winston Churchill said “History is written by the victors”, and I wanted to — even just for my self — look at how it may impact upon the collective and individual identities of people to always feel that they’d been in the wrong, that they somehow owed the world a debt because history books have told them as much. I’m not an expert in psychology or anthropology and I can’t pretend to have painted an accurate picture, but these are the larger forces of historical representation that I find quite fascinating and which in turn influenced the novel.
What are your future plans and what can we look forward to from you? Are you planning any more books or currently working on any?
I’m working on the second book — the follow up to Beneath the Surface. The story isn’t finished just yet. It’s a tricky novel to write because the characters have a very new reality to deal with, and there are a few more answers about the government conspiracy to be found.
After that, I have a list of ideas long enough to spend the next five years writing. I take a while to finish books (thanks to my children and full time job).