To say we are stoked about the cover of Eugen Bacon’s speculative fiction story collection, The Road to Woop Woop and Other Stories, is a huge understatement. We fell in love with Eugen’s writing with her debut novel, Claiming T-Mo, and this collection strikes all the chords with us that the novel did: luxurious, poetic prose; a playfulness that contrasts strikingly with the dark themes; characters we feel for deeply; and oh, so much atmosphere – whether it be a trip to woop woop across an Australian landscape that is familiar yet so, so not; or African stories that are the perfect blend of ancient and contemporary folk tale; and then everything above and in-between, including an otherworldly game of ball…or rather, skull. For the cover, we hoped to capture the dark and light in her stories, the Aussie and African influences, and an otherworldliness that permeates them all. We hope we succeeded!

The Road to Woop Woop & Other Stories

The Road to Woop Woop & Other Stories

The Road to Woop Woop is a lush collection of literary speculative stories that lauds the untraditional, the extraordinary, the strange, the peculiar, the unusual that exist within and on the borders of normalcy. These tales refuse to be easily categorized, and that’s a good thing: they are dirges that cross genres in astounding ways. Over 20 provocative tales, with seven original to this collection, and previous works, including: “A Pining,” shortlisted, Bridport Prize;  “A Case of Seeing,” honorable mention, Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Award; “Mahuika,” highly commended, Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) National Literary Awards; “Swimming with Daddy,” shortlisted, Alan Marshall Short Story Prize.

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Excerpt from “The Road to Woop Woop” (from the collection)

TUMBLING DOWN the stretch, a confident glide, the 4WD is a beaut, over nineteen years old.

The argument is brand new. Maps are convolutions, complicated like relationships. You scrunch the sheet, push it in the glovebox. You feel River’s displeasure, but you hate navigating, and right now you don’t care.

The wiper swishes to and fro, braves unseasonal rain. You and River maintain your silence.

Rain. More rain.

“When’s the next stop?” River tries. Sidewise glance, cautious smile. He is muscled, dark. Dreadlocks fall down high cheekbones to square shoulders. Eyes like black gold give him the rugged look of a mechanic.   

“Does it matter?” you say.

“Should it?”

You don’t respond. Turn your head, stare at a thin scratch on your window. The crack runs level with rolling landscape racing away with rain. Up in the sky, a billow of cloud like a white ghoul, dark-eyed and yawning into a scream.

A shoot of spray through River’s window brushes your cheek.

A glide of eye. “Hell’s the matter?” you say.

“You ask me-e. Something bothering you?”

“The window.”

He gives you a look.

Classic, you think. But you know that if you listen long enough, every argument is an empty road that attracts unfinished business. It’s an iceberg full of whimsy about fumaroles and geysers. It’s a corpse that spends eternity reliving apparitions of itself in the throes of death. Your fights are puffed-up trivia, championed to crusades. You fill up teabags with animus that pours into kettles of disarray, scalding as missiles. They leave you ashy and scattered—that what’s left of your lovemaking, or the paranoia of it, you wonder about that.

More silence, the cloud of your argument hangs above it. He shrugs. Rolls up his window. Still air swells in the car.

“Air con working?” you say.

He flexes long corduroyed legs that end in moccasins. Flicks on the air button—and the radio. The bars of a soulful number, a remix by some new artist, give way to an even darker track titled “Nameless’. It’s about a high priest who wears skinny black jeans and thrums heavy metal to bring space demons into a church that’s dressed as a concert. And the torments join in evensong, chanting psalms and canticles until daybreak when the demons wisp back into thin air, fading with them thirteen souls of the faithful, an annual pact with the priest.

Rain pelts the roof and windows like a drum.

He hums. Your face is distant. You might well be strangers, tossed into a tight drive from Broome to Kununurra.

The lilt of his voice merges with the sombre melody.

You turn your face upwards. A drift of darkness, even with full day, is approaching from the skies. Now it’s half-light. You flip the sun visor down. Not for compulsion or vanity, nothing like an urge to peer at yourself in the mirror. Perhaps it’s to busy your hands, to distract yourself, keep from bedevilment—the kind that pulls out a quarrel. You steal a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Deep, deep eyes. They gleam like a cat’s. The soft curtain of your fringe is softening, despite thickset brows like a man’s. You feel disconnected with yourself, with the trip, with River. You flip the sun visor up.

Now the world is all grim. River turns on the headlights, but visibility is still bad. A bolt of lightning. You both see the arms of a reaching tree that’s appeared on the road, right there in your path. You squeal, throw your arms out. River swerves. A slam of brakes. A screech of tyres. Boom!

The world stops in a swallowing blackness. Inside the hollow, your ears are ringing. The car, fully intact, is shooting out of the dark cloud in slow motion, picking up speed. It’s soaring along the road washed in a new aurora of lavender, turquoise and silver, then it’s all clear. A gentle sun breaks through fluffs of cloud no more engulfed in blackness. You level yourself with a hand on the dashboard, uncertain what exactly happened.

You look at River. His hands… wrist up… He has no hands. Nothing bloody as you’d expect from a man with severed wrists. Just empty space from the arms.

But River’s unperturbed, his arms positioned as if he’s driving, even while nothing is touching the steering that’s moving itself, turning and leveling.

“Brought my shades?” he asks.

“Your hands,” you say.

“What about them?”

“Can’t you see?”

His glance is full of impatience.

You sink back to your seat, unable to understand it, unclear to tell him, as the driverless car races along in silence down the lone road.