Fans of the television series The Walking Dead, movie I Am Legend and video game series The Last of Us take note: a Bathurst author has produced a novel providing a uniquely localised take on the zombie genre.
Ironbark Creek, the debut novel by Bathurst academic David Stanley, uses the zombie apocalypse trope as a key plot point.
But Mr Stanley also hopes to promote Ironbark Creek as a work highlighting Indigenous Australian empowerment.
"The lead character is an Indigenous nurse named Cathy who, along with her two children, link up with a man called Jack to help build a community of survivors to defend against the zombies," he said.
"It's more about the community than the zombies, and I've tried to weave important aspects of pre and post-colonial Indigenous Australian history within the narrative."
"There's a part in the story where army personnel visit the community and surreptitiously try to take over, which reflects the colonisation of white settlers and the Indigenous response."
However, Ironbark Creek flips Australia's post-colonial narrative on its head by making Indigenous Australians the race with greater power and control.
"The zombies are the result of the side effects of an American vaccine produced to fight COVID-25; Indigenous Australians are immune to the vaccine," he said.
"So the narrative places Indigenous Australians in a position of power where they are essential to the survival of humanity."
Ironbark Creek uses the Central West as the main setting, in particular Wellington and surrounds, which Mr Stanley said will produce an identifiable setting for local readers.
"For the aforementioned community, I took inspiration from Stuart Town, which was formerly called Ironbark," he said.
Mr Stanley said the choice of a nurse as the lead character is a means to acknowledge the importance of attracting Indigenous Australians to a career in the health sector, as well as to change the portrayal of nurses in works of fiction.
"I've been a nurse for over 40 years, and we've always struggled to recruit Indigenous nurses and hold onto them within the profession," he said.
"Furthermore, I've written academic articles in the past on the image and portrayal of nurses in zombie films and how nurses would deal with braindead [but theoretically undead] patients and the ethics around it, which helped found parts of the story."
Mr Stanley is an Adjunct Professor in Charles Sturt University's [CSU] School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, and recently scaled his work commitments back to a periodic basis to concentrate on writing.
He started writing Ironbark Creek in 2019, and said the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter [BLM] movement influenced the novel to a certain degree.
"The 'COVID-25' virus is an obvious ode to the pandemic we're currently living through, and the racial tensions present within the novel are in line with the BLM protests which have risen in popularity over the last two years," he said.
"I hope people enjoy it; there's the typical "blood and guts" moments you'd expect within zombie fiction, but there's plenty of themes within the novel reflecting the importance of community and resilience in the face of life's challenges.
Mr Stanley said a follow-up to Ironbark Creek is currently in the works.
Ironbark Creek will be officially launched at Bathurst Library next Thursday, January 21 as part of the regular Author Talk events.
The book is available for purchase at BooksPlus Bathurst and from publisher Balboa Press. For more information, visit www.balboapress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/817519-ironbark-creek.