Yabbies – a bit of background

All right, I admit it: my novel Yabbies doesn’t say much about real-life yabbies. In fact they only put in one cameo appearance in the whole book:

“Yabbies. Funny little things, all in their own world at the bottom of the dam. A bit like us, ain’t they? Can’t see a thing for all the mud in the water; bits and pieces drift down, in any old order, all out of sequence, an’ we have to make sense of them as best we can.”

The real yabby is a small Australian crayfish, a kind of miniature freshwater lobster. They’re common all over Australia, particularly in the south-east, and can frequently be found burrowing into the sides of a farm dam – hence their Latin name cherax destructor. They seem to come in all kinds of colours, from muddy brown to red to white to a really startling blue, such as this fairly large one at something close to actual size:

Yet what’s the connection to the book? Uh.. not much, to be honest. 🙂 What’s now come out as the book first started out more than a dozen years ago as an idea about sustainability: namely, that we won’t be able to achieve any kind of sustainable economy unless we have a system of law that supports it – which we certainly don’t have at present. The working-title for the project was ‘Yet Another Book Idea’ – hence the acronym YABI. Which had a nice ring to it, and hence kind of stayed in the mind as ‘Yabbies’. Which is what the project has been called ever since. A bit unfair on real yabbies, and yabby-farmers and the like, perhaps, but there ’tis.

The idea of story-fragments that could assembled in any order came on quite early in project – in fact the first form in which it surfaced was as an interactive website in which people could make up their own story and add their own story-fragments to build a richer picture of the YABI ‘world’. (This was in the days before social-media, so it never really went anywhere: perhaps it might be worth-while having another go at recreating that website somewhen soon?) Later on, I tried doing it as a screenplay: it worked quite well as a story, but with so many characters in so many cameos it would almost certainly be too complicated an expensive to produce as a conventional film-type story. (But it might work well with current transmedia – another avenue to explore, perhaps.) All sorts of other frames I’ve tried out over the years: one version had technical notes attached to each story-fragment, another split it into separate story-streams for distinct audiences, and so on. But this version will do for now? – enough to get the story-ideas out there, anyway.

Its real aim, I guess, is to get some pretty challenging ideas out there in a more palatable form – hence packaging it as fiction. The ideas behind it, though, are not fiction at all: they’re real issues that somehow, collectively, we must all face, and definitely sooner rather than later. Make of it what you will, perhaps?

And the yabbies themselves? Yes, they’re strange little creatures, “all in their own world at the bottom of the dam”. Feeding on whatever falls down from the surface, making sense as best they can. Linking that across to my more usual ‘world’ of enterprise-architectures and the like, that’s kind of what we do every day, isn’t it? So I kind of like yabbies as a metaphor for ourselves… 🙂

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