by Jennifer Lee Rossman
The hot Australian sun scorches your skin. There's hardly a tree or blade of grass in sight because the desert is too dry to sustain them. The climate is so unforgiving, half the town lives in underground dugouts and converted opal mines.
It sounds like the setup to a futuristic sci-fi story, but this is a real town called Coober Pedy.
Most of the world's opals come from this part of Australia, and temperature in the opal mines stays cool while the mercury topside regularly reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). Naturally, people decided it would be more comfortable to live down there.
The underground homes are furnished and lit just like the ones above-ground, and only the rock walls and lack of windows give any indication that you're underground. They have dugout motels, churches, and shops, and Coober Pedy is famous for its golf course. No, it isn't underground, but it is played in the cooler temperatures of night, with balls that glow in the dark.
I've been transfixed by this town since I learned it existed, and had to make a futuristic version.
In "Riot of the Wind and Sun," Coober Pedy has seen climate change raise temperatures to an unbearable extreme, and no one lives on the surface anymore. I've also imagined a series of tunnels that create a fully subterranean city, and turned the land topside into a massive solar and wind farm to give it that uniquely solarpunk aesthetic.
My version of Coober Pedy is a town trying to thrive in an unforgiving world that has forgotten all about it. It might not look like much on the surface, but it's a vibrant and colorful little gem, if you're just willing to dig a little.
Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York, who enjoys cross stitching, watching Doctor Who, and threatening to run over people with her wheelchair. Her work has been featured in several anthologies and her debut novel, Jack Jetstark's Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published by World Weaver Press in 2019. A time travel novella, Anachronism, is out now from Kristell Ink. You can find her blog at jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com and Twitter at twitter.com/JenLRossman.
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