Celts All

By B A Keon-Cohen

sfgenre“You must be from Ireland,” I say. The train is crowded as all Melbourne trains are at rush-hour.

“No, Scotland.”

“Oh, I do apologise,” with a laugh. My work-bag is locked between my feet: laptop, files, all closely guarded.

“No trouble. People confuse the accent.”

Our hands grope for a seat-handle, hip-high, as we stand in the lurching crowd. Whoever built these tracks should be sued. Actually, my barristerial practice needs a boost. A massive class action on behalf of commuters tossed around in trains due to bumpy tracks. That’d be fun – and costly. I carefully place my hand on the pole between us, so as not to touch hers. With each lurch, other hands grab for our pole. 

“You still have a very obvious accent – and attractive, don’t get me wrong.”

She smiles, relaxed. There’s no hint of seduction.

“That’s o-kay. I’ve been here…” She pauses, her eyes squinting, gazing out the window, rushing blackness, the subway pouring beneath the city. “Twenty-six years.”

“Well – you’re nearly a local. My mum came from Yorkshire, and never lost her accent.” I think for a moment. How much do you tell a total stranger? What the hell. I’m tired, she’s homely, not the grasping type. “Though when she met my dad, she abandoned her north-country drawl, and learnt Oxbridge.” I don’t add: “Bit of a snob, really.” I know nothing about this human, after all. But I like her style.

“Yes, well, my friends say – ‘When will you lose your accent?’ – and I tell them: never. It’s me. I’m Scottish, get used to it.”  

“That’s exactly right. It’s a big part of you,” I agree.

“And when I’m back there, with the family, I come away and my accent’s even broader. My husband often notices.”

“Really. Where are you from?”


“I’ve only been to Edinburgh. Nice place. We hung out at this pub, forgotten the name. It was on a hill, overlooking the city. Had a traditional name – The Good Burgers of Something or other?”

She shrugs her shoulders. 

“Lots of pubs in Edinburgh. And you?” she asks. “Your folks?”

I smile, reach for a different handle as the train lurches again, can’t find one, and replace my hand nearly over hers. A diverting cleavage appears below me, on a seat to my left, flashes amongst the raincoats and shopping bags – and is gone. 

“Well, that would take many stations – but County Leitrim, in Ireland. Celts too, of course. Perhaps we’re related. I bet we are.”

“Oh, I doubt that,” she grins. She arranges a shapeless tracksuit top, runs a strong, thick, working-hand through her fuzzy hair. I guess she’ll get off at Mordialloc, or maybe Frankston, well down the line. I might be wrong, but that’s my guess. I look again, and recognise her shapeless, blue top as a uniform, a “Royal Children’s Hospital” logo is stitched across her shoulder-pads.  

“You work at the Children’s?”

“Yes. In Emergency. It’s very busy.”

“I’m sure it is. My brother’s training in anaesthetics.”

“Oh, that’s also very stressful.”

“Yes, it is, we’re learning that.”

People are talking, as if picking up our cue, as if encouraged to reach out, to engage. The train emerges from the underground, picks-up speed, careers towards Richmond, a major intersection. We grab for the handle, for the pole, like dancers in a strip-joint, thrown this way and that, touch flesh on flesh, and grab again. It doesn’t matter. There’s no chemistry, no allure, no excitement. Just two commuters thrown together. The cleavage appears again, heaving amongst the swaying crowd, just a flash, a trigger more than a thing-in-itself, but unsettling, generating rushes not fit for a public place. A crowd clambers in, another gets off. New meetings, conversations, possibilities.

“Well,” I continue, as we pick-up speed, “what do they say – only six degrees of separation? Friends of mine work at the Children’s. I bet I know people you know. That’s the world, isn’t it?”

“Yes, you’re right. But then, this country has such a mixture, from all over.” 

“But you Celts, aren’t you all the same? Why are the Irish and Scottish both ‘Celts’? Any idea?”

“Never thought about it,” she grins. Her twang is unmistakable, her sing-song lilting voice musical, like, well, like the Irish. But no ‘boyo’s’ or ‘da’ or ‘by the Jesus’, or weird words. Just straight talk: easy, confident, solid, like her. She seems happy to natter on, speaking of herself, her children, her job. 

“I suppose you Celts all came from the same ancestor, the same mob, way back. Angles, Saxons and Jutes – didn’t they invade Britain. Or was it Celts?”

“Not sure,” she says.

“What’s your mob in Scotland?”

“The Campbells.”

“Oh my God, heathen savages, all of you. Didn’t you guys murder the McDonalds? Own half of Scotland, and rape and plunder the rest? How many castles do you own? Can I visit?”

“Oh, nothing like that,” she laughs. “Not my family. We never had much.” 

I guess, after twenty-six years, she still doesn’t have much – at least, not in bricks and mortar, not in the bank. But she isn’t the sort to complain. A gritty battler. No frills, tough, resilient. 

I tell her about Sicko, the documentary by Michael Moore, about the cruel hypocrisy of the US health insurance system. 

“You should see it. If I bring my child to the Children’s, suffering let’s say, a fractured arm, do I pay?”

“No, it’s a public hospital. But you might have to wait.”

“Yes. I suppose that’s right. Well, this is my station. All the best. Nice to chat – and good luck with the anaesthetics.”

I leave her there, clinging to her pole. The cleavage is gone: no doubt deserted us at Toorak or South Yarra or some such posh joint up the line.

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About the Author

Bryan Keon-Cohen

Bryan Keon Cohen 200Bryan is a writer, activist and retired-barrister based in Melbourne, Australia. He appeared in the High Court in significant constitutional, native title and refugee matters including the Mabo litigation, Bryan has published numerous legal articles, and the book "A Mabo Memoir" (2013).

Bryan’s insightful and engaging fiction has been published in Australia in Woorilla (2010), Idiom (2019), StylusLit (2019), Antipodean Sci Fi (2020), and in the UK, Bandit Fiction (2018).


In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 288

Blue Moon
By Harris Tobias

Fido, the Cat, and the Capsule
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

Three Eight Two (part one)
By Andrew Dunn

Yoni's Potential
By Greg Foyster

By Salvatore Difalco

Daddy's Always Right
By Chuck McKenzie

An Irregular Ode to the Loch Ness Monster
By Michael Leach

By Jared Bernard

The Hideous Deed
By Fulvio Gatti

Review - Not Death VR (Version 3.1.007)
By Rodney Sykes

By PS Cottier

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.


mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.


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Please consider joining the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, a prime supporter and promoter of speculative fiction down-under.


AntipodeanSF August 2022


Speculative Fiction
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <alistairlloyd.com>.


tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

Tim lives with his wife Georgie in beautiful Far North Queensland. For more information, visit his Tim Borella – Author Facebook page.angle mic

sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

The Contributors

Former Aussie former music journalist, now working in media Payroll and moonlighting as an author.

Fantasy and sci fi are hands down her favourite genres, both to read and write after she got the writing bug after reading the Discworld series as a kid, and Sir Terry remains her favourite author of all time.

When she's not writing, she loves hanging out with her family watching Star Trek or sport to relax.


Roger Wang is a senior currently working towards his philosophy and media studies degree at Rutgers University.

His appreciation of things equally Kafkaesque as they are sublime is what drives his interest towards the speculative fiction genre.

He has been published at 365 Tomorrows.

jessie atkin 200Jessie Atkin writes fiction, essays, and plays.

Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Flock Lit, Writers Resist, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere.

She can be found online at <jessieatkin.com>.

Zach writes speculative fiction in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

You can find some of his short stories at <https://medium.com/@zachary-deinreisch>.

brian mahon 200Brian Mahon is a former cook, lab technician, submariner, and now-and-then writer.

He splits his remaining energies seeking knowledge, fighting age, doing laundry, and writing as a creativity relief valve.

He can be reached both on Facebook <@MahonMiscellany> and through his website, <www.mahanimalism.net>.

Bryan Keon Cohen 200Bryan is a writer, activist and retired-barrister based in Melbourne, Australia. He appeared in the High Court in significant constitutional, native title and refugee matters including the Mabo litigation, Bryan has published numerous legal articles, and the book "A Mabo Memoir" (2013).

Bryan’s insightful and engaging fiction has been published in Australia in Woorilla (2010), Idiom (2019), StylusLit (2019), Antipodean Sci Fi (2020), and in the UK, Bandit Fiction (2018).


deb sheldon 200Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum.

Some of her titles include the horror novels Body Farm Z, Contrition, and Devil Dragon; the horror novella Thylacines; the romance-suspense novella The Long Shot; and the collections Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories, and the award-winning Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work 2017”).

Her short fiction has appeared in Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Breach, AntipodeanSF and many other well-respected magazines. Her fiction has been shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in various “best of” anthologies.

Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit her at <deborahsheldon.wordpress.com>





Whenever he can, Ed likes to listen to people’s interactions — in real-life and/or through the media. Taking overheard conversations as a starting point, he then attempts to create what interactions might follow — regarding plot, character and motivation. 

Ed believes that what people say, and how they say it helps define their character; this notion transcends status, class, accent, race, and gender. Note Ed is not a spy. The stint he spends on eavesdropping real-life situations is severely constrained by the time taken for his coffee to get cold. 

His following spoken piece — ‘Like’ — was inspired by the beginnings of a conversation he overheard ‘twixt two young teenagers while awaiting the arrival of his auspiciously affordable affogato.


Tony Owens is an ESL teacher living in Brisbane with his wife and son.

His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies In Fabula-Divino, Zombies Ain’t Funny,18, Darkest Depths and Andromeda Spaceways Magazine 2017’s Best Stories.

He is a proud member of the Vision Writers Group and his ultimate ambition is to find the literary sweet-spot between H.P. Lovecraft and P.G. Wodehouse.


Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels: The Greer Agency & A Felony of Birds. He has written dozens of short stories many of which are available on line at <quantummuse.com>. He is the author of many children’s books including At The Robot ZooMoonRivet Saves His Skin and An Alphabet Book of Bugs available in print from CreateSpace and as ebooks for Nook & Kindle. You can find links to his writings here: <harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com>

ps cottier 200PS Cottier is a poet who lives in Canberra, with a particular interest in speculative poetry.

She has been published widely at home and in Canada, England, New Zealand and the USA.

Two of her horror poems were finalists in the Australian Shadows Awards for 2020. Her latest books are Monstrous, which is a volume of speculative poems, and Utterly, which is non-genre.

PS Cottier is the Poetry Editor at The Canberra Times and blogs at <https://pscottier.com>


kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.