Welcome to THE NEXT 5 MINUTES, a five-episode series which follows the fortunes of four memorable characters whose dark and sometimes comical stories connect in strange ways in the dystopian Gondwanaland (the nation formerly known as Australia) of the near future.

The Next 5 Minutes is the first Spineless Wonders fiction podcast co-produced with Ear Candy Media and Echidna Audio and funded by CreateNSW.  It has been adapted from joanne burns’ unpublished novella, ‘Australia Who’ by Ian Walker.

Ep. 1 Zilch

Orphaned teenage sisters make it to the city to find work as indentured “Pigironers”, carrying beach tourists on their backs so they avoid the acid surf. Zilch is connected to her older sister Pronto via telepathy. Everything is set to change after they meet a charismatic stranger at a waterhole who turns out to be a recruiter for the underground resistance group Swag Sting. The encounter with Space will change their lives forever.

Ep. 2 Pronto

Released: Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Zilch and Pronto regularly connect via telepathy, bonding over gossip and sharing hardships of their past – from being raised by a hippie mom in a self-destructive cult to losing their parents in a murderous arson. Escaping the city, they join the underground resistance, led by the notorious Rufas, targeting wealthy symbols and politicians. Despite infighting and Pronto’s protests, Zilch embarks on a risky intel-gathering mission in Canberra using a “pendant cam” and a fake identity. Her cover is blown and her escape attempt leads to a potentially fatal swim. Has Zilch drowned in the murky artificial waters of Lake Burley Griffin?

Ep. 3 Byrone

Release: Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Byrone H. Ellis is a politician to match the rottenness of the times. A junior minister in the Free Futures government, he is a self-proclaimed future world dominator who finds himself in a perpetual state of chaos. Amid scandals of elder abuse, a sleepless Byrone juggles media duties and a fresh assignment from his boss Amanda, handling a nuclear waste cover-up and a mass tranquilization program. Past embarrassments, like his infamous brothel scandal, could be offset if only he can keep his shirt on during hologram calls. The day’s going well until a call from the US reveals Rufas has taken his family hostage, demanding all his assets in return for their safety. With his world spinning, Byrone collapses during a swanky soiree attended by political and industry insiders. What does this mean for his future and the lives of his family?

Ep. 4 Helen

Release: Wednesday, Feb 7, 2024

With a buzzing Zeppelin-style airship disturbing her tranquility and A-list nursing home brochures piling up, life teems with uneasy choices for widowed “Grey Boomer” Helen. She finds companionship in her pet raven, Rabindranath, and solace in gardening and reading the secret journals of her dead wife Coral.

Helen daydreams of underwater escapes, an LSD-fuelled respite from reality, as the couple’s past activism comes back to haunt them. There are regular, unwelcome visits from the Bureau of Unaustralian Activities. When Rabindranath returns one night splattered with blood, Helen makes a shocking discovery on the harbour shores with headline-making implications.

Ep. 5 The Last Bloom

Release: Wednesday, Feb 14, 2024

With Coral’s beloved Azaleas in full bloom, Helen contemplates if it’s a good day to meet her maker. Meanwhile, news of Zilch’s arrest sends shockwaves through the Swag Sting hideout, pushing Pronto to the brink of a daring rescue mission. As Space unveils the sting of a double-cross, involving the elusive Rufas and a property trade that releases Byrone Ellis’ family, the team faces the prospect of a new subterranean base.

Pronto’s desperate attempt to ‘path’ Zilch results in a tantalisingly brief connection before fading into nothingness. A chemically-lobotomised Zilch adapts to detention life with the job of creating fake eucalypts for tourists. Back at Helen’s, a knock at the door heralds a menacing visitor, a member of the Termination Squad. Can Helen confront her fate? Can Pronto make a last ditch attempt to save Zilch?

Listen to each episode here, or search for The Next 5 Minutes on your favourite podcast platform.

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