Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Quintessential Australian Story

Richard Harland's new book WORLDSHAKER is going to be launched soon and it is already getting a really good reaction. I think of it as a very English sort of story. (not meaning that in a bad way, I thoroughly enjoyed the book when we read it in draft form at ROR).

This made me wonder, if there is a quintessential English style of story and a quintessential American style of story, is there a quintessential Australian story style?

You only have to look at Red Dwarf, to see English humour and world view at work. When the Americans tried to make their own version of Red Dwarf, they made Lister good looking. The humour lies in the fact that he can never win Christine Kachanski. Recently, I've been watching the UK series 'Being Human' about a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost living in a share house in Bristol ( I think). It is downbeat and funny, as well as poignant.

I'm worried that, if parallel importation goes ahead, Australians won't get the chance to develop their own quintessential style of story because the Australian publishing industry won't have the luxury of developing new writers and taking risks. You could argue that we should have already developed this. Maybe we have in some areas, I'm thinking of the movies, The Castle and The Dish, both really good movies, both very Australian.

What have you read recently that was quintessentially Australian inthe Spec Fic genre?


Cat Sparks said...

To me, Kim Westwood's 'Daughters of Moab' is quintessentially Aussie sci fi. That tale could not have been a product of any other culture. Check it out!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Thanks, Cat. I've heard good things about Kim's writing, so I'll look out for 'Daughters of Moab'.

Blue Tyson said...

How many of the big fat fantasies that seem to be mostly what they publish now have Australian settings? Got nothing to do with parallel importation as far as I can see.

Other than Sean Williams, that is?

Quintessentially Australian :-

Terry Dowling's Tom Tyson
Sean McMullen's Greatwinter

Some Nylon angel series or other

Rick Kennett, Leanne Frahm

Jason Nahrun's Smoking, Waiting For the Dawn

Marita Thomson said...

Not so new but I suggest Richard Harland's Ferren and the Angel, which is disgustingly out of print! Just ordered an expensive second hand one for our library.Terrific trilogy.

Tehani Wessely said...

In the long form, I thought Sylvia Kelso did a good job of working in a subtle Australian flavour into her fantasies (The Moving Water and The Red Country particularly).

Angela Slatter's story in Dreaming Again "The Jacaranda Wife" was excellent in its Australian voice.

Sue Isle works Western Australian setting beautifully in her short work.

While the writing may not be as polished, Keri Arthur and Narrelle Harris write GREAT Aussie locations in their paranormal books, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Tansy does with Hobart in her Cafe La Femme books!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

You're right, Blue. Most fantasies have no Australian feel. I keep meaning to catch up with Sean Williams' books.

Nylon Angel did have an Australian feel embedded in the world building.

I've read Rick and Leanne's stories. And I'm sure I've read Terry Dowling's.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Marita, isn't it annoying when books go out of print? I think I have every one of Richard Harland's books. My youngest son's favourite was 'Sassy Cat'.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Tehani, I've been meaning to catch up with Sylvia Kelso's books.

So many books, so little time!

I have read some of Kerri Arthur's Dark Urban Fantasies and Narelle Harris's book. I'm sure I've read Sue Isle's stories.

I haven't read Angela's story. I heard her do a reading from it and couldn't start it because I have trouble switching off my sense of disbelief if the story is inaccurate. The Jacaranda tree is native to South Africa, so unless she's writing about an alternate reality Australia, the aboriginals wouldn't have a mythology surrounding it. Does she explain this in the story?

Do inaccuracies throw you out of a story? I love Jacarandas by the way. I have one in my front yard.

TansyRR said...

I think that even otherworld fantasy that has no overt Australian cultural detail is different when written by Australians. We have different attitudes to other cultures, a different relationship with language. Different hang ups!

I'd really hate to see Australian fantasy only available after it has been though an editing process by US or UK publishers. I think that there is an essential voice that would be lost that has nothing to do with magical koalas or eucalypt forests.

And as for our science fiction... well, yes!

(and thanks for your comments, Tehani but Cafe La Femme has no speculative element at all, they're plain old chick lit crime...)

Gary Kemble said...

In The Dead Path, Stephen M Irwin does a great job of making an everyday Australian setting (suburban Brisbane) sinister.


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

You're right Tansy, there is an Australian world-view that's different from everywhere else.

Gary, I haven't read 'The Dead Path'. Ever since I told my teenagers Jason Nahrung was writing a book about Kev the Vampire, they've been waiting for it to come out.

Unapologetic Australiana, there should be more if it!

sal said...

Bloody good point about the jacaranda, Rowena. Maybe the reason it hasn't fully developed is because it's bloody hard! Writing overtly Australian fantasy one can't help but bump up against the ancient, living culture that was here long before white fellas brought our celtic convict dreamings (etc) here. And cos of the unresolved, unhealed damage inherent in the invader/invaded r'ship it takes a brave or stupid soul to begin to try and weave those mythologies/dreamings into something new and quintessentially Australian.
Unfortunately for me, I'm one of those probably stupid souls. The story I'm writing is chockers with Australian-ness ... land and beings and mythology. I fear I've bitten off way more than I can chew. It won't be May Gibbs but I'm scared shitless it'll still tread on all the wrong toes, or maybe it'll just be a big mess that goes in a drawer to hide in shame. The alternate reality thing only lets you get away with so much, I reckon.
I believe it's important we make these attempts, all the same. Maybe it can be part of the healing process if it's done ... rightly, respectfully ... for eg. I've heard there are some Aboriginal elder organisations that (for a fee) will appraise use of Aboriginal 'content'.
Patricia Wrightson's 'Nargun and the Stars' is a guiding light for me. A very well-respected Aboriginal elder who teaches at our local university says that is one of her all-time favourite books and that it builds a bridge between cultures. So there is hope.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Sal, good on you. (not meant to be patronising!)

I'm one of these unfashionable people who believe we are all citizens of the world. As human beings we are heirs to the richness of every culture.

I certainly don't want to appropriate someone else's mythology, but I would like to be free to be inspired by it.

Satima Flavell said...

Have you looked at Adrian Bedford's "Time Machines repaired while-u-wait"? It's set in Perth and the protag is recognisably your Little Aussie Battler. It's published in Canada but will also be brought out by Fremantle Press later this year.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

No, Satima, I haven't read that one of his. But I have read one. I think it was Orbital Burn. Really enjoyed it.