dolorosa_12: (emily hanna)
This week has been absolutely excellent for people saying brilliant, eloquent, important things.

To journey is to be human. To migrate is to be human. Human migration forged the world. Human migration will forge the future, writes Ishtiyak Shukri in 'Losing London'. This was the post of the week for me, and affected me deeply.

We already have the table of contents, but now we have the cover of Athena Andreadis's To Shape The Dark anthology, illustrated beautifully by Eleni Tsami.

I really loved this interview of Aliette de Bodard by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: I’ve come to realize that “appealing to everybody” is a codeword for bland, unobjectionable stuff; or at the very least for something that doesn’t challenge the reader; and, just as I like to be challenged when I read, I would in turn like to do that to my readers!

Speaking of Aliette de Bodard's writing, she's put 'In Morningstar's Shadow', the prequel short story to The House of Shattered Wings, up online for free. I read it last weekend and loved it.

I liked this essay by Marianne de Pierres on Australian myths in contemporary SF, but I've been worrying away at some of its conclusions for reasons I can't quite articulate. Certainly I appreciate the recognition of Australian writing's emphasis on the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, but I worry about her characterisation of the Australian landscape as universally barren, inhospitable and predatory. Let's just say it is not so to all inhabitants of Australia, and is not represented as such in the stories of all Australians, although it is a really significant theme in Australian literature.

Sophie Masson wrote on authors in a changing publishing landscape. I smiled a little ruefully at this quote:

When my last adult novel, Forest of Dreams, came out in 2001, I was commissioned to write a piece for a newspaper on the historical background of the novel (a paid piece), and reviews of the book appeared in several print publications, despite its being genre fiction. When The Koldun Code, also genre fiction, came out in 2014, I had to write several guest posts for blogs, do interviews for online publications (all unpaid) and reviews only appeared online.

I did not review this book, but I did interview Masson and review several of her YA works for print publications, where I was paid for my work. Now I retweet links to her articles and review things exclusively online for free. Oh, how times have changed!

Authors who are parents have been posting about the experience. There are too many posts to include here, but you can find links to all of them at the #ParentingCreating hashtag.

The latest of Kari Sperring's 'Matrilines' columns, on Evangeline Walton, is up. I've been finding these columns both illuminating - in terms of introducing me to many authors whose work sounds right up my alley - and disheartening, in that almost all of them were entirely new to me, instead of well-known figures in the SF canon.

I found this post by Samantha Shannon on judging a literary award to be a very interesting read.

In a departure from these posts' usual content, I have a music recommendation: CHVRCHES' new album Every Open Eye. It stops my heart, in the best possible way.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
So. Lots of stuff to get through this week, as my corner of the internet has been particularly full of people doing wonderful, clever and awesome things.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz had a busy week. Here's Rochita on the uses of anger, her new short story, and being interviewed for Lightspeed magazine's author spotlight.

Catherine Lundoff has had so many submissions to her 'Older Women in SFF' recommendations post that she's had to split it into two. Part one, part two.

I really liked this review of Zen Cho's writing by Naomi Novik.

This review by Sarah Mesle of the most recent episode of Game of Thrones made a lot of points I've been struggling to articulate. Content note for discussion of violence, abuse and rape.

I really appreciated this thoughtful post by Tade Thompson on safety, community and dissent.

Natalie Luhrs makes some really important points here:

This is part of the ongoing conversation about the importance of different voices in our community. About making space for people who have been told–explicitly and implicitly–that what they have to say isn’t worthwhile and that they need to sit down and listen and that someday, maybe, they’ll be allowed to speak.

This list of Best Young Australian novelists looks great, and reflects the Australia that I grew up in. Congratulations to all the winners!

I have to admit that the #hometovote hashtag has been making me cry.

I wrote two longish posts this week. One is over at Wordpress: a review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The other is here at Dreamwidth/LJ, and is a primer to Sophia McDougall's Romanitas trilogy.

My mother is a radio journalist. Her programme this week is on Eurovision, and you can listen to it here (not geoblocked). There are additional features . I am an unashamed Eurovision fan, and as you can see, it runs in the family.

Texts from Hieronymous Bosch made me laugh and laugh.

Happy Friday, everyone.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Ambelin Kwaymullina talks about diversity in Australian YA literature.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 'Fear of causing offense becomes a fetish'.

Here's Daniel José Older on diversity, power and publishing.

Laura Mixon talks about building bridges and healing divisions.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz talks about self-care and 'staying in touch with the child-self'.

Aidan Moher discusses writing military SF without combat.

Astrid Lindgren's Second World War diaries have been published in Sweden.

Ana of Things Mean A Lot reviews Pride in the light of the recent UK elections.

I love this review by Electra Pritchett of Stranger and Hostage by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith:

If I had to pick a post-apocalyptic YA society in which to live, I'd pick the community of Las Anclas hands down, warts and all: rather than a hierarchical dystopian society where something random is outlawed and the government controls something else crucial to society, Las Anclas represents a kinder, gentler post-apocalypse. It's not quite a utopia, except in the sense that everywhere in fiction is, but that's precisely what makes it a believable and desirable place to live: its busybodies and jerks are notable because they're not the only kind of people in the town, and dealing with them would be a small price to pay in order to live in such a supportive and inclusive place.

The upcoming publishing schedule at The Book Smugglers makes me so happy.

I am really looking forward to the publication of Tell The Wind And Fire, Sarah Rees Brennan's latest book.

Via Sherwood Smith, listen to the oldest (recorded) song in the world.

Happy Friday, everyone!
dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
Let us not talk of the UK election results - I have no words. Instead, let's talk about something much more pleasant: the return of my weekly linkposts!

Unlike the rest of my corner of the internet, I didn't have a massive problem with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Sophia McDougall and Sonya Taaffe probably get closest to articulating my own feelings on the subject.

Joyce Chng, David Anthony Durham and Kari Sperring (moderated by Vanessa Rose Phin) have some interesting things to say on 'Representing Marginalized Voices in Historical Fiction and Fantasy', at Strange Horizons.

Athena Andreadis talks about the uses and misuses of cultural traumas (in this case, her own, Greek culture) in fiction.

Aliette de Bodard talks about Dorothy Dunnett at Fantasy Book Cafe.

'For the Gardener's Daughter is a fabulous poem by Alyssa Wong, published in Uncanny Magazine.

On Sophie Masson's blog, Adele Geras talks about retelling fairytales.

One of my friends and former academic colleagues has started a blog looking at popular representations of monsters.

The History Girls is not a new blog, but it is new to me. It's the work of a group of women who are historical fiction writers.

Today is pretty grim, so I will leave you with footage of a koala roaming around a rural Victorian hospital.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
I was given these six questions by [livejournal.com profile] christinafairy as part of a meme. Answers are behind the cut.

Questions and answers )

Please comment if you would like six questions of your own.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Welcome to what I hope will become a regular feature here: weekly posts of links to wonderful things. There are no criteria for inclusion: the links will just be things that have caught my eye in any given week, but I'm trying to focus on positive and/or thought-provoking material from a diverse range of perspectives. This is all part of my goal of collaborative and community-building writing for this year.

It was a great week for SFF podcasts. I particularly enjoyed Amal El-Mohtar and Natalie Luhrs on Rocket Talk with Justin Landon, talking about all things blogging and reviewing.

Fangirl Happy Hour is a new project by Ana of The Book Smugglers and Renay of Ladybusiness. Their second podcast is on sex and romance in science fiction, nominations for the Hugo Awards and The Very Best of Kate Elliott (which has rocketed to the top of my wishlist).

Renay also wrote a fabulous, heartfelt post about being betrayed by stories that the rest of your community has universally praised. Read the comments too.

A. Merc Rustad's short story 'How To Become A Robot In 12 Easy Steps' is something I didn't realise I'd been wanting until now. Almost anything I could say here will be a spoiler, but I feel I should provide a content warning for depictions of depression.

Amal El-Mohtar's short story 'The Truth About Owls' hurt my heart in the best possible way.

No Award is not a new blog, but it is new to me, and is a breath of fresh air. I'm often frustrated by the US-centrism of the online conversation on media and social justice, so I'm thrilled to find a blog by a pair of Australians tackling these issues from an Australian perspective.

Finally, I really appreciated Foz Meadows' epic blog post on Teen Wolf. I don't agree with all her conclusions, but I am particularly happy about her comments on Scott McCall, whose gentleness, kindness and adoration of powerful women goes against all the usual stereotypes about boys raised by single mothers.

I hope you all have fabulous weekends. Since Eurovision is officially upon us, why not generate your own Eurovision song title?

This is a mirror of a post on my Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
One of my friends on Tumblr asked me to talk about why John Marsden's Tomorrow series had such a profound impact on me as a child and teenager, and why I continue to care deeply about the series to this day. Because I don't like writing long posts on Tumblr, I'm answering him here.

Content note: It is impossible to discuss this series without talking about war, violence and rape.

I made a list )

I hope that answers any questions about what the Tomorrow series meant and means to me!
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
That's to say I have one more day to bury my head in the sand and pretend that my country is not going to be governed by a racist, sexist, homophobic eugenicist.

I'm an election tragic, so I'll be watching the coverage obsessively from very early in the morning.

Right now, however, I'm in serious denial and wondering if it's worth watching all the songs from Keating! The Musical We Had to Have.

Sigh.

ETA:



'But still I dream
Of a country rich and clever
With compassion and endeavour
Reaching out towards forever, and I'm still
Dreaming of the light on the hill.'

Apparently I have Labor Party feelings. Who knew?
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm sorry I've been so quiet recently. I'm trying to get a full draft of my thesis in to my supervisor by the end of the week (eek!) and, as you can imagine, pretty much every waking moment is spent writing, writing, writing, and editing, editing, editing. But I read a recent post by Foz Meadows about her struggles with the SFF canon (and with notions of canonicity in general) that so closely mirrors my own thoughts and describes my own experiences as a reader that I had to post a link.

'If I’ve never read the Classics, then how did I get into SFF in the first place?

That last question is one I really have been asked – sometimes overtly, and sometimes only by implication, but always in a tone of genuine surprise, and always by men, as though my interlocutor couldn’t conceive of a journey into SFF fandom that didn’t involve neatly-spaced stopovers at Herbert, Lem, Dick, Matheson, Eddings, Feist, and Goodkind, preferably in that order.

By the same token, it’s also a question that tends to be linked to a lot of anxiety about SFF being forced away from its roots, and whether or not this constitutes progress or perversion. In some respects, this is an understandable question: whatever the genre, the stories that first draw us in are often the ones for which we feel the greatest personal affinity, and which, as a consequence, we not only want to emulate, but whose tropes and themes (we believe) aren’t just common to the genre, but actively necessary to it.'


Apart from Dune, my experience of the 'classics' is similarly limited. And, Redwall aside, my childhood and adolescent reading list was remarkably similar to Meadows'. (This is, perhaps, unsurprising, given the fact that we were both bookish Australians who grew up in the '90s.) She notes as formative the works of Jackie French, Victor Kelleher, Isobelle Carmody, Sara Douglass, Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, Whedonverse shows and Daria.

And Catherine Jinks.

Oh, my heart.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
This afternoon, in order to clear my head, I walked out to Grantchester, which is a small village about half an hour's walk from Cambridge proper. It's a lovely little walk along the river, but one thing struck me: no matter where you go in Britain, you are within sight of signs of human habitation.*

In Australia, this is not the case. I grew up in suburbia, but there was a big national park just out of town, and my family frequently went hiking there with friends and the extended family. Later, I would hike there as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, as well as in other national parks. These hikes were very challenging, because we didn't follow the paths, but went bush-bashing, navigating only with maps and compasses. We usually didn't see another human being for the duration of the hikes.

On other family holidays we went to the beach, usually to Broulee or Bawley Point down the south coast, but often to extremely rough camping areas - usually Mystery Bay or Pebbly Beach. These had no electricity, and Mystery Bay didn't even have hot water or flushing toilets. Although you saw other campers, there were no other signs of human activity - no shops, no visible houses or roads. There certainly weren't any people on the beaches beyond those who were swimming or walking.

Even within the big cities, there were areas of wildness. My grandparents lived in the northern suburbs of Sydney, and everything was very controlled and picket-fenced. However, just down the road was a patch of bushland, and if you walked for a minute or so, the houses disappeared from view, the sound of cars vanished and was replaced by birdsong and cicadas.

There was a wildness about nature that I haven't encountered in the UK. And I know East Anglia isn't really the place for it, but even in more remote areas I've visited, such as North Wales and Cornwall, everything seems smaller, tamer, with more evidence of human hands. And there's nothing wrong with that! But the feeling of swimming in the cold water at Pebbly in the autumn, tossed by waves, looking out across the grey sea and seeing nothing but water and a few small islands, salt-washed and exultant, is almost impossible to replicate.

Sometimes I just miss those landscapes.

_______________________________
*With the caveat that this only extends to places I've personally visited - there may be places in Britain that don't fit this description.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
This afternoon, in order to clear my head, I walked out to Grantchester, which is a small village about half an hour's walk from Cambridge proper. It's a lovely little walk along the river, but one thing struck me: no matter where you go in Britain, you are within sight of signs of human habitation.*

In Australia, this is not the case. I grew up in suburbia, but there was a big national park just out of town, and my family frequently went hiking there with friends and the extended family. Later, I would hike there as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, as well as in other national parks. These hikes were very challenging, because we didn't follow the paths, but went bush-bashing, navigating only with maps and compasses. We usually didn't see another human being for the duration of the hikes.

On other family holidays we went to the beach, usually to Broulee or Bawley Point down the south coast, but often to extremely rough camping areas - usually Mystery Bay or Pebbly Beach. These had no electricity, and Mystery Bay didn't even have hot water or flushing toilets. Although you saw other campers, there were no other signs of human activity - no shops, no visible houses or roads. There certainly weren't any people on the beaches beyond those who were swimming or walking.

Even within the big cities, there were areas of wildness. My grandparents lived in the northern suburbs of Sydney, and everything was very controlled and picket-fenced. However, just down the road was a patch of bushland, and if you walked for a minute or so, the houses disappeared from view, the sound of cars vanished and was replaced by birdsong and cicadas.

There was a wildness about nature that I haven't encountered in the UK. And I know East Anglia isn't really the place for it, but even in more remote areas I've visited, such as North Wales and Cornwall, everything seems smaller, tamer, with more evidence of human hands. And there's nothing wrong with that! But the feeling of swimming in the cold water at Pebbly in the autumn, tossed by waves, looking out across the grey sea and seeing nothing but water and a few small islands, salt-washed and exultant, is almost impossible to replicate.

Sometimes I just miss those landscapes.

_______________________________
*With the caveat that this only extends to places I've personally visited - there may be places in Britain that don't fit this description.
dolorosa_12: (matilda)
I'm reposting this slightly late, because posts from Dreamwidth don't seem to be importing properly to Livejournal. I actually wrote this on Tuesday, but only noticed it hadn't imported today.

The thing that struck me most upon my return was not the weather so much as the silence. My mother lives in the most densely-populated postcode in Australia. It is a suburb full of backpackers, nightclubs and bars, and is also the red light district. It is, as Matthias noted, the only place where it seems perfectly natural for a sourdough bakery to be open 24 hours a day. It's so vibrant and full of life. It seems so odd to be at home and hear nothing.

When I think back on the trip, the word that describes it best is 'whirlwind'. Not just in terms of time (we were only there for three weeks) but in terms of emotions. I felt as if the space that I had occupied there had closed up behind me, and while it wasn't too much work to make a space for myself again, it was work. It is, of course, entirely natural that people's lives move on when you go away, but I think the internet gives me an illusion of being up to date about all the changes people have gone through, and conversely keeps them entirely informed of who I've become.

I was really happy with how welcoming my family and friends were of Matthias. The trip was filled with events where I was able to catch up with everyone and where he was able to get to know people. Melbourne with my dad, stepmother and sisters was the usual chaotic fun, and we managed to see two of my friends there as well. In Sydney, I organised drinks and dinner on the roof of my apartment block (it has views of Sydney Harbour) with my Sydney Uni friends and K (who I've known since primary school through gymnastics). There were several other events with that group, so we managed to see everyone amid the comings and goings of the Christmas holidays. We also had lunch with [livejournal.com profile] angel_cc and [livejournal.com profile] catpuccino and dinner with two of Matthias' friends who live in Sydney. [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae came up for a daytrip and had lunch with us, which was great (and very generous). We also saw all my relatives on both sides of the family. But after two weeks, I found it all too much - I am an introvert at heart - and tried to slow down a bit. In the final week in Sydney, we mostly just did stuff on our own - lots of beach trips, a day exploring recommended bars and seeing The Hobbit (which I will write about later), and a day at the cricket, which was my birthday and Christmas present to Matthias.

The trip was a bit of a mixed bag, although on the whole it was positive. But I find it difficult to be confronted with the past, with my history, with the weight of people's memories. You cannot ever go back, and although I have no doubt that I would have a wonderful life if I moved back to Australia, the recent trip has convinced me that Britain is where I want to be for the moment.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
The thing that struck me most upon my return was not the weather so much as the silence. My mother lives in the most densely-populated postcode in Australia. It is a suburb full of backpackers, nightclubs and bars, and is also the red light district. It is, as Matthias noted, the only place where it seems perfectly natural for a sourdough bakery to be open 24 hours a day. It's so vibrant and full of life. It seems so odd to be at home and hear nothing.

When I think back on the trip, the word that describes it best is 'whirlwind'. Not just in terms of time (we were only there for three weeks) but in terms of emotions. I felt as if the space that I had occupied there had closed up behind me, and while it wasn't too much work to make a space for myself again, it was work. It is, of course, entirely natural that people's lives move on when you go away, but I think the internet gives me an illusion of being up to date about all the changes people have gone through, and conversely keeps them entirely informed of who I've become.

I was really happy with how welcoming my family and friends were of Matthias. The trip was filled with events where I was able to catch up with everyone and where he was able to get to know people. Melbourne with my dad, stepmother and sisters was the usual chaotic fun, and we managed to see two of my friends there as well. In Sydney, I organised drinks and dinner on the roof of my apartment block (it has views of Sydney Harbour) with my Sydney Uni friends and K (who I've known since primary school through gymnastics). There were several other events with that group, so we managed to see everyone amid the comings and goings of the Christmas holidays. We also had lunch with [profile] angel_cc and [profile] catpuccino and dinner with two of Matthias' friends who live in Sydney. [profile] lucubratae came up for a daytrip and had lunch with us, which was great (and very generous). We also saw all my relatives on both sides of the family. But after two weeks, I found it all too much - I am an introvert at heart - and tried to slow down a bit. In the final week in Sydney, we mostly just did stuff on our own - lots of beach trips, a day exploring recommended bars and seeing The Hobbit (which I will write about later), and a day at the cricket, which was my birthday and Christmas present to Matthias.

The trip was a bit of a mixed bag, although on the whole it was positive. But I find it difficult to be confronted with the past, with my history, with the weight of people's memories. You cannot ever go back, and although I have no doubt that I would have a wonderful life if I moved back to Australia, the recent trip has convinced me that Britain is where I want to be for the moment.
dolorosa_12: (le guin)
One of the benefits of growing up basically lacking any interest in watching TV* is that the primary exposure to stories that my sister and I gained was through books. And one thing that my mother did really well was pick books - both picture books that she read aloud to us, and novel-length books that we read to ourselves - that were very diverse in terms of the racial and ethnic identities of the characters therein. Part of this was simply because books aimed at younger children tend to be more diverse in this regard than books aimed at adults or even teenagers (which I think is actually pretty insulting towards adults. So a child is perfectly capable of identifying with someone of a different race and finding that person's story engaging, but an adult isn't? What a depressing thought), but part of it was, I think, deliberate.

My mother chose books that reflected my sister's and my interests, and what I was interested in as a child from a very early age was history and folk- and fairytales. I was fascinated in particular with how people lived in other times and places, and I was intrigued by patterns, tropes and recognisable archetypes in folk- and fairtales (although I didn't know the technical terms for these things at the time). I found it absolutely amazing that versions of the story most commonly known in the English-speaking West as Cinderella existed in China, Egypt and elsewhere. I adored seeing history through the eyes of children who were, I thought, just like me.

One of my fondest memories is the fact that whenever we went on a long holiday (anything lasting more than a weekend), we would borrow different books of folktales from the library and my mother would read her way through them over the course of the holiday. We read Russian folktales, Middle Eastern folktales, Celtic folktales, Japanese folktales, and, on one particularly awesome holiday, Fearless Girls, a collection of folktales from around the world where girls and women are the focus. (One of the best things about this book is that its stories represent a diverse range of female experiences. There are girls who fight monsters, there are girls who go on journeys, but there are also, in one Chinese story, a mother- and daughter-in-law who politely pretend not to have noticed that they inadvertently insulted one another when thinking they were alone. That is, the book represents more than one kind of heroism.)

I also remember beautiful picture books retelling Native American folktales and Indigenous Australian stories of the Dreamtime.

All of this is very well and good, but I'm not sure if all this was an entirely positive thing. The Indigenous stories are very telling. If all the stories about PoC that you are reading are set in the past, or at least in some indeterminate (but seemingly historical) folktale time, you run the risk (if you are white) of thinking that PoC being heroic and central to their own stories only in the past. At least in terms of the books I read, this problem was especially prevalent in terms of representation of Indigenous characters (most of the books I read that had a 'modern Australian' setting had a fairly representative range of characters in terms of the major immigrant (and I include white Australians in that) groups that lived in Australia at the time).

There was one picture book that I think did a good job of addressing this problem. Not coincidentally, it has been my favourite picture book for over twenty years. The book is My Place by Nadia Wheatley, illustrated by Donna Rawlins. It was published in 1988 to mark the bicentenary of white settlement in Australia - which could have been a problematic subject in terms of commemoration, but for the fact that Wheatley's writing an extremely pointed, subversive message.

The book begins in 1988. Each set of three pages represents one year in the life of a single house (and later, farm, and later still, area) in suburban Sydney. After a particular child (who lives in the house) describes his or her life, family and the house and surrounds (and background historical events: eg the character in 1918 talks about WWI, the character in 1938 talks about the Depression), you skip back 10 years and the whole process begins again with a different child. Sometimes a child will be the aunt or parent or grandparent of a previous child, and sometimes he or she will be the child of an entirely new family. The house's changing owners reflect the diversity of post-settlement Australia; there is a Greek family, an Irish family, a German family (who have to change their name from Müller to Miller during the First World War), a Chinese family who arrive at the time of the Gold Rush, a family whose members were convicts and so on.

Most importantly, the story is bookended with two Indigenous families. That is, it opens with an Indigenous family in 1988, and it closes with an Indigenous family in 1788 (who were nomadic, but whose narrator says, 'I belong to this place'). This is a powerful and important point to make in a book that would, if these people's stories were absent, be commemorating the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous people. By emphasising that Indigenous people were there before white settlement, and are still there now, the book totally reframes the discussion of place, identity and belonging. And it closes with an image of a yellow setting sun between a red sky and a black land in a deliberate echo of the Australian Aboriginal flag, with the words (a discussion between the final narrator and her (I think, but I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly) father): 'How long will we belong to this place?' 'Forever and ever.'

I am not saying that reading these stories as a child made me magically free of racism (in many other ways, my education about issues of race was severely lacking, and I have messed up in this regard before and may do so again in the future). But I think having a diverse and representative** range of experiences depicted in literature and read by everyone is an important piece in the Educating Clueless White People puzzle. And because this piece is basically me remembering my childhood, and because I am white, I haven't talked about these things from the perspective of a PoC, but if these kinds of stories are important for Clueless White People, then I can only imagine that they are even more so for PoC. Because you can only see yourself doing brave and clever and amazing things, you can only see yourself as part of the story, if people write and publish and read your stories, and, most importantly, if you yourself are able to do so.



______________
*We did watch some TV, mainly shows on ABC Kids, but it was very restricted and for the most part, my sister and I preferred to play games or read books.
** I'm talking about race here, but this goes for representation in terms of sexuality, gender identity, disability etc as well.
dolorosa_12: (flight of the conchords)
Whenever I'm feeling particularly emotionally vulnerable or generally fed up, I tend to retreat to the things of childhood, as if I can recapture the feelings of security and satisfaction that I felt at that age simply by watching the TV shows or reading the books that I watched and read then. This time, God help me, it's Heartbreak High. And, being me, this sparked musings and meta.

When I think of Australian TV shows from the '90s,* I often mock them for their earnest PC-ness. Their casts were ethnically and otherwise diverse (Lift-Off, for example, had six main child characters. One girl was of Vietnamese origin. One boy was I think of Latin-American origin. One boy and one girl were black, and one boy and one girl were white. One of the boys was also deaf). They were obvious and anvillicious in their moral messages, which were usually about seeing the common humanity in everyone, standing up to bullies, or coming together to solve problems. They tended to have a strong environmental focus, too.

It's easy to make fun of these shows, because they are so obvious about what they are doing, and there's a certain sense of didacticism, of trying too hard. And of course we're supposed to be above that, praising subtlety, viewing things at an ironic remove. There's a suspicion of heavy-handed messages.

But I'm wondering now if all this is such a bad thing. We talk a lot in fandom about having truly diverse, truly representative media. I think the overall aim should be to get to a point beyond tokenism, where the stories of all are given equal weight and attention, regardless of sex, race, gender, class, sexual orientation or (dis)ability. What I can't work out, though, is whether these heavy-handed shows of the '90s are a stepping-stone towards the kind of representation I want, or whether they are a sad reminder of how things have declined.

Because the sad truth is that - dreadful writing aside - shows like Heartbreak High do a better job of representing the true diversity of multicultural countries like Australia than a lot of stuff on TV now. (The characters in the first season, for example, come from Greek, Lebanese, Italian, El Salvadoran, Vietnamese and Anglo Australian backgrounds, and these are added to with characters of Balkan origin. There are also canonically gay characters, although this being the mid-90s, they don't get to have on-screen relationships. If they only had added characters of Chinese, Pacific Islander and Turkish background and Indigenous characters, they probably would've got a pretty accurate representation of a state school in Sydney in the '90s, although considering it appears to be set in an outer suburb in the southwest (just going by the look of the school and the surrounding area) they've got the demographics pretty much right.) And how depressing is it that we seem to have got worse at representation in the past 15 years.**
____________
* It's not just Australian shows, and not just '90s shows either. The perfect example of this is of course Degrassi, which began in the '80s and is Canadian. I've noticed a lot of parallels in Australian and Canadian culture over the years, and this is definitely one of them, although I'm not sure whether this was a more widely-spread phenomenon.
** One thing I'm not sure about is whether I'm making a fair comparison, because what I watched back in the '90s were, for the most part, Australian shows aimed at teenagers, and what I watch now are mostly American shows aimed at the 18-35 demographic. I feel that it's significant that the only truly diverse shows I watch, Avatar: The Last Airbender and its spin-off The Legend of Korra, are aimed at children. Are content-creators less cautious when they're writing material for children? Do they think adults are less likely to watch shows that are truly representative?
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
In the summer of 2003/4, when I was 19, I spent some weeks transcribing my great-grandfather's World War I journal. He was in his late 20s when he joined up, and he fought on the Western Front. For the most part, his journal is pretty banal, full of remarks about the weather and train journeys. Every so often, however, his emotions break through, in comments like 'Today was unbearable. May God forgive us all.' I like to think that such sentiments were the expression of the grief of an ordinary man, conditioned to think of his enemies as inhuman, forced to recognise their humanity. As far as I know, my great-grandfather joined up for a combination of the usual reasons: some degree of social pressure, some degree of a sense of responsibility ('doing one's bit'), some desire to see the world and some degree of patriotism. What this patriotism was not was a desire to 'preserve the Australian [read: white, Anglo, Christian, heterosexual] way of life'. When, on Anzac Day, I commemorate and think about the soldiers who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars, I am thinking of, and commemorating people like my great-grandfather.

And when I see racist, homophobic fuckwits using the memory of men and women like my great-grandfather to propagate an ideology of hate, a definition of 'the Australian way of life' that means 'monocultural, racist and homophobic' that I will not dignify with the name of 'Christian', I am outraged and disgusted. The first person, Jim Wallace, retracted his remarks after dissent from several other Christians, including a member of the Wayside Chapel. The second person, Bill Muehlenberg, did no such thing. His blog post is a mess of the usual garbage:

1. Godwin's Law (referring to detractors as 'the Gaystapo' - stay classy, dude)
2. Misuse of the term 'political correctness' to mean, as so perfectly expressed by my friend Ange, 'you're no fun if you disagree with my choice to say hurtful or racist/homophobic/sexist/misc. things'
3. Equating GLBTQ people with paedophiles, and the 'license' to allow same-sex marriage as allowing paedophilia
4. 'Oh noes! Same-sex marriage will DESTROY the tender, fragile institution of marriage and the foundations of the family and The Australian Way of Life™!'
5. 'Being gay is a choice! It is a lifestyle! And those who choose it shouldn't flaunt their lifestyle in my face at the Mardi Gras!' *pearlclutch*
6. 'Freedom of speech=freedom for me to say whatever racist, homophobic bullshit I like. Freedom of speech is gone if people are allowed to criticise said racist, homophobic bullshit.'

I like to think that, if, indeed, my great-grandfather was fighting for patriotic reasons, his patriotism was similar to mine: a pride in a secular, humanist country, a country that has been enriched by immigration and multiculturalism, a country that has a way to go in regard to GLBTQ equality but which at least recognises that one's sexual preferences, gender performance and identity are nobody's business but that person's and a country with genuine freedom of speech. And I like to think that, if anything, he was fighting for a country where Anzac Day is not tainted by association with the hateful ideology of people like Bill Muehlenberg.

I don't like the views of people like Muehlenberg. Unfortunately, I have to share a country with him (for all that I currently live in the UK). But I can choose to avoid people like him, and he can choose to avoid people like me, with our dirty, multicultural, socially liberal 'politically correct homosexual agenda'. The country is big enough. 'We've boundless plains to share,' after all. The national anthem says so. Deal with it.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
I am losing my language.

It's happening slowly, but it's happening all the same, a slow erosion caused by the necessity of making myself understood.

And now it's trousers, not pants, crisps, not chips, sofa, not couch. I had to say flip flops instead of thongs to avoid embarrassment. I still say zucchini and eggplant, not courgette and aubergine, but that's only because I so rarely eat them that it's never been an issue. I caught myself saying pepper the other day instead of capsicum, without even noticing. I say cash point, not ATM.

Oddly enough, the one phrase that's holding out in the face of British linguistic oppression is tomato sauce instead of ketchup. No idea why a bottle of Heinz sauce should be so tenacious in insisting on its Australian name.

It makes me sad in some insignificant and yet oddly profound way. The words are falling from my mouth, and very soon I'll forget that I ever lived in a place where people drank lemon, lime and bitters, ate mandarins, thought this vegetable (or rather fruit) was a pumpkin and drove utes along dusty country roads.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
I am losing my language.

It's happening slowly, but it's happening all the same, a slow erosion caused by the necessity of making myself understood.

And now it's trousers, not pants, crisps, not chips, sofa, not couch. I had to say flip flops instead of thongs to avoid embarrassment. I still say zucchini and eggplant, not courgette and aubergine, but that's only because I so rarely eat them that it's never been an issue. I caught myself saying pepper the other day instead of capsicum, without even noticing. I say cash point, not ATM.

Oddly enough, the one phrase that's holding out in the face of British linguistic oppression is tomato sauce instead of ketchup. No idea why a bottle of Heinz sauce should be so tenacious in insisting on its Australian name.

It makes me sad in some insignificant and yet oddly profound way. The words are falling from my mouth, and very soon I'll forget that I ever lived in a place where people drank lemon, lime and bitters, ate mandarins, thought this vegetable (or rather fruit) was a pumpkin and drove utes along dusty country roads.
dolorosa_12: (una)
I was in Melbourne last week, staying with my father, stepmother and two little sisters. Kitty is now eight, and Nell is three, so as you can imagine, there were lots of amusing conversations with that special breed of young-child logic. Here are a few of my favourites:

Our family is complicated
Ronni (getting out of the car): Hey, Dad, it's okay! I can get my own bag.
Nell: He's not your dad! He's my Dad!

Nell is fuzzy when it comes to banal stuff like dates and time
Nell: Why are you here?
Ronni: I'm here because I want to visit you and Kitty and Dad and your mum, because I love you all!
Nell (suspiciously): How long are you here?
Ronni: Four days. (Counting on her fingers) Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Then I'm going back to Sydney.
Nell (shouting, to Kitty): Hey! Ronni's here for four weeks!

Religion is tricky
(For context, we are watching Kitty and her school friends sing Christmas carols in the Catholic church over the road from their (Catholic) school.)
Nell's four-year-old friend, J, to his mother: Is Jesus dead?
C (his mother): Yes. [Careful! Your atheism is showing!]
J: If he's dead, how can he save us?
C (looking increasingly worried): Well...umm, Jesus is a special case.
J (apparently satisfied by this): So, did Jesus help Santa build the sleigh?

Are the clouds made of milk?
(This is my personal favourite.)
Dad and Alice, my stepmother, are sitting outside in the backyard. Nell wanders out.

Nell: The sky looks like a tea-set.
Dad, Alice and Ronni: *are confused*
Alice: What do you mean, Nell?
Nell (emphatically): It's a tea-set!
Ronni: Do you mean that the colours look the same as the colours of a tea-set?
Nell (thinks for a while): Yes.
Ronni: Do you have a tea-set with those colours?
Nell: *is confused*

TWO HOURS LATER
Alice: OH! She meant 'sunset', not 'tea-set'!

A lot of other awesome stuff has happened since then, including a delicious breakfast with [livejournal.com profile] lucubratae and his fabulous girlfriend, some of the best chocolate cake ever, cooked by my friend K, and many evenings spent at my grandparents' place, but that will all have to wait, as I'm off to meet my mum for coffee at the always-marvellous Bunker (which sells Campos coffee!).

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