Month: April 2012

Women’s Work

This is the first of my reviews for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge: Overland’s ebook Women’s Work. I will confess to a Thurber moment when first looking at this publication – the small cover graphic seemed to be a robot. Immersed as I usually am in the world of speculative fiction, I did not wonder why a literary journal would choose a robot for the cover, I just accepted it. Perhaps robots were undertaking all women’s work in the future? But, of course the illustration is not a robot, it is a women standing on a chair, bent over, her long hair hanging down and an extremely large present resting on her back. (the robot’s head in my mind!)

Women’s Work is a collection of five new short short stories by Australian women writers. Editor Clare Strahan states in her introduction that each captures “the essence of excellence in short story – the quartet of form, beauty, ease and a sense of the whole.” Each of the stories is very different, but if there is a thread that binds them it is, for me, a powerful imagery which lasts beyond the reading and, perhaps, a slight melancholy. Every reader will have their favourite, and I will not nominate one. None of the stories address that particular meaning of women’s work – domestic chores – except perhaps in passing. Instead we are given something close to fables that offer insight into the human condition.

Anne Hotta’s The Art of Ikebana describes a conscribed world in which symbol and imagination are perhaps more powerful than reality. Calving, by Georgina Luck, takes place on a wider stage, but still one that is constrained by circumstance. Its ending twists your heart. Helen Addison-Smith’s She is raw and sad, bitter and funny. A moving description of loss. Forest, by Susie Greenhill, mourns the loss of a different sort, that of the natural world, as the protagonist moves through loneliness, perhaps to madness, perhaps to another place of being. The final story, Under the Bridge by Cheryl Adam, describes a collision of worlds in which nature is likely to be the destroyer.

It was a pleasure to read each of these very different stories. If you would also like to take a look, the ebook is available at booki.sh.

Gender and Writing

I came across this wonderful illustration and it seems to sum up a few of the thoughts I’ve had lately on gender and writing. There’s been a lot written about the under-representation of women in the broad literary community. Most recently, I came across Jack Heath’s post at Literary Minded. I applaud him for his decision to read only women for a year. (Despite my support of the Australian Woman Writer’s challenge I still find myself being seduced into reading by books written by men) I quite liked his idea that women use outfits as a means of making a statement. I suspect this may also be true of domestic tasks. But as much as I support efforts being made to bring some equality to writing, I always feel a little puzzled by many of the conversations. I have to remind myself that that’s how I’m seen, as first and foremost a woman. I’m thinking of Jane Caro’s comment that a group of men is just a group of people, but a group of women is … a group of women. I confess to using DJ rather than Dorothy-Jane as my author name, but that’s mostly because almost everyone ends up calling me DJ no matter how I introduce myself. It just seemed easier. (I did end up with a pink book cover, however) I’m thinking wishfully of Ian M Banks’ The Culture and the way in which its members are able to move from one gender to another, and sometimes become genderless. Perhaps that is the only way in which to make the point moot. Not for the first tine, I want to live in The Culture.

The Count and Me

I was pleased to learn that I share a birthday with Sesame Street’s Count von Count. You, too, can find your match over at Flavorwire. His characteristics, off the top of my head: vampire, (not that scary, but at least not sparkly), obsessional counter, owner of a very nice automobile, lives in a castle. And he has a theme song. Overall, pretty good stuff. Unfortunately, the only thing I’m counting at the moment is the number of times I’ve been forced to listen to One Direction.

Ray Guns and Other Good News

This week my first novel, What the Dead Said, has made it out into the world. Not only that, but a short story of mine, The Beginning of Human Flight: The True Story, has been accepted for issue 10 of SWAMP. But, perhaps more impressively, my sister has created a ray gun out of things she found lying around at home. Now, which one of us would Dr Who find more useful? She lets you know how to make one too over at her blog.

Another Earth.

Over Easter I watched Another Earth. It’s a movie which my husband dismissed early as being too slow and which didn’t mesh with my reasons for choosing it (science fiction, alternative realities, etc) But I was struck by several things, not the least of which were the beautiful images of Earth2 in our sky. The early sequence which showed some time lapse footage of Jupiter was also beautiful.
Have tried to find something like these, but the closest I could get were these NASA images:

LUNA – Workspace.

LUNA – Workspace.

(admittedly there’s nothing like this second one in the movie, I just like it!)
I also very much liked the way in which the alternatives to the main character’s existence weren’t spelt out. It was obvious how there lives may have gone, but this was never explicitly stated.
Very moving, if not at all what I expected.