‘Sophie, come and look,’ Mum calls. I sulk, go to the window. Pretend to give a shit about jewellery. The opals are arranged on velvet cloth, shimmering under the hot beam of an office lamp. Occurs in the fissures of almost any rock, the note card says, most commonly in limonite, marl, basalt, rhyolite. Before they’re mined, opals run deep underground, seamed through the earth like irregular veins. These stones look dead on the black cloth, as if prepared for reburial.
It was a chilly evening in Tehran in 1983. Narges was sitting on the couch, listening to the radio, stroking her daughter’s hair. Asi lay asleep, her head on Narges’s thighs. The apartment was small and didn’t have much furniture. The war limited their luxury. Asi’s grandmother stood at the window, her small figure half-lit by the evening. She looked out through the steamed glass towards the autumn sky. No-one knew what lay behind those dense, livid clouds. A missile could hit their apartment this time, as it had next door.
This is the letter the government department has sent Joe, advising him that he could be deported. Here is the number of days until he might go: 28. A number as small and square and bureaucratic as the postage stamp on the envelope. Here is the lawyer’s website. This is the figure the lawyer quoted to help save him and it’s astronomical, eye-watering, but also doable. Essential.
We were pleased to see a broad range of entries in the 2018 Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize, stories diverse in form and voice, and creative in their approach to the theme of travel. We noticed that some writers struggled to think beyond cliché and others struggled to balance experimentation with engaging the reader. In general, though, the quality of entries was very high, and we enjoyed seeing some humour and formal experimentation in the mix.
Cities have been the focus of utopian thinking since early capitalist industrialisation manifested as rapidly expanding urban slums. From around 1750, disenfranchised rural populations flocked to cities, taking up work in unregulated, overcrowded factories or on dangerous construction sites. The vast majority experienced extreme poverty and were forced to live in crowded, unsanitary housing. Australia’s nineteenth-century cities were not as industrialised as those in Europe or the USA, but the inadequacy of housing and sanitation, along with not infrequent economic depressions, meant urban conditions were often comparable to those in the northern hemisphere.