Overland 225: Summer 2016

Type
Editorial

Though not yet president, Donald Trump is monopolising political discussion already. But by focusing on this individual as the embodiment of all that ails this era, we could miss the polarisation that’s occurring across the world.

The past few years have seen a revivification of the Far Right. Marine Le Pen’s National Front has 40% of the vote in parts of France; in Australia, the most recent election created four One Nation senators, and, as Vashti Kenway notes in her article on Hansonism, many of their obsessions are indistinguishable from the LNP’s.

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nuclear-power
Type
Regular
Category
The environment
The future

On storm musings by candlelight

It is spring. Thirteen-metre waves pummel our South Australian coastlines. Jetties collapse and oceans crash into beach-shack loungerooms. Riverbanks slide and dams burst towards unprecedented floods and emergency warnings. Gale-force winds rage over one hundred and forty kilometres an hour, and eighty thousand-plus lightning strikes fell transmission towers. Tornado-like conditions knock out the grid, triggering chaos and a statewide blackout.

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Type
Regular
Category
The internet

On the limits of Google’s gaze

You find yourself in the middle of a long stretch of road. On either side, fields of what looks like young wheat. There are no cars in sight. The sun is shining – isn’t it always? – but of course you aren’t warm. You can choose to proceed in either direction. Eventually you will come to a road sign, or cross paths with a vehicle whose markings might shed some light on your whereabouts.

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Type
Regular
Category
Writing

On being a bad writer

One thing writers love is hanging shit on other writers. Lord Byron mocked John Keats’ ‘piss-a-bed poetry’. Baudelaire called Voltaire ‘the king of nincompoops’. William Faulkner sniffed that Ernest Hemingway ‘has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary’ – to which Papa retorted, ‘Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?’

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Type
Regular
Category
Sexism
Writing

On invisibility

For me, invisibility has always been a desirable state. I suspect this desire is one of the reasons I was attracted to writing from an early age: it was a way I could assert myself without being seen. Or, perhaps, my early desire to write reinforced my own conviction of invisibility. It seemed miraculous that words I thought and wrote down could communicate even in my absence. It still does.

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Type
Essay
Category
Far right
Trumpism

The new patriotism

‘Your professors are cunts, on the whole,’ Milo Yiannopoulos told University of Oregon students in May. ‘Limp-wristed, pacifistic, sandal-wearing weirdos.’

The tech editor for alt-right news site Breitbart was seated on the low dais of a drab lecture hall, talking with the local leader of Young Americans for Freedom, the hosts for the event.

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Type
Essay
Category
Far right
Hansonism

No pasarán!

Memberships of these groups are as yet comparatively low, but over the last year or so their online presence has increased significantly. Studies produced by the Online Hate Prevention Institute suggest that around 200,000 Australians actively follow ‘patriot’ sites. Over the same period of time, the Far Right has used violent street mobilisations as a way to drum up support and recruit members. Since April 2016, thousands across the country have attended protests, fuelled by ultra-nationalist chants and Islamophobic rhetoric.

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Type
Essay
Category
Labour rights
Precarity

The state of the working class

In the earliest days of capitalism, the emerging working and capitalist classes moved in and out of political allegiances with the aristocracy in debates over suffrage, food prices and working hours. Ever since, certain groups, such as pieceworkers and farmers, have occupied ambiguous positions, and thus present a perennial challenge to how we understand waged labour and the experiences of the working class. Changes in the economy in recent years, particularly since the end of the post-Second World War boom, obscure class divisions in new ways.

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Type
Essay
Category
Indigenous Australia
Writing

Other peoples’ stories

In the late 1960s, when I was about eight, I announced to my aunt that I wanted to be white. If I were white, I explained, I would see myself everywhere – on television, on posters, in magazines, in books.

Even at that young age, I knew I was unlikely to recognise myself in a book. If I did, it would be as a primitive, half-naked, thieving, violent savage, or the tragic drunken relic of a civilisation on the brink of extinction, or the wanton woman – Venus half-caste.

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Type
Essay
Category
Politics
Reading
Writing

Radical passivity

If the ‘drift’ narrative belongs to any generation proper, it is to those who came of age in the sixties – swept along, however briefly, upon waves of political dissidence; losing and finding themselves in the wake of cataclysmic cultural change. Curiously, however, there has been a resurgence of this narrative over the last five years in fiction written by women; and with it, a fresh crop of literary heroines who appear to drift romantically, geographically or socially. Exuding an ambiguous, radical mystique, these young heroines are ultimately on the periphery of any group, often hitching themselves to dubiously charismatic men.

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Type
Essay
Category
Feminism
Science

Using/abusing fembots

Robots are, of course, another kind of living doll. One of the first cinematic depictions was the seductress ‘Maria’ in the 1927 film Metropolis. For as long as we have been imagining intelligent humanoid machines, we have been imagining them as sexualised females. From Apple’s iPhone assistant Siri to the mechanised attendants at Japan’s first robot-staffed hotel, a disproportionate percentage of artificial intelligence (AI) systems have female personas. These AIs tend to perform jobs that are traditionally associated with women: they are maids, personal assistants, museum guides and so on.

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Type
Essay
Category
Politics
The media

Form versus content

Watching Michelle Obama’s rejection of Donald Trump’s misogyny during the recent American presidential campaign, then Hillary Clinton’s defeat at the hands of said misogynist, it was hard not to draw parallels with recent experience in Australia: the apparently powerful naming of sexism, which proved not so powerful that it prevented electoral victory.

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Type
Essay
Category
Activism
Violence

The antis

A vote in favour would endorse the government’s attempt to conscript Australian men to fight on the battlefields of Europe; a vote against would repudiate the war plans. The fact that the vote took place at all was of great significance: nowhere else was such a crucial measure determined by an act of mass democracy. More extraordinary still, Australians voted no.

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Wallman illustration for Liam
Type
Fiction

Liam

In the year my uncle Liam turned sixteen he spent twelve months in youth lock-up after being convicted of a break and enter on a newsagency. The shop was run by a Mr Quigley, who had been to war in New Guinea. Although he never spoke a word about it, Quigley returned home traumatised by the experience. He’d wake in the night screaming with uncontrollable rage, which would rouse his wife sleeping beside him. Quigley would lash out and strike her as she attempted to calm him. It was common to see Mrs Quigley walking the streets with blackened eyes and bloodied scratches on her face.

Wallman illustration for Philps story
Type
Fiction

Agistment

I drive to see our cattle. I park in front of their new paddock and curl up to watch them. It’s been seven months since Dad signed his name on the back of a carton of Gold. Our cattle were moved to someone else’s land because our paddocks are dust. I watch them from my car for hours. My battery is getting flat from running the aircon in neutral. I pretend to call Ellen and hold my fingers like a phone to my ear. It’s been ten months since she’s been home. My neck is red because I know I look crazy. I tell her everything I see: The cattle are content. They move across the grass and swallow water with soft, wobbly throats.

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Wallaby (via flickr)
Type
Poetry

Story

I’m afraid there’re no surprises in this one, you’ve almost certainly heard it before. The wallaby, our wallaby, was brown bright, brown body and of eye, and with an inside and an outside, just like flowers have. And yet the wallaby lived near a bandicoot, a bandicoot of an iniquitous temper, who was black-hearted, wolfish, and a mercenary and villain.

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Type
Poetry

On the origin of Poetry

The modern English term ‘verse’ is derived from the French ‘verser’, meaning ‘to pour’. But the French equivalent, ‘vers’, means ‘towards’. It is also the plural form of ‘ver’, i.e. ‘worm’. (Cf. ‘verge’ – ‘penis’; and ‘verrue’ – ‘wart’, the image here being of warts scattered on the flesh as worms are found on a road following rain.)

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Type
Editorial
Category
Fair Australia Prize

The 2016 Fair Australia Prize

After more than forty years of neoliberalism and its particular variant of capitalism, we are witnessing its slow collapse. We are faced with an existential climate crisis, hollowed-out democracies, escalating social tensions and economic inequality for millions of people. The status quo cannot hold.

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Type
Fiction
Category
Fair Australia Prize

Fiction winner: Burned fingers

The UN staff give us clothes. Doctors tell me I’m going to a new home. But they don’t say where. I know the names of places from books in school. Real old books. When school was just a tent. Or sitting under a tree. My friends from then are gone. Some dead. Some to other countries. If they see my picture they won’t know this guy.

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Type
Story Wine Prize

Judges’ report

Judges: Emily Bitto, Michelle Law and Melissa Manning

We were impressed by the breadth of voices and stories submitted; the body of entries took us around the world before landing us in our own backyard.

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Type
Story Wine Prize

First place: Sweeping

He sits at the end of his sleeping mat and crosses his legs. He closes his eyes and listens. The almost-silence of the village. A dog whimpering for food. From the south, at a distance, the low rumble of the barter-truck coming. The call and return of two marri-birds. They’re mating, he hears, it’s that time of year.

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Type
Story Wine Prize

Runner-up: Silver linings

The moon called through the eucalypts and we went, my brother and I, barefoot against the mountain night. At the bank of the creek we stopped and rolled up our pyjamas. The flannelette, still warm, felt like fur. Our toes searched for smooth river stones and with our arms linked, we nudged our way through the icy water. It stung but it felt good too, like an ice-cream headache.

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Type
Story Wine Prize

Runner-up: Silver gates

I only realised how long you’d been gone when I saw the cracks in your soap on the shower floor. The air had got into that bar and broken it up real bad.

I mean, we all knew how long you’d been gone. We were the ones who took you to the airport at four in the morning. I can still see you, bags all over.