Last year, as many of you know, I became an Australian citizen. For five years I had to jump through all of Immigration’s hoops in order to prove I was fit to stay here: criminal background checks, character checks, interviews, blood tests, chest x-rays, mugshots… You name it. They’ve got copies of my mail, family photographs, passports. They’ve got statutory declarations from my bosses, my PhD supervisor, my friends. Honestly, I am so on the grid in this country, it’s not even funny. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Immigration has recordings of my weird sneezing habits (I sneeze a lot. Usually in series of 3, 5 or 7. I’m sure if you ask the folks at DIMIA they’ll play you the tapes – after you’ve filled out at least seven hundred forms, and paid a substantial fee.)
But after all the testing – including the multiple choice “Become an Australian Citizen” quiz I had to take last year to finalise the process – there is one thing those wily folks at 55 Currie Street neglected to ask me. And, frankly, this question should’ve weighed heavily on their list:
Who are some excellent Aussie authors?
(Take note, DIMIA. This question is so much more insightful than, “What is Australia’s official language?” or “In this country, do we vote by raising our hands?” How is that supposed to determine whether or not I’m suitable for citizenship?? Err, sorry. That’s a rant for another day.)
April is Aussie Author Month, a cross-genre collaboration that aims to support and promote Australian writing and raise funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation* (click here to make a donation to the ILF). It’s such a worthwhile cause, I wanted to be a part of it.
So, in honour of Aussie Author Month, I’m going to answer Immigration’s unasked question and gush a bit about some of the Australian authors that inspire me and make me proud to be among their company. (This isn’t a complete list; it’s an indicative one. I’m bound to add to it as soon as I click ‘publish’ on this post because that’s when I’ll realise I forgot this one and that one and, crap! That one too! Still, here goes.)
- David Malouf, Complete Short Stories, Ransom, and An Imaginary Life. I love Malouf’s writing with a white hot passion. LOVE. I know I’ve just elicited a round of groans from everyone who was force-fed Fly Away Peter in high school. But I read Malouf by choice; I’d never heard of Malouf until I moved here (which is more a comment on my reading habits at the time than on Malouf’s international celebrity) but I have adored every word of his that I’ve read since. An Imaginary Life changed the way I think about characters – forever – and Ransom is so beautiful it made me sob. And his short stories are superb. Every single last one of them.
Yeah, it’s personal…
- This whole exercise is completely subjective, so it will come as no surprise that Angela Slatter appears on this list. Why try to hide it? Why shuffle her down to, say, #8 or #10, as though to pretend I am more blasé about her writing simply because she’s my dear friend? I mean, sure, we share a Brain and all. But the long and short of it is: her writing rocks. You should all know this by now. And if you don’t, then visit her website poste-haste. Get your hands on her stories. Experience the magic of her worlds, her lovely turns of phrase, her amazing characters all for yourselves. Go’on now: the list will wait.
- While I’m at it, let’s lay all the cards on the table. I’m a fan of Peter M. Ball’s short stories. Horn and Bleed are fantastic novellas, but for me Peter’s shorter pieces are precisely to my taste. Reading ‘On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War Machines of the Merfolk’ or ‘Saturday Night, with Angel’, or ‘To Dream of Stars: An Astronomer’s Lament’ … Well, it’s like Pete crawled into my head; found exactly the type of prose I find appealing; the bizarre but also familiar settings; the poignant scenarios; and mashed all these elements up and turned them into stories that fill up my inner happiness metre.
Enchanting settings, memorable characters:
- Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy and Sean Williams’ Books of the Change have stuck with me over the years because I read them within the first year of moving to Australia. They encapsulate my experience of getting to know the landscape, the country, and the wild imaginations people have here! They were, and still are, so refreshingly different to many fantasy trilogies. The bells, the necromancers, the paperwings (to name but a few) in Nix’s series captivated my imagination to such an extent that I wrote about Abhorsen in my Honours thesis; and Sean’s setting! The desert, the sea, the elemental magic – it was South Australia as I want to envision it (and still do, years and years after I read these books!) And aren’t we lucky that these two have paired up to write a series together! Can’t wait to read it!
- Margo Lanagan – umm, everything she’s written. I have to read her short stories in small doses because they are so good I might OD with joy if I tried to read them all in one go. Tender Morsels deserves all the favourable attention it’s been getting – the World Fantasy Awards were designed for insanely wonderful writing like Margo’s.
- John Harwood, The Séance (Victorian/Gothic ghost story; both chilling and lovely!)
- Eva Hornung, Dogboy (A reinterpretation of the ‘boy raised by wolves’ story, set in Russia; incredibly moving)
- Kirstyn McDermott, Madigan Mine (Supernatural/psychological thriller; such fine writing, and still so visceral at one stage I felt queasy – which, in my books, is a good thing. It’s a sign of how engaged I was in the tale; I couldn’t put it down, even when my blood phobia kicked in!)
- Trent Jamieson, Death Most Definite (Nicest protagonist you’ll have met in a while, plus Bonus! story with rollicking pace!)
- David Sornig, Spiel (Rosa Stumm is real. Rosa Stumm is a fake. Is it all a game? You decide. Some beautiful writing and an intriguing story.)
On the horizon:
There’s still sooooo much Aussie writing I want to read; soooooooo much of it is stacked on my bedside table! To name but a few that have tantalised me, taunted me, and which will be read:
- Jack Dann, The Memory Cathedral
- Tansy Rayner Roberts, Power and Majesty
- Kaaron Warren, Dead Sea Fruit (I’ve got the gorgeous hardcopy! Oooh how it wants to be read!)
- Lian Hearn, Blossoms and Shadows
- Lucy Sussex, My Lady Tongue & Other Tales (picked it up for a bargain a month ago…)
- Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan
- Justine Larbaliester (Um, need to read everything of hers!)
- Alan Baxter (ditto)
Such excellent authors, such excellent books — now all I need is an oubliette in which to hide and real them all!
*The Indigenous Literacy Project aims to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of indigenous Australians living in remote communities. It supplies culturally appropriate books to over 200 remote communities across Australia, is trialing an early literacy project aimed at 0-2 year olds, translates books into local language and works hand in hand with remote communities on literacy projects. ILP was established in 2006 by educator and bookseller Suzy Wilson and is an initiative of the Australian Book Industry. It works in partnership with the support of many organisations including the Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Booksellers Association and the Australian Society of Authors.