Darren and I are back in the Fireproof Garage for a new series of our podcast, a cavalcade of whimsy from two sibling writers taking about whatever junk pops into their heads at any given moment. We're assured it's better than it sounds.
Upon seizing office in September last year, the latest person to join the Australian Prime Ministerial conga line said these words: "there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian". I can only assume they were said sincerely.
At the time, I was hard at work remixing short stories originally written by Marcus Clarke and what became clear to me from this reading was how exciting it must have been to be an Australian in the 1870s. Clarke captured a nation in emergence, full of wide-eyed optimism and youthful vigour: a collection of colonies and a nascent culture that yearned not just for nationhood, but for greatness. But it was also a culture that carried dark stains and its aspirations in the near century and a half since have been offset and gnawed at by an instinctive and unthinking pettiness.
I had also, perhaps not coincidentally, developed an obsession with an extraordinary song called Definitive History by Augie March, where lyricist Glenn Richards deals directly with these same ideas. It's an angry song, no question, but its aesthetic is more of an anger that has burned out, an exhausted shell of despair.
In the final story from Hunted Down I imagine a scenario in which Clarke berates me for having the temerity to modify his excellent work. The story gave me the opportunity to try and capture what the most exciting time to be an Australian feels like from the inside.
With the words of Clarke and Richards swirling in my head, this is what I came up with.
I wanted to think I might have touched a nerve, shared the sadness and mourning for a nation that has lost its innocence, but learned too little in the process. This is what had been gnawing at me ... What did Clarke observe about who we were and what does it say about who we’ve become? We shrink in meek obedience in the face of authority, even as we pull faces behind its back. We’re bold only with a bellyful to beat to submission anyone on a lower rung. We are relaxed and friendly (we lie to ourselves), but only for the right kind of visitor. And at the same time, we refuse to acknowledge the festering wounds of our own dispossession. We glorify the ordinary as though it’s an end in and of itself. We aspire to be aspirational, not once pausing to wonder why the elites loudly denounce “elites” in our ears while they make craters in the very bush Clarke celebrated and burn its earth for a few more dollars. We pave over anything undesirable and build a complex on its plot; the property values are too good to waste. We goad the gullible to hate, then throw our hands up in despair when the inevitable blood returns to us. Always someone else can carry the blame. The rats of the culture wars wrestle in filth for the right to some kind of Australian soul. And in the mirror we see only the worst of ourselves.
Hunted Down is available now for the small price of one shilling (currency and inflation adjusted).
I was recently invited to contribute a position paper for CREATe, which is the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, based at the University of Glasgow. The topic was:
Is The Current Copyright Framework Fit For Purpose?
And was subtitled 'Insight from the publishing industry and beyond'. I probably represent the beyond. So I was asked to investigate the current copyright framework and whether it is actually doing what it purports to do for writing, reading, and publishing in the digital age.
It's a topic on which I have written previously, so some of it may be familiar.
The proliferation of digital media has presented enormous challenges to writers and other creative professionals in an environment where downloading, copying, and streaming digital files can take precedence over the purchase or borrowing of physical artefacts.
My own perspective on copyright is informed primarily by my experiences as someone whose writing has appeared in print since 2000 and on the web since 1995. But it is also informed by my experience with if:book Australia, commissioning, publishing, and distributing creative work from others in a non-commercial environment.
Regardless of how it was initially conceived and for whom it was initially intended to benefit, modern copyright has evolved into a mechanism whose intention is to allow creators to benefit from original works by granting them control over it for a period of time. It means that creators of an original work can expect fair compensation and acknowledgement when their work is bought and sold, adapted, referenced, and so on.
I have been holding off making a big deal about this, but I guess if an announcement is being made, I should probably share it around too. The link is behind a paywall but the headline is all you need to know.
We have signed on the dotted line that wasn't actually dotted and I'm officially joining Darren as an author for the wonderful Orca Publishers in Canada and the United States.
Darren and I first worked together on Concentrate many years ago now and this is a story we've had kicking around for a while. The thought that it would see its first publication in Canada is a bit surreal, at least for me. I'm sure Darren is okay with it, given he lives there.
This week, if:book began sending out the first highly bespoke copies of a new work of literary remix called Hunted Down and Other Tales by Marcus Clarke . Yeah, that's the full title.
It's part of a larger project called Rumours of My Death. I don't usually step in as author on creative if:book projects, but this one one was unusual in being even more vague and open ended from the outset than usual.
My job with this book was to select an Australian author whose work is in the public domain and bring their work into the 21st century. The only rule was around the medium. Previous #RoMD projects had taken place on the web and social media. This one had to use print.
I worked as author/remixer with editor Aimée Lindorff and designer George Saad and collectively, this is what we came up with.
Although everything in the book has come from a digital source, it uses a variety of printing techniques from digital print on demand to letterpress to hand screen printing.
The book itself is based on the little short story anthologies Marcus Clarke published in the 1870s. Designer George Saad created a note-perfect reproduction, something that became clear when we compared Hunted Down side by side with a copy of Holiday Peak and Other Tales from 1873.
There's so much more to write about this, some of which I'll post over at if:book, some of which will be here.