Good Morning Sunshine

by Rianh Silvertree.

hot-coffee-steam-300x168

It happened one day.

One ordinary day.

Or maybe it was a bunch of days with smaller events that nobody flagged as significant.

There was the increasing coffee prices, then the dwindling of supply regardless of price. Then the replacement of coffee with Chicory; like in the war; it was a trend. Hipsters were subsequently blamed for the lack of coffee. but they hadn’t made it popular and thus caused the lack of coffee. The papers claimed that the low demand of coffee equated to lack of supply. Then there was the withdrawing of news stories. There were rumors about the coffee supply chain, revolutionaries, fascist governments, droughts in coffee bean nations. But it was the high price of diesel in a world of dwindling fossil fuels, and the increasingly turbulent ocean due to unstable weather patterns that was the problem. So the coffee nations had piles of coffee beans, and little else, and we had none. But that was all a rumor of course. It was the hipsters. Those mega scarf, giant glasses, skinny jeans, man bun hipsters.

And no coffee.

The traditionalists appeared. Proper traditional Aussies who drank Bushels’ tea from India, claiming that coffee in the first place had funded terrorism and that only true Australians drank tea. Until the same thing happened. And once again, it was clear the hipsters had drunk it all, and their quirky oddities made it into boutique teas and then suddenly there was only the one brand that was grown in Australia. And it was hugely expensive. What once had an iconic blue paper tag stapled to a thin paper wrapper, separated by a string, was now sold in satin wrappers, fancy faux-timber boxes, and exorbitantly priced.

Tea! No longer ordinary. No longer for regular folk.

People got used to their hot water with lemon. Lemtea they called it. And while it had no caffeine, there were other things to get a kick out of. Shrooms became popular. The market had to have something to replace the caff. So the shroom growers and chemists made mild shroom soda, for adults of course, and we all drank the shroom soda and remembered the quaint habit of tea and coffee drinking but it was so long ago. Months stretched into years. Shroom soda was the new thing. And we could not get enough of it. The flavours were fantastic and the effect, soporific. Blue Meanie, had a cute little cartoon character on the front, and kids collectible stuffies when it first came out. Golden Top, the shiniest can, came with collectible cards, and stamps and ‘power ups’, and soon, we could not remember a time when they did not exist.

People forgot about coffee and tea.

The chocolate riots would not be forgotten though. Thousands died in the riots. The taste, after a while, became mythical, almost. But a new generation of children did not believe in chocolate, ‘oh, you’re making it up’ they said.

Then the towns went underground. By then the seas had been dead for years; fish were something people told stories about to children, like unicorns and dinosaurs and chocolate. The beach was by then a wafting flotsam of radioactivity and stinking dead things. Not so much a sandy verge for the ocean anymore, but the edge of the water which lapped over the sunken suburbs and the sea side towns. When the first abandoned coal mine was pumped free from toxic sludge, there was a flurry of activity, loads of work-for-the-dole positions, and pretty soon entire towns were relocated into underground apartment and shopping-school complexes. The new towns were called Carmichael and Coppabella and George Fisher, named for the mines they were built within. The mining barons of old were rewritten as heroic forward planning visionaries instead of the money grubbing environmental criminals they were. Old townscapes were levelled and converted to solar panel shade-covered farm lands. People clamoured to volunteer to farm, because they missed the sun. The success of the Great Undergrounding was measured in job creation and technology more than happiness.

Outside was dangerous.

There were radioactive clouds and acid rain and marauding gangs. Civilization was a guarded thing. You were in. or you were out.

When I look back, the signs were there. We just didn’t see them for what they were. ‘She’ll be right’ they said, ‘the earth has a capacity for bouncing back’, ‘there is no such thing as global warming’. This is what the news channels told us. This is what the papers said, and later, the emergency radio, and later still, people repeated this poisonous rhetoric huddled in shelters, too scared to go out into the sun, frightened of the water in their taps. Then the kangaroos and the koalas died out, and the safe radiation levels were increased up and up and up. People said, ‘well, they are only animals and if the government says the radiation levels are safe, they’re safe’.

Trust them.

So we trusted them and the birds fell from the sky. The roads melted as did the tyres of the cars that ran on them. The abandoned cars randomly exploded as the trapped, fuel vapour reached critical point in the searing temperatures. There were freak weather patterns, 100 year floods every year, heat waves, cold snaps and snow in summer. It didn’t mean anything. And if it did, well it wasn’t caused by humans, it was a natural event.

Completely natural.

Get underground. Drink your shroom soda. Wait your turn to see the sun.

“Faraway”

 

A story by Rianh Silvertree

tree s

“Nestled in 110 acres of natural bushland the Mt Helen Campus of Federation University…” the wind whips the brochure out of the hands of Kelly Maguire. The blue and white promotional flaps from the doorway of the upper reaches of the Albert Coates Centre and stops abruptly, pinned by the wind to the most enormous tree on campus. Kelly climbs over the barrier from the path and strides through the mulch and onto the grass beneath the spread of the ancient monument. It feels people-less here, away from the fracas of O week celebrations. The wind’s rush through the leaves above creates a constant noise that provides a barrage of sound between Kelly and the rest of the world. People walk by on the new recycled plastic walkway. They pay her no attention.

Kelly finds the view upward of the majestic tree trunk reaching into the canopy, and into the clouds, sublime. She leans in to touch the little mossy strips of greenery, so like a tiny vertical forest. She drops the end of her lunchtime pasty which comes to rest under a long strip of bark.  – ‘You could be the Magic Faraway Tree’, she whispers. She does not see the brass plaque which reads: “planted on Arbor Day 1896 by Mrs Elizabeth Downing”.

_________________________________________________

“You’re a little tiny thing now,” says Mrs Downing, dropping a pair of seeds into a poker hole in the damp soil near the lavatory, conveniently located twenty paces from the backdoor of the farmhouse she lives in, “but one day, you will be mighty. Don’t forget who planted you,” she laughs.

Many generations of Downings poop into the long drop dunny as the tree grows. Their human detritus seeps into the soil, feeding the roots of E. Globulus twinsii. Twins, because two seeds sprout from the planting in the poker hole, and two saplings grow, eventually melding into the one tree.

Sheep are gutted here. Strung up by one foot to the lower branches, they bleat their last. Throats slit, sheep choke, and blood waters the soil in a splashing rush. Guts, feet, tails, buried in a hole. Iron, protein, platelets, viscera, supped upon by the growing trees.

The spirit of sheep is now in the wind.

The Downing children play at soldiers.

Before the tree, there was a meadow spotted with trees that covered the land from sea to mountains, fed upon by vast mobs of kangaroos, stretching into the distance of time to encompass megafauna and the first people.

_____________________________________

The Wathaurong walk through. They hunt, and camp here, on the site of the future tree. Their babies play and their young men practice the art of spear throwing. The universal sound of family joins the wind. Laughter, cries of sadness and joy. Expressions of love. Bare feet tread on soft mosses and prickly grass. Rich loamy soil squeezes between toes, and bugs run across feet. Birds rise up from the grass, form enormous flocks which circle, cawing, then settle, roosting in trees. Children climb trees to steal eggs and in equal numbers they climb up to return wayward fledglings. The women find the thin stalks with the yellow flower, and dig for yams. Lizards scurry, make more lizards, and get roasted on sticks. The smoke from camp fires joins the roving wind. Broken eggs, lizard skins and the bones of kangaroo, break down in the soil, digested by the seething, writhing earth. The clouds pass over, following cyclical weather patterns, formed for reasons to do with the moon and tides and the rotation of the earth. The wind whistles through the grasslands, like a spirit at play, catching some people not paying attention. It steals their breath. Others, gasp their last gasps. The wind gathers their souls.

_________________________________________

The Wathaurong fight for their country.

The squatters fight for theirs.

The Wathaurong bleed out. The earth, like gently cupped hands, catches their blood while their souls seek the wind. The insects, and microbes in the soil take away the exciting parcels of red stuff and break it down. The introduced foxes crack the rotted bones of all the things that die and the brand new rabbits decimate the grasslands. The few trees are clear felled by farmers to build their houses. They keep the Wathaurong away with their guns and their fences and their fat, stupid, cows and jolly, woolly, sheep.

Murder, in double talk, is called squatters rights.

Mrs Downing plants a double tree.

The jolly, woolly, sheep eat the yam flowers. The yams wither and die.

Downings junior go to war.

The wind travels across the ocean, to a beach full of death, and over to France where men dig ditches to live, in shit and mud, and then to die. The wind snatches these Downing souls, and continues on its journey until it reaches the home they foolishly left.

The land is acquired by Federation University. The big tree is named “The Tree of Knowledge”, and so it is. It knows a fair few things.

The buildings absorb heat through the day and release it at night, for such is the nature of concrete. Under the buildings lies a burial ground of dead worms, crushed wombats and deoxygenated microbes. Result of an earth-borne toxic event. The wind, channelled through upright concrete barriers is fast and furious. The tree, whose roots finger through the soil, routinely crack the sewage pipes for water to sup upon. It tastes the detritus of thousands of humans who exist within this bizarre landscape. The wind is no longer a spirit at play, but a demon possessed.

“I think I’ll study History,” decides Kelly Maguire.

Kelly rearranges her hair, and loses several strands, which the wind toys with before it leaves them at the base of the tree. Possums in the tree defecate from the branches. The rain falls in a gentle mist. Worms rise up through the soil and incorporate the possum shit and Maguire hairs into the beast that is the earth, constantly replicating itself. Kelly muses that the water misting down is a result of a Blytonesque washerwoman pouring water over the Angry Pixie. The tree is tall enough to conceal a foreign land above.

‘I could as easily be Yggdrasil’ sends the tree, in a thought form Kelly does not understand, ’I could shed a limb and kill you,’ it sends.

The demon wind howls through the tree’s top. It makes the sound of an entire First Fleet, sails flapping, setting course majestically for an earlier Terra Australis.

“Yes, definitely History, and Literature,” smiles Kelly.

The wind hits her with all its pent up rage and her hat flies off. It bounces into the distance, through the gap twixt F and S Blocks and into the more peaceful quadrangle there. Kelly yells epithets unfit for publication and chases after it. It is bedraggled in a puddle. The wind, satisfied, becomes playful. It sends a flurry of left over autumn leaves into a spiralling willy-willy then dissipates abruptly. The leaves hit the ground ticker-ticker-tack, echoing the sounds of long ago Wathaurong children laughing in a meadow full of yellow flowers.

Kelly resolves to eat lunch each day with the Faraway Tree, for she has heard the laughing of the faraway children. That night, the child of the shitting possum climbs out of the tree and eats the crust of the Maguire pasty.

The wind pools at the base of the tree.

Birds, Swirds and Celestial Bears: The function and effectiveness of Plato’s Forms.

space-bear-loveEarth Man lives in the world of the senses, Sense World, whereas Rilato, as a student of philosophy, while existing bodily in Sense World, knows something of Form World. (Plato’s Theory of Forms). Earth Man does not believe in Form World and questions the function and effectiveness of such a place existing. They are walking together through a Museum in Modern Day Sense World.
Rilato: As I was saying earlier, Earth Man, Form World is where everything exists as a pure idea. Plato believed that Form World was the true world and that Sense World was only transitional. Plato says ‘true existence consists in certain incorporeal forms which are objects of the mind’ .
Earth Man: Pfft. There is no Form World, only Sense World. I believe what I see, touch, taste, hear and smell, and nothing else exists.
Rilato: Yes, but ‘all things accessible to the senses are in a constant state of flux’ (Aristotle).
Earth Man drops his empty coffee cup into the bin.
Earth Man: I concede your point; that coffee was certainly of a temporary nature. And it was accessible to the senses….
Rilato: It is because Form World exists that you recognise the things that you observe with your senses. Take that stuffed bear for instance, without the Form of Bear in Form World, you wouldn’t know what that was because our knowledge of such things is recollection, not learning (Plato).
Earth Man: Not even true, I know that is a bear because I was told so as a tiny earth boy.
Rilato: ‘Our souls existed apart from our body before they took on human form and they had intelligence’(Plato) and before they arrived in Sense World, they existed in Form World and obtained ‘a priori’ knowledge of such things as the Form of Bear. So you see, even though you were told about a bear when you were a tiny earth boy, it wasn’t so much teaching, as reminding you that you already knew it (Plato).
Earth Man: So, in Form World there is a giant stuffed bear that I hung out with when I was a soul… a sort of heavenly teddy bear, in the sky? Or an ‘incorporeal form… somewhere in the unseen’? (Plato).
Rilato: Exactly, but a perfect Bear Form, from which each bear in the Sense World draws from to partake in Bear-ness.
Earth Man: Well, this one also participates in dead-ness and stuffed-ness.
Rilato: Death is just part of Becoming.
Earth Man: Becoming Dead. *laughs* But, that bear is certainly both bear and dead at the same time, your theory does not stand up.
Rilato: What you are describing is duality, but it works better with a thing like Good, or Just. Ontological Duality though, is about the split of the mind and body; Sense World vs Form World, and the Forms vs the imperfect copies of the Forms in Sense World. Also the duality that exists in opposites, like for instance Great and Small being opposed principles, yet part of the same thing, the unity of the Great and the Small actually become Numbers this way (Aristotle).
Earth Man: I was actually joking.
They continue walking past the bird exhibit.
Earth Man: Ok, what about birds. What if somebody decided that flight was a critical part of being a bird? That would mean that kiwis and emus would no longer participate in the form of bird that exists in Form World. This would create a new form, which I call blird. Would a Blird Form pop into existence in Form World if we all agreed that flightless birds would be Blirds and not Birds?
Rilato: I see your point Earth Man, this would invalidate the idea that our souls have ‘a priori’ knowledge of the Forms, however, this can be pulled back into Plato’s Form theory by saying that Blirds are simply imperfect copies of the Bird Form and are in fact birds, because they take part in MOST of the aspects of Bird-ness, flight being just one of them. Equally, penguins would not be swirds (swimming birds). The Forms in Form World were always there and the Blird and Swird were already covered, and would be rejected as forms. Aristotle on the other hand, could make use of the Blird and Swird as a sub-category of Bird, as his Forms allowed for a little more flexibility and was based more in Sense World. His Forms existed within the objects themselves, believing it ‘impossible that… Ideas [forms] and the substances of things…[could] exist apart’ (Aristotle).
Earth Man: Aristotle sounds like my kind of guy.
Rilato: Well, if it wasn’t for Plato’s Form World, Aristotle would not have come up with the categorizing system that this Museum uses to classify species.
Earth Man: Let’s get some lunch.
Rilato: Sure, philosophizing is hungry work. Interesting though, when Plato distinguished between being and becoming, ‘it was the true precursor to Aristotle’s theory of categories’ (Plato).
Earth Man: Let’s have chips! Just don’t talk about the perfect potato Form because I have never seen two potatoes the same!
Rilato: Well, that’s exactly the point of Forms, Earth Man. The Form is the Ideal, or Idea of the Potato, and these are just the little ‘b’ being kind, but as a chip, they are ‘becoming’ (Aristotle).
Earth Man: I put it to you Rilato that chips are potatoes in a state of Heracletean flux, which actually validates your Form World, because there has to be a Potato Form in order for potatoes to continue to be potatoes, because these ones just don’t last long. And tomorrow they will be in a state of flush. *snort*. (Aristotle).
Rilato: ‘All things are always in process of change, in every respect’ (Plato). Hence everything is becoming and never being, unless they are Being, and Being can only occur in Form World (Heidegger), although being is what a thing is at its core, while the becoming stuff is the surface changes, like haircuts, growing old, losing attributes etc, so it is explained by Plato in two different ways. However the Being of the Celestial Bear, or Potato Ideal, is only in Form World.
Earth Man: These are good chips.
Rilato: It’s like they followed a form-u-la.
Earth Man: What about the kind of Good that is in Superman, saving the world and what not. There’s not a form for that, because it has no shape, it’s neither a bird, nor a bear, nor a potato.
Rilato: Ah. Well, it doesn’t need one. In Form World, the Good doesn’t have to have a shape, and when it appears in Sense World we recognise it, even if it appeared in that bear, if that bear performed a moral good for instance, like not stealing a picnic, it would be partaking in the Forms of both Bear and Good at the same time. So, you can see it pass through the form of Good, while it performed a Good action, thus, ‘the Forms can be thought, but not seen’ (Plato).
Earth Man: That would show that the bear thought about what it was doing and chose wisely.
Rilato: Yes, it would have been wise in choosing what was good for the whole bear (Plato).
Earth Man: A self-improving bear. A critically thinking bear. Becoming iBear 2.0.
Rilato: Yes, there is a hierarchy between good choices and bad. ‘It should be noted that the functional…and metaphysical theory of the Form of the Good… favour reason as the ruler of our lives,’ (Plato).
Earth Man: I see, in a way, striving to achieve Good, and value things that are close to the perfect Forms provide us Sense World dwellers with goals and social norms. In a way, it gives us a sense of purpose, to try to achieve Plato’s Good Life.
Rilato: Yay! The Forms provide standards, and the power to judge those standards is in the hands of the philosophers (Flew).
Earth Man: Holy Crap! That means, all those years ago, that this guy Plato was trying to put power in the hands of the thinkers, rather than the guys with the armies!
Rilato: Yup. ‘The word philosopher [came to mean] one who knows the Forms’ and those who ‘know the forms are the ones fit to rule’ (Flew). Plato didn’t mince words either, he said ‘[there must be] a conjunction of … philosophy and political power [to save the] human race’ .
Earth Man: That’s kind of appropriate today as well.
Rilato: Yeah, it’s timeless. Hegel said ‘Reason is the sovereign of the world’ and he meant sovereign as in monarch or ruler.
Earth Man: Okay, I would really like to see this Form World then, though I’m still not convinced it’s a thing, it seems more like knowledge or something.
Rilato: ‘If ever we are to have pure knowledge we must escape from the body [and Sense World] and observe things with the soul…itself [in Form World]’ (Plato)
Earth Man: I have to die?
Rilato: That’s one way of doing it. Plato did say ‘those who practice philosophy in the right way are in training for dying and they fear death least of all men’ though it’s not entirely necessary. Education in metaphysics, understanding, realisation that the world is an illusion, can help you peer into Form World. What ‘escape from the body’ probably means is forget about earthly stuff, worrying about what to eat and pooping and such, and ‘observe with the soul’ means engage with your mind. Think!!!
They leave the café and begin to walk through the Asiatic Mammals section of the Museum.
Rilato: Okay, so if you look at it as levels, it might help you understand. See that little antelope over there, dead, and stuffed, it’s a lowly Sense World form of antelope, but in Form World there is the perfect Antelope that has the essence of what it is to be an Antelope in it. This Sense World antelope is like an opinion of what the Form World Antelope might be. This stuffed antelope is ‘becoming’ or a little ‘b’ being form of the Form World Antelope which is a capital ‘B’ Being Antelope. The One Antelope that rules them all, or as Aristotle explained, ‘the one over many’.
Earth Man: … but Sense World functions perfectly well without Form World, it’s okay to have a bunch of imperfect antelopes. (to the antelope) You were a perfectly ok antelope, little guy, or girl….
Rilato: There! You said ‘were’. This Sense World antelope has ceased to exist but the Form World Antelope is eternal. Because it exists in the Realm of Ideas it is unchanging. (Aristotle). Sense World cannot exist without Form World providing the patterns. Plato says: ‘there is no other way in which an individual can come into being [without] participating in… the Forms’ .
Creepy music plays over the loud speaker then shuts off abruptly..
Earth Man: (slightly unnerved by the music). Okay, so, without Form World and its Ideas, could a, um, Tiger cub still grown into a Tiger?
Rilato: Well, no. because the telos of a creature is like a code that comes from the existence of its Form, ‘the forms are both causes of being and becoming’ (Aristotle). It gives it something to strive for. Like, if we had no idea of what Good was, we could never live a Good Life, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ (Plato). Without Forms, there would be no plan and the world would descend into chaos. Bears would always steal picnics and Superman would not save you, tigers could grow into trees, it would be nuts.
Earth Man: So, what you are saying is that Form World keeps everything together?
Rilato: Yay, have a Mintie.
Earth Man: So, am I right?
Rilato: Can’t say really, it’s only a theory.
Earth Man: I could ask Plato… he is probably in Form World now.
Rilato: I don’t think so, his earthly body would be here, well composted, but his essence, or soul, would have entered Form World, attained the knowledge of all things, and would now be partaking in the Form of Man and the Good.
Earth Man: Didn’t St. Augustine say something about being taught by the Platonists to ‘seek incorporeal truth’, and thus found God, bodiless, floating in the cosmos?
Rilato: Beats me how he found God amongst all the antelopes, bears, potatoes and the pure Good, Just and Beauty.
Earth Man: *laughs* There should be Form World tours. (pauses). Is this why we are in a museum?
Rilato: Maybe. *laughs*. Plato created an analogy of a Cave to explain to Sense World people the way to get to Form World.
Earth Man: Do tell!
Rilato: In Sense World, we are all living in a cave, where we only get to see the shadows of the Forms, but we think they are real. It is only by breaking away from your beliefs, or educating yourself by learning to think critically, or by death, that you can get out of the cave and experience the reality of the world of Forms, where the Good is as bright as the sun.
Earth Man: So what’s the point of forms and caves and good and knowing about True birds, bears, and potatoes then?
Rilato: The point is Earth Man, that Plato has given us a structure that shows a path to achieving a Good Life and that we can achieve great things by critical thinking and he provided the basis for categorizing everything in the world. If it wasn’t for Forms, or Ideals, we would have no breed standards for animals, or social norms or ideals of beauty or moral compass. Without this we would have no goals. He also gave us a sense of participation in the universe that goes beyond death and although this is clearly a stepping off point for Christianity; ‘in the beginning it was just the Word and the word was […]Go[o]d’ (John 1:1), but the word in fact was the idea that knowledge is power and that those who gained education would be the best rulers.
Also, that there is more to life than just feeding the body, one must also feed the mind! As for the rule of reluctant Philosopher Kings, at the very least we now have leaders who have managed to get a University Degree in the Western World rather than being led by conquerors, which is what monarchies and dictatorships are based on. The idea of the Forms underpins the whole of Western civilization.
Earth Man: Wow! You know, whether Form World exists or not is irrelevant. It is comforting to think of things being eternal, that there is a plan, and a structure, and that we can get to places by thinking, and improve our lot by striving towards a perfect form. Perhaps thinking is a super power?
Rilato: Perhaps.
Earth Man: There are bears in space though aren’t there?
Rilato: *winks*. Just the one.
END.

References

Aristotle, ‘Books I and IV, Metaphysics’, trans W.D. Ross, in The Complete Works of Aristotle Vol 2, Ed. Jonathon Barnes, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984, pp1553-1585, 1586-1599.

Bolton, Robert. ‘Plato’s Distinction between Being and Becoming’ The Review of Metaphysics vol 29, No 1. Pp66-95. Published Philosophical Education Society Inc. 1975.

Flew, Antony. ‘Plato and the Theory of Forms’, in An Introduction to Western Philosophy: Ideas and Argument from Plato to Sartre, London: Thames and Hudson, 1971, pp41-77.

Heidegger, Martin. Early Greek Thinking: The Dawn of Western Philosophy. Harper and Row:USA. 1975. Print.

Horrocks, Chris and Zoran Jevtic. Foucault for Beginners. Icon Books:UK. 1997. Print.

King James Bible, John 1:1, The Official King James Bible Online, Apocrypha Books, 1611, sourced from http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/John-1-1/ on 23/11/2013.

Plato, ‘Apology’, in Plato: complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997 pp 17-36.

Plato, ‘The Cave’, in The Republic of Plato, trans. F.M. Cornford, Oxford” Clarendon Press, 1941, pp 222 -227.

Plato, ‘Selection from Phaedo (65b-77a)’ in Plato: Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1997, pp56-67.

Santas, Gerasimos. ‘Plato: Ethics’ in The Blackwell guide to Ancient Philosophy, ed. Christopher Shields, Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2003, pp 118-129.

‘Lol’ is a Dumb Name for a Cat

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‘Lol’ is a Dumb Name for a Cat

Rianh Silvertree

There are places that exist outside the zeitgeist, that busy internet hubbub, the pretend connectivity that keeps us apart. Wally’s garage is one such place. Tim Berners-Lee, when he released the internet technology for free in 1990, would have had little concept of how unique such a place would become, twenty odd years into the future.

Wally lived on a main road, in a shop that wasn’t a shop and hung out in his garage in a tiny town that barely existed.  I lived behind him, in a school that was no longer a school, teaching little of consequence. Sometimes, when the roo shooters kept me up with the bang, bang, banging as they administered death to the local dwindling population of grey kangaroos, (which I knew about because as they blasted them onto the endangered list, I angrily Googled the statistics), I would hang out in Wally’s garage.

One particular night, Wally arrived accompanied by a young man in the black and white tribal Adidas outfit of a city dweller of unknown ethnic origin. I found my shoes and met him in my carport where he was already scouring the wall for something.

“You had a fan belt….” he said.

Wally never said ‘hello’. 

He accepted a tailor made smoke from the young man in black and white while the goanna that lived in my carport slipped stealthily around the corner. I noted with wry amusement the young man’s rising panic as he noticed it too. He was less than three hundred metres off the freeway and already in a foreign country, the zeitgeist failing him. Adidas was succumbing to a blue singlet, ancient footy shorts and generic rubber thongs.

“What happened?” I asked, pointing to the space between where the tennis racquets and the high pressure water thingy hung.

Wally lifted down the precious fan belt.

“We had an accident just past….. where Google Maps stopped working,” the lad looked confused so Wally filled in for him.

“Bust a fan belt, clipped the Sherlock post,” Wally looked at me expectantly.

“No shit,” I replied.

We laughed.  The lad did not understand.

“No shit, Sherlock,” we said to him, by way of inadequate explanation.

“If I had my iPad on me, I could Google that,” he said, inhaling strongly on his cigarette, hands shaking like a junkie. 

He offered his jet lighter to Wally, who lit his much appreciated smoke.

“Come on,” said Wally to me, “a few drinks and fix this car hey?”

Not one to pass up any entertainment, I left my house wide open and well lit, and came along.

“You don’t l-lock it?” asked the lad.

“Nah mate,” I replied, “it’s off the map.”

“From a ford wasn’t it?” Wally asked, regarding the black rubber loop in his hands.

“EA,” I replied.

Wally nodded.

We entered Wally’s garage. Two other black and white boys climbed out of the damaged car.

“We got a fan belt,” said Boy One to Boys Two and Three, “it’s from an EA though.”

“I will Google to see if it will fit,” said Boy Two.  He held up his iPad at several awkward angles, and failed to get an iSignal. He watched as Wally measured the fan belt against the broken one and decided that it would be okay.

The plastic front bumper was cracked and in danger of being entwined with the wheel and the road. It was a hazard. Boy Three was intent on pulling it off.

“Here,” said Wally, “let me show you something.”  While he drilled holes either side of the large rip, I found some black zip locks and we threaded them through and zipped it tight.

“Wow,” said Boy One, admiringly, “I would have just got another and replaced the whole thing, would have cost probably a hundred and fifty bucks.”

Wally ran a bead of Tarzan’s Grip along the crack, accepted a beer and plugged in a hair dryer to hasten the glue’s process.  “Later, we will spray it with some matt black and you won’t hardly notice it,” he said.

Boy One tried frantically to connect iPhone to cyber world.

Wally smiled. “You won’t get a signal here,” he advised.

Boy One shook his head, “No,” he whispered, bug-eyed, as though this were an impossible idea.

“It’s true,” said Boy Two, placing his useless iPad reverently onto the back seat of the car.

Boy One took a picture of us all with beers in hand, for his Facebook page. Then tried to upload his status. And failed. The iPhone spontaneously lost the image and then its battery died.

“We are in a dip here, no TV, no radio, no internet signal, unless you get satellite,” I told them.

“But everybody has internet, the connections….. are important….” said Boy Three. I handed him a third beer.

 “Can Haz beer,” he said sadly.

“No satellite,” laughed Wally.

I had a satellite.

 I didn’t say.

They were called Peter and Randy and Dylan, later on Facebook I got to know them as KandyAssMan, Kickstarter, and NarlyBooger, a very different proposition from these nice lads with the endless Esky full of cold beer in the boot of their broken down Ford. On Facebook, they posed for terrible self-portraits and posted more than one ‘dog-wearing-sunglasses’ and made random announcements about the minutia of their lives and lolled instead of laughing. Despite the genius examples of 4chan and the YemenPortal.net guy, their use of social media was more narcissistic than revolutionary.

Later that night, Wally’s cat walked in.

“Lol,” said Peter sadly.

“Ha ha, LolCat,” said Dylan nudging Randy.

“No,” replied Wally. “That’s Skittles, you know, like the lollies.”

The lads nodded. They knew the lollies.

“Lol, is a dumb name for a cat,” pronounced Wally, as he suggested someone turn on the engine to check the fan belt was doing what it was supposed to.  It was.

The boys drove off, with my EA fanbelt for an EA I no longer owned.  I wondered if they cheered as they reached the point a mere twenty metres up the road, where the signal came good again, and I could not help but think of social media in the same terms as addiction. The Australian-Oxford Dictionary defines Addiction as ‘1. Dependent on as a habit; unable to do without. 2. Devoted.’ And Shelton & Neetu, describe Facebook both as an ‘addiction’ and ‘epidemic’ after conducting experiments on various forms of disconnection from social media platforms, but I am still undecided.

I went home, and Facebook-messaged my daughter in her bedroom regarding the goings on of the night, and wondered about the potentiality of Boys One, Two and Three becoming ‘citizen journalists’ like the now famous Sohaib Athar who typed “Go away helicopter, before I take out my giant swatter,” amongst other things, and unwittingly live-tweeted Osama’s death.

Boy Two is right, the connections are important, but are we making the right ones? It seems to me that while we are more connected we are also more isolated.  I live in a city now and have not yet found a Zeitgeist free zone, but, like Wally’s garage, they are out there, and we need them more than ever.

 And Lol is a dumb name for a cat.

 

 

 

 

References

Australian-Oxford Dictionary. 5th Edition. Bruce Moore, Ed . Australian National Dictionary Centre.. Oxford University Press. 2009.

Krotoski, Aleks. ‘The Internet’s cyber radicals: heroes of the web changing the world’. Untangling the web with Aleks Krotoski. The Observer. 2010.

Newton, Lee. ‘5.2. Citizen Journalists’. Facebook Nation. Total Information Awareness . New York. 2013. Sourced at http://link.springer.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4614-5308-6_5/fulltext.html on 24/3/2013.

Ong, Eileen & Rebecca Ang, et al. ‘Narcissism, extraversion and adolescent’s self-presentation on Facebook. Journal of Personality and Individual Differences 50. Pp180-185. Nanyang Technological University. Singapore. 2011

Sheldon, Kennon, Hinch, Christian &  Neetu Abad.  ‘A Two Process View of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: Disconnection Drives Use and Connection Rewards it.’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 100. No.4. 766-775. University of Missouri. 2011.

On Getting Published by Rianh Silvertree

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So, I hear you have just written the best book ever in the entire universe?

Congratulations, well done you! That’s a fantastic effort just getting to the end of a manuscript, and then edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite and of course, you got a bunch of friends to read it right? And then maybe a beta reader or two to give it a once over?

What’s a beta reader?

A beta reader is someone who can give your writing a semi-professional read, a critique if you like, for grammar, spelling, story consistency and maybe some ideas for improving settings, characters and overall story arches.

How much does that cost?

It shouldn’t cost you anything. A beta reader is someone who is at the same level of writing skill as you, or maybe better, who belongs to your writing community. A paid editor is something your publisher will arrange for you, once you have a contract. Your job is just to get it to the best you can possibly manage with your awesome mere-writer skills. However, if you do feel a need for an editor, try Nadia at Editornia, she is awesome.

Communi-what-now? I’m the kind of writer who lives in a cave and writes with a passion, and I only come out when I am done. I write alone!

Oh, we all write alone, nobody wants to look over your shoulder, but writing communities can be really helpful when it comes to tips and advice and for getting published. If you join your local writing group, in Victoria it is http://writersvictoria.org.au/ Writers Victoria, at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, they will be able to link you in with weekly emails, and news about writing competitions, workshops, seminars and festivals. Hanging out with other writers, is networking, and it is a critical part of building up your writer presence. You are really missing out on lots of opportunities if you ignore the vast amount of information out there from just this one group not to mention all those chances to hone your awesome writerly skills. Enter the competitions! Some competitions offer prizes such as publication with a well known publishing house, grants of money that can enable you to continue writing, publicity and the ability to add interest to your writers resume.

Writer’s Resume? I thought all I had to do was write the very best book in the world….

Sorry, plenty of ‘very best books in the world’ ended up on slush piles because they did not have a good enough submission letter, or you did not have an interesting resume. Of course, if you have a degree or diploma in writing, teaching, literature or a field related to what you are writing about, that may open some doors for you, but a track record of already published writing will help. There are plenty of magazines out there who are happy to accept well written articles from unknown writers for absolutely no money, and while this is kind of unreasonable in lots of ways, it does get your name out in the literary world, and you can use the pull of that magazine to draw readers to your blog. Some magazines will actually pay you! Google magazines that you like or are pertinent to your area of interest. K-Zone, Lotta Magazine, and Just Kidding are three magazines for children with websites that you can enquire about submitting short stories to.

Blog? I don’t have time to blog…..

Well, my dear fuzzy headed soon-to-be-famous writer, make some time. The world is becoming digital at a very fast rate of knots, and I doubt very much that you could find a writer who does not have a blog, a Twitter feed and a Facebook page… Go on, name a writer, any writer….

I dunno, how about Neil Gaiman?

Right, well, good choice. Neil Gaiman is represented on Twitter, Tumbler, Facebook, Imdb, a personal website sponsored by Harper Collins, and has many reviews on Goodreads.

Neil even has his own online bookstore, and a page on Wikipedia! This man is well represented indeed. Neil Gaiman also includes links to clips of him reading from his own stories on YouTube.

Now a regular, just starting out soon-to-be-famous author who is not Neil Gaiman, can create a blog, full of short stories, interesting news items, links to magazine articles that hopefully they have written themselves and gotten published, and perhaps a bunch of interesting cat pictures. There is nothing to stop you. Blogspot, and WordPress are two well known free blog hosting services and there are many, many more. There are multitudes of ways you can create a web presence for yourself, so that when your manuscript arrives via someone’s email, or lobs onto some unsuspecting publishers desk, before they even open your file, or flip the pages of your epic and amazing work, they will be impressed by you as a writer already. Consider the way anything is sold in the world today; it all comes with some form of advertising. If your Writer’s Resume includes links to a brilliant blog full of clever bits of writing by you, even a quirky picture of your dog wearing sunglasses, (only one, unless you can get your dog to also rock a hat, then exactly two),

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and see if you can get some feedback from your blog readers saying how funny, clever, awesome your dog and stories are… and if your smiling, lovely, *marketable* personality shines through…. they may just read your book.

Well, I sent my manuscript off to three publishers and I have not heard back at all!

Okay, that can happen, but first did you do this:

*Go to a bookshop*. (I know this sounds very basic, but before you send off manuscripts to a bunch of unsuspecting publishers, you should know the sort of books they publish. It is no good sending a children’s picture book to Mills & Boon, they just will not want it.)

Duh. I just sent it to all the big ones. You know, Harper Collins, Pan MacMillan and Random House.

Nice names! But first tell me a little about your book. Who did you write it for?

Me. I always write to please myself.

Well, secretly I think we all do, but what is your book about and who is the main protagonist?

It’s a story about a nine year old girl who is interested in saving the local wildlife, and she stands up to all the powers-that-be in her story and becomes a hero.

Is it a picture book? Or a short novel?

It’s illustrated and I would like it to be a picture book.

So the protagonist is nine, so that is Young Adult or Middle Primary, or even for Younger Readers? And it is about wildlife so there is a theme there that could be somewhat educational?

I guess so, yes.

Now if you have illustrated it yourself, did you know that many publishers prefer that you leave it for them to procure an illustrator? This is one of the ways that they can market your book. If they marry your story with an already popular illustrator, they may be able to boost sales, and at the end of the day publishers want to make money.

But I worked really hard on my illustrations; I think they should take my illustrations because they are really good.

Unfortunately, this could be a deal breaker for a publisher. Once you are famous though, I am sure you could negotiate a deal whereby your illustrations actually do make it to the light of day, however, for a first book deal, you may just have to accept that it will be your words only.

So, where should I send it?

Well, because there is an educational theme in your story and the protagonist is primary school aged, you would be very wise to look into an educational publisher. Like Scholastic Books, and picture book publishers, like Walker Books, as they make the most beautiful picture books ever, in my humble opinion.  And Hachette Children’s Books and Fremantle Press and Thames & Hudson and Penguin Group Australia… have a look here http://www.australianpicturebooks.com/  this website has a list of beautiful, recently published Australian books for children, *drool*. This website is part of ‘Australian Book Blogger Directory’ – keep an eye out for advertisements and links like this on book websites because if you can link your blog to them you will be drawing readers and publishers alike to notice you. The internet is an awesome tool, and not called the World Wide Web for nothing. Your Twitter and Facebook and Blog (oh my), and links to other websites that hold your published writing will all feed into each other and the more links the more traffic the more publicity you will get, the better known you will be. It’s like magic. Also, clean up your public self. If you want to be a children’s writer, be careful of acting inappropriately on the internet, no more swearing on Twitter, mmmkay! No publisher is going to take you on if you can be Googled and found scandalous, and they do look.

I know this, because I would.

Also, even though you sent your manuscript to all the ‘big names’, keep in mind that many of the smaller names are actually imprints of the bigger names, and you need to know these things in order to have your manuscript land in the most receptive hands. For instance, Black Dog Books are an imprint of Walker Books, and if you feel your book fits in with Black Dog Books selection, you should send it to Walker Books, for the attention of the Black Dog Books editor guy. Of course, it would work way better if you followed the guidelines on each and every website so that your book is within their word count, formatted the way they want it and arrives at the email or the post box of the exact right person! You don’t want your manuscript to crash and burn at any of these small hurdles, because it deserves every chance it can get.

Even though Jackie French is famous for saying that her first manuscript arrived poorly spelled, and covered in jam and flour, and nibbled on by wombats, it is just not a good idea to stick your manuscript in a sparkly envelope , sealed with Barbie Bandaids and unicorn stickers addressed to “The Editor Guy” in bright orange crayon, because, we can’t all be as lucky as Jackie French.

So, when will I hear back? Hello…….?

Well, some publishers will simply never reply, and some will send a rejection letter after about three months wait. But there is plenty to do while you wait.  You can write some more, because writing is your passion and writers must write, right?

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Of course, if you used unicorn stickers like this one, it would be a whole ‘nother fish kettle, because this unicorn sticker reeks of gravitas and would only enhance your chances of publication, providing you use the appropriate glitter, in the right proportions…. psst: Just don’t do it, ok!!…

Next Post: The E in E-Books, stands for the Elephant in the Room, (whose name is Indie and who Self Publishes!)