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Tomorrow I begin work on campus. Time to use that office, interact with other post grads, and see what kind of free food I can scrounge up on a daily basis.

As you can see, I have high standards for my office usage. There's a computer in the room, but who knows what kind of condition that is in? Last year when I was hanging around on campus for teaching, the computer I had access to didn't have a browser that could support gmail. Still, it should be any hassle to fix that, I suppose, if it's still the case. Anyhow, for those of you who are out around the UNSW Campus, feel free to drop in. Room 115. Least, that's what it says on the key that they made me put a ten buck safe keeping deposit on.

This little break has been neat. Lazy, pointless shit was the name of the game. I made a pie, watched some movies, played video games, read most of Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (I'll finish it up today), and had some thoughts about short stories and markets and that sort of business. Last day, so like I said, I'll finish up the book, maybe make a pie again, but who knows? About the only thing I didn't do is that I meant to write myself a short story, but other than scribbling down the ideas and mapping it in my head, it didn't happen. Fair enough. Serious time in front of the computer wasn't going to happen.

This post, if you can't guess, is a lazy directionless thing.

Yesterday I was reading a conversation on the vision list about Australian authors selling stories to the American market, and it got me thinking. When I began the short fiction deal, I was told by those before me that the big professional markets were in the States, and if you were a good little author monkey, that's where you would go. I took that in and submitted dutifully for a while, but long reply times, costs, and the fact that I didn't find much of interest to read in those mags meant it drifted off. Nowadays, I don't much submit to the American magazines because the net interests me more, and because I just don't care about them. Sure, the cash would be nice, but that's not going to make a difference in my daily life, so I don't stress it. But yesterday, as I was reading messages where people figured out the percentage of how many Australians appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction and those other mags, it occurred to me that that kind of mentality was just, well, kinda lame.

Suddenly, that attitude linked to a whole lot of other issues for me. It connected to a cultural thing, that maybe everyone else talks about and I'm just slow to voice, but still, this is post is being written. Basically, culturally, there's an attitude where Australians, in general, place an importance on American culture and appearing within it and then, as readers/viewers/listens/whatever, digesting it.

I'm not talking about the short fiction authors mind, here. Think general. Hit a cinema complex here and what is on? Checking my local cinema, I count seventeen films. Out of those seventeen, two are Australian, and the rest appear to be from the American machine. Just another day in the cinemas from the burbs, of course, but checking through the listings of those close to the centre of Sydney, there isn't much difference. A lot of American films.

The Australian film market is a struggling thing, but that's nothing new. There's more cash in it than literature, but it doesn't produce films on the scale of the American market, despite the fact that Sydney has become the cheap hole in the ground for American crews to come down and make films. Look for parts of Hyde Park to be some place in the States when Superman is released. When the Matrix films were being made, I was around for a scene that involved a helicopter. Lucas does a chunk of the Star Wars films here. That's just off the top of my head, of course, so there's bound to be more. However, it's worth noting that the facilities for producing films with huge budgets are here, and that when those films are released, Australians flock to them... but when an Australian film is released, it struggles more often than not to gain even half those audiences.

The thought continues: Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, pick yourself an Australian actor in the American film industry... they never had the name value that they do now. They never had the press, the spotlight, anything, until they got to the States. For bands, it's the same. Jet's first album, Get Born, was a big thing overseas, and thus, one could theorise, was an even bigger thing over here. There are other examples of this, of course, and there are examples where this hasn't happened--much as I despise Matthew Reilly (author of the novel Ice Station and more), he appears to be a drooling idiot monster that Australians have created themselves, just as Delta Goodrem is.

But there's this predominant attitude in Australia that America is where you go to be successful for the arts. It's not a thought that has been created simply through an American cultural dominance, either, since Australia has long given any person who is not involved in sport the short end of the stick, from Government support to media coverage to basic respect. In addition, when it comes to literature, Australia is part of the Commonwealth market, which means that a lot of our books are part of the British publishing range, and from what I understand, the street for them coming here is predominately one way. Anyhow, despite all this, what I'm saying is that the result is that for many people in the country, we're always looking outside it to build up a reputation or to receive respect or to see what local born artists are doing that we should place at the pinnacle of our peer mountain.

Which is really kind of lame, when you think about it.

Comments

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jack_ryder
Apr. 26th, 2005 01:40 am (UTC)
It's not just American culture
For a great deal of our history we looked to English culture for guidance (and I still think that affects our 'literary' fiction.)

We are still a colonised nation, only the colonisers have changed from England to the US.

We don't appear to trust ourselves with 'self-representation' (and we tend to make the wrong choices when we attempt it, example celebrating a failed landing during WW1 with a national holiday instead of a successful defence of our country.)

However, despite our government's tacit support of American and English cultural superiority - the most obvious influence on street culture in Australia appears to be Asian, specifically Japanese.

Films made specifically for the 'Australian' market seem to specifically trade on our 'daggyness' as most local comedies would attest. It appears to come back to tall poppy syndrome and our inherent distrust of locally originating competence.

All that aside, I was impressed that 'Undead' seems to have picked up a small overseas following whilst remaining true to typically Australian stereotypes.
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 03:00 am (UTC)
Re: It's not just American culture
i think the influence in street culture is fair enough. there's a large asian population in the country, after all, and japanese culture appears to be the phase that the western world is in for consumption.

see, i don't think we need to worry about being australian when it comes to representing ourselves over the world. i think we should just say fuck it, here we are, and give up on using other countries as our influence, or as a way to measure success, as it may be. so much of what we do is so very much like work from the states and uk that at times iwonder why people even bother doing it.
Re: It's not just American culture - jack_ryder - Apr. 26th, 2005 03:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Whoops - jack_ryder - Apr. 26th, 2005 03:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: It's not just American culture - benpeek - Apr. 26th, 2005 03:30 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: It's not just American culture - detritus2099 - Apr. 26th, 2005 10:32 am (UTC) - Expand
ironed_orchid
Apr. 26th, 2005 01:56 am (UTC)
Sometimes I think it's a sheer force of numbers thing. The US has about 10 times our population, so even if you only appeal to a certain group of people, then that's seen as up to 10 times as many records/tickets/books that you're going to sell. It's also a job market thing, if the US makes 200 movies a year and Australia makes 10, then you're more likely to get a part in one of 200 than you are in one of 10.
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC)
population, of course, is part of it. the states can support a larger readership just because of those numbers, and they can produce more because of it.

it probably is numbers that make all the difference.
ashamel
Apr. 26th, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
I've spent a lot of time sending stories to the US (and a few to the UK as well), and apart from little bits of (non-paying) success, I never got far. Probably why I got sick of the whole short story thing.

I've already said I'm not all that interested in reading the web market for technical reasons, but one of the stories I sent off yesterday was to an online zine, so we'll see if anything happens there (assuming the story isn't shit, I guess).

As for America in general, I don't think it's just their larger size, but their knack for self-mythology (both positive and negative) that is easy to ride along with. They take themselves seriously, which seems to add to the effect of genre fiction, somehow.
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 02:49 am (UTC)
yeah, self mythology. i hadn't thought of that, but there is this big mythology created about the states, the capitalist free world and all.

i like the net for publications, as i've said. i personally don't get any big thrill out of reading off it, and if i find a long thing i like, i print it out. but--i like that i can link it here, that the audience i have building here can roll with it, come back, shift and move. this little corner i've got, i like the idea that short fiction comes back to it, helps everything else.
(no subject) - ex_benpayne119 - Apr. 26th, 2005 06:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Apr. 26th, 2005 06:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bodhichitta0 - Apr. 26th, 2005 11:23 am (UTC) - Expand
sdowens
Apr. 26th, 2005 02:24 am (UTC)
I've always felt kind of sorry for short fiction SF writers who live abroad. There have been a few, though, who have managed to consistently sell to American markets, so it does happen. This just reminds me that I should start actually submitting to some non-US markets.
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 02:46 am (UTC)
sure, it happens. i can think of a few authors who sell to the american market. i just don't get the big deal--in a general way, it doesn't interest me. a lot of my writing has a lot of australian influenced themes in it. not all, granted, but a chunk of it, and i'd rather see it published in australia than abroad, though it's not always the case.

i guess it's just the mentality that interests me. i'm not saying selling to the states or anywhere else is inherently better or worse. it's neither, and in the end, i'll go where my work sells, and that's what any author should do, but i don't give or expect more respect based of publications in the states when compared to here or say china.

i'd like to be published in china, myself.
(no subject) - jonathanstrahan - Apr. 26th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Apr. 26th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jonathanstrahan - Apr. 26th, 2005 11:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Apr. 27th, 2005 02:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 05:59 am (UTC)
yep.
bodhichitta0
Apr. 26th, 2005 11:25 am (UTC)
Ben very intersting post and all but I want to hear more about the pie. Details please. Fruit pie? Meat pie? Do you make your own crust? Or do you just assemble ingredients? Pie making of any type is a worthy endeavor.
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 11:31 am (UTC)
apple pie.

i make everything from scratch. my grandmother gave me ye old english recipe, and i'm endevouring to learn it, just to confuse people about the kind of guy i am. (also, it's real nice.) the only thing i did was buy baking apples in a can, but they were awful. my grandmother laughed at me and told me next time i'd know better, and buy granny smiths and slice em and boil em and do it proper.

she was quite right.
(no subject) - bodhichitta0 - Apr. 26th, 2005 11:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Apr. 26th, 2005 11:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bodhichitta0 - Apr. 26th, 2005 03:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - benpeek - Apr. 26th, 2005 10:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
mariness
Apr. 26th, 2005 09:19 pm (UTC)
You know, the oddity here:

There's a mildly famous bookstore down in Coral Gables called Books and Books which hosts various writers and poets groups, which I attend occasionally. More than once, I've heard American writers despair that although the United States may be leading the arts in movies and music (a debatable statement but let's leave it for now) we are still far, far behind the British and the French in literature. I actually heard one person despair that no American could write poetry, which was kinda offensive since I'd just read one of my poems there.

Maybe it wasn't a very good poem. But whatever.

Point -- I don't think the inferiority complex is really just an Australian thing.


benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 10:14 pm (UTC)
nah, i reckon generally you get inferiority complexes everywhere. one of them shiny happy things everyone gets.

but i bet poets everywhere say that :)
(no subject) - mariness - Apr. 27th, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
kylaw
Apr. 27th, 2005 10:10 pm (UTC)
Superman in Sydney
Yes, they have been shooting the new Superman movie with Sydney dressed to look like Metropolis. I know this because I've been working as an extra in some enormous crowd scenes. All I'm going to say is that this is a very American movie. Last time I was in a crowd that big in the middle of Sydney, I was not waving the stars and stripes.
benpeek
Apr. 27th, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Superman in Sydney
hey, cool, extra work :)

on the other hand, it's in superman. and you're waving the american flag. if it's possible, i just loss more interest in the flick. i've never been able to get into superman, really.
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