Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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The End Is Near and Why Is America So Important?

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.
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