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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

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.
jack_ryder
Apr. 26th, 2005 03:15 am (UTC)
Re: It's not just American culture
But isn't worrying about being Australian, very Australian?

I don't see how we can give up on using other countries as an influence on our culture (I don't think any country can actually do that, esp. the US) but we certainly can't worry about success overseas being the be all and end all, we very clearly need to succeed on our own terms.

But what do you mean by success? Our most successful writers (in terms of local sales and who are pretty much unknown overseas as far as I can tell) are Bryce Courtney and Matthew Reilly - I know you don't particularly want to emulate them. Nor do I.

I like your comment about preferring to be successful in China - I think it would be great to be a success in Europe or Asia, rather than the US. And, as the US continues to distance itself from the global community, more necessary.
jack_ryder
Apr. 26th, 2005 03:19 am (UTC)
Whoops
You said "published in China" - not "successful in China".

Who knows with the free trade agreement...
benpeek
Apr. 26th, 2005 03:30 am (UTC)
Re: It's not just American culture
i don't really worry about success. 'success' as a goal isn't something you can attain from outside influences, i reckon, you just got to succeed internally.

my main interest in this american influence is, as you say, more out of the idea of getting respect or readers or whatever on my own terms. i don't want to be measured by how well i do in another country, or even this country, but rather by the work itself. like you say, you can't escape the influence of other cultures and you shouldn't want too--indeed, i like the mass influences going round, but i don't need a frame of thought that puts one culture or society above another in terms of suggesting quality to work.
detritus2099
Apr. 26th, 2005 10:32 am (UTC)
Re: It's not just American culture
ANZAC Day is more of a rememberance of the dead than a celebrating our own (and the British command's) stupidity.

And the cultural cringe of Australia is incredibly interesting when you consider how we came into being as a modern nation. Unlike the USAmericans we did not fight a war of independance, we are still a constitutional monarchy, so we still have that whole convict cringe thing going on, and a complete lack of self respect by having a foreign national as our head of state.