by Theodora Charalambous
In this blog post I will be giving you a brief overview of the trope of apocalyptic Australia and then discuss the short apocalyptic story “Two Somebodies Go Hunting” by Rivqa Rafael as well as how it represents individuals with certain disabilities.
From nuclear wars, ecological disasters to AI becoming sentient and taking over the world, the apocalypse has always been an enduringly popular trope in human culture. Our need as humans to persevere in a world where the end seems near, as media is saturated with talks about war, deadly viruses and climate change, feeds into the allure of the apocalypse trope. Both in famous films like the Mad Max movies or in some of the most known apocalyptic texts, Australia is often the designated location speculative authors impose this trope upon.
The desert has become one of the primary science fiction settings, especially in narratives about post-apocalyptic futures. This ecosystem serves the purpose of creating a harsh environment, which the remaining members of civilization need to overcome and tame to survive the aftermath of the apocalypse. With a big section of Australia consisting of deserts or semi-arid, it is apparent why speculative authors are tempted into designating their apocalyptic scenes there. Australia is often depicted in literature, media and films as very menacing towards its inhabitants, since it’s often solely associated with its threatening wildlife and extreme summer heatwaves, which result in bushfires, an imagery many would describe as something out of an apocalyptic movie. The notion, however, of viewing Australia as a hostile environment, began even before its colonization. The precolonial European expectations of Australia as a utopian land of potential and promise, were soon overpowered by the reality of the Outback. Europeans envisioned Australia as a land of punishment and dystopia, its desert and bush were considered a part of the savage land and the inhabitants were often depicted as strange and even grotesque. When colonists and explorers got to experience the territories, their discoveries of new flora and fauna, contributed to “the English vision of Australia as a waste land, a place of inhospitable and miserable savages” (Webb and Enstice, Aliens 26), unlike the British homeland. (Weaver, 2007).
The apocalypse has always been an irresistible trope to speculative fiction writers, and their stories often function as a warning towards colonialization and ecological danger. Similarly apocalyptic Australian works focus on topics that represent and respond to the country’s concerns and anxieties, such as the hostile forces both inside and outside the country.
Two Somebodies Go Hunting
In such dystopian settings, are truly only the “fittest” who survive? In apocalyptic fiction, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses are rarely represented, and when they are, they either die early on or serve as a burden to the main protagonist.
“Two Somebodies Go” Hunting by Rivqa Rafael, is part of Defying Doomsday, an anthology which challenges the narrative that only the strong and able-bodied survive and shifts the focus towards disabled and chronically ill characters successfully persevering through the chaos of apocalyptic Australia.
Rivqa’s story follows two siblings Lex, who has chronic leg pain due to a childhood injury, and her younger brother Jeff, who’s autistic. Leaving their mother and little Jackie behind, the two set out to find the Kangaroo, which a drone had spotted. Lex quickly becomes frustrated at her brother as well as her injured leg, which was slowing her down, and the two begin to bicker. They manage to find the Kangaroo, but Lex accidentally startles Jeff, resulting in an outburst and the roo gets away. After a fight, Lex comforts Jeff through a panic attack and the two have a heart-to-heart, where Lex reveals that she damaged her leg trying to save him from a bad fall. The next morning, the siblings cheer as the first rain of the decade falls and they find fish in the creek bed, where Lex had broken her leg. The hunt was successful.
In “Two Somebodies Go Hunting” the author was able to present the different needs and quirks of people with chronic illnesses and pain. Although, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding autism, Rafael manages to show how autism is a spectrum rather than a specific and easily definable condition. In comparison to the extreme symptoms that the media predominantly talks about, Jeff’s signs of autism are quite subtle. For example, his attachment to the GPS, soothing through deep pressure stimulation (171) and the way he fails to recognise what the words were, he said that hurt his sister’s feelings (167). All three are autistic traits that one who’s not knowledgeable enough on the matter wouldn’t recognise them as such. Additionally, the story depicts chronic pain quite accurately. When Jeff notices his sister struggling because of pain, he suggests she takes medicine (167), Lex growls at him knowing that medication isn’t such an easy solution to her problem, since medicine can lessen the pain, but cannot completely alleviate it. Despite her struggles, Lex is strong-willed and despises being pitied or seen as weak (167).
“Two Somebodies Go Hunting” is not only a lovely tale of two siblings that need to work together to survive and understand one another, but furthermore shows how people with disabilities, chronic pain and other impairments are more than capable of getting by on their own and should not be looked down upon.
- Rafael, Rivqa. “Two somebodies go hunting”, Defying Doomsday,Planet Press, 2016, pp 176 -157.
- Weaver, Roslyn. At the ends of the world: apocalypse and Australian speculative fiction, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Arts, University of Wollongong, 2007. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/1733