It’s Breezing from the South

by Jannik Weber

I think it’s fair to say that James Bradley’s Ghost Species took some pages out of Jurassic Park. Our protagonists are flown into the story by helicopter. They are brought in by a certain “foundation” looking to revive extinct species with the help of groundbreaking technology. Incidentally, most of the story takes place on an island as well. While the similarities mostly end there, the island location, Tasmania, in Ghost Species, adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the novel. But why is that?

The island starts out as a tranquil haven for the foundation to further its research. Here Davis, the foundation’s founder and main sponsor, has already begun populating their plot of land with bioengineered plants and un-extincted Tasmanian wolves. When our protagonist researchers, Kate and Jay, are first shown around the area, they take in the immensity of the environment around them and the plants that have already been altered and are thriving there. It becomes clear that Davis is aiming to create coherent ecosystems. But the ecosystem we are shown in Tasmania is only a testing ground. The life there which has been tampered with is wholly contained on an island. It cannot spill out into the world, and, more subtly than in Jurassic Park, the novel implies that perhaps it shouldn’t.

In the same initial walk around the foundation’s grounds, the reader is overcome with a sense of gloom when Kate finds herself located at the “end of the world” and “only empty ocean separating it from the distant ice of Antarctica”. The novel very often points toward Tasmania’s isolation, especially connecting it with notions of temperature. From a Eurasian point of view, which Ghost Species decidedly takes on, with a focus on human presence and history in the Old World, Tasmania exists on the periphery. As throughout the story the world is heating up, our characters mostly experience climate change from a distance, through news from the mainland. There, they first hear of mass extinctions and the destruction of fragile ecosystems and in later stages, civil unrest and evermore natural disasters as climate change seems to have reached a point of no return. In Tasmania, Kate is able to live and raise Eve relatively unbothered by the effects of climate change until her early death. But catastrophe is slowly but surely creeping towards them from the center. The story constantly reminds us of this inevitable fact and our assumed geographic position with events like “fires to the north and west”. Combined with the dominant presence of cliffs and sea to the south, and the numerous references to being at the edge of the world, the reader might, like Kate and Eve, feel backed into a corner.

Perhaps in an attempt to escape this state of being trapped between the heat approaching from the north and the unmovable ice walls of Antarctica to the south, Eve eventually sets out to travel away from the edge towards the center in her search for other Neanderthals. In this journey, she inadvertently retraces the movement of humans when they first spread around the globe. In this sense, the novel lays a large focus on human migration. The motivation behind Davis’s plan to resurrect Neanderthals is to right the wrongs Homo Sapiens have committed, by crusading from their east African origins to every corner of the world, exterminating Neanderthals on their way. It is at this edge of the world, the point of humanity’s furthest extent, where Eve is conceived. This ultimate act of Homo Sapiens’ hubris falls apart together with all other institutions of civil society. Through the ruins of Eve’s cousin species’ cities, she returns to the center of things, Neanderthal’s original home somewhere in Europe, and sets the metaphorical clock back to zero.

The reader is left to wonder whether it is humanity’s fate to fail. That spreading across the world to every edge was too great of an undertaking and bound to crumble like the Roman Empire. Are humans like an infection sending the earth into a deadly fever? Did they condemn it to a fate of overheating the moment they dared to venture farther than their place of origin? Kate offers us a line from a poem describing a group of islands not far south of Tasmania when lost in thought during a walk with Eve. According to it, these islands form “full stops to sentences about the end of the world”.

My Impressions and Review of Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish

by Anne Schulzki

I decided to read Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish for week 5 of the class ‘Migration in Visual Narratives’, in which we talked about Migration in Digital Narratives / Vietnamese Refugee Tales in Graphic Novels.


I had been interested in this graphic novel for quite a while but never got around to, and was thankfully not let down the least in any regard! I very much enjoyed reading this, especially because I found the use of colours in the narrative rather unique. The narrative has three parts: the present storyline, the fairytale, and some glimpses into the mother’s past and her journey from Vietnam to the US. The present is coloured in red/pink/magenta, the fairytale in dark blue/purple, and the mother’s past in yellow – which are the three primary colours. The colours not only clarify which panels belong to which part of the story, but by using them it also gave the story dimension. Sometimes, some panels are not coloured ‘correctly’, as one of Tien’s dreams is also represented in blue/purple like the fairytale narrative, possibly alluding to Tien’s belief that his dream will remain a dream – a fairytale – and will not become reality.

I loved that fairytales where interwoven in the narrative, used as a way for mother and son to bond, for the mother to learn English, but also seek help, advice, and communicate feelings and personal information by crossing the boundary of languages. The fairytale parts fitted the stories of Tien’s coming-out and his mother’s identity struggle, grief, and worries, and with that they gave them hope and answers. When they did not know how to communicate, or did not want to, they always grabbed the fairytale they were reading at that moment and continued, sometimes tweaking it a bit for it to fit their mood, struggles, worries, or emotions.

Migration in The Magic Fish

Migration as such is not the main focus of this story. Of course, Tien’s parents’ language barriers are mentioned and also illustrated within the narrative, but the aspect of the actual migration is only lightly touched upon (why his parents left Vietnam), but never their journey on its own. The aspect of migration that is most heavily touched on, however, concerns the feelings regarding leaving behind loved ones when leaving one’s home and not being able to see them for a long time. Tien’s mother was not able to go back to see her family once she left Vietnam, as it took her years to get hold of an American passport (because without it she could not have entered the US again). This feeling of hopelessness and remorse gnaws at his mother, especially after she receives bad news.

The other aspect of migration touched upon in this graphic novel is that of home. For Tien’s mother, home seems to have always been Vietnam, but after she went back, she felt as though she does not belong there anymore. So much has changed over the years (in Vietnam and she herself), that she is not all that familiar with her Vietnamese hometown anymore – which affects her. The other aspect of home – which is also dealt with in one of the fairytales – is that often times home seems to be supposed to be the place you come from, but that is a difficult concept when one has never been to ‘the place one came from’. This is often the case for second-generation immigrants who have never been to their ‘home country’ like Tien, and this has also been the case for Alera in the fairytale.

Finding oneself

And though these two aspects of migration are a big part in this story, the one that weaves through it all is Tien’s struggle to tell his parents about his sexuality – which is then again related to the struggles of migration. He does not know how to come out to his parents, as he does not know the correct words in Vietnamese, and he believes his parents will not understand him if he explains it in English. He researches at the library and talks to his friend about it, tries to find the right time to tell his parents/mother, but never succeeds. He is afraid of their reaction because of possible cultural differences, but in the end his coming-out is taken away from him. I will not go into any detail as to why and how (because of spoilers of course), but let me just say that it enraged me quite a bit.


All in all, I really enjoyed this graphic novel and its story. The art-style is beautiful, the use of colours and the interweaving of fairytales mesmerising, and it deals with many difficult topics in a very accessible and gentle way. To sum it up, it is a coming-of-age story filled with family, friendships, struggles, relationships, and fairytales.

Welcome to the Blog ~ Winter Term 2022/2023 Edition

G’day mates!

We are a group of HHU students interested in literature and are excited to announce that we are going to contribute blog posts in which we share our thoughts and opinions. In the following three months, our posts will center on Australian Speculative Fiction and will be presented in various forms, such as traditional blog entries and podcasts. In the first wave of blog posts, we will take a closer look at the eco-dystopian novel Ghost Species by James Bradley.

For us, Speculative fiction is an umbrella term encompassing genres which dare to go beyond reality as we know it and describe hypotheticals, or alternative futures for our world. What makes a text specifically Australian will be further discussed within the individual blog posts. Common topics we will be touching on are postcolonial readings, ecological concerns, the history and development of ASF at large, and comparisons to other countries, among other topics. Speculative fiction can include a variety of settings, as it is a relatively open term that allows different interpretations.

As we have set no boundaries regarding types of media to write about, there will be blog posts covering a wide variety of media including popular forms like novels and movies, video games, music, art and more. Because we are not Australian, we can bring an outsider’s perspective to Australian topics and themes; individual voices will present our views and thoughts regarding the world of Australian Speculative Fiction. Since we are all individual writers, we are happy to share our diversity in writing tone and style.

We hope you will check in on us throughout our journey.

Stay tuned! And don’t hesitate to let us know your thoughts!