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!

The Diverse Short Stories of Rivqa Rafael

written by Sevgi Osman

The author Rivqa Rafael was introduced to me at an event about Jewish Australian Speculative Fiction and since then, I wanted to read some of her short stories. She mainly writes short speculative fiction about queer women, Jewish women, cyborg futures and hope in dystopias. I have looked into four of her short stories and quickly became a little obsessed with the stories and their plots. What caught my attention was how diverse and unique her storytelling was and because of that, I decided to take a closer look at them and report back some of my opinions.

The stories that I read were “Whom My Soul Loves”, “Love Thy Neighbour”, “The Day Girl” and “Two Somebodies Go Hunting”. When I first started reading her short story “Whom My Soul Loves”, I had to look up a lot of names and terms, since she uses Hebrew names like Osnat, Shmueli and refers to demons as dybbuk. Besides looking some stuff up, I got sucked into this story. A Jewish woman called Osnat is seen as a tzedeyke (a biblical figure or spiritual master) and has to do some sort of exorcism since a woman got possessed by a dybbuk, who in the end turns out to be an ibbur (a positive form of dybbuk). The ending also surprised me because I was expecting the exorcism to be over and done, but Rafael turned the story around, making Osnat seem like a lonely main character who fell in love with a girl named Dina, who only saw her as a friend. The dybbuk, or shall I say ibbur, turned out to be a lonely spirit that was in love with the person it possessed and quickly made Osnat realise that she could “relate” to the demon’s feelings. It is important to note how Rafael writes some of her dystopian stories and connects them to private matters that humans might go through or other social issues.

Furthermore, I noticed the pattern that Rivqa Rafael likes to change original stories up and turn them into a more interesting and fun read. This can be seen in “Love Thy Neighbour”, where she chose the biblical names Adam and Eve for her main characters but changed their original love story and created a love triangle with both of these lovers and a girl named Lilith*. Since Rafael writes about Jewish speculative fiction, there is no surprise how she uses the Hebrew term Elohim to refer to God. In her story, Elohim set Eve up to be with Adam and have his children, but Eve doesn’t get to have free will to be on her own or with anyone else. After she finds out that Adam has been sleeping with Lilith, she realises that he “loved her (Lilith) in a way that he could never love her.”. But shockingly, Eve ends up going to Lilith and also having an affair with her. In the end, they all go against God’s wishes and become lovers. This is what I meant by Rafael having very diverse and unique stories, she depicts the story from Adam and Eve from the bible and completely changes it up by making the characters queer, carefree and rebellious.

“The Day Girl” and “Two Somebodies Go Hunting” both have a similar structure and plot since they are set in a dystopian world. In the first-mentioned story, Genevieve, a queer woman, works at a meteorology job against her mother’s wishes because she wants to save humanity with Rubens’ medicine. She soon realises that Rubens is a fraud company, selling filler instead of medicine and poisoning other humans. After that, she flees and exposes the company, along with Camela, her lover and Henry, a friend of hers. In the second-mentioned story, Jeff and Lex go hunting, but this time it’s because their mother sends them to do so. They live in a place where there is no humanity left, only wildlife. To survive, they have to hunt animals and search for nutritious food. Jeff and Lex are siblings who seem to fight and disagree with each other often. As they lose the red kangaroo they wanted to catch, they get into a fight and as soon as they calm down, they find lots of big fish which will end up nurturing them after suffering in the overheated warm weather.

A noticeable pattern traces itself throughout Rafael’s short stories. They all have a conflict that is solved in the end. Rafael creates strong and remarkable characters in her stories that go through various transformations: discovering their sexuality, dealing with physical and mental health and family issues. Hebrew names and terms are often mentioned in these stories that mark them as what they are: Jewish Australian Speculative Fiction. I am looking forward to reading more of Rivqa Rafael’s work since they are fun to read and I can always expect that each story is very different from the other yet unique and with some common themes to tie them together.

*Editor’s Note: The editors are aware of the broader mythology of Lilith and would encourage our readers to delve into their own research if they are interested in learning more! In this case, the editors elected not to alter the author’s original words, as we feel they reflect Lilith’s own absence in much discourse.

H20: An Australian Fantasy series

by Valmire Shala

Fantasy is usually understood as a situation that one enjoys thinking about but that is unlikely to happen OR a story or type of literature that describes situations that are very different from real life and more closely linked to fairy tales, myth and legend and often involve such things as magic or just the generally abnormal.

Thus, fantasy is a genre of speculative fiction, often inspired by the real world. Its roots are in oral traditions, which then became fantasy literature and drama. Nowadays you can find fantasy in various media, including film, television, graphic novels, video games, animated movies, and manga. One of them is the series H2O: Just Add Water.

The series H20: Just Add Water is a worldwide known Australian fantasy teen drama written by Jonathan M. Shiff which first released in 2006. It was filmed in Australia, more precisely the Gold Coast. The show is about three teenage girls; Emma, Rikki and Cleo, who are facing everyday problems with the important caveat being that they are mermaids with different powers over water. The girls one day ended up in the water under a dormant volcano, at Mako Island, just as a full moon passes above them. There something strange happened. The next day they discover that ten seconds after coming into contact with water, they transform into mermaids. As time goes on, they also discover that they have supernatural powers over water, such as moving water, freezing it or bring it to a boil. With time they adapt their new abilities and lifestyle. Along the way, their smart friend Lewis is there for the girls to help them keep their secret and to find out more about it.

However, the question is: What exactly makes this show an Australian Fantasy and not for example Australian Science-Fiction? Is it the setting, certain themes or even the authors place of birth?

Fantasy is distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the absence of scientific explanations and fear-inducing storylines respectively even though these genres overlap. But fantasy crosses the boundaries of reality in a way that can no longer be explained by laws of nature and scientific knowledge. Fantasy is therefore the oldest fictional genre, because all mythological figures and creatures fall into this category: gods, demons, vampires, mythical animals/creatures, monsters, and other magical figures, and also abilities (such as superpowers). Therefore, one can say that the Australian fantasy genre is therefore difficult to define, but what is certain is that it can be very diverse, due to the influence of the many different cultures that exist in Australia. A text can be Australian fantasy if there is an Australian setting, it deals with Australian culture or even if the author is Australian or has at least his residence there. However, the Australian literature is not necessarily set in Australia or explicitly about Australians or/and Australia. Because this is not a complete list, and it is not required that Australian Fantasy stories must have all this points to be considered Australian Fantasy.

In this case the show’s author is from Australia, as well as the three main characters and the setting is also in Australia. And also, the fact that they are mermaids and have supernatural powers and magical/supernatural things happens makes it an Australian Fantasy show. It makes you dive into a world were mermaids exist and makes you part of the secret, that you forget while watching that there normally are no such creatures as mermaids with superpowers. It is also enriching to see the beautiful Gold Coast and the capital Sydney, where most of the episodes are filmed.


H2O: Just Add Water
Ryan, John. “Reflections on an Australian Fantasy: constructing the impossible.” Coolabah. Vol. 18, 2016, pp. 16-22

Australian Gothic vs. European Gothic

by Leonora Rexhi

The Gothic is a rather broad genre. There are different versions across the globe. Subcategories are, for example, the Australian Gothic, the European Gothic and the American Gothic. All of them are relatively similar to each other, but they still differ in various aspects. Nevertheless, it applies for all subcategories that in general the Gothic genre is a genre where the unnatural and unconventional is represented.
This blog post will be about the Australian Gothic genre versus the European Gothic genre. What are the characteristics of each genre and are there similarities or differences?

Let’s start with the European Gothic genre. The European Gothic is mainly characterized by an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The mood is evoked by a threatening feeling, often a fear enhanced by something unknown. The settings of a typical European Gothic text can vary, but for the most part they are very similar and have the same aspects. The typical setting is usually “in a castle, old mansions” (Harris, 2021) ”dense woods, a graveyard, and a wild moorland which all have powerful associations with isolations and loneliness” (Rose, 2021) (or the ruins of a castle.) Different elements like ”burials, flickering candles, evil potions” (Nolan, 2019) add the mystical character to the European Gothic genre and enhance the Gothic mood. Often the location is associated with a sad past/story; usually it is death, or something related to it. The effect of this scary and especially dark environment is to trigger a feeling, a sense of unease, ”which adds to the atmospheric element of fear and dread.” (Harris, 2021) The writer uses the setting to create ”an atmosphere of trepidation, threat or decay” (Rose, 2021).

The Australian genre, on the contrary, deals with many elements of European Gothic, but additionally has other characteristics that are clearly in the foreground. The Australian Gothic genre emerged out of the colonial era and is therefore characterized by elements of colonialism. In the Australian Gothic genre, the ”colonial experience of isolation, disorientation, hardship” (Althans 15), the ”fear of pursuit and fear of the unknown” (Althans 15) and entrapment is expressed. It can be said that the Australian Gothic is similar to the European one and cannot be completely detached from it, but it adds an Australian touch, which makes it special in its own way. Additionally, it has a different setting than the ”usual” Gothic setting. This is, as one can tell from the name, an Australian setting, with the typical landscapes, deserts and isolated stations. Many writers in colonial times were compelled to demonstrate the superiority of civilization over nature, but Aboriginal Gothic works in particular work against that reductive tendency.

In conclusion, both genres are similar, but they also differ. Both genres share aspects of creepiness and fear. At the same time, however, they differ because the Australian Gothic genre also brings a historic background with it which is thematized. Many elements are necessary to contribute to the Gothic setting, whether it is the European or the Australian, and it is their differences which highlight why we should be interested in them.

Works Cited:
Althans, Katrin, Introduction & Aboriginal Gothic in Darkness Subverted, 2010

Harris, R. (2021, 10. Januar). Elements of the Gothic Novel. VirtualSalt. https://www.virtualsalt.com/elements-of-the-gothic-n

Nolan, A. (2019, 4. November). The Top 10 Elements of Gothic Literature. Invaluable. https://www.invaluable.com/blog/elements-of-gothic-literature/

Rose, J. (2021, 21. August). How to Study Gothic Literature: Setting and Themes. The Tutor Team. https://www.thetutorteam.com/english/how-to-study-gothic-literature-what-are-the-features-of-a-gothic-story/

“Two Somebodies Go Hunting” – Apocalyptic Australia and Disability Representation

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.

Apocalyptic Australia

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.


  1. Rafael, Rivqa. “Two somebodies go hunting”, Defying Doomsday,Planet Press, 2016, pp 176 -157.
  2. 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

Is Gillian Polack‘s The Time of the Ghosts a fairy tale?

by Nadja Marek, Renee Czyganowski, and Danny Tran

If a fairy tale is considered to be a tale about a fairy and since one of the main protagonists in The Time of the Ghosts is a fairy, the simple answer would be yes. But if we are looking at the definition of a fairy tale, answering that question is a bit more difficult.

Cambridge Dictionary describes a fairy tale as “a traditional story written for children that usually involves imaginary creatures and magic”. And if we are looking at different tales and folklore it is noticeable that these often go beyond the namesake “fairy” and commonly include other magical beings such as ghosts, werewolves and even dragons. Contrary to popular belief, fairies do not always play a pivotal role within fairy tales, with some stories forsaking fairy characters all together. Therefore the term “fairy” presumably refers to the overarching theme of a fantastical or magical setting, rather than the direct appearance of a fairy. 

Since these tales often involve fantastic elements, these stories are primarily intended for children. These stories commonly incorporate valuable life lessons, teaching those who read them certain morals and adequate behavior. In line with their playful setting, they are used to appeal to children in an appropriate yet fun manner, educating and entertaining them simultaneously. Fairy tales appeal to children because of their mystical creatures and in modern times their often happy endings. Traditionally, not all fairy tales do have a happy ending, but ended rather cruelly, which has changed throughout the years to not scare children away. The softened versions, which usually work with metaphors and o ther stylistic devices, still have a great impact on children these days and help them understand culture and heritage more easily.

The Time of the Ghosts

The novel The Time of the Ghosts written by Gillian Polack has two main protagonists, one for each narrative: The tales of Melusine and Kat’s story. These two stories can be viewed as one coherent story because one of Kat’s grandmothers, Lil, turns out to be Melusine who has settled down in Australia. Melusine’s tales end in 1967 (Polack 269) and Kat’s story begins in the 21st century and since Kat is Melusine’s great-great-granddaughter (Polack 311), it is reminiscent of fairy tales such as Rapunzel and Snow White, where the story of the parent or older generation is being told in the beginning and then there is a skip in time and the main story is about the next generation. But because the tales of Melusine are not a sequential story and are littered throughout the novel, the typical structure of a fairy tale is not given, making The Time of the Ghosts a deconstructed fairy tale.

Fairy tale beginning

Usually, fairy tales start with the saying “once upon a time…” and even though the novel does not start with this saying, it appears in the beginning of three tales (Polack 13, 37, 118). The tales are numbered but these numbers do not indicate the order of their appearance. It is also stated in Tale #1 (Polack 152) that it is unclear which tale Melusine wrote first. Therefore, it is possible that one of the three tales that start with the saying were the first one she wrote.

Magical numbers

The magical number three is a common theme throughout the novel. As said before, the saying “once upon a time…” appears three times. In her story, Kat meets three grandmothers who help her get back on her feet and give her a place to live (Polack 5). Furthermore, the author uses repetition of three to emphasize bad feelings or uncomfortable situations, for example “Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Badkatbadkatbadkat” (Polack 52) and “We saw you, you, you. You walked our streets, streets, streets.” (Polack 172).

Mythical creatures

The most prominent mythical creature is Melusine who is a fairy. Fairies are also the mythical creature that are most common in European fairy tales (Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella), while the other creatures in the novel are from different folklore. The werewolf, which appears both in Melusine’s tales as a wolf-boy who has been enchanted to be a wolf (Polack 13) and in Kat’s story as a werewolf who has been bitten (Polack 130). Werewolves are common for Swedish folklore. Another mythical creature is the ghost. Many ghosts appear in Kat’s story (Polack 53, 99), as expected of the novel’s title. A known example for ghosts in fairy tales is Mulan which is based on Chinese folklore.


Fairy tales often teach morals to the reader and the moral of The Time of the Ghosts is that communication is important and to be true to oneself. The werewolf in Kat’s story bit one of her grandmothers, Mabel, and they thought that he did it just to hurt her because werewolves are vicious creatures (Polack 131). But then Mabel went back to talk to him again and it turned out that he was just lonely and wished for a mate for himself. After talking to each other, he did not attack again, and they found common ground which emphasises the importance of communication to understand each other (Polack 268). The characters face a lot of prejudice and there are many instances where people must lie about their identity to fit in. Throughout her tales, Melusine often must hide the fact that she is Jewish and a fairy. At a time, she pretended to be Christian for twenty years because she would have been an outcast without any friends otherwise (Polack 234). Once she helped a boy who was stuck being a wolf to become a boy again and as he grew up, she was open about being a fairy. He then man married a woman who was prejudiced against her magic, and she lost her friend because he chose his wife (Polack 15). The only other instance where Melusine did not hide that she was a fairy was when she had two children, Owen and Gwendolyn. But then, one of them died and even with magic, she could not revive him. When her daughter was grown up, she blamed her mother and the fact that she was a fairy for her brother’s death (Polack 214). After losing both of her children, she settled down in Australia to die as a human (Polack 269). She grew old and did not think that she was even capable of becoming her old fairy-self again. In the end, Kat and the ghost of her husband helped her to see the value of life and she transformed into a radiant fairy. This emphasises that once you find your true self, you have the power to live a fulfilled life.

Happy ending

Even though the novel does not end with the saying “happily ever after”, Melusine has found herself again which helps Kat to try to do the same. She tells Melusine that her real name is Gwendolyn, and she is Melusine’s great-great-granddaughter. Due to that fact Kat’s story became Melusine’s story and it ends with a happy Melusine because she had three things: friends, a lover and a great-great-granddaughter.

Welcome to the Blog ~ Winter Term 2021/2022 Edition

This winter term, it is time for a new group of HHU English literature students to start blogging. Long time readers do not need to worry, though. Our lecturers, Tina Burger and Lucas Mattila, are still par for the course and we are happy to tell you that they will continue to blog alongside us. Together, we will explore Australian speculative fiction!

We are a group full of ideas and every one of us is eager to dive into a different direction. Our blog posts are therefore going to cover a lot of ground. For instance, we are not just going to discuss novels, but also short stories, graphic novels, movies, and video games. We will examine extraordinary worlds filled with horror, fantasy, science fiction, magical realism, and so much more. By casting such a wide net, we hope to convey how similar analytical approaches can be applied to various media and genres. Furthermore, it is important to us to compare and contrast these different text forms, because they can offer us insight into their overarching themes and individual interpretations.

This blog offers the unique opportunity to highlight the many Australian voices who are normally drowned out by their American counterparts. Thus, it is going to be our mission to make you understand why Australian speculative fiction deserves your attention. Australian identities can be highly complex and all too often it can become hard to decipher their exact relation to nature, postcolonialism, religion, and gender. Nevertheless, Australian writers are shaped by these environments and reflect upon them in their work.

Over the next three months, we are going to share our discoveries with you in the form of blog posts, podcasts, and videos. In December, you can expect to read a lot about Gillian Polack’s The Time of the Ghosts, a novel that is so rich that we can all approach it from a slightly different angle. In January, you will notice a split between detailed posts about short stories and introductory posts about major themes and movements of Australian speculative fiction. And in February, you will finally find out what every one’s favorite work of Australian speculative fiction is and why we adore it so much. So stay tuned!