A Review: Catching Teller Crow

“In telling this tale, we were informed by two sets of stories that are the inheritance of Aboriginal peoples. The first set are stories of our homelands, families, cultures; the stories that speak to the connections which sustain us and which we sustain in turn. The second set are the tales that entered our worlds with colonization; stories of the violence that was terrifyingly chaotic or even more terrifyingly organized on a systemic scale. Both sets of stories inform our existences, and thus our storytelling.”

(Kwaymullina 191)
Spoilers ahead!

Catching Teller Crow is a novel about a grieving father, Michael Teller, that can see the ghost of his daughter Beth. Michael Teller is a police detective and was sent to investigate a murder in a rural Australian town. During the investigation Beth notices another ghost following them and befriends her. And as it turns out, the girl, called Catching, is the key to solving the murder and uncovering the town’s secret.

         The novel deals with many different topics such as grief, trauma, and relationships. It is clear from the first page that Beth is worried about her father as he does not deal with well with Beth and her mother’s respective deaths. If we were to see the ghost of someone close to us, we would probably assume that we are losing our mind or that it is a manifestation of our grief. But for Aboriginal people this would not be that strange. Some Aboriginal people believe that humans go through different stages of existence (cf. Books+Publishing). Similarly, that everything is connected is part of Aboriginal systems (cf. Kwaymillina 2013, 4). So seeing a ghost would not be that strange as they are just souls at another part of existence. And because everything is related, Beth’s and Catching’s stories are related even across time.

         Beth and Catching tell their stories in different ways. Beth ‘talks’ in prose. Catching in verse. According to the authors, Beth’s voice is like a river ‘sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but always saying a lot’ and Catching’s voice is like ‘the beat of the rain, sometimes steady and sometimes sharp and uneven. She says little, but every word has weight.’ (Wyld). Even though both stories have a lot to say about the two girls, Catching’s verse makes her story feel more important- and it’s not just the words either. The historical implications behind her story, the being taken by strangers, being talked about as if she isn’t there, the fear, makes it feel real.

         Let’s now talk about Crow, the last girl mentioned in the title of the novel. Crow is and remains a mystery in the novel, but her being a crow tells us a lot. Crows are most known to represent good or bad omens- even death. But those black birds are also known for their intelligence and adaptability. They can also be a sign for transformation and the future. And maybe this is all true for Catching Teller Crow as in the end of the novel (the chapter called ‘The Beginning’) all three girls turn to crows.

“We bathed in the clouds and sang in the sun and let the world paint our souls and our souls paint the world. And wherever we went, we went together.”

(Kwaymullina 190)


Books+Publishing. “Reaching out: Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymillina on ‘Catchin Teller Crow’”. https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2018/07/05/110945/re   aching-out-ambelin-and-ezekiel-kwaymullina-on-catching-teller-crow/. Accessed Feb. 19, 2023.

Kwaymullina, A., B. Kwaymullina, and L. Butterly. “Living Texts: A Perspective on Published Sources, Indigenous Research Methodologies and Indigenous Worldviews”. International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, vol. 6, no. 1,   Jan. 2013, pp. 1-13, doi:10.5204/ijcis.v6i1.106.

Kwaymullina, Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. Catching Teller Crow. Penguin Books, 2019

Trauma and Poetry in “Catching Teller Crow”

By Benedikt von Laufenberg

In this blog post, I want to focus on the first chapters of the novel Catching Teller Crow and the way in which the chapters highlight the relation between trauma and detective work. Moreover, I want to take a closer look on the way the novel shifts between prose sections and poetry.

In the first chapter of the novel called “The Town“ it becomes apparent that the protagonist, Beth Teller, has died in a car crash. Her ghost or presence is perceptible to her father Michael and to her father only: “I [the girl] tried speaking to her [the girl’s aunt], even though I’d known by then that only Dad could see and hear me (p.9).“ One reading imposes itself: only the father can hear her because he is traumatized by her death and wishes that his daughter were still alive. This naturalistic reading is somewhat at odds with the broader genre under which “Catching Teller Crow“ is rubricated: Australian speculative fiction. A genre in which it is not impossible for ghosts and other supernatural beings to occur. But these two readings – the naturalistic and the speculative one – are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to investigate the effect the dead girl’s presence has on her father psychologically even though one is ready to accept that her presence is real. So, what is the effect of the dead girl’s presence on her father?

   Her father is a detective and has lost his wife some years ago. He is inclined to see causation everywhere: “But Dad said that [the observation that correlation is not necessarily causation] was scientist-talk not police-talk, and if two things happened together you’d suspect the first thing had caused the second until it could provide you with an alibi (p.13).“ This tendency to see causation everywhere might be directly linked with the experience of loosing his daughter in the car accident. An event which is contingent and cannot be explained. Especially because no one drove too fast (cf. p.8). Thus, the accident is perceived as just an accident with no satisfactory explanation. Thus, the search of causation might be a compensation for not being able to rationally explain the accident. That his daughter is present to him when he tries to solve crimes by uncovering hidden causation might be seen as a testimony of the efficiency of this compensation: he feels close to his daughter and might even be able to bring her back: “There was a note of sadness in his voice, and I knew he was thinking about how Nurse Flint had likely died here. You can’t bring him back, Dad. But you can find out what happened to him [italics in the original] (p.15).“

   It was shown that the necessity to find causation in crime might be directly linked with the experience of loosing one’s daughter in an event which cannot be explained by causality. Thus, the need to find causality is some kind of compensation.

When Beth and her father visit a witness the novel, which has up to this point relied solely on prose, shifts towards a poetry section. Why this change? In order to answer this question, I think it best to enlist the differences between poetry and prose as I see it. Readers will approach a poem differently from a prose texts. The reading is slower as they might recite the words in one’s head and thus also generally pay more attention to them. In poetry every words count. Thus, one approaches the poetry section with more caution, more attention and with an altogether different outlook. It slows the reading down. One expects to read something important. But there are also similarities: the witness, also a girl, also appears to have had a car accident.

   Apart from formalistic and substantive differences, the poetry section might also be read as a kind of indirect characterization. People thinking or communicating in poetry with other people also pay special attention to their words. In a sense this thinking and communication is more artful than mere speech. This artfulness is also interesting when one considers the subject matter of the poem: it appears as if poetry is a coping mechanism for traumatic events. In poetry, once can give this experience shape: there are verses and stanzas. In order to answer the question broadly this change from prose to poetry might indicate a method to deal with trauma. In comparison between the father who tries to establish causality, poetry with its free association and playful metaphors appears to be an altogether different way to deal with trauma.

In this blog post, I have shown how a traumatic experience in fiction can be directly linked with the work of a decretive who tries to establish causality. Moreover, it was shown that the change form poetry to prose might indicate another way to deal with trauma: in poetry.

Kwaymullina, Ambelin and Kwaymullina, Ezekiel. Catching Teller Crow. Penguin Random House UK: 2019

The Genres of Speculative Fiction – An Overview

by Nadja Marek, Renee Czyganowski, Danny Tran, and Ann-Sophie Ludwig

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term that contains many different genres. Generally speaking, it deals with topics such as nature (or the supernatural) and alternate realities, either in the past or future. It tries to make sense of the world by combining history with the supernatural and imaginary. Genres that count as speculative fiction are fantasy, horror and science fiction. These can also be divided into more specific categories, for example stories that entail ghost stories, magic realism, utopian and dystopian or apocalyptic and post apocalyptic elements. In this blog post, we want to give you an overview of the different genres and their key aspects that distinguish one from another.

Fantasy and Magic Realism

The Fantasy genre commonly features supernatural elements and magic, things that obviously do not exist in our world. Creative freedom is intrinsically tied to this particular genre unlike any other. Unrestricted by physical laws, fantasy offers a glimpse of what life could be like, if there was a sense of underlying magic in our world. Coinciding with the name, the genre of magic realism combines notions of a real world with fantasy and magic. The literary aspect of magic realism gained traction in the 1930, when Venezuelan author Arturo Uslar-Pietri wrote a number of influential short stories, focusing on both mystery and the reality of life.  The overall setting is commonly grounded in a realistic but supernatural manner, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Arguably the most defining characteristic of this particular genre is the aspect of relatability; the story must take place in a real world that the reader is familiar with or can easily identify themselves with. In the world of magic realism, magic is an element that most characters are accustomed to, showcasing how modern life could be like with a supernatural twist. The genre of magic realism is distinguishable from regular fantasy by taking into account realistic elements and especially the style of realism, as it would otherwise fall under the aforementioned genre. This amalgamation of both relatability and the fantastical offers a uniquely inclusive approach to storytelling, as it is easier to grasp onto things the reader is already familiar with. 

Horror and Ghost Stories

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” (Lovecraft 1927) Horror is a genre that contains elements of the supernatural and unnatural which serve the purpose to scare and repulse the reader. Often, it uses themes such as death, decay, monsters and blood to create an uncanny atmosphere that is noticeable and distinguishes it from any other genre. Moreover, it combines eerie descriptions of nature and the unnatural to make the reader feel frightened. Themes, such as the uncanny valley or monster theory help to understand that fear comes from something unfamiliar and something unknown that cannot be trusted. Horror plays with these themes to intentionally confront the reader with dreadful and shocking images and situations. In modern media it established the sub category of art horror which entails the interplay between threat and disgust. 

When looking at the different types of horror it is important to look at the difference between psychological horror and supernatural horror. The former uses emotional and mental circumstances to unsettle the reader and picks up themes such as insanity, whereas the latter deals with monsters and the unknown, such as ghosts, to make the reader feel frightened. 

Ghost stories are a subcategory of the horror genre and deal with, like the name already states, the appearances of ghosts. “A Splinter of Darkness” by Isobelle Carmody is an example of a horror short story. It deals with the uncanny because the child Paul is visited by a girl that only comes out when his parents aren’t home and she is persuading him to do unspeakable things to free others of her kind. The story uses the element of the unknown and secrecy as a tool to create a scary environment.

Science Fiction, Utopian/Dystopian and (Post-)Apocalyptic Literature

The words science and fiction at first glance represent a paradox, two terms that have nothing in common. However, put together they represent the great world of science fiction. The science fiction genre depicts the imagination of what science and its methods could have been, could be able to do, or become. It concerns itself with the question: what if? What if there would be a world where no one has to die? What if our world would be destroyed due to a scientific error? What if nature would turn on the human race? Science fiction often shows an opposite view to the life that we are used to and when it does relate to the world as we know it, there is always a big change to it, the so-called novum. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (3rd edition) the transformation to the world can occur due to technological inventions but it can also “involve some mutation of known biological or physical reality, e.g. time travel, extraterrestrial invasion, ecological catastrophe.” Due to the immense amount of possibilities for transformation, the genre of science fiction includes a range of subgenres such as for example utopian, dystopian and (post-)apocalyptic writing. Utopia and Dystopia present two opposing worldviews. Where utopian fiction presents a kind of perfect world, dystopian fiction presents a flawed one. Often dystopian and (post-)apocalyptic fiction are knit together tightly as an imperfect world is often presented as the result of an apocalyptic event. An example for this would be Jeremy Szal’s short story “The Weight of Silence”, which is set in Australia and deals with the aftermath of an attack through spiders that overtook the country. It presents a time of war and crisis through a before unknown force and shows how the survivors try to cope in their changed world. 


In this blog post, we talked about different genres, such as “Fantasy and Magic Realism”, “Horror and Ghost stories”, and “Science Fiction and Utopian/Dystopian and (Post-)Apocalyptic literature”. But most of the time, stories are not written for a specific genre and categorizing them can be a bit tricky. A fantasy book can contain elements of horror stories or a dystopian short story can be considered a fantasy story as well. Stories are still divided into different genres to make it easier for the reader to find specific topics, but their content is still overlapping in genre. Therefore, we have the term speculative fiction which describes fiction that deals with elements that do not exist in reality.


  • Carmody, Isobelle. 1995. A Splinter of Darkness. In Gary Crew, Dark House, 219-236.
  • Lovecraft, H.P. 1973. Supernatural Horror in literature. Dover Publications Inc. 
  • Szal, Jeremy. “The Weight of Silence.” Pacific Monsters, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, Fox Spirit Books, 2017, pp. 83-89.

Review: “Water” by Ellen van Neerven

by Johanna Edler

The short story “Water” from the collection Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven was published in 2014 and discusses the treatment of Indigenous people in a futuristic Australia. Van Neerven is an Aboriginal Australian herself and an award-winning writer and poet.

Personally, I really enjoyed the short story, especially because it introduces many new plot threads that were very interesting to see unfold and sometimes surprised me a lot. The story really is a new perspective on the way Aboriginal people are treated by others in Australia and how a future might look like for them.     

The story’s main character Kaden is a young Aboriginal woman who identifies as queer which lets us as the readers see the world through her eyes. I find this representation not only refreshing and interesting but also very important as it gives space for a new perspective and voice that has not been heard that much before.

The genre of the short story is not very easily identified which again shows the versatility of the story as there are many different elements that could be considered magic realism, science fiction or even dystopian. In my opinion this makes the story even more interesting as it is not clearly confined to one genre but offers many different layers and lenses to analyze it through. Magic Realism shines through on many occasions, especially because the story feels very grounded in present-day problems and politics for example when considering the rights of Indigenous people and “Australia2”. Science Fiction on the other hand can be seen as well in the future setting or the way the “formula” is a scientific experiment that is performed on the plantpeople. The situation with Indigenous people in Australia, the problems they have to face and where they stand in society also seems to be relatable to dystopian settings which again shows the many different layers the story has. The mixture is what makes the story even more captivating which Ellen van Neerven manages quite well in her writing.     

In conclusion, I think that “Water” is an important contribution to all these genres and brings a new voice of an Aboriginal Australian woman into the discourse surrounding the addressed problems. I highly recommend the story to everyone who is interested and I am definitely going to see what else Ellen van Neerven publishes in the future.