For my last blog post I have again chosen a short story to write about. The short story, “Melbourne Calling” by Silvia Brown, doesn’t seem to have much to do with horror at first. However, monsters are mentioned from the beginning, which Colin apparently sees. The monsters he mentions, however, seem to come from his subconscious and are therefore less real. “I closed my eyes and counted to three like the psych had suggested and the vision went away, leaving a path of slime over my shoes” (140).
The story seems like a normal teenage – love story with the difference being that this is not a traditional, heteronormative couple, but a homosexual one. The two are portrayed in a very cute way. They seem to have really searched for and found each other. Due to the depiction of their relationship, as a reader one feels wrapped in a warm and cozy blanket. It recalls one´s first love and the strong emotions and sensations felt at that intense time. Typical and comprehensible is also that Collin and Josh have their own song “London Calling”, which they even personalise for themselves into “Melbourne Calling” (142). The title of the story already indicates that this song will be significant for the plot.
Out of nowhere, the boys are attacked by an old man and Josh is killed in the attack. “A blast went off as the headphones snapped onto his ears. Flesh exploded. Glass and wood shattered. [… I] saw the broken window […], and what was left of Josh, the pointy end of a shotgun still levelled at where his head had been” (144 – 145). As a reader, you are torn from the cozy blanket and thrown into a pool of freezing water. You might expect a supernatural monster, like the one in Colin’s wardrobe, but no. The monster described here is a man who wants to kill, or kills two boys. “The old man behind the gun looked me in the eye, seemingly indifferent to the loss of life and property” (45). Definitely such people can be called monsters. Monsters are not only slimy creatures with tentacles, but also people without hearts and empathy. However, the old man is in Colin’s eyes not only a human monster but also a fantastic one. “The old man´s partly hidden features became more obvious as he moved into the light of the store window. His human face fell into a mass of feelers from the lips down, minuscule tentacles lurking in all directions” (145). As a reader, one is not quite sure if this monster is real or if just Colin’s mind portraying this man as a monster.
The story only becomes clearly fantastic at the end, when the song “London Calling” is heard again by Colin. The song seems to have created such a strong connection between him and Josh that he seems to hear his voice calling his name (146). Colin follows the voice in his mind and thereby loses himself in “limbo” (146), where he finds Josh. Now they can sing together again, “from the top of [their] lungs” (146). The story ends on a sad note, since both boys are dead. Colin seems to have died too, as he is said to fall “into the abyss” (146). Nevertheless, one also feels a positive or lightening feeling, knowing that at the very least Josh and Colin are together.
“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.”
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.”
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.
The gaming industry is notoriously known to struggle with representation of diverse characters. Protagonists still tend to be male, white, cis, and able-bodied most of the time. AAA titles with the most basic protagonists still make tons of profit, while male gamers with a sexist mindset often react with outrage when faced with one of the rare, non-sexualized representations of women, because ‘everything has to be woke nowadays’. Despite more than valid criticisms and controversies surrounding the company and its policies, Blizzard’s 2016 game Overwatch (upgraded to Overwatch 2 in October ’22), offers a rather exemplary diverse roster of characters for its player base of up to 1 million daily players.
Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person-shooter, commonly described as a ‘hero shooter’. In hero shooters, the gameplay relies on each of the characters’ unique abilities. With a heavy focus on individual characters, representation matters even more than normal. And not everything is bad in the case of this sometimes quite controversial game.
The game takes place in a distant future, with extremely advanced technologies, fully sentient robots, genetically enhanced gorillas and hamsters. The Overwatch is an international task force established to ensure global stability in the face of the robot rebellion against their human creators: the so called Omnic Crisis. In this setting, Australia has a somewhat unique status, as it is a barren, barely inhabitable wasteland, almost completely destroyed in said crisis. Accordingly, the Australian characters are heavily inspired by the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max. Their chaotic personalities contrast with many of the other heroes, who neatly fit into different, mostly futuristic hero archetypes.
The first character to look at is the attack hero Junkrat, who would be the result of what happens if you put a mad genius, DC’s Joker and a whole lot of Mad Max into a blender. He is represented as insane to the point of being self-destructive, sporting a self-made mechanical arm and leg. Even in the chaotic environment of this destroyed Australia, disabilities are not a dealbreaker. On the contrary, Junkrat is crafty enough to design his own prosthetics, even without access to the sleek-looking prosthetics some of his colleagues use (sometimes to enhance their abilities). Still, he is one of the heroes with the highest damage output and quite some manoeuvrability, simply due to him not caring about his own physical well-being.
His weapons of choice are a whole lot of bombs, a bear-trap and a remote-controlled exploding tire. Everything about Junkrat is chaotic, from his scorched, still burning hair to his crazed laughter. He even drops bombs upon being killed. While other heroes use high-tech equipment, Junkrat relies on the power of pure destruction inflicted by his rusty DIY gadgets, truly making the best out of his post-apocalyptic home country.
Junkrat’s voice actor (US American Chris Parson) attempts to mimic an Australian accent, but he is American, nonetheless. Blizzard seems to have learned their lesson in this regard, as the newest released Australian hero, Junker Queen, has an Australian voice actress (Leah De Neise), as well as a few Aussie slang voice lines (for example: “Oi! Pick up your feet, ya’ drongos!”)
Junker Queen, a tank hero, is an extremely tall and muscular woman, using a shotgun, an axe, and a throwing knife. She combines the brute force of melee attacks with her passive ability that allows her to heal herself in relation to damage dealt to enemy heroes. In her case, hurting others means to protect yourself and your teammates. Additionally, she is one of the most self-confident characters in the game. This translates into an aggressive play-style, which spreads over to the other heroes: Her ability Commanding Shout is a fierce battle cry giving allies a health buff. In Junker Queen’s work environment, you just scream at your colleagues to protect them.
She is not only the tallest woman in the game (only towered over by the other Australian tank, two robots and the German man in giant armour) but is also equipped with an unapologetic brawler attitude rarely seen in female characters.
As her name suggests, she is the queen of one of the escort maps, Junkertown. Junkertown is built out of the remains of an Omnic factory in the Australian Outback. In Junker Queen’s cinematic short movie, we get a glimpse of a popular hobby in this rather dangerous Australian society: Fighting in the Scrapyard, a gladiatorial arena located in the Junkertown map. We get to see the rough society of Overwatch’s Australia, their use of scrap technology, as well as their awesome queen being the best tank of the game (not biased at all). She is presented as a woman who could not care less about gender roles, while at the same time not remaining one-dimensional or unreasonably violent. Junker Queen is not only surviving in post-apocalyptic Australia, but thriving:
The remaining character is another tank: Roadhog, who is Junkrat’s bodyguard. He is a fat man in a mask, mainly communicating in grunts. His outfit’s accessories further hint at road movies, with a spiked tire on his shoulder and a license place as his belt buckle. His weapons are a shotgun and a hook he can use to pull other heroes towards him and finally…”Whole Hog”; some kind of modification to his gun making it look like a meatgrinder firing bullets in a cone in front of him. To restore health, he inhales from his “hogdrogen” (not a typo). Roadhog, similarly to his boss, is a character mirroring the radiated wasteland they are inhabiting. Due to his hostile environment, he has abandoned much of his humanity and has become whole hog himself. Thus, it is still unknown what his face looks like.
While Roadhog is designed in the same Mad Max aesthetic, one aspect differentiates him from the other two. While his ‘official’ nationality is Australian, is has been heavily hinted that Roadhog, whose real name is Mako Rutledge, is of Māori descent.
His first name means ‘shark’ in Māori. Additionally, his ‘Toa’ and ‘Islander’ skins reference Polynesian cultures, including a stuck-out tongue reminiscent of the haka, as well as tribal tattoos. In game, he can also be heard saying “If I wanted to go to the wop-wops, I could have stayed at home.” This “is strictly an informal noun in New Zealand as opposed to Australia which uses ‘out in the sticks’ to imply that it is out in the middle of nowhere.” (Overwatch Wiki)
While Overwatch had some controversies regarding cultural appropriation, it is not unlikely that Mako is a intended to be of Māori descent, as there “are over 170,000 Māori living in Australia – 20 percent of all Māori”. (rnz.co.nz) It is an interesting nod to the relation between the two neighbouring countries, and I was not aware of this demographic situation before looking up the reasons for the controversy surrounding Roadhog’s nationality. Unfortunately, Roadhog’s voice actor is another US American (Josh Petersdorfs). Blizzard missed the great opportunity to give this role to a native Māori, providing some of the much-needed visibility to a marginalised group of people.
Overwatch sticks to clichés, but it does so consistently with all its characters (the German character Reinhardt does, of course, have beer related voice lines and I can definitely identify with VA Darin De Paul’s fake German accent). The game is walking the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Generally, characters stereotyped according to their nationality have become a popular trope in hero shooters.
When it comes to proper representation, Blizzard still has plenty of room for improvement, especially compared with other games such as Respawn’s battle royale Apex Legends (2019), which also includes characters from New Zealand and Australia, respectively voiced by voice actors of those nationalities.
The American voice actors deliver a decent imitation of an Australian accent (though I am no expert whatsoever). Nevertheless, Leah de Niese performance as Junker Queen is the absolute best. But overall, the idea kind of works. All characters are unique and charming, with the Australians delivering plenty of personality and some of the most powerful gameplay.
Finally, one last thing that is interesting to observe is the in-game roles of the characters. Roadhog and Junker Queen are tanks, whose main role it is to shield their teammates and soak up incoming damage. Often, tanks are characters that are physically extremely strong. Junkrat is an attack hero, whose main role it is to deal as much damage as possible. There is no Australian hero in the support category. I would love to see how an Australian healer would look like in the Overwatch universe. Or is the lack of a support hero a subliminal message about Australia’s image as a hostile and dangerous environment producing confident, reckless, and extremely self-sufficient personalities? After all, if there is no healer on your team, Junker Queen quips: “Yousofties need a healer!”
Pat Grant’s graphic novel The Grot was published by Top Shelf Productions in 2020 and is a collaboration with the artist Fionn McCabe. It is the first of three books that together form the collection The Story of the Swamp City Grifters. Grant wanted to tell a story about con-artists but was facing the problem that in our modern time most of the scamming happens online. Since he thought a story that mainly takes place on the internet would not be interesting enough, he wanted to come up with a different, but still modern setting. Therefore, he created a dystopian Australia ‘ravaged by a plague, filled with con-artists swindling others in a world where people are scrambling for resources and constantly taking a crack at hitting big and becoming rich’. (Petras, 2020) A place called Falter City becomes a magnet for people who are looking to make a fortune, but instead, they are confronted with disease, greed, and foul play.
The reason for the downfall of the world as we know it is not mentioned in the visual narrative. Similarly, the reader does not get to know the details about why people can get so rich in Falter City. It becomes clear that there is a special type of algae that is very valuable. Ryan Carey suggests that the world in Pat Grant’s graphic novel has changed so drastically because of climate change, and that the algae might be some kind of energy source. (Carey, 2020) The world Grant creates may also remind the reader of the North American Gold Rush, during which people also left everything behind to travel across the country in the hope of becoming rich.
In Pat Grant’s graphic novel The Grot, the reader follows the two brothers Lipton and Penn, who make their way to Falter City with their mother and plan on becoming rich by selling medicinal yogurt. On their journey, it becomes clear very quickly that their hopes might be naïve and that life in the swam is very dangerous due to a plague, a lot of fraud, and horrific work conditions. Lipton and his family receive multiple warnings. For example, when they arrive in Falter City a lot of people are waiting at the harbor. A man tells them: ‘Most of them are trying to leave. Not everyone gets rich out here and if you can’t afford the ticket then the only way back is to work your way back… fight for a spot on the pedal deck.’ (Grant, 2020) But the family is blind to all the warning signs and so full of greed that they choose to ignore the misery that is surrounding them everywhere in this hostile environment.
The relationship between Lipton and Penn is full of tension and mistrust, and in an interview, Grant stated that he is very interested in sibling relationships. The two can be seen as dual protagonists. While Lipton is trying to make his mother proud and succeed, Penn is not really interested in setting up their business. They spent most of their time in Falter City separated from one another but are both outsmarted by con-artists in the end. (Carey, 2020)
Grant’s first graphic novel Blue, which was published in 2013, already made it clear that the artist is not afraid to present unsympathetic and disagreeable protagonists. While Lipton seems quite naïve but could still be seen as a sympathetic character, his brother Penn, his mother, and basically every other character are far from likable. For example, Lipton’s mother states that she wants her son to profit from the diseases that are killing many people in Falter City. (Grant, 2020)
Pat Grant’s art style is very unique and contributes a lot to the uneasy feeling that the reader is left with after finishing the story. The artist uses mainly brown, green, red, and yellow in his panels. These muddy and earthy tones create a discomforting and dense atmosphere. In addition, Grant is not afraid to show ugliness, which adds to the unpleasant feeling. The artist has been praised by critics for his drawings. For example, Carey wrote: ‘These pages don’t just look good, they look great – and while no art is “perfect” in and of itself, this art is perfectly and uniquely suited to tell this story.’ (Carey, 2020)
Other than the specific art style, another quality of the graphic novel lies in its very authentic dialogues. Grant manages to remind the reader of the Australians ‘characteristically blunt method of communication and inherently wry sense of humor […].’ (Carey, 2020)
In terms of the topic of migration, one could say that TheGrot is very different from the other visual narratives that we discussed in our class – the main difference being the reasons and motivations behind migration. While we got to know a lot of comics and graphic novels where people are forced to relocate, the families in The Grot move because they want to make a fortune. Therefore, we also have a different social composition in Falter city than in the spaces where other visual narratives take place. In most of those, we have a small group of migrants that comes to a foreign place, where there is already an established community living. This often leads to tensions between the two groups. In Falter City on the other hand, it seems that almost everybody is a migrant. Still, with the following quote, it becomes clear that this place also has a history of repression of other cultures: “Here they are…the five islands. Each island used to have an indigenous name but no-one remembers those.” (Grant, 2020) This quote, among other, shows that Grant is also subtly criticizing society.
Grant, Pat. The Grot. Top Shelf, 2020.
Belinda, Yohana. “The Grot“, A Telltale of Con Artists during Pandemic by Pat Grant. thedisplay.net, 2020. (https://thedisplay.net/2020/06/15/the-grot-pat-grant/)
Carey, Ryan. Swamp Thing: Ryan Carey Reviews The Grot By Pat Grant. solrad.com, 2020. (https://solrad.co/swamp-thing-ryan-carey-reviews-the-grot-by-pat-grant)
Petras, Matt. Pat Grant, ‘The Grot,’ and the difficult, demanding task of creating a graphic novel. sequentialstories.com, 2020. (https://sequentialstories.com/2020/07/29/pat-grant-the-grot-and-the-difficult-demanding-task-of-creating-a-graphic-novel/)
For my blogpost I would like to introduce the novel Soon by Lois Murphy and would make a recommendation for you to read it.
The novel deals with an abandoned city in the Australian outback, only a few people remained living there and the official road sign into town has been removed – but why is that?
The fictitious city of Nebulah is hunted, hunted at night. But also, during the day, something feels off, even the birds have left town. Murphy creates an amazing atmosphere where we as readers can really feel the silence and the uneasy atmosphere that surrounds the city. She plays with the theme of the uncanny when on winter solstice a mystique mist arrives to town. This mist makes your darkest dreams and fears come true. Sometimes it even portrays pictures and makes people reappear that you are familiar with. The only escape is your home, a closed off space with doors and windows shut, curtains drawn and the tv on maximum volume to make the awful sounds of the outside disappear.
The mist only appears at night, so “if you are out at night, you are already dead” (Murphy). During the day the last three residents try to carry on with their everyday lives. The ex-policeman Pete and his dog, Milli and Li try to stick together and remain living in the only place that they have ever called home.
The story of Nebulah and its residents is not only scary and horrific, but also sad and very personal since the readers get to know every character and experience their lives. Each of the character has a personal story and a reason to stay in Nebulah – explaining why they cannot leave this horrific place. It’s a story of failed dreams and goals but also of friendship and a chosen family.
Does the story sound familiar to you? Well Murphy said in an interview a huge inspiration was the story of The Mist by Stephen King. But she also mentioned that the story of Nebulah is based on a real-life town she came across during her travels. A similar fate reached the city of Wittenoom in Australia. Wittenoom is also almost completely abandoned by its former residents. Wittenoom was Australia’s only supplier of blue asbestos, but due to growing health concerns from asbestos mining in the area, the site was shut down and people began to move away. Now the area around Wittenoom is declared the largest contaminated site of Australia. However, until 2021 two people remained living in Wittenoom….
If reading the novel this story of Wittenoom reminds you of the story of Nebulah, well, don’t be surprised. Even so, Wittenoom was not hunted by a horrific mist but by poisonous asbestos. I recommend you to read Soon and dive into the story of Nebulah. Some parts of the story are written with such suspense you imagine living there yourself and running for your life, running to close the door behind you when the sun leaves the sky…
“Waltzing Matilda” is an Australian Icon. Many Australians carry it in their hearts as an unofficial national anthem. The text to the tune was written in 1895 by Australian Banjo Paterson and has struck a chord with people down under ever since.
The story goes as follows: a jolly swagman (wandering worker) is camping at a billabong (small body of water) when he spots a jumbuck (sheep) coming to drink. Delighted, the swagman catches and stows it away. However, he is interrupted when a squatter (landowner) and three troopers (policemen) come riding to arrest him for stealing the sheep. The swagman refuses to be arrested and promptly jumps into the billabong to drown himself.
Its broadly anti-authoritarian attitude and free-spirited message helped to immortalize ‘the jolly swagman’ in the nation’s canon and the song’s story has been a source for Australian identity for generations. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you haven’t already!
Now, to address the obvious. Paterson’s “Waltzing Matilda” is not really a piece of Horror literature. In fact, it’s not very scary at all (or is it?). One way or the other, listening to it will likely neither strike fear into your heart or send shivers down your spine. But still, there is something eerie about this tune. The text reminds us in the last stanza that the swagman’s “ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong”. This nod to the trope of haunting ghosts points us in a more harrowing direction than the many cheery iterations of the folk anthem would let on. When recontextualized as a ghost story, “Waltzing Matilda” sheds light on the creepiness of the jolly swagman’s story.
There are a handful of horror elements woven into the plot and style of the swagman’s tale. The repeated phrase “you’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me” wraps up each stanza, evolving throughout the song to refer from the sheep that is about to be killed to the swagman himself. Observing this motif changing in context from a somewhat empty expression to a cynical comment to an animal about to be slaughtered to a violent threat by an unyielding land owner can be read as both uncanny and unsettling.
The setting of the Australian bush is also significant. The archetype of the swagman exists only in the context of a vast and unconquered environment. The swagman travels by foot because he must and camps where he pleases because he can. The squatter exists as a counterpart to the swagman, hogging land he has no right to claim, and reacting to intruders that only take what they need with uncalled-for chicanery. Thus, the landowner, in coordination with the police, violates a central tenet of the Australian national image and transgresses on the autonomy of the folk-hero, the jolly swagman.
The lack of hesitation and matter-of-factness with which the swagman decides to drown himself is perhaps the most clear horror element and is especially unsettling by subverting expectations. The message here is clear: death is better than arbitrary abuses of power.
Again, “Waltzing Matilda” is not horror literature on its face. Accordingly, the horror elements outlined above become most apparent if you are actively looking for them. However, presenting the song in an appropriate context can exacerbate and truly bring to light its creepy inner-life. This potential did not go unnoticed to writers, giving us horror-twists on the classic story such as in the 2017 movie The Marshes where the a ‘jolly swagman’ character becomes a nightmare incarnate for city-dwelling researchers venture into remote nature to conduct research.
One could also argue that the infamous “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda” by Eric Bogle borrows from the discussed unsettling elements to create its eerie atmosphere to underline the searing anti-war message. Here, “Waltzing Matilda” accompanies the soldiers killed and mutilated in the battle of Gallipoli as creepily subversive background music.
Exploring “Waltzing Matilda’s” hidden horrors is a very worthwhile task, and I invite anyone to try to tease out some hidden meanings by holding a horror lens to your favourite non-horror texts.
The 2013 Australian short film Cargo, written and directed by Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling is about a father who must save his young daughter from zombies by trying to escape and find a safe haven from the virus that has swept Australia. The short film was later adapted in 2017, made into a feature-length film by its creators, and categorized as an Australian post-apocalyptic horror drama.
Even though the feature film is based on the original screenplay of the short film, the two films differ considerably from each other.
Firstly, it is important to note that the feature-length movie graciously honored its predecessor by not changing the Australian setting. Instead, it only amplified the beautiful scenery from the short film, showing a visually stunning outback. This heightens the feeling of isolation throughout the father’s journey and demonstrates to the audience the harsh circumstances he must deal with in his struggle to survive.
The main difference between the two media pieces is the way the respective formats work. In the short film, we don’t get any background information and are directly thrown right into the action. Only gradually we are shown the situation and introduced to the characters. We have the basics of the idea: some kind of virus that turns the people into a kind of zombie and a father trying to find a safe space for him and his baby – all without speaking. This is a particularly interesting aspect of the short film since it manages to keep its viewers entertained with no dialogue throughout the duration of the movie. The viewer focuses on what is shown on the screen – the visuals. In a typical movie, this would mean carefully planned shots, changes in lighting, and overall powerful cinematography to make up for the lack of verbal content. However, Ramke and Howling use the camera to focus only on the plot, there are no unnecessary landscape shots or subplots, making it a highly efficient storytelling method.
In the full-length version, we see a little more of what’s going on. We get an additional 20 to 30 minutes of exposition that leads us up to the point where the original short film starts. We also have more developed relationships within the family as the mother is still alive at the beginning of the movie. This makes the movie far more tragic than the short film version, as we see how they turn into zombies and how Andy, the father, has to overcome his selfish feelings. There is also a sense of urgency that is not present in the short film. After being bitten, you have around 48 hours until you turn- there are even first aid kits for this! But the movie version is also far more gruesome as it shows the turning (not recommended for people with a weak stomach). Andy’s journey through the feature-length film is extended by various subplots and even more painful traveling while trying to come up with the best plan to save his daughter, all of which the director accompanied with wide-range landscape shots. Because of all this new and extensive information, the viewer is fully immersed in the experience of the story and by the end of the movie, one or two may even shed a few tears.
Overall the two movies are quite different in the way they work and the lasting impression they leave behind. The short film is more effective in its storytelling yet it lacks the emotional part that the feature-length film creates. The 2017 version manages to make a lasting impression of the painful experience Andy has to go through by focusing on his journey and different aspects of it.
“Shadow of Drought“ is a short story from the short story collection The bone chime song and other stories by Joanne Anderton. It is written from the perspective of a teenager “Lou”. She constantly compares her experience to a horror movie and throughout the story you can find a lot of clichés that you would expect in one.
Five teenagers, namely Jim, Nathan, and Rob, as well as Emily, and Lou, are the main protagonists of the story. Their characters are similar to the stereotypical cast of a horror movie. The loud one who is responsible for the doom that befalls them (Jim), a naïve but pretty blond girl that is into makeup (Emily), the smart and natural girl who knows something is up (Lou), the leader (Nathan), and the one who sacrifices himself to save someone else (Rob).
They live in a small town and one day come across a creature which follows and kills them one by one. At first, they think it’s a statue, but they are soon convinced otherwise. Jim, who actually touched the creature, is the first one to die.
The small town is in a time of drought. It hasn’t rained in a very long time; the animals are dying and the ground is dry. It’s hard to survive and there is not much of a future here.
The creature comes at night, kills them, and turns them into creatures themselves. They end up looking like the statue. Black and thin with their eyes gone. After Jim’s death, two creatures are seen standing in the distance, just watching, and they increase in count after every death so it seems like the teens join the creature in its endeavor after having been killed.
The town knows of this creature and everything points to the fact that they have made some kind of pact with it. The life of the teens in exchange for rain. After the second death, rain starts to fall and it doesn’t stop.
After Jim and Emily’s death, Nathan complains about their looming fates whereupon George, a guy they went to school with, tells them that they are selfish and asks who is more important; some useless kids without a future or the rest of the town. George thereby hints at the fact that they are sacrifices for the town. He also tells them that they are lucky because they just stumbled upon “it” without understanding it, and now have everybody’s respect for being a sacrifice. He seems jealous, and it appears like George knows more about the creature and its history.
Rob and Lou decide to escape town after Nathan dies. They decide to jump on the coal train that passes by every afternoon. However, the whole town is watching them, so they are followed to the train tracks and are even chased when the town realizes what they are planning. Rob helps Lou to escape but is then caught by the towns people before he can escape himself. Lou manages to escape the town but soon realizes that the creatures followed her and did not stay within the town. And with the creatures following her, so does the rain.
There are quite a few gothic elements in this short story. First of all, there’s an omen foreshadowing that something bad is going to happen. After Jim touches the statue in the beginning of the story, his hand turns black. First the teenagers think it is paint from the statue, but Jim isn’t able to wipe or wash it off. The black sticks and indicates that something is not right.
The dry landscape doesn’t appear to be particularly gothic, but the storm, the rain, and the black clouds that are forming throughout the story are. This creates an eerie and gothic environment even though the landscape itself isn’t. An ongoing theme is the deaths of the teenagers and their funerals. There are scenes at the morgue and at the graveyard.
I found it interesting how often something black is referenced. The story begins with a description of the creature. It is compared to a shadow and then Jim’s hand becomes black after touching it.
After he was killed, Jim turned completely black. The funeral clothes are black and stand in contrast to the white coffin. The coal train transports something black. The creatures are “all dark”, they kill at night and bring dark rainclouds. There is a black hearse and people in mourning clothes who are forming a funeral procession. The color black is often associated with and is used to symbolize death, evil, and misfortune. The recurring use of it helps to create the gothic atmosphere.
Another recurring thing is the railway. This can be seen as foreshadowing and it is always reminding you that an outside world exists. The group is sitting in the shade of broken train tracks; the coal train is passing the mourners on the road, and the next day the remaining teens are sitting beneath the old railway tracks again. Rob and Lou also decide to escape while sitting there. The road out of town runs along the train tracks and Lou actually gets out of town by train.
I found the short story to be very interesting, but it left me wanting to know more about the creature. Where did it come from? And what is it? What exactly is the pact the town made with it? How often does it happen? Does it only exist in this particular town or are there more? What does Patersie have to do with it? The creature was first seen on his land, and his farm somehow is still green while everything else is dried up. All these questions remain unanswered and in the end, I don’t know any more than Lou did.
There is something exceedingly exciting about the prospect of reversing death, be it in the form of a person or an entire species. By artificially bringing to life a being that should no longer exist, one dares to go beyond, defying nature. Fascination lies both in the act of playing God and the idea of a creature that is somehow human though still wholly different. But no act remains without consequences; in this case the creator’s downfall from hubris seems just as significant as the rejection and loneliness such a being would be subjected to. Of course, there are countless examples to be found in literature dealing with these moral implications, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein among the most popular of all. James Bradley’s Ghost Species likewise takes the route of creation with the help of science, focusing on the revival of extinct species. Overlap between the two exists plenty, to the point of a film adaption of the former being mentioned in the latter:
After that she seeks out other movies, not just about cavemen but about robots and monsters and patchwork people, all the uncanny golems of the Gothic imagination. Across that winter and into the summer she watches everything she can find, looking for guidance in films: Frankenstein, Splice, Blade Runner. Every time the story is the same: the thing created is monstrous but also tragic, its desire for life a violation of the natural order. (Bradley, 178-79)
These words are placed within the first chapter providing Eve’s point of view, fittingly creating an introduction to the way she attempts to separate her own perception of her identity from the othering constantly inflicted on her. She might be alienated from humankind as well, but even more so is she estranged from her supposed own kind: Other Neanderthals have been long extinct, and any portrayals in the world of art also fail to offer solace and understanding. There is however a sense of her striving to create her own narrative, one which after all does not seem to be that different from that of a sapient adolescent. Her relations to friends and what is generally understood to be her family are characterized by the same experiences and feelings of belonging like those of any other person. Any uncanny aspect about Eve is done away with by the novel shifting its perspective to her point of view; the chapter titled “I was a teenage Neanderthal” also inviting pop-cultural associations.
Similarly, Frankenstein’s monster also turns to other stories, which “consisted of Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and the Sorrows of Werter” (Shelley, 93), for guidance within a society that has thus far abandoned him. He has yet acquired only limited language and social comprehension; these books, that he reads “as a true history” (Shelley, 94), accordingly function as a source of learning. This suggests that language and culture play an important role in transforming someone into a human being, whereas Ghost Species puts a focus on Eve’s experiences and the way they shape her future. Eve is granted a kind of agency which the monster does not receive even while recounting his own story. After all, in Frankenstein the telling of narratives is perpetually interwoven and epistolary, therefore denying clarity.
The artificial creation of Frankenstein’s monster can be seen as science eliminating the need for biological motherhood, though its absence is often reflected upon negatively within the novel. Paradise Lost, mentioned earlier and in the novel’s epigraph, serves as the reference point upon which the constant battle between creator and creation falls back on. Eve, her name certainly inviting similar biblical connotations, does have a mother figure, but as her life fades she must ultimately fight on her own. She brings about hope for the planet – however one in which Homo sapiens might not share a part.
The story Sleepless by Jay Kristoff deals with a guy named Justin. He turns out to be a serial killer and his online girlfriend is the next victim. However, in the end the hunter becomes the hunted. In the following though, I will explore the relationship between the hunter and his divided selves.
While reading the novel especially the relationship between Justin and his mother caught my eye. Over the duration of the story the reader is kept in the dark about the fate of the mother. Their interactions can be interpreted as weird, but the author wrote it in a way that you would only notice those signs on your second read-through. In the end it gets reveled that the only thing left from her is a corpse. So, I want to take a closer look at Justin’s conversation with the corpse or, more precisely, with himself, signifies.
The mother first appeared during the online chat between wolfboy_97 (Justin) and 2muchc0ff33 (Cassie). At the moment where they were about to get intimate, she interrupted the conversation. This situation repeats itself multiple times throughout the novel. The reason is that “She’s just like the others”, “She’s nothing but a tramp”, “Wicked. No good. Dirty girls”. If you think about the fact that Justin is basically telling himself at the same moment that she’s no good but also defending her, things get interesting. It gets clear that he is still indecisive about what he really wants and can’t commit to a sexual connection to Cassie. Therefore, the interruption symbolizes an escape route that hands over his responsibility. Thus, his mother is his justification to avoid the situation. In addition, we can see Justin’s doubt in his ability to form a relationship with women. If his only goal was to avoid sexual interaction, his mother’s words could be anything, they wouldn’t matter. However, she insults her untruthfulness in particular. This indicates Justin’s unsureness and hesitation. So, his doubts about committing to a relationship and trusting others surface.
Another interesting situation is when his mother asks him, if he is a good son and she tells him if he keeps this up, he is going to burn in hell. In this instance the mother symbolizes his remorse. It seems that Justin is partially aware of the crimes he committed. However, due to the fact that his mother is the one who says it and not himself, he isn’t fully admitting it. Once again, he shifts the responsibility away from himself. “She does this sometimes. Tells me to take her back to the place the county put her after the accident”. In this instant Justin’s partially awareness gets noticeable again. He knows that he shouldn’t have dug her out of the ground. But again, because he isn’t saying it on his own, he is still shifting the responsibility away. The reason being that he needs to be able to justify his actions so that he can continue his behavior.
To conclude Justin is conflicted and has commitment issues. His insecurities can be seen in the one sentence which he repeats multiple times “There’s no delete key IRL”. Justin’s Mother in “Sleepless” portrays his remorse and doubt, but also his justification. His remorse about his crimes, the doubts about commitment and trust and the justification of shifting responsibility to continue his actions.
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