Picnic at Hanging Rock – A spoiler free introduction to an Australian Gothic classic

Over the course of this semester, we have talked about a lot of Australian media, be they novels, short stories or short movies. Since the semester is ending, I find it only fitting to go out with a bang and talk about the iconic Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, rightfully considered by many to be one of the best in Australian literature. I agree wholeheartedly and would even go as far as to say that, though my overall knowledge is still limited, Picnic at Hanging Rock is an essential for the Australian Gothic. Why? Good question! Let me invite you to learn more about it, don’t worry, there are no spoilers.

But first, here is some basic information:

The movie I am basing this post on, was directed by Peter Weir and came out in 1975, but is actually based on the Joan Lindsay’s novel of the same name. It is set in Australia (surprise!) in the year 1900 and focuses on Appleyard College, an ‘’Educational Establishment for Young Ladies’’ which is under the strict monitoring and regulation of its headmistress, Mrs. Appleyard. On Valentines Day of that year, the College plans a trip to the Hanging Rock, for the girls to be free and enjoy themselves for a day. Needless to say, that is not exactly what happens.

Let’s now look at some of the Gothic elements present in the movie, starting with the most obvious, the Hanging Rock itself. Many years ago, the indigenous people of Australia used the rock formation to hold sacred rituals and practiced their role as its custodians, before being forcefully ‘uninvited’ by colonialists. Its’ unusually sharp edges and overwhelming size loom silently above the people’s heads and the mere aura it gives off is almost tangible. The name ‘’Hanging Rock’’ alone is mysterious enough to pique your interest completely (at least that was the case for me).  Truly a fantastic example of the sublime with a distinctly Australian twist. In complementary fashion, the surrounding environment helps flesh out the sublime nature of the location even further. Wide, open fields of uneven, pale yellow and light brown terrain with hills and scattered groups of trees, varying in density. It evokes a sense of infiniteness that fits the Gothic genre like a glove. The thought of the cast being out there in this infiniteness, not guarded by the confines of Appleyard College helps strengthen the feeling of eeriness exuded by the rock. I find that the outback is a pretty genius spin on the staple of the Gothic, the fog. Whereas the fog aims to reduce vision to scare characters, readers and viewers alike, the outback does the exact opposite. Our sight is not hindered whatsoever, we can see precisely how empty and barren the land before us is and that is what makes the great outback just as scary as the fog. You know you’re at the mercy of nature.

Naturally the movie also has its fair share of uncanny moments. It may be debatable, but I think even Appleyard College itself can be considered uncanny from a modern point of view, as the regulations and restrictions for the girls are so twisted and far removed from what we consider acceptable today, it makes the facility seem even creepier than the rock itself. Though there are plenty of traditional examples as well, like all clocks simultaneously stopping after they arrive at the rock formation. On top of being creepy on its own, it helps blur the concept of time which supports the previously established atmosphere. Later on some of the girls start behaving in strange ways, acting outside of the norm they’re used to at Appleyard College like disregarding orders by their supervisors. It appears as if they are being lured in by the rock and have no control over their bodies.

To really get the whole picture, I highly recommend you watch the movie (or read the novel but the movie really is excellent), as my words can do neither the cinematography nor the soundtrack justice in any way. There is so much more to uncover, like the theme of order vs. chaos being represented by Appleyard and the outback respectively, but I wanted to keep it concise and focus on the Gothic elements. Once more, I urge you to watch the movie yourself, even if it may be fairly slow and definitely not an action-packed blockbuster. In regard to the Australian Gothic though, it is undoubtedly one of the all-time greats.

Bonus fun fact: Legendary Australian Singer-Songwriter Nick Cave held an amazing concert right at the real Hanging Rock not long ago (November ’22) together with Warren Buffet, which you should also check out 😉

Sleepless by Jay Kristoff

Foreshadowing and Analysis

By Mara Geißen and Laura Himmelmann

Sleepless by Jay Kristoff, is a short Australian horror story and part of the book Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, released in 2015. The plot revolves around a man who is in a six-month chat relationship with a young girl. Leading up to the point where they will meet for the first time in real life.

The story starts off quite innocent, with chat history being written out and filling the pages. It carries an unsettling note that grows more suffocating with every passing dialogue. We as the reader follow Justin’s POV and learn that he lives alone with his mother. A woman who had an accident and has been bedbound ever since. His only escape are the daily chats with coffeegirl, her real name is not being revealed until the very end.

The Relationship to his Mother

For a few pages we are being led on by the weird atmosphere. If we pay attention, the foreshadowing is placed perfectly and sets an eerie feeling that drags on throughout the story. Justin describes his mother as sickly, her skin is tight on her bones, her eyes a pale blue, soulless almost. There are tons of scented candles placed around her bed, a mosquito net covering it so she is shielded. While it seems caring, it creates questions as well. If Justin is 17, why is his mother describes as old and fragile, unable to do anything alone?

Surely one could track it back to the apparent accident that took place. However it does not explain the number of candles and the ever-appearing perfect interruption whenever Justin is chatting. As well as her endless talks about how every girl he has been with has been terrible and that she is the only woman that should matter. It mirrors possessive behavior. What makes it weird though is, that every time we experience a conversation between them two, she does not say anything new, it is always the same.

Sentences that focus on his chats, God, and Jesus. A repetitive order that contradicts a natural, changing conversation one would have with their mother every new day. To give it an even more unsettling note, we recall the conversation Justin has with his mom, after he brought her out onto the terrace to let her watch the sunset. She does not even react to it, but cries about not wanting to be here, wanting to be gone, dead and free.


Turning to the girl Justin has been dating online for 6 months. The girl, called 2muchc0ff33_grrl in the online chat, is 16 years old and a normal teenager, upset about homework and her mother. Her name as well as the title of the story indicate the theme of insomnia. Coffeegirl drinks too much coffee because of nightmares. She opens up to Justin and explains that she has difficulties sleeping because of voices that keep telling her sad things that make her cry and get mad. Even when she is awake, she still has the feeling that voices are there.

Moreover, it is also worth mentioning that during one of their conversations, Coffeegirl and Justin talk about a case of a serial killer. She reports that belongings of five girls he murdered, were found in the serial killer’s house and that he has been missing for 12 days. Justin seems relatively uninterested in the subject and only makes statements about how many serial killers keep trophies of their victims.

The topics seem to be discussed relatively casually. Just normal chats between two teenagers talking about their problems, news and interests. But as a reader, one is aware that nothing is ever mentioned without greater meaning behind it.

The Revelation

The story initially focuses on a meeting between Coffeegirl and Justin. At their first meeting, however, Justin does not introduce himself as wolfboy_97, but pretends to be his dad. Here we discover what the reader may have already guessed. Justin is not 17 years old and not a teenager, but a grown man. During the meeting between Coffeegirl and Justin, he takes the reader back in time. He tells of his former girlfriends, Alice, who was the first and he made a mess of, Lucy, who had a bad mouth, and Sally, who woke up too early.

All the girls are not good enough, so there is only one polished bone, one silver dumbbell and one retainer left, and the ground owns the rest. To top it off, Coffeegirl is witnessing Justin talking to his mom and the guesses are being revealed as true. She has been dead for a long time, placed on the bed to keep Justin sane. By now the reader knows. Justin is the serial killer. Coffeegirl is his next victim. The conversation about the serial killer was not a coincidence. It was a foreshadowing for the reader, for us.

Modern-day Australia Meets Old India

the underrated show that is The Elephant Princess

Imagine you are 16 years old again, what did you struggle with? School, perhaps or a crush. But can you imagine a giant elephant appears out of thin air in your backyard including its peculiar keeper? Probably not. Now imagine that exact keeper tells you you’re a princess and about to inherit the throne of the magical kingdom Manjipoor in an India long ago. This is the beginning of the Australian children’s tv show The Elephant Princess. The show is not as well known in Germany as for example H2O – just add water, this is probably because of its fairly short run. The first episode aired in 2008 and the show’s last in 2011, but it also only had 2 seasons and 52 episodes total. What makes the show worthy of being talked about is its look and the storytelling. The animations look really good for what the year 2008 and the show’s budget had to offer. The story is quite compelling for a ten-year-old. The magic and costuming make it perhaps even more pretty to look at. It even helped grow the portfolio of now Hollywood-actor Liam Hemsworth, younger brother of Thor himself Chris Hemsworth. 

So, let’s talk about it a little more in depth. The opening theme is a poppy up-beat song. Children will probably dance to it even before they have seen the first scene of the show. Alex (the main character) is mostly relatable. She struggles with growing up, school and her band, she has troubles with  guy named Marcus (played by Liam Hemsworth) whom she likes and sometimes argues with her best friend Amanda. 

It is also really nice to see some real character growth from both Alex and Kuru, the of elephant Anala. At first Alex struggles with the fact that she is supposed to free Manjipoor out of its misery and her magical abilities that come with being the princess of a magical kingdom. As the show progresses Alex becomes more and more comfortable with the idea of her inheriting the throne and starts to feel a sense of responsibility. Kuru is at first fairly sceptical of modern-day Melbourne, since Manjipoor finds itself a few centuries back in time. He also cannot understand that Alex is not overly excited about the news he broke to her and continues to call her “princess” against her will. Throughout the show however, Kuru starts to accommodate with the advances of the 21st century and even attempts to use technology. He also relaxes when it comes to Alex, not pushing the princess title. He starts to become more of a friend rather than a babysitter. 

So, if the children around you are interested in fantasy with an Indian look definitely give it a watch. You can even find all the episodes on YouTube. 

Editors Note: This is a review of the show that optimistically reads the Indian representation. It is however completely worth taking a closer look to consider whether the show appropriates or appreciates Indian culture, and we’re always happy to hear thoughts and discussion on the subject!

Horror and Ghost

by anonymous

Some things are scary. It can be the unknown in a dark alley, an old doll at a flea market, some irremovable stains, or simply the monsters under our beds. Sometimes it’s not physical, but only some unreasonable feeling in our guts. And sometimes it’s a whole composition of deeply rooted human fears, a cursed or blessed item, and the gut feeling combined.

That is what the woman in “Sleeping Dogs”, a short story written by Kirstyn McDermott, experiences. The story is part of Cthulhu Deep Down Under Volume 2, a collection of horror short stories published in 2018.

Our protagonist, a thirty-year-old woman called Ghost, is asked by her newest client to locate and secure a figure with only a sketch of the item. After a horrific nightmare, Ghost has a hunch about where to start and travels to Australia. A few weeks without any positive developments pass before she finds a new lead and eventually detects the required item. But as soon as she acquires it, her gut feeling and the people around her start to behave in strange manners, as if they are driven by other forces.

Ghost – a rather fitting name for the main protagonist of a horror short story, don’t you think? – has the ability to detect lost items. Not in the way a common detective would, but rather in a paranormal way. She is no magician or witch, yet always accompanied by a feeling in her guts that works like a metal detector, intensifying when her target gets closer.

Said gut feeling isn’t too scary, to begin with, but what makes the story sort of uncanny from the very beginning is the object Ghost has to locate. According to her client and her assistant, the last time the figure had been seen was about sixty years ago, and there are only two living people who ever caught a glimpse of it and could describe it.

But Ghost is encountered with the first real horror when she finds herself seemingly drowning, choked by muddy water, and surrounded by darkness and cold. A dream? A vision? It feels like it’s best to not know the answer.

The unknown which lingers in the darkness, in the “utter blackness that has never known the touch of light” (McDermott, 16), is something commonly feared by humans. It’s a deeply rooted instinct trying to protect us from potential dangers which remain unseen. Such invisible dangers and fiends are harder to deal with since most humans solely rely on their ability to see, instead of using their other senses.

Our protagonist luckily doesn’t have to face the fear of darkness for much longer but the next horrific element she encounters isn’t less frightening in any way, introduced by a strong inexplicable pain in her head. Ghost calls it a migraine, but a pain described as “colors [that] fracture and pulse in the centre of her vision, spreading rapidly, [making] her temples throb, [and causing] a dull ache […] along her jawline” (McDermott, 21) seems way too intense and sudden for a normal occurrence of migraine. This pain, and the fact that it was caused just by removing a wax seal from the figure’s box, revives the uncanny atmosphere in the short story. A strong migraine might not sound too scary for most readers but it is followed by a scene in which people around Ghost and the object start behaving oddly; somebody tries to steal the bag with the figure, and other people try to forcefully enter her hotel room. Ghost calls it a “matter of the walking dead” (McDermott, 25), referring to the people as zombies, which already sounds alarming. I think the idea of the stereotypical zombie would feel less sinister, considering that there is a visible cause that leads to people being zombified, but in the short story’s case, there is no disease, no chemical weapon, no virus; just an old figure. An old figure that erodes some sort of aura, strong enough to affect people close to it, within an unknown radius. This aura leads to people being externally controlled, by some force neither explained nor further investigated, but it’s safe to say that the affected people are not in charge of their bodies.

The short story makes use of several ways to create horror, angst, and an uncanny feeling. Deeply rooted fears, voices without origin, nightmares, and the fear of not being in charge of their own body; though luckily, our protagonist doesn’t have to experience them all. Using those different kinds of tropes creates a rich diversity of moments that might make you shiver in fear and expectation. Additionally, an allusion to a city mentioned in one of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories, “The Call of Cthulhu”, guides the reader’s mind into deeper spheres of horror.

The story begs the question: Should we always “let sleeping dogs lie” or should we, just like Ghost, wake them up and face them? Or is such adventurous behavior exclusive to stories and tales only?

What horrors might await once you start digging deep enough? You may go on a journey yourself, or maybe you prefer to follow another story’s protagonist. Either way, let me ask you: “What are your feelings about finding a lost city?” (McDermott, 30).

Pat Grant’s “Blue” – A Reading Diary

by Jo Hoffs
cartoon boy shown doing several steps of surfing

Pat Grant’s Blue is a graphic novel about surfing, about community, about migration and conservatism. First and foremost, it is a story about xenophobia, and about a blue alien race migrating to the fictional town of Bolton. We meet Christian, a Bolton citizen who starts off his story by complaining that the blue aliens “pretty much own the whole town now” (Grant 25). Christian is angry and frustrated – he wants everything to remain the way he knew it from his childhood, a time he spent surfing and having fun with his friends.

Once Christian starts telling the story of how he went looking for a corpse along the train tracks, I was immediately reminded of the novel The Body by Steven King – a similarity which was intended, as Pat Grant explains in an essay at the end. A huge theme in The Body is friendship and finding a sense of belonging somewhere. The four boys in The Body come from difficult family situations where they are either abused or neglected. During their adventure together, they find a sense of community and make some – not always positive – memories. In Blue the feeling of community and friendship also plays a part. Here, it is expressed through one of Pat Grant’s passions: Surfing. Christian, the protagonist of the story, like Geordie from The Body, tells the audience about his youth: A time where he often missed school to go surfing with two of his friends, “the only ones with families lousy enough to let them get away with it” (Grant 38). Christian still longs for this time, because it was a time when there were no blue people in Bolton yet. “You play spot the Aussie around here these days”, he tells the reader. As an introduction to his character, this is perfect because it immediately shows some of his main characteristics: He is a racist middle-aged man missing the days when he was not confronted by the existence of other cultures yet. At the time when Christian and his friends are looking for the body, the blue people have just arrived in Bolton, making it a huge topic of discussion among them. The first time they meet a blue person themselves the friends are already prejudiced wanting the immigrants to go back to “Oogety-Boong Land” (Grant 55).

from: Grant, Pat. Blue. Top Shelf, 2013.

The allegory of immigrants as a blue alien species in this graphic novel is interesting but at the same time confused me a bit. In my opinion, the political implications weren’t always clear, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing but in a story so heavily focused around a political issue, it weakens the material. On the one hand, the inhabitants of Bolton are biased against the immigrants for xenophobic reasons, as it becomes apparent on page 28, when racist slogans like “we grew here, you flew here” are shown. On the other hand, the blue aliens according to Christian do not take good care of the city, as there is garbage everywhere and the plants are dead (page 25). Without reading the author’s essay at the end, I would not have been sure if this story is actually pro-immigration.

When it comes to the visuals of the story, I like the drawing style and the use of the light blue color in contrast to the black, grey, and sometimes brown colors used for the Bolton natives. Sometimes there are dozens of panels on one page, which gets overwhelming to me personally if there are many word balloons to read (e.g., Grant 58). Another nice touch to the story was the Australian slang words in the dialogue. However, this also complicates the reading experience for those who are not familiar with Australian slang. Footnotes would have been helpful here.

While I enjoyed the story and its different themes – community, racism, generational conflicts, bullying – it left me a bit confused as to what to take away from the story. It feels to me like the author attempted to take the story into multiple interesting directions but failed to properly work out any of them. There is no character development on Christian’s part, no other characters to give some kind of a satisfying conclusion and especially, there is not much of a take-away from the story. Nevertheless, I would recommend this graphic novel, as I think it’s possible to have many different views on it and speaking from experience, every re-read helps you discover new aspects.

Works Cited

Grant, Pat. Blue. Top Shelf, 2013.

Human Beings Playing God

by Mara Geißen

My first intuition about a book titled Ghost Species was that it would be about ghosts in some way. However, it is not about the living dead haunting somewhere, but much more excitingly about the re-creation of past and forgotten DNA – the topic that occupied me the most while reading the book. The creation of life that no longer exists. Not only animals, like mammoths, but the creation of a Neanderthal kept me very engaged. In short, people are playing God in the book, and I wonder how that is morally feasible. The creation of autonomous, independent, and above all intelligent life seems to be no longer the exclusive province of the divine. Evolutionarily speaking there are a few reasons why for example dinosaurs, mammoths and other human species no longer exist. Natural life evolves, improves, and learns from ‘mistakes.’ It becomes more robust against diseases and adapts to new environmental conditions.

Although Eve is created out of supposedly good intentions, it is rather questionable and interferes with nature. The aim is, of course, to solve a major problem on our planet; global warming. Davis states that the human and the environment no longer make sense and that it is up to human beings to re-engineer the world (cf. p. 19).  But should a human-made problem be solved by another intervention in nature? What problems would arise then? In the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World films, for example, you can very clearly see the negative effects of human intervention in nature and in the restoration of extinct living creatures. After that, the dinosaurs that already exist are not ‘enough’, and people start experimenting. How far would the experiment ‘Eve’ go? Eve would most likely be just the beginning of an experimental series, which goes beyond the actual intention of saving the world and possibly ends in mixing the DNAs of different Homo species to create the ‘perfect’ human who doesn’t get sick, who is strong and highly intelligent at the same time.

From the very beginning, Kate wonders if what they are about to do is right. A living person in a laboratory feels morally wrong (Bradley 43). From a scientific point of view, it would be a huge achievement to resurrect Neanderthals though. Kate in particular shows that despite her scientific nature, she thinks the whole project is morally wrong. This is shown, of course, when she kidnaps Eve from the lab and to prevent her from being treated like an experiment and an object. It is also acknowledged, as it is mentioned in the book, that it is definitely a breakthrough in science. No question about it! Nevertheless, one should consider how inseparable human reconstructions behave, feel and weigh the consequences carefully. No human being on earth would probably like to grow up in a laboratory, having to go through all the tests without being allowed to lead a ‘normal’ life. This raises the question of why these people are created at all if they are not allowed to be human.

Ghost Species – about the Fallacies of Capitalism

by anonymous

The Australian novel Ghost Species by James Bradley talks extensively about the nature of human life, nature vs. nurture, finding your place in the world, etc.

Underlying its positive messages to these topics is a frankly horrifying depiction of how far a human being can go in pursuit of glory. This boils down to one character: Davis Hucken, a mogul who tries to use his vast fortune and technology to supposedly “solve” humanity’s woes that they caused themselves and to be seen as a hero for it (Totally not Elon Musk).

Though the focus is on Kate Larkin and her adopted daughter Eve, a resurrected Neanderthal who was born through a surrogate mother, Davis exists as a necessary device for the plot to happen in the first place, as the story is really about Kate and later Eve trying to get by in a world that is slowly falling apart around them. Davis might not be responsible for the state of the world, but he uses it as an opportunity to make money. To “wow” what is left of the world. To play God.

Though it is not what the novel was going for, the lack of focus on that conflict is a bit disappointing. Aside from Kate’s perspective, with her only friend being Yassamin, another mother, the readers don’t really get a glimpse of what the rest of the world does or what it is thinking. Unlike the Hunger Games, the book acknowledges the existence of non-English continents and that other people do actually exist in that world and are just as concerned about the state of the world as anyone else is. Yet, there is never a focus on these global issues.

But that begs the question: If nobody is there to witness these “wonders” Davis is pulling out of his sleeve, why is he is doing this? Besides the obvious, clear case of Savior’s Syndrome that he seems to have, with Kate clearly stating that he’s too sociopathic to be on the spectrum (Thanks, Kate!). But is he? While he is a modern Frankenstein (as others have pointed out) in more ways than one, he not only creates a thinking being out of nothing but then tosses it into a world to fend for herself. One might argue that he might’ve read Frankenstein and realized that refusing to take responsibility for his creation might be a bad idea. But then again, why is he doing this without anyone there to tell him how “great” he is?

Easy answer: To play God. When a person is presented with limitless power in a world that is more concerned with keeping itself together, something goes “crack” inside that person’s mind. They delude themselves into believing that they can not only do anything they want but also get away with it. That’s why Davis ‘should care: He would care about the glory if someone gave it to him, but he seems to be mostly bored out of his mind.

However, Davis disappears from the story once Eve takes over as the main character. What might’ve happened in those thirty years when Kate and Eve lived in hiding, then accepted funding from him for a good home? While he still had some power before they disappeared, it is most likely that his efforts were fruitless and that he should’ve focused on fixing the earth first, then bringing back the extinct species. While a few lines of dialogue do imply that he did try to counteract Global Warming, why is this supposedly just a side project that none of the main characters bat an eye at?

What is telling is that Kate and Jay were truly the only people who questioned him at any point. As far as the readers know, the other scientists might’ve accepted Davis’s money with a smile only to whisper “What a lunatic” under their breath.

Ghost Species shows exactly what happens when you let a megalomaniac man-child with too much money out in the world. They start building palaces and cathedrals out of glass. Then they use the same material to build animals and believe that they can actually be livestock. Then they build people, believing that not only do they actually think, but they also happen to enjoy their company and aren’t just here because they can’t run away. But glass has a tendency to crack and break.

Let’s speculate about de-extinction!

James Bradley’s novel Ghost Species is part of the genre of Australian speculative fiction. A main topic of his speculations is based on the de-extinction of extinct species such as the thylacines (also known as the Tasmanian tiger or wolf), woolly mammoths, and Neanderthals (cf. 20, 21). But would this be possible? Well, let’s find out!

         But before we can think about whether it is possible in real life, let’s see how de-extinction works in the novel. Apparently, to ‘re-create’ (Bradley, 20) species you only need a sample of the genetic material, an egg, and a surrogate of a related species. The first successful example in the novel are thylacines. Thylacines are apparently a ‘good choice’ (Bradley, 16) as their genetic material is ‘relatively intact’ (Bradley, 16). Additionally, Dunnarts were used as surrogates and an artificial pouch to raise them as they were born undeveloped (cf. 17). The de-extinction of the neanderthal Eve was similar with a DNA sample and human surrogate (cf. 40f.). 

         So now that we established how the novel approaches de-extinction; let’s think about how it would work in real life. According to Nancy Huang resurrecting extinct species depends on the DNA. Nearly identical to the process in the novel, to resurrect an extinct species we need the nearly complete DNA of a species, an egg, and a surrogate of a related species (cf. Huang). To successfully clone an animal, one needs an intact nucleus which can be put into an egg that had its nucleus removed. The egg then has to be implanted into a surrogate of a closely related species (cf. Huang). And apparently this has been tried. According to Charles Q. Choi there has been an attempt to de-extinct an extinct species, but the clone died just minutes after birth. In 2003 frozen skin was used to clone a bucardo (also known as Pyrenean ibex) with domestic goat eggs and Spanish ibex or goat-ibex hybrids (cf. Choi). This attempt was unsuccessful as many of the implanted eggs did not result in successful pregnancies and the only to term carried bucardo only lived a few minutes. (cf. Choi).

         This shows that de-extinction is possible but complicated as a close relative of a species is needed. And even if the pregnancy is a success, the survival of the baby is unknown as is whether they can reproduce. There are many other open questions that only time and technical innovations can answer. Until then, we have to speculate. But as shown here, speculation isn’t that far off!



Bradley, James. Ghost Species. Hodder Studio, 2020.

Choi, Charles Q. “First Extinct-Animal Clone Created” https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/news-bucardo-pyrenean-ibex-deextinction-cloning. Accessed 19 Dec 2022.

Huang, Nancy. “How Close Are We to Resurrecting Extinct Species?” https://now.northropgrumman.com/how-close-are-we-to-resurrecting-extinct-species/ Accessed 19 Dec 2022.

How not to Shape the Future

by anonymous

The question of whether reproduction is still a morally responsible thing to do has been a highly debated topic which has recently even expanded onto the mainstream discourse. The predominant approaches we’ve seen are firstly the assumption that the earth is overpopulated by humans and that humans should induce population decline by simply having fewer kids. This mindset is popular, especially among younger, liberal western audiences. On the other hand, many deny the current problems resulting from too densely populated areas and the mismanagement of resources. Conservatives mostly believe that overpopulation and even climate change are myths created to pacify and scare the population. Their desire to form an opposition and to guarantee an advantage to their associated group fuels the rejection of such problems. Lastly, the most rational and humane approach comes with the realization that there are enough resources for even more humans, but current systems favor an uneven distribution that gives superficial advantages to those few hoarded resources. The novel Ghost Species represents a fourth approach to this conflict through the character Davis. Davis believes that reshaping the natural balance will secure a future for humanity. He reappropriates many aspects of the aforementioned views, but they ultimately get warped by his narcissistic and megalomaniac personality. He believes in human-made climate change, but his snooty nature also leads him to believe that he’s able to manipulate and control nature. I believe he also sees himself as a philanthropic person that uses the resources available to him for what he deems the greater good. His logic is flawed though. He sees how humans destroyed micro and macro systems through pollution resulting in changed parameters, interspecies relationships, and population numbers. He thinks he’s not only able to reverse this process but to improve the now damaged systems by inserting new species into them and even emulating natural selection.

Now let’s take a look at how Davis tries to achieve the goals that his twisted ideology established for him. He tries creating new more effective ecosystems to combat the declining state of the earth and the resulting end of the human species. He does this by resurrecting extinct species. Most importantly for us, the Homo Neanderthalensis depicted by the neanderthal Eve. The end of the book goes to show that he not just failed to succeed with his plan to conserve the modern human world but also possibly created a new apex species that are better adapted for the new harsh world to come.

Him creating life is immoral because he doesn’t create Eve so that she can flourish but to help his own species. Unborn life in general is never able to consent to its own creation. Eve is to be born into a specifically non-sustainable world as an experiment to regain balance. Davis doesn’t intend for her to become a being but only to deliver harmony to humankind. Like Kate who refuses to have children because she was born into an inappropriate environment, Davis also should refuse to bring life into a dying world. Eve is unable to follow her predetermined path which leaves her stranded in an uncertain world. He bans himself and the whole world from a livable future by seeking to bring back the past. Davis didn´t succeed and now the future lies in the hands of Eve.

The thoughts and actions of Davis who thinks of humans as the superior race, that together conquered the need for a god, ironically dooms humanity for an apocalypse and gives rise to a world beyond his imagination.

Davis and his God Complex

by Janine Braune

While reading Ghost Species, one character in particular caught my eye, Davis. Let me give you a short introduction, to who Davis is. Davis Hucken is a white male in his thirties with a slim figure and blond hair. He is a tech billionaire and the founder of Gather, a social media network. Davis likes to dress in jeans with band t-shirts or hoodies. So contrary to the typical image of a wealthy businessman, he likes to be comfortable. His parents are both psychiatrists.

I wish to analyze if he really is just a wealthy man with a scientific vision and a god complex, or if there is more to him. Therefore firstly, I need to identify how his god complex is expressed.

Davis plans to re-engineer the world’s relationship with nature, and he states to achieve this, we need to let go of the idea that we’re distinct, separate, and unique. He plans to de-extinct other species, while always stating that his mission is only to make the world a better place. He tries to justify his actions as if they are for the benefit of everyone. At the same time, he states that all humankind isn’t distinct from each other, but he declares himself a savior. It is clear that he sees himself as the messiah of the world, and only his vision can be the only solution.

His behavior from the perspective of other characters is often described as odd and as a mode of performing. Kate frequently explains that while talking to him, she feels like she is watching some sort of rehearsed performance. According to Kate, there is some awkwardness, as his reactions are not natural but somehow acquired. Davis seems like a different kind of being. On the one hand, his earlier statements show that he is trying to play God, but on the other hand, we could argue that Davis is only trying to portray the image of God. And he isn’t necessarily convinced of his own divinity. Davis is highly intelligent and totally understands which customs and conducts are expected from him. By making use of this knowledge, he tries to manipulate and control his external perception. However, as his behaviors aren’t always unforced, outsiders may perceive his behavior as odd or weird. Those cracks can be seen on many occasions. For instance, while holding a speech in the spotlight, Kate describes him as weirdly uncomfortable looking, like an animal caught in a trap. This is interesting because shouldn’t people with a god complex enjoy getting all the attention they can? We can see that maybe his true self doesn’t align with the image he is trying to portray. I wonder if in this particular instance he failed to uphold his mask because he isn’t receiving instant feedback from the faces of the audience? From personal experience, I know how hard it is to recognize anything while a bright light is shining on you. If we now speculate that Davis learned his social cues in conversation with people and always matched his performances based on their reactions, then in this situation the foundations for his manipulation would be missing.

Another interesting situation is his interaction with Eve as a newborn. Eve is the product of his vision and goals, the product of all the things he stands for, and yet he cannot hold or touch her. The question to ask is why? Is the reason that he simply is unbothered by ordinary human desires too long after closeness? Or could the reason be that in front of the child, he just cannot put on his mask, and his insecurities surface? One interpretation is that because of his intelligence, he may have considered the possibility of forming an emotional connection with Eve through physical touch and wanted to avoid risking forming a connection. When we consider all his actions in the novel, we may think this thesis is very unlikely, but if we regard all these actions simply as his mask, it would be possible.

The conclusion I came to is that Davis knows exactly how to act in social settings and to say the right things people want to hear. He clearly has a god complex, but there is an inconsistency between his image and his true self. Even if his public persona is totally fake, the fact that he believes he is capable of fooling the whole world testifies to his complex.