David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘australia’

So Excitement

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2016 at 12:15 am

So excitement is right. There must just be something wonderful about being a ‘Tim’. I’ve raved before about Tim Powers, and of course there is Tim Brooke-Taylor, and, er, I suppose, Tiny Tim. But Australian Tims are in another category altogether – and I am not (just) talking about Tim Tams.

Tim Winton releases a book (for adults – not ‘The Bugalug Bum Thief’, for example, despite the intriguing title), and I’m there. Tim Flannery, (almost) ditto – ‘The Future Eaters’ remains amongst my favourite books. Hell, I even liked Tim from Big Brother a few years ago.

The darker moments of a former career can be interesting companions at 3am, but one moment of pure pleasure was when I arranged for Tim Low to speak at a conference. He divided the audience, and that was great. People came up to me afterwards, both pleased and puzzled. ‘Feral Future’ dealt with exotic invaders and pests, at the same time revealing much I never knew about the modern history of Australia, and it was followed by ‘The New Nature’. An important part of both books is how we are dominated by the thinking of our age, an alleged commonsense which often does not stand the test of time, and how important truths may be counterintuitive. I would wish these books on anyone with an interest in nature and/or Australia, and our ecological future. However, very important, read them in order – TNN has a greater degree of (cautious) optimism, and was meant to given the topic of FF. I, of course, being me, read TNN, thought, this is great, and hunted down FF – also great, but man was I bummed out. In the words of the immortal-ish Molly Meldrum, do yourself a favour and read them both (but yes, in order).

But: so excitement – I have in my hands the latest Tim Low. I cannot really comment because I have not read it yet, but it is about one of my favourite things: birds! And plenty of Australian birds! (have I mentioned that I am a birdwatcher, though a very bad one? has my wife told you how hard it is to work through our holiday photos to find a photo of our children, when most photos are of a branch where a bird had been sitting only moments before?) And science! And did I mention birds? – well, birds! And the cover is absolutely gorgeous …

song began

Low is an amazing writer and speaker, a fascinating man. He is a scientist who writes with both passion and where appropriate, dispassion, about such interesting and amazing things, especially on topics dear to my heart. I look forward to diving into this.

 

Advertisements

Senate Inquiry into Lyme-like illness in Australia

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2016 at 12:49 am

Thousands of Australians are suffering from a Lyme like illness. The Australian medical profession is failing these Australians by denying the existence of the disease,  failing to diagnose the disease, and failing to provide adequate treatment.

The Federal Senate is conducting an inquiry into this situation. This is great news. However, it requires material to work with. It requires submissions.

If you are an Australian who:

  • suffers from a lyme like illness
  • is a carer for people with a lyme like illness
  • has experience with a family member or a friend suffering from a lyme like illness

or if you are just concerned about this situation, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT that you make a submission. It is easy to do:

LEFT CLICK ON THIS LINE TO BE TAKEN TO THE LYME DISEASE ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA RESOURCE PAGE

Here you will receive all the guidance you need to write a submission

It can just be a few lines or a couple of paragraphs, it does not need to be an epic.

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD – MAKE A SUBMISSION TO THE SENATE INQUIRY NOW

Happy Australia Day

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2016 at 9:47 pm

I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be a thing. Why does stuff have to change? It used to be a dusty little public holiday tucked away at the end of the summer school holidays, a final gasp. Now its concerts and loyalty tests and mass barbecues. We didn’t used to wave flags, we all knew where we lived.

Sorry kiddies. Listen to me carrying on! It’s not like we haven’t seen it all before, somewhere. And so now I repeat myself …

FLAG DAY

It was Flag Day

so we wrapped ourselves in flags

and went to the pub.

Funny, eh!

Everybody else had the same idea, but.

And all the flags were the same

because we are all Flaglanders.

It would have been nice to wrap myself

in the flag of difference

but I was too scared.

Everyone looked the same.

The fun idea had become

A Sad Party Thing.

It doesn’t matter.

The flag unites us.

Our fear of looking different unites us.

All eyes are wary on Flag Day.

Everyone smiles with their mouths

as they lift their beers,

but all those eyes are looking about.

And those eyes are quick.

You don’t want to stand out.

Not on Flag Day.

There are no excuses.

It is not “I pay my taxes” day.

It is not “I am a human being, I have rights” day.

It is fucking Flag Day.

Alright?

You sad party thing.

Lullaby

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2015 at 11:15 pm

The day finally stops. Dad’s taxi is parked in the garage – the almost not a teenager managed to miss the last bus of the night and faced a two hour walk home. “Time just disappeared.” I flashed a glance at his wrist – the watch we bought him is there. Oh well. I suppose I was never young.

There is no night traffic here. The silence stretches. In the day, there is intermittent construction. Somebody somewhere thought it a good idea that one of Sydney’s last little suburban green spots be nibbled at the edges. Houses are slowly being constructed in the gully, to await the next bushfire. I remind myself there is nothing I can do.

I lie down, and my ears adjust to the silence. I notice the call, and smile. A southern boo-book is doing its two-note thing. I relax, the call of the owl my lullaby. I have only seen it (or a relative of it) once, trying to pick up a too-big possum from the roadside, while a couple of my children stood with me at a respectful distance, urging it on.

It will call for hours. Tonight though, a surprise. In the distance, another voice. More chesty, more typical – the boom of a Powerful owl. Sleep comes easy to me, with the night time lullaby. Possums, rodents, white cockatoos are all nervous at the call of the predator, but they lull me. I am not hunted, after all. I just know there is world out there, not entirely of concrete and bitumen, carrying on its business without me, and I am grateful for it. Despite everything the day brings, my heart swells with thanks.

Tom Uren

In Uncategorized on January 26, 2015 at 12:19 pm

I am sad today to hear of the death of Tom Uren, a big man with a huge heart, one of those rare people, a politician of conviction who lived to be of service to others. He survived the horrors of imprisonment by the Japanese during the Second World War, and witnessed the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Neither those experiences nor his Depression era working class youth left him bitter, rather they gave rise in him to a desire to work for peace and to live a life of love of others. His politics were about getting a useful job done, for the betterment of those in need, never forgetting the people he came from. A more fitting tribute than I could write may be found here. I am happy that I got to shake his hand, and that he occasionally called me ”Boy” in passing on the street.  (“Hello Tom!”. “Hello, Boy.”) May he rest in peace.

AUSTRALIA DAY

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Given it is a public holiday in Australia it would be un-Australian for me to work, regardless of the fact that I am not there, so I lazily repost my alleged poem that I have posted on previous such occasions. In Australia you can tell when it is Australia Day by all of the people walking around dressed in Australian flags. Otherwise, you might not know that it is Australia Day, or that you are in Australia. And you wouldn’t want to make a mistake about that, there could be consequences. One day, wearily pushing a pram and dragging some kids through the end of a hot day, I was accosted by two scantily clad girls who yelled in my face ‘Smile! Be happy! Its Australia Day’. I was about to quote some poetry at them, when I noticed two burly boofheads in the shadows, waiting for an excuse to flatten some unpatriotic idiot like myself. So cowardice being the better part of valour, I walked silently away. I still remember when Australia Day was a dusty little public holiday tucked away towards the back of the summer pack after the Big Guns of Christmas and New Year, hey another day off, thank you very much. Now it is a thing. Not unlike a sad party thing. Oh, how I hate being told how to feel! Oh, how I hate not being on a quiet south coast beach like Bulli, not stylish enough for the body fascists (and as yet unnoticed by other fascists). There are things I miss about home. But there are things that I detest. Rosie Batty was named Australian of the Year. Congratulations Rosie. Rosie’s young son Luke was murdered by his father at cricket practice, in public, in daylight, in front of all his friends, in front of their parents. She now campaigns against domestic violence. To read some of the comments on Facebook from her fellow Australians, denigrating her award, besmirching and blaming her, you would think that she was a murderer. Lord, some people should keep their mouths shut. Walking through life without a heart.

FLAG DAY

It was Flag Day

so we wrapped ourselves in flags

and went to the pub.

Funny, eh!

Everybody else had the same idea, but.

And all the flags were the same

because we are all Flaglanders.

It would have been nice to wrap myself

in the flag of difference

but I was too scared.

Everyone looked the same.

The fun idea had become

A Sad Party Thing.

It doesn’t matter.

The flag unites us.

Our fear of looking different unites us.

All eyes are wary on Flag Day.

Everyone smiles with their mouths

as they lift their beers,

but all those eyes are looking about.

And those eyes are quick.

You don’t want to stand out.

Not on Flag Day.

There are no excuses.

It is not “I pay my taxes” day.

It is not “I am a human being, I have rights” day.

It is fucking Flag Day.

Alright?

You sad party thing.

Another strange Australian animal …

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Numb-bats

Body artfully draped

Wrist carefully exposed

Window opened just a little

A late night pose

.

Trap wary

though jaded

Set the scene

Lure them in

.

Room ransacked

Car carjacked

Best of all that morning

Feelings stolen away

.

Cheap furry buddhas

Bodhi-bat-vas

Take away nirvahna

Delivered every night

.

Take it all away.

Other scary Australian fauna

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2014 at 9:28 am

Oh yes, in Australia there are giant spiders and massive sharks and millions of crocodiles and venomous snakes, but there are other things too, disquieting in their own way …

1. Womb-bats

The dry evening scurry

Falling leaves

Crackling open before

They hit the ground.

Tiny, not unnoticed as they swarm,

but unmentioned in polite company.

Huge amniotic eyes take in

the miracle of the world

each night.

Before the dawn,

unborn

Rustle along the sheets

A slight disturbance,

a shifting of knees

A minor annoyance

at the early morning turn,

the slight parting

as they enter

to nestle in.

2. Wombats

Wombats are big furry buggers that look like a giant crawling teddy bear and the unsuspecting say “oh cute, so cute” until they turn and outrun your wife and trip her over and you keep running you coward because you have soiled yourself you are so scared, they just keep running and you hear your wife scream because it has stopped now, only a fallen victim will stop it, and you hear it, you hear her flesh being torn, it makes a ripping sound, and you cannot ever forgive yourself but you also hate her a little bit forever, because she cannot forgive you, and it is no consolation that the wombat does not eat the flesh, it tears and nuzzles for a moment then returns to its business, it does not eat her because it is a herbivore, but it rips her because it is a nasty big furry bugger, and it could answer the question if it could speak, it could tell you if your wife tastes like chicken, because it has tasted both even though it does not swallow, but even if it spoke, you would be too chicken shit to ask, you gutless wonder.  The relief you felt when she fell.

Bio? The letter ‘C’

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2014 at 8:01 am

Submissions require an author bio. I struggle with this. I look to others for inspiration. Some people include a half page of whimsy, at which I cringe, and have no publication credits, because they have not published anything. Others have a stream of credits, and of course, I can’t emulate that. Some list all the information demonstrating how they comply with a magazine’s wish for greater diversity, but everything about me is mainstream (or if its not, would only make sense to a few people within a small region in Sydney – perhaps). Still, I look for inspiration from others. Let’s begin with the letter ‘C’:

  • Career: There is of course the traditional writer’s gambit of listing the 372 jobs they have had, from lumberjack to polar bear trainer, or alternatively, describing the highly technical work they do to show they are the ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’. Until early this year, I worked in the same place for over two decades, and I’m in a profession that would want no connection with horror stories, so I keep that to myself.
  • Cats: I don’t get the cats. Everyone but me has cats. Cats kill at least around 4 million native animals in Australia each year. I like native animals. So no cats. Plus my dog died, and that was sad, and no one wants to hear about that in an author bio. Especially the details of peeing blood all over me.
  • Children: I have four children. I love them dearly. They are humans, not cats though, and I wonder if that upsets anyone. If you can see their pictures, it means you are the person who stole my wallet.
  • Clarion: haven’t been there. Not to east, west or even south (which I think doesn’t exist any more). So no Clarion workshop to put on the list. No doubt, that shows from my writing. When I publish something and I see another contributor has been to Clarion, for some reason that makes me feel good.
  • Cohabitation: I have a wife. She has a husband (me). I asked her to remind me how long we have been married. She paused before muttering ‘forever’. She encourages me to write. She encourages me not to talk about her here. So, enough.
  • Cool: I’m not. I’m old. That I was going to include here the phrase ‘hep cat’ says a great deal. Not hip, not a hipster. Neither am I a geek (though no doubt like most people, I would appear somewhere on the ‘nerd’ spectrum). I have no street cred. In Australia, I would be a ‘dag’. This is a reference to the dung encrusted wool at a sheep’s bum, so you can tell it is not a good thing.
  • Cultural activities: I watch too much television. I put that in my bio. Once. I read a lot. I have lots of things I used to do. I like bird watching. I dunno. (This is just getting worse…).

So I typically include some variation of: David Stevens (usually) lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and children. His stories have appeared in Crossed Genres, Aurealis and Three-Lobed Burning Eye magazines, Pseudopod podcast, and some small Australian literary magazines. One day he will finish his novel.

*Yawn*

MH 17

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2014 at 11:12 am

My wife’s phone rang at 3.19am. It confused me, because my alarm does not make that sound. Mostly asleep, I thought of the time when the noise would stop, and I could submerge myself completely. My wife was obviously also not conscious.

“What’s that?” I asked, innocently.

“My sister is trying to call me.”

“Oh.” With no sarcasm, I said “Maybe you should answer it”. I was being helpful. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.” Again, no sarcasm. Sleep is a type of drug.

I didn’t think, who has died?, the way I would back home. 3am is 11am there. Not a time when anyone should call us, but a safe time nonetheless. Then I kept hearing, oh no … oh no … oh no … And then, no, he’s here. He’s asleep. In the room next to us.

In a six week period, I flew the Amsterdam-Australia route with Malaysian Airlines three times. The first time, just before I boarded in Sydney, I heard the news that one of their planes was missing. I didn’t know what was happening, but that didn’t worry me at all. Air travel is safe. Statistically invalid though it is, if I reacted at all, it was only to think that if here had been a recent disaster, air travel was for the moment, even safer. Only at breakfast the next morning in Kuala Lumpur, reading a local paper, did I realise the extent of the tragedy, did the selfishness of my glib reaction sink in.

My next trip was back home a month later, on the noon MH 17 flight. We flew over the Ukraine again, just as I did a fortnight later as I brought my family to join me in Europe.

My wife’s octogenarian uncle, spry and fit and still travelling the world, has been using our home here as a base while he journeyed around Europe. He was travelling home on MH 17 on Friday. We had gone to bed that night not knowing that Thursday’s flight had simply been shot out of the sky, killing everyone. Our family in Australia suddenly worried that they may have had the date wrong.

Half asleep, I dismissed their worry. I knew that he was safe and that he was travelling the next day, and I had not yet seen the news broadcasts. I later saw the horror, but connected only on an intellectual level. Viscerally, I think it was not until midday that it hit me. Flags at half mast here in the Netherlands. The number of Australians killed. (No more important than anyone else, just that I can relate a little more to that.) My daughter’s Dutch teacher, telling her that she was late for school as she had to prepare her son. His little friend had been killed, with all of his family. They had been going on an adventure to Australia, a trip long planned and hard saved for. All the class had been excited for them. AIDS researchers, their knowledge and skills built up over decades, gone in an instant. Good people, bad people, ordinary people, their bodies scattered over a field in the Ukraine after they fell ten kilometres from the sky.

I may have once, or thrice, flown on that exact same aircraft, like thousands of other people. I’ll never know. And I may have been served by the crew who died. And if my wife’s uncle had flown a day earlier, the shock and horror we would have shared much more directly.

There is nothing to learn. There are no new truths. All of our lives are so contingent. Our existences may be snatched from us in an instant. When powers conspire, they do not care about the effects. We are refreshed in the knowledge of the horror, and the veil is drawn away from our eyes for a moment. We carry on, because what else is there to do?

My wife’s sister will join us in a month or so. She says she won’t let the bastards stop her doing what she wants to do. We will worry for her while she travels. At some level, we worry for everyone all the time, because the moment you love, the moment you are connected to another human being, you are open to loss, and by the time you reach my age, you have lost, and know you will lose again. But still, love we must, and lose we must, for otherwise, we are less than human.