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Dorothy Frances McCrae

Tales from Australian Literary Responses to World War I

Dorothy Frances McCrae was one of the many, many patriotic poets whose stirring verses appeared in the Australian newspapers and magazines in the early months of World War I.  Like so much of the creative outpouring of the early months of the war, McCrae's poems express a level of exuberance and enthusiasm that became less common as the war progressed, when the casualty lists began appearing in the newspapers and the reality of the war began to hit home.



Puppetry: A Twitter Theme Day

Did you miss AustLit's sampling (on Twitter a week ago) of Australian-written works about puppetry and ventriloquism? Never fear: you can check out the list below.

'A Case for the Oracle' (1896)

In this short story by Henry Lawson, a group of contractors are working for a bricklayer in Western Australia, including the unpopular and morose O'Briar. But if he's so unpopular, why are male and female voices heard coming out of his tent of an evening?

(Hint: it's ventriloquism.)

The Terrible Twins (1933)

In this serial by 'Frank Reid' (a writing name for Alex Vennard), twin boys use their ventriloquism and hypnotism skills to foil a bank robbery. And while we're normally not opposed to precocious children, there's something about this plot summary that reminds us a little of that one episode of The Twilight Zone.

'Goodbye, George' (1975)

This is an episode of Solo One, a child-friendly country police series that was a nominal spin-off from the cancelled Matlock Police. In this episode, a child encounters Alfonso the Great, a former ventriloquist who, the character notes tell us, 'refused to die with vaudeville when television slaughtered it all those years ago'. He also has a 'cheeky, young dummy, Willie'.

And that's where the works on ventriloquism and puppetry get rather interesting. Because up to around this point, puppetry and ventriloquism (our jokes about The Twilight Zone aside) are rather benign: clever skills that you can use to foil robberies and amuse children.

But from the 1990s onwards, puppets start to become altogether more sinister.

Take the next work on our list, for example.

The Puppet (1999)

In this children's novel by Ian Bone, Tim is spending the day at the workplace of the father he hardly knows. His father works for a television show called Dr Riddle, which should be Tim's first hint to run like the wind. But Tim sticks around, pondering the question, 'The star of the show is just a puppet, so why does the puppet master treat it like a real boy?'

Tim is much braver than we are.

Farscape (1999-2003)

We admit, Farscape is a little bit of a cheat here, because it really isn't about puppets. But you can't talk puppets in Australia without talking Farscape. Farscape is sometimes called an American program simply filmed in Australia, but more than a third of the scripts were by Australian writers, making it one of our biggest sci-fi television programs of the early twenty-first century.

But what has this to do with puppets? The puppets in Farscape--two of whom were central characters--allowed the show to circumvent that hoary old question in television sci-fi: why are all the aliens sort of human shaped?

Dead Silence (2007)

In this film, written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, both of Saw fame, a widower returns to his home town to determine just how far the death of his wife is connected to a murdered ventriloquist from his family's past.

Now, don't get us wrong, here: we're definitely opposed to murder in all its forms. But we do think you need to be especially careful when it comes to people who can control their murderous puppets from beyond the grave. That's not something you want to get involved in.

'Pinocchio' (2007)

And for our final puppet work, we chose Tom Cho's 'Pinocchio", and we really need to let the blurb for this one speak for itself:

The narrator explains his year-long disappearance from his girlfriend's life by telling her that he has been unwillingly turned into a Muppet and subsequently spent twelve months appearing as a Muppet penguin on The Muppet Show. She doesn't believe him, and points out many holes in the logic of his story. What's more, she knows that he is lying because his nose has grown very long.

To explore other works on puppetry and ventriloquism in the AustLit database, follow this link.

Coming-of-Age: A Twitter Theme Day Round-up

Did you miss AustLit's sampling (on Twitter a week ago) of Australian-written works about coming of age? Never fear: you can check out the list below.

All the Green Years (1980)

All the Green Years is actually the adaptation of D.E. Charlwood's All the Green Year (1965), but the extra years make it sound so much more hopeful. Both novel and television adaptation are the coming-of-age stories of a young boy in Melbourne in 1929.

The Incredible Here and Now (2013)

The coming-of-age in the Incredible Here and Now is triggered by intense trauma: just before Michael turns fifteen, his older brother dies. The following year is a mixture of grief and romance, as Michael comes of age in the western suburbs of Sydney.

Summer City (1977)

Summer City is a surfing psycho-drama, and, let us tell you, there aren't too many of those around. (Maybe Point Break.) It's also a coming-of-age saga in a thoroughly 1970s sense--with road trips, surfing, Australian sun, and girls.


Moving Out (1982)

Moving Out, on the other hand, is another kind of Australian coming-of-age story--not beaches, but inner-city Melbourne and Italian-Australian teenagers (an early role from Vince Colosimo) coming to terms with their own rich cultural heritage. It's always interesting to see a coming-of-age film from Jan Sardi, who, long before Shine, was a school-teacher, and so has his own take on teenagers.

Silversun (2004)

Speaking of teenagers, Silversun has them crewing the titular spacecraft for a ninety-year flight to a distant Earth-like planet, intended for colonisation. Here's another kind of coming-of-age: the ship is crewed by teenagers so they can grow up into--and eventually out of--their roles, lasting longer in their positions than they would if they'd come to them as adults.

The Lost Child (2014)

The Lost Child is perhaps the most recently published coming-of-age story on our database. One child goes missing and the other lives with the terror that she somehow caused the disappearance. Sylvie's coming-of-age is also a coming to terms--with the idea of small events leading to enormous changes.

Jonah (1911)

Finally, Jonah was chosen for us, as a coming-of-age story that has had a strong impact on its readers. Adapted for television in the 1980s, it's a rags-to-riches coming-of-age story set in Waterloo and surrounding suburbs in the early years of the twentieth century.

No one theme day can capture the full extent of Australian coming-of-age stories, so for further reading, we suggest starting with this list.

What Was ... the First Dramatic Film Script Written in Australia?

A series of blog posts dredging up Australian firsts from the AustLit archives.

Film came early to Australia. The Lumière brothers showed the first film to ever be publically screened in Paris in December 1895: Australians began their own public screening of films in October 1896, and starting making their own films within a matter of weeks after that.

But these early films were not dramatic films: they were sporting documentaries such as The Melbourne Cup or slice-of-life documentaries such as Passengers Alighting from Ferry Brighton at Manly (both 1896). Indeed, feature films were thin on the ground in Australia until the release of The Story of the Kelly Gang in 1906 (after which you couldn't stop Australians from making films--at least until the 1930s).

But The Story of the Kelly Gang isn't the earliest dramatic film script written in Australia. That honour might just go to Henry Lawson instead.

Yes, that Henry Lawson.

In 1898, Lawson published a piece called 'The Australian Cinematograph', and, to quote The National Film and Sound Archive, 'Anticipating the development of dramatic cinema, Lawson wrote his story, "The Australian Cinematograph", with clear directions for the camera.'

The script wasn't filmed until a full fifty years after Lawson's death (when, just to add to significant moments in Australian film history, it became the first film on which Australian great Dean Semler worked as cinematographer) but that doesn't make it any less of a contender for the first dramatic film script written in Australia.

(If you have a Flash plug-in, you can watch the film here, via the ABC.)

For other posts in this series, click here.

Anita Heiss in Conversation with BlackWords

In late 2013 Dr Anita Heiss sent a series of questions to contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers. The responses she received were at times funny, sad, moving, and always deeply insightful.

You can read the full series of Anita's interviews here.

Then AustLit presented the same series of questions to Anita herself ...


Bean Countered

Tales from Australian Literary Responses to World War I

 This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, a momentous and tragic event which has left an enduring mark on Australian culture and society. Mid-year we’ll be launching the AustLit World War I project, where we’ll be examining the creative literary response to the war and looking at the ways in which Australian authors have written about the war.

In the mean time we’ll be running a series of blog posts which will briefly look at some of the authors and literature of the war years, which for one reason or another have caught our attention. This week we focus on an interesting episode which took place in the early months of 1915, when soldier poet Frank Westbrook became involved in a newspaper slanging match with official Australian war correspondent Charles Bean.


Endangered Animals: A Twitter Theme Day

Did you miss AustLit's sampling (on Twitter a fortnight ago) of Australian-written works about endangered animals? Never fear: you can check out the list below.

'On Seeing a Native Magpie Shot' (1886)

Now, it's a bit of a stretch to call magpies endangered. But this poem, from 1886, demonstrates how very early some writers were concerned with species conservation in Australia, even if the animal they've focused on in this case is a safe denizen of modern Australia.

The work of 'The Beachcomber' (early 20th century)

'The Beachcomber' was a writing name for E.J. Banfield, who arrived in Australia in the mid nineteenth century, and lived on Dunk Island, with his wife, from 1896. He developed a passionate attachment to and understanding of the local flora and fauna, from which passion arises this little collection of works (and others).

The Hunting of Shadroth (1981)

Perhaps there is no other speculative-fiction author--in Australia, at least--who so thoroughly and devastatingly focuses on man's relationship with animals than Victor Kelleher, who has given us such other works as Taronga and Papio. The Hunting of Shadroth makes this list because the young chief here, struggling with the threats to his clan, chooses as scapegoat the Fein, and orders their destruction of these protected animals.



 WildGame (1991)

Margo Lanagan's novel is, like Kelleher's, ecological science fiction, but where Kelleher stepped back into prehistory, Lanagan steps forward into the near future, with full immersion virtual reality. When a holographic endangered animal suddenly comes to life, how can Macka save it from extinction while not endangering herself?

False Bottom (1994)

From ecological science fiction to animal smuggling for the next two works. In this instalment of Hazel Edwards's Frequent Flyer Twins series, the twins realise that they're up against bird smugglers. The twins are the children of eco-photographers, so the story is doubly steeped in awareness of the fragile existence of animals.

The Feds: Betrayal (1996)

The Feds was a series of telemovies, made by Crawford Productions, about the federal police. In this instalment, the commander is suspended after a failed series of investigations into fauna smuggling. The notion of animal smuggling is one of the most common ways in which Australian authors talk about the threats to local fauna, given how much in demand as exotic pets many of Australia's native animals are.

Thunderstone (1999-2000)

The 1990s saw a flurry of ecological science fiction on Australian television screens, with the long-running Ocean Girl succeeded by this shorter-lived series (both from Jonathan M. Shiff Productions). Thunderstone was set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, and makes this list because the entire first series was devoted to an attempt to repopulate the planet with extinct animals. (Conveniently for anyone interested in texts about endangered animals, series one is also the only series made commerically available.)

It's Love, Dude (2013)

In this romance novel, the protagonists are drawn together in their desire to locate a woylie, also called the brush-tailed bettong, a critically endangered small marsupial. While there might be others out there, It's Love, Dude is currently the only romance novel on AustLit with the subject-concept 'Endangered animals'.

Dugongs: A Twitter Theme Day

Did you miss AustLit's sampling (on Twitter last week) of Australian-written works about dugongs? Never fear: you can check out the list below.

Long Weekend (1978)

It's true: the dugong in Long Weekend spends the film dead. But it's a major catalyst in the film's events. The dugong's death might be more a result of panic than malice, but it triggers the whole, bloody revenge that Nature pours down on the self-centred protagonists.

The film was remade in 2008, again with an Everett de Roche script, and released in the US as Nature's Grave.

You'll be pleased to hear that the dugong reprises its role.

The Enchantment of Albert (2003)

Albert is accidentally enchanted by a clumsy sea-hag, and finds himself a half bird-half boat. He is, the blurb tells us, fairly bitter about this--which is fair enough, because we can't imagine a more horrifying fate. Fortunately, Albert still has the company of his best friend, Dougie the Dugong.

'Loafers on Dugong Island' (1939)

True story: this is the only work on AustLit to feature both dugongs and con-men. Actually, to be honest, we're not sure how large a role actual dugongs play in this story. But we couldn't go past a work actually set on Dugong Island, even if the dugongs themselves are peripheral.

'The Dugong' (1957)

Known, of course, as a poet, Judith Wright was also a passionate environmentalist and conservationist. So its no surprise that she wrote a story about the dugong--so vulnerable are the long-lived, slow-moving, and relatively childless dugongs to extinction through hunting, habitat degradation, and fatalities in fishing accidents.

'Here Be ...' (2008)

Two words: space dugongs.

Originally published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, 'Here Be ...' is currently the only science-fiction story about dugongs in the entirety of the AustLit database--and that's some 812,000 work records, so you'd be forgiven for thinking there might be one or two more.

And what kind of list about dugongs would this be if we didn't include space dugongs?


One of Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, 'Undertow' is triggered by the appearance of a dugong on a suburban lawn. Sure: that's a bit rough on the lawn-owners. But we bet it's worse for the dugong.

(And yes: we already made that joke on Twitter. But it's such a good joke.)

And we end our list with this beautiful picture book from Magabala Books, not only because it's a lovely little work with beautiful, painterly illustrations, but also because so many Australian-written works about dugongs are from and about the Torres Strait and its dreamings. This is a particularly gorgeous entry to that body of works.

Vale Doris Pilkington Garimara (1937-2014)

The BlackWords and AustLit team is saddened to hear of the passing of Doris Pilkington Garimara, a towering presence in Aboriginal literature with her stories of the Stolen Generations. She was 76. The biography of Doris's mother Molly Craig, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, tells the story of the long walk home of over 2000kms, after she and her sister and cousin escaped from detention when they had been forcibly separated from their families and country in Northern Western Australia. The story of incredible resilience and bravery has been enormously influential. It was adapted into a multi-award-winning film by Phillip Noyce and Christine Olsen in 2002, and has been translated into many languages, including Chinese, Swedish, Italian, German, Dutch, French, and Solvenian.

Doris Pilkington Garimara was a committed reconciliation campaigner who worked tirelessly to share and raise awareness of the stories of those affected by the policies that created the Stolen Generations. She published a number of other works including her own life-story, Under the Wintamarra Tree (2002), books for children, essays, and a novel, Caprice: A Stockman’s Daughter (1991). She was recognised for her lifelong contributions to Australian cultural life with the Red Ochre Award in 2008.

Doris’s daughter, Bernadine Pilkington, said 'her mother had "made a huge impact on not only our lives but on the lives of many Australians. We've lost so much."' (Obituary, Sydney Morning Herald)

Further Reading

Daisy Dumas, 'Doris Pilkington Garimara, Author of Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, Dead at 76', Sydney Morning Herald, 11 April 2014.

Melanie Coram, 'Author Doris Pilkington Garimara Dies, The West Australian, 13 April 2014.


Vampires: A Twitter Theme Day Round-up

Did you miss AustLit's sampling (on Twitter last week) of Australian-written works about vampires? Never fear: you can check out the list below.

The Soul of Countess Adrian (1888)

Rosa Praed's novel follows the possession of a modest young actress by an ancient vampire who desires the actress's fiance. After the possession, according to one contemporary reviewer who seems to have read the novel in a series of gasps, the young actress then becomes "a painfully forward and shocking minx".

Praed's vampire novels are the subject of a critical piece by Andrew McCann on the "provenance of the fin-de-si'ecle vampire" (details of which you can find here), or you read the novel for yourself, with our digitised copy (available here).

Last of the Rocketeers (1952)

Norma Hemming, whose influence on Australian science-fiction was cut so short, published this short story in Thrills Incorporated in 1952: it focuses on the 'masters of energy', who are essentially space vampires.

And space vampires are the best kinds of vampires.

(Or possibly the worst kind, depending on how you feel about vampires. Or space.)

Thirst (1979)

If we had to sum up the plot of this film in one sentence, it would have to be "The unwitting descendant of Elizabeth Báthory is kidnapped by a blood-drinking cult."

(And, just to clarify our adjectives, she's unaware that she's the descendant of Elizabeth Báthory. She's well aware that she's been kidnapped.)

A long-neglected film, this was director Rod Hardy's first excursion to feature films after cutting his teeth at Crawford Productions, and starred Chantal Contouri and British actor David Hemmings.

You can see extracts of this film at Australian Screen.

Mind Vampires (1986)

In this Greg Egan short story, an investigator traces a clutch of vampires who have taken cover in an American girls' boarding school--which, if you think about it, makes Egan one of the progenitors of the recent trend of vampire boarding-school stories.

Zombie Brigade (1986)

The title aside, the villains in this film are more vampire than zombie. And, yes, there are problematic aspects to this film, not least the sharp dichotomy between Vietnam war veterans (villains) and Great War veterans (good guys). But it does have an Indigenous Australian hero (which was fairly uncommon in the 1980s) and a Japanese heroine (a pairing that was even less common), and it does draw on Indigenous myth for its magic-making, rather than European stories. So it's an interesting addition to the history of Australian vampire texts.

I Am My Father's Daughter (1993)

This short story by Bill Congreve touches on a comparatively familiar trope in vampire fiction: the missing person who is not so much missing as transformed. This one's set in Sydney, and it's intriguing to see how the introduction of vampires changes the conception of Sydney's 'mean streets'.

In the Blood (2001)

And the final vampire story comes from the current Australian Children's Laureate and all-round beloved author Jackie French. In the Blood is the first part of the trilogy, but the only one to touch on vampires: the others explore werewolves and zombies.

What Was ... The First Science-Fiction Program on Australian Television?

A series of blog posts dredging up Australian firsts from the AustLit archives.

We know Australian screen junkies love their science fiction, from the 1919 film The Face at the Window (in which a murderer's victim is temporarily revived to write out his killer's name) to more recent fare such as I, Frankenstein.

And almost as soon as television rolled out in Australia, the science-fiction television series started appearing on small screens nationwide: The Stranger (1964-1965), The Interpretaris (1966), Wandjina! (1966), Vega 4 (1968), Phoenix Five (1970), Alpha Scorpio (1974), and Andra (1976) all appeared in the first two decades of Australian television, nestled among the dominant American and British imports.

But what was the first? The very first?

It's always possible that an earlier work will appear, but this is currently the best contender for Australia's earliest television science fiction: Tomorrow's Child.

Television rolled out in Australia in September 1956, and Tomorrow's Child aired live on 26 April 1957, so anyone wanting the title of earlier science-fiction television program would have had to be very quick out of the blocks.

Based on a play by English playwright John Coates, Tomorrow's Child was adapted for television by Alan Seymour, and was a comedic piece set in a futuristic police state. While the initial live performance on Sydney television was kinescoped for later broadcast in Melbourne, that kinescoped copy does not appear to have been archived.

But if Australia's first science-fiction television program has disappeared, at least it left us some traces.

For other posts in this series, click here.

Awards: A Twitter Theme Day

Did you miss AustLit's sampling (on Twitter last week) of Australian-written works that have won awards? Never fear: you can check out the list below.

Holly's Heroes

An Australian-New Zealand co-production, this series won both the AFI Award (for Children's Television) and the New Zealand Screen Award (for Children's Television). The story of a teenage gilr coming from New Zealand to Australia and finding that the only way she could play basketball was to start her own team, Holly's Heroes only ran for one season, but still tells a complete story.

Forbidden Lie$

This documentary picked up a pile of AFI Awards (and nominations), but also won the Al-Jazeera Golden Award in 2008. It touches on one of Australia's more prominent literay hoaxes of recent years: Norma Khouri's publication of the purported true story of an honour killing in Jordan. Made by Anna Broinowski, the film picked up an AFI Award, a New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, and a Film Critics Circle of Australia Award, in addition to the nod from Al-Jazeera.

The Sea and Summer

George Turner's novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1988. Turner's rivals for the award were Stanislaw Lem (for Fiasco), Michael Bishop (for Ancient of Days), John Crowley (for Aeygpt), Ken Grimwood (for Replay), Keith Roberts (for Gráinne),and H.F. Saint (for Memoirs of an Invisible Man)--and that's quite the exceptional field against which to win any award, let alone one of Great Britain's most prestigious science-fiction awards.

Turner's novel follows Francis Conway, a 'Swill' in the brutally delineated class system of 2041, whose struggling life becomes even more difficult when the government's corruption looks to bring about the deaths of Francis and his fellows Swills by drowning their homes.


Ivan Southall's novel won the Carnegie Medal in 1972. Southall was, in fact, the first non-British writer to win the Carnegie Medal, which had been established in 1935 and named after the great library-building American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Southall's novel follows fourteen-year-old Josh Plowman, who struggles to fit into his Aunt Clara's museum-like home and to ingratiate himself with the local children. The Australian Book Review (in 1971) thought the book 'neurotic and hysterical', and Southall himself said it might have been his best book--but it was certainly his most ususual.

The Captain's Paradise

Back in 1954, Alec Coppel and his English-co-writer Nicholas Phipps picked up a nomination for a screenwriting Academy Award (Best Writing, Motion Picture Story) for this tale of a bigamous Alec Guinness. It was the first Oscar nomination for screenwriting for an Australian--though Orry-Kelly had already beaten Coppel to the podium with a 1952 award for best costume design for An American in Paris.

Harry's War

Harry's War won best short film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival in 2000. Founded in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival promotes the works of emerging and established film-makers of colour. In Harry's War, it awarded a film that followed Indigenous Australian soldier Harry Saunders to World War II, where he hoped that, by serving alongside white diggers, he could help pave the way for Indigenous citizenship.

Magic or Madness

Among Justine Larbalestier's many, many awards is an Andre Norton Award (part of the Nebula Awards) for this, the first in a dark magic trilogy. Magic or Madness also picked up nominations for the Australian Science Fiction Achievement Awards, the Aurealis Awards, and the Ethel Turner Prize.

Though several Australian writers have been nominated for the Andre Norton Award, only Larbalestier has won it ... so far.

Fingers crossed, and Jaclyn Moriarty might pick up the second one for A Corner of White when the Nebula Awards are announced later this year.

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