Israel’s Eurovision Win is Problematic But So is Attacking a Musician

There’s no denying that this year’s Eurovision winner is a controversial one. While some fans argue that politics have no place in the annual song contest, others have voiced their outrage that a nation currently committing human rights atrocities is now slated to host the competition in 2019. The conflict between the Israeli government and the State of Palestine is an important international issue and one that should not be brushed over, even when it comes to something like a glitzy, light-hearted song contest.

Eurovision is definitely not free from politics. Examples like Finnish singer Kristia Siegfrid kissing one of her female dancers in 2013 to protest a lack of same-sex marriage legislation, to Armenian group Genealogy calling for international recognition of the Armenian genocide in their song entry in 2015, show that Eurovision is no stranger to political performance.This year was no exception when it came to politically themed songs. French entrant Madame Monsieur’s song ‘Mercy’ told the story of a refugee child born on a humanitarian ship. Italian duo Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro sang an anti-war song about international wars and terrorism. And Danish viking acapella group Rasmussen sang about non-violence and Magnus Erlendsson, a viking who refused to fight in battle. Other politically charged moments included the depiction of a gay couple dancing in Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s song ‘Together’ (Ireland), and Lea Sirk’s empowering song ‘Hvala, ne!’ (Slovenia). Even the winning song ‘Toy’ advocated to stop bullying. Oh, and let’s not forget the protestor who got up on stage during the final and snatched the microphone from UK singer SuRie.

Political and social issues are the bread and butter of arts and culture. We create art that reflects our beliefs and concerns about the world around us. We cannot separate music, or any art form, from world politics or social issues. So what does this mean for this year’s winning contestant and, more importantly, what should we – the viewers – think about this?

I’m going to take a page out of fellow Adelaide writer Taeghan Buggy’s book and say that we, as consumers of art and media, have an ethical responsibility. In the same way that we should call out sexual abuse in media, we should also voice our concerns about the social and political implications of Eurovision. Already there is a fair amount of debate about who should be allowed, and who should be disqualified, from participating in the contest. Russia was banned from Eurovision in 2017 and many people have a lot to say about letting Australia and Israel compete despite not being part of Europe.

Israel’s participation is problematic on two levels. The lesser is that Israel is not a part of Europe, but we can easily overlook this. But the second, harder to swallow issue, is that Israel is a nation with terms like ‘apartheid’, ‘militancy’ and even ‘genocide’ attached to its reputation. And not without due cause. If Eurovision was willing to bar Russia from entering the competition last year because of its problematic relationship with the then host nation, Ukraine, wouldn’t it be equally appropriate to bar Israel from competing at all considering its own issues?

Where do we draw the line for who can and cannot compete? Should nations engaged in conflicts either on an international or internal level be barred from the competition? Or should we, as many fans argue, leave politics at the door and just enjoy some good music?

There is no easy answer to this and in many ways I am something of a fence-sitter. On the one hand, I do believe that nations that are perpetrating acts of violence and persecution should be held accountable by the media, including popular media like Eurovision. But on the other hand I don’t think that we should judge artists by the actions of their government. Eurovision holds an important place in the European arts world and all musicians should have the right to perform. I also think that our feelings about certain nations should not be used as fuel for abuse towards artists from that country.

Israel’s contestant Netta has had a lot of abuse thrown at her through social media since the very moment she was named the winner of Eurovision 2018. Following the #Eurovision tag on Twitter this morning it was clear that three main types of insult were made against Netta. The first, and most prevalent, was that she represented a nation with a deplorable human rights record and was, therefore, unworthy of winning Eurovision.

The second, and also predictable, response was calling Netta out for her appearance. A great deal of hostility surrounded Netta’s weight and general appearance, which was at odds with most of the other female contestants. She’s a bigger woman and at the very end of the voting she was neck and neck for the title with the ‘conventionally’ attractive Eleni Foureira from Cyprus. Naturally, plenty of Eurovision fans started calling Netta every fat-shaming term in the book, from ‘cow’ to ‘fat bitch’ and all the variations in-between. The last form of insult was calling her ‘chicken girl’ or posting pictures of plump chickens to represent her – a jab at her clucking sounds throughout her song.

While I personally find Israel’s win problematic because of the atrocities taking place against the State of Palestine I am never for attacking Netta as an artist and a human being. There is no moment in any circumstance where fat-shaming should be considered acceptable. Personal attacks on any artist, any human being, is incredibly distasteful. Not only that, but it does nothing to bolster an argument. If anything, it does the opposite. So, by all means get riled up about Israel hosting next year, start a discussion on whether or not Eurovision should allow a problematic country to not only compete but host, but don’t degrade your legitimate arguments with juvenile attacks on Netta’s appearance.

In many ways I can see the appeal of having Netta as the winner of Eurovision because she doesn’t fit into the traditional mould of a female Eurovision performer. She stands out not only because she isn’t conventionally attractive (read– thin), but because she has a strong stage presence that relies on her strength of character, her no-bullshit attitude and a playful demeanour rather than cheap stock-and-standard sex appeal.

I won’t say that Netta herself isn’t problematic– the arguments about appropriating Japanese culture are definitely worth voicing – but on the whole I think we can safely say that she does not warrant the slew of venom aimed at her by the media.

She represented Israel – doesn’t that make her complicit to the country’s current problems? If she was opposed to Israel’s current social and political stance towards the State of Palestine wouldn’t she refuse to compete under Israel’s banner? I won’t purport to know enough about Netta to know the ins and outs of her political leanings. For all I know she might be a supporter of Israel’s militant behaviour. But whether she is or not has no bearing in my feelings about Israel’s win.

A musician is not a government body. Musicians and artists are not the ones on the forefront of violent or military action. We should not direct our anger at a singular musician, regardless of whatever her views might be. We should be angry about the lawmakers who make apartheid and militancy possible.

We can celebrate Netta’s win because she has earned her trophy. She gave a strong performance (though clucking is perhaps not to my taste) and won the popular vote. There’s no use squabbling about how the whole thing might be rigged, or how the voting system is a mess. At the end of the day Netta has won Eurovision and there’s nothing we fans can do about it.

Does that mean we should just be happy about Eurovision going to Israel next year? Of course not. The host country has a lot to answer for and we have every right to boycott the competition if we wish. But let Netta have her victory, not as a representative of Israel but as a musician who has worked hard to perform on the stage of Europe’s biggest music competition. As human beings we owe her that much at least.


Photo: Andres Putting via Eurovision.tv

Words by Lisandra Linde

Lisandra Linde is an Adelaide-based writer of fantasy and creative nonfiction. She tweets at @KrestianLullaby

Tulpa Looks Back Over A Month of Fringe

Another year and another Fringe has passed us by. Hundreds of acts, some of which we at Tulpa were lucky enough to go and see. A festival of passionate creatives, wonderful venues, and great celebrations of art – the Fringe is a month in which the arts take over the city. After all of this, the Tulpa team got together to enjoy and share our memories of a remarkable series of arts events.

Reviewing over thirty shows, and going to several more, we at Tulpa were able to enjoy a busy and thrilling few weeks. Recently, in the wash-up from the several weeks of late nights and enjoyable oddities, we decided to discuss what we thought of the famed Mad March.

tix-pic.jpg
Just a selection of Fringe tix.

We nominated our favourite shows of the Fringe. For Taeghan Buggy, it was The Displaced of which ‘the comedic strangeness, attention to space, and skill of the performers was top notch’. For Liam McNally, How to Drink Wine Like a Wanker, a unique performance running a broad and deep range of experiences. Kayla Gaskell recalls her favourite shows as ‘a toss-up between the sexy-circus of Fuego Carnal (which I saw independent of reviewing), the classy cabaret of Anya Anastasia (which will be showcased at the Port Noarlunga Arts Centre in August), and of course, the magical musical theatre production, Little Shop of Horrors.’ Simone Corletto elects The Adelaide Office Live as her own personal favourite show.

 

The Fringe brings with it a lot of interesting shows that offer unique experiences. Where else would one have the opportunity to stroke would a 17th century man get you to stroke their sword, as was Lisandra Linde’s experience at Deviant Women: Julie d’Aubigny? Or perhaps at The Bacchae, where as Teaghan Buggy recalls, they ‘got all the men to leave the room for the final scene because they “did not have permission to see it”’, to which Taeghan adds, ‘It was so odd because that’s never happened in a play before but it was also a really great moment with the play.’ Simone notes as one of the more remarkable events of the 2018 Adelaide Fringe as when the city got its Seymour Skinner on with North Terrace’s ‘lights installation and basking under the aurora borealis, at this time of year, in this part of the country, located entirely in our museum courtyard’.

A month-long series of remarkable shows and special oddities that very certainly did not disappoint with well over one thousand shows, the Fringe was an event we all got some remarkable experiences from. Shows aplenty, Adelaide utterly transformed into the global arts hub for a city, we looked back on our shared and separate memories with fondness and another eleven months to wait until our city is once again transformed. Taking in a host of comedy, cabaret, theatre, arts installations and other thought-provoking events, the Fringe opened up a wonderful host of local and imported artists to bring their respective stories to Adelaide to share. Where else would you find a velvet-clad Shakespeare, a nun-burning pirate, and The Office come to Adelaide?

 


Words by Liam McNally with Simone Corletto, Taeghan Buggy, Kayla Gaskell, and Lisandra Linde.

Our Giddy Aunts: Queer Readings of Mentors in Children’s Fantasy Fiction

With the recent revelation that Dumbledore, our favourite gay wizard, won’t be all that gay in the next Fantastic Beasts movie, I think it’s fair to say that the tide has finally turned; J. K. Rowling’s table-scrap representation is no longer enough. Readers are no longer satisfied with post publication declarations that an unaddressed, unimportant character might have been Jewish or something. This is not effective or accurate representation.

The thing we should keep in mind, however, is that J. K. Rowling wasn’t brave or unique in codifying Dumbledore’s queerness. She was just tapping into an unconscious trope that has been in children’s fantasy fiction since the very beginning.

Explicit queerness in children’s fiction is relatively new. The conscious and unconscious link of homosexuality and sex is an old and tough link to break, and is even tougher to get past a gatekeeping adult public. Children are not in charge of what gets published; adults are. It is these gatekeepers that are as capable as being whipped into a panic – like the one that saw the demise of the Safe Schools program – that decide whether or not queer characters see any representation in children’s fiction. Forgetting, of course, that children’s fiction is all about characters just like the bullied queer kids of real life. Children’s fiction is all about the ‘other’.

Children’s fantasy is filled with ‘others’, like Ged from Earthsea, Morrigan Crow from the Nevermoor series, or the inescapable example Harry Potter. Then there are those who might be completely of the ‘normal’, but find themselves feeling like ‘others’ because they’re in an entirely new world, such as the queer icon Dorothy in Oz, the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Alice of Alice in Wonderland.

It’s not uncommon for children to feel this way about themselves – approximately 1 in 4 children reported being bullied at school in 2009. This is particularly key for children who may be struggling with sexuality or gender, feeling different for a reason poorly explored in the fiction around them.

Even without bullying, growing up is difficult, and the process of changing from child into adult is a metamorphosis that overwhelms even the best of us. It is here that books become a key in figuring ourselves out through sympathy and empathy, relating our feelings of ‘otherness’ with those on the page.

These ‘others’ find themselves in places and situations that are impossible to the uninitiated. They require guidance and teaching to understand their otherness. In real life we have our parents to fulfil these roles. But it’s usually the case in fiction that these characters that give guidance don’t have the familial attachment of ‘parent’. They are the tertiary adults, who fulfil the role of parent without the prejudice and judgement that entails.

Perhaps it’s just that writers have bad relationships with their parents, but rarely – if ever – does the most important guidance required to see these characters through to the end of the narrative come from parents. It might be because the characters are orphans, or the parents are absent – both of these tropes are mainstays of the genre. Fiction for children lends itself well to wise older characters, because children’s fiction is filled with outsiders needing guidance, yet it seems that when parents are present, children don’t go on adventures.

Who does this leave? Teachers. Old women. Grandparents. Distant relatives. In many cultures, they all fall under the same word. It may have fallen out of fashion now, but that categorisation applies in English too – in short, we’re talking about aunts and uncles, informal or otherwise.

What better word is there for the adults that assume the role of parent in the absence of parent? There are honorary aunts and uncles abound in the real world. Why not in imagined worlds?

The word ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’ does not denote responsibility per se, but it does open the possibility of care. An aunt or an uncle is usually a temporary presence, but with opinions and power the same as any parent. In real life, as in fiction, an orphaned child might find themselves with an aunt or uncle.

The concept of gay aunts and uncles is not a particular new or interesting idea. It is a prevailing theory as to why homosexuality hasn’t been bred out of any population. In fiction, their presence mirrors the real world. If queer people exist to support the lives of children, then more than a few of the children supported in fiction get a little help from their queer aunts and uncles.

Children’s fiction is – for obvious reasons – devoid of sex. The only evidence that anyone has sex in the sanitised world of children’s fiction is the children themselves. This is not to say that the world of children’s fiction is devoid of sexuality – adults may be partnered, children may (and often do) have love interests, and male/female pairings are often implied by proximity.

If there’s any more egregious display of enforced sexuality, it’s in old fashioned children’s fiction. It creates love interests by convenience and proximity by pairing the nearest boy (of similar age) to the nearest girl. It’s not just something applied to the children in children’s fiction, either, but adult framed love isn’t integral to children’s fiction. Indeed, love interests aren’t key to children’s fiction at all. Alice, for example, had no need for love interests.

However, in a world where characters have enforced romantic inclinations, what happens where there is an absence of romance? What happens when a character that could easily have a heterosexual partnering – and has a convenient and proximate heterosexual partner – has none? Why are perfectly loveable characters single?

This happens frequently in children’s fiction because it’s not necessary to explore adult feelings. But adults reading children’s fiction can’t help but wonder about the inner lives of characters. Who does Dumbledore love?

The absence of relationships is as questionable as the presence of them, because for a long time, representation of any queer characters – happy ones, anyway – was illegal.

The absence of relationships isn’t the only evidence, of possible queerness. The circumstantial evidence is as varied as it is flimsy, but it’s no less flimsy than a knowing glance between two Valkyries in 2017’s Thor Ragnarok. Queer people have been forced to see representation where there’s questionable evidence and word of God for decades. Who would have known that Mrs. Danvers was apparently a lesbian without this handy Wikipedia article?

Fiction is filled with flamboyant bachelor uncles, and interesting albeit reserved bachelorette aunts. Flamboyance and extravagance are stereotypes now, but in previous years they could be seen as cultural markers. Dumbledore was extravagant and weird. What is flamboyant if not a bird that catches fire? Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci and Howl, though both textually heterosexual, were both flamboyant and extravagant in an era when the term metrosexual was uninvented. In the Nevermoor series from Jessica Townsend, we have the extravagant flouter of rules, Jupiter North. These are, of course, male stereotypes. The female stereotypes are little murkier.

The maiden aunt trope is one based in reality, and one that is replicated in many children’s narratives. When healthcare for women started becoming a Thing, so was Incredibly Deadly War, leaving many women widowed or without husband. How many of these women were happy to do without we will never know, but their presence has endured in fiction, even outside of the realm of children’s fiction. The Austen novels are nothing without their maiden aunts.

Of course, many of these women – in real life at least – lead unpartnered lives as wholesome heterosexuals. But there are innumerable queer women who would have found this arrangement invigorating, either because they preferred the same sex or preferred no partnership whatsoever. The maiden aunt could be seen as a miserable character, or they could just as easily be fulfilled and happy without a man.

Outsiders in their own worlds, they provide an anchor for ‘others’. These flamboyant uncles or interesting aunts provide a glimpse into the future for characters that are otherwise incapable of imagining a future as an ‘other’.

In real life, the adults we see as children are the adults we believe we can become. The most normal of which are usually our parents, and possibly our grandparents. If our families are large, we might see a deviation from the parental norm through our extended relatives – our aunts and uncle, our cousins and niblings, adults that don’t need to exist in a nuclear family unit to be happy and healthy adults.

When J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay in 2007, there was a short silence and then burst of applause at Carnegie Hall. Applause for representation? Or an acknowledgement of something that has always been there?


Words by Mark Tripodi

Mark is a writer and comedian. He is a host on Radio Adelaide’s Pride and Prejudice and The Range. He also hosts The Piecast.

A Discussion of I, Tonya

Tulpa writers Liam McNally and Lisandra Linde went along to see I, Tonya. We went with plenty of expectations but the filmmakers seemingly went out of their way to shatter them. Consequently, we decided a discussion, rather than a review, would best suit this film.

 

Firstly, the film has no major stars outside of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney (known to many for her tenure in hit TV series The West Wing). So, what did we make of the cast and performance?

Lisandra: I felt the casting of Tonya and her mother LaVona were spot on. Margot Robbie managed to play into the dark comedy of the film, especially through her over the top anger against the skating judges. But she balanced it with equal shows of how difficult Tonya’s situation was and how her underdog story didn’t follow the rags-to-riches storyline she wanted, but rather, was hampered by the people around her and (though she denies it) herself.

Allison Janney really captured the essence of Harding’s mother – from start to finish, she shows us a woman who is selfish, emotionally abusive, rude and generally destructive towards the people around her. And yet she is only somewhat aware of her cruelty – truly believing that what she did was the best thing for her daughter. The key moment being when she says (during the acted interviews) ‘Oh please, show me a family that doesn’t have its ups and downs’ – this right after we see her throw a knife at her daughter.

Liam: Janney’s LaVona could not have been further from the together, wise, and controlled figure of CJ, her character on The West Wing. Her commitment to the role appears absolute as she exhibits extreme emotional, physical, and psychological abuse on her daughter and in mockumentary-style interviews, denies some of what we have seen and attempts to contextualise it differently.

Robbie’s Tonya is by turns aggressor, victim, bystander, and everything in between. The film seems to seek to neither condemn nor condone the real Harding and so we are left with a quandary. She is ultimately compelling in how thorough and complex a person she creates.

Seeing the real individuals interviewed at the end drives home even more strongly just how accurately the real people have been captured and that whatever your original motives for watching the film, you must remember these are real people.

 

At the risk of spoilers, there’s a scene that must be talked about. During the mockumentary-style interviews, Tonya takes aim at her abusers: her mother (who denies it), her husband (who denies it), and those who made her a joke, a punchline, and a freak to be gawped at.

Liam: The advertising for the film suggested to me that I was going to see a dark comedy, a kind of ‘tragi-comedy’. I can’t deny the humour of the film but the film was far more hard-hitting and daring than I anticipated. In that moment of Tonya decrying those who made her into a joke as abusers, it’s as though she addresses the audience in order to ask us if we went for the right reasons. And did we? Were we lured in by very smart advertising to have this moment put before us? Are we complicit?

I can’t think of any other film that has made me consider myself so directly as a filmgoer, as a person, so much as this.

Lisandra: I think that the trailers kind of played into the kind of media-saturated ideas most people have about the incident and Tonya but then the movie goes completely away from that and shows a very sympathetic and complex side to everything.

 

Finding the truth in the film is a hard task, as we are provided with a host of contradictory and clearly unreliable narrators.

Lisandra: I think that the really blunt way they addressed the violence and abuse helped to build up a kind of empathetic trust for Tonya but at the same time made it evident that she was becoming really fucked up from it, thus making her less reliable as a narrator.

Liam: This is a film full of people giving changing, contradictory, and self-serving stories. Quite how violent LaVona was, how brutal Tonya’s husband, or how unfair the situations outside of her control were, Tonya feels like a real person, and no real person will ever tell the whole truth.

 

What other impressions were we left with at the film’s end?

Lisandra: I love the contrast between the ugliness of Tonya’s (violent and redneck) life with the glamour and superficiality of the ice skating world (in which Tonya’s inability to conform to their standards of ‘presentation’ makes her a constant underdog).

The fact that Tonya’s skills are overshadowed by things she cannot control – like having a background of poverty, an abusive mother, and none of the glitzy costumes and smiley personas of her competitors – really forces us to consider the way in which we, as a society, push down women who do not fit neatly into their assigned roles.

Liam: It was an extremely reflective film, both for the characters and, I believe, for the audience. What role do we play in tearing down people like Tonya Harding? And why do we do it? The film draws you in with controversy (the kneecapping of Nancy Kerrigan) and traps you in a film of questions about America’s (and the world’s) attitudes towards class, gender, and appearance.

There was no distinct ‘truth’ the film pushed. It accommodated for many views and many truths. I think Tonya is right when she stands up, bruised and bloodied, and says, ‘and that’s the fucking truth’.


Words by Liam McNally & Lisandra Linde.

The Year of 100 Rejections: a personal reflection

Late in 2016, I read an article by Kim Lao on why, as a writer, you should aim for 100 rejections in a year and something shifted inside my head. I felt it go, like when a joint feels strangely tight then, finally, it clicks and feels satisfyingly limber again—that’s what happened in my brain. As a little bit of backstory: I’m a poet and short story writer so, much of my publication options are labour-intensive submissions of individual pieces to literary journals. I’m familiar with rejection and what it can do to my fragile writer’s ego. The main idea behind Lao’s article was that if you are trying so hard for that many rejections, you’re bound to get some acceptances as well.

In the past I have experienced times of great enthusiasm with sending off submissions but I’ve never been able to maintain it. The initial day (or days) of my submitting frenzy is usually followed by a hopeful lull and then by an extended period of dejection as the thank-you-but-no emails ping into my inbox. The resulting funk that I had experienced meant that I failed to resubmit the rejected pieces until the sting of those previous rejections had worn off, until I felt strong enough to be able to do it all over again. I allowed my anxiety over being rejected – and the associated feelings of failure – to stop me from submitting my work more regularly. Sometimes this meant I did not submit anything for three or four months, or five, or seven. None of this is particularly surprising since as psychologist Guy Winch explains in his TED Ideas article, we are just built that way:

‘[O]ur brains are wired to respond that way. When scientists placed people in functional MRI machines and asked them to recall a recent rejection, they discovered something amazing. The same areas of our brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That’s why even small rejections hurt more than we think they should, because they elicit literal (albeit, emotional) pain.’

Looking at my submissions log in order to write this piece, I realised that there was even a time when I didn’t submit anything for nearly four years, which is no way to go about being a published writer!

Over the years I have worked on trying to develop a perpetually thicker skin, I have worked on trying to be okay with rejection, and on trying to think of it as a ‘numbers game’ – that is, each rejection gets you closer to an acceptance and publication as suggested by Cassandra Atherton, my colleague and mentor. This last idea came the closest to getting me into the frame of mind that I feel I fully embraced in 2017. But it still wasn’t quite the same as actually ‘collecting rejections’.

Let’s get back how this concept has made a shift within my mind. What happened inside my head the first time I read these ideas reminded me of a stress management session I attended in my final years of secondary school. A number of us were struggling with pressure of the looming final exams so Ms Taylor, a psychology teacher, started a regular lunchtime class to teach us some stress management techniques. During one of these sessions, we discussed issues getting to sleep. Ms Taylor was heavily pregnant at the time and she told us that prior to falling pregnant she had always slept on her stomach. She explained that what she had to do was to trick her brain into allowing her to sleep on her side. To do this she would lie on her back in bed to read or watch television in the evening. After a time she would get uncomfortable and want to roll onto her side but she told herself, ‘I can’t roll onto my side just yet because I want to finish reading this chapter/see the end of this movie and if I roll onto my side, I’ll fall asleep.’ My cynical teenage self thought this was basically rubbish – how could you trick your own brain when it knows it’s being tricked? But that’s precisely what happened as I read about setting ‘rejection goals’. My mind was ripe for the fooling and I felt it enter into the bargain willingly.

The first way the change in my thinking manifested itself was in a more sustained attitude to submitting work. During 2017, I managed to submit work ten months out of twelve, which is something I have never achieved before. I even wrote a few pieces specifically for publications that had particular themes I was inspired by. This is something I hadn’t done before either; it had always felt like investing too much in the submission and, in that way, risking too much disappointment.

When the rejections began rolling in, it did feel different than it had before. I created a formula to count the rejections for me and I maintained a spreadsheet of my totals. I was still disappointed sometimes but the bigger goal of trying to achieve 100 rejections seemed to take the sting out of it. And the good news is, it wasn’t only rejections that came in.

The first hint of success I had was being informed of making the longlist for a publication that I really admire and then I was asked by another publication to consider making some changes to a piece for clarity and they would be happy to reconsider it. This request resulted in achieving publication because I made the suggested changes whereas, in the past, I would have taken this as a rejection and shelved the piece. And so it followed from there. I’m not going to suggest that I had some kind of wildly successful year but I did achieve a better strike rate than I had in the six years prior to 2017. In fact, my rate of success in 2017 was only surpassed by fluking three acceptances in 2010 – a year when I only submitted thirteen pieces in total. In addition to the publications, I was also shortlisted for the Katharine Susannah Prichard Fiction Award and I won the CAL Fiction Prize for a piece I submitted to Meniscus. I think the real proof in the success of this venture is that I plan to do it again next year.

The successes were really heartening for me and they helped me to maintain my drive throughout the year but ‘collecting rejections’ allowed for a shift in the definition of what constitutes success and failure and this made the biggest impact. I didn’t ride the rollercoaster of submission and rejection that I had found myself on before – a strange rollercoaster where there are far more low sections than high. Collecting rejections helped me to avoid the common response to rejection of tending, according to Guy Winch, to ‘become intensely self-critical’. Or as suggested by Antonia Pont, talking myself out of thinking of myself as a ‘real writer’. Antonia’s idea, expressed at a recent panel event, was that when we are rejected by a publication or publisher we can start to think that ‘rejection is bad’ and that we’re ‘not a writer’ when we know from stories about writing practice from Stephen King to J.K. Rowling that this is not that case. Real writers do get rejections; collect them. Make a game out of it and don’t let that insecure part of your ego tell you that they are proof that you’re an imposter because they are, in fact, quite the opposite.


Words by Deb Wain.

Deb Wain is a poet and short story writer who is passionate about the Australian environment. Her work, which has appeared in Meniscus, Verandah, Tincture, and Verity La, is often inspired by the Australian communities in which she has lived.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (A New Year Suggestion)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is undeniably one of the greatest video games ever created. First released on the Nintendo 64 (N64) in 1998, it was developed and published by Nintendo and was the first 3D entry in The Legend of Zelda series. Now, twenty years later, I wish to celebrate this title by discussing it and how it inspired me to become a writer.

Ocarina of Time was a ground-breaking title at the time of its release. It was one of the first open world games where a player could ride a horse, explore secrets, and participate in side-quests. Its main quest, however, is the real prize. Players take Link, the playable protagonist, through numerous dungeons, each one unique to its region, travel through time between the present and future, all as part of the epic quest to saving Zelda, Princess of Hyrule, from the hands of Ganon.

My introduction to this game came sometime in the late 1990s-early 2000s. The N64 was the family game console and my parents had bought the game cheap from Blockbuster. I spent countless hours of my childhood exploring the world of Hyrule, attempting to rescue Princess Zelda, all the while going fishing and looking for secret caves. For a younger me, its wide-open world, engaging narrative, and many secrets were what kept making me return to it and what kept inspiring me.

Ocarina of Time started the fire that made me want to be a writer. Some of my earliest fiction works were fanfictions of the game, all of which containing my own unique, original spin on the game. I had even started to imagine my own versions of Hyrule, each one with a unique storyline and style.

There was one aspect of the game though that really fuelled my growing imagination: a group of enemies called ReDeads. ReDeads are zombies that are nothing more than skeletal beings with browned skin, a mask-like face, and the power to paralyse and suck the life from Link. Hearing their low-pitched moans in a dungeon always made my hairs stand on end and frightened me enough sometimes not progress any further. The terror of them continued beyond the game, into my nightmares. It’s in my mind that they were suddenly more frightening and powerful, a trope which later made me fall in love with zombies and the horror genre.

Although aged in contrast to its successors in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still a fantastic game. It’s the game that inspired me to be a writer and fall in love with hideous creatures of the night. Its narrative and storytelling still remain engaging 20 years on and hopefully will continue to inspire people to become writers for years to come.

For anyone who’s interested in video game writing, wanting to play an inspiring game, or just want to play a great game for 2018, then go play Ocarina of Time. If you want an updated experience of this game which is gorgeous to look at and play, pick up the remake of the game on Nintendo 3DS. If you want that same experience I had, but on a modern console, it’s available on Wii U Virtual Console for about $15AUD. If you have neither a Wii U nor 3DS, you can pick up the original N64 cartridge, or the special edition of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker on Nintendo GameCube where it’s an extra disc. These options may be more expensive due to their age and increasing rarity.


Words by Cameron Lowe.

Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles (A New Year Suggestion)

Why the Rain Wild Chronicles? Answer: It’s a deeply engaging series and Hobb does wizardry with the cast of characters.

As a brief background, Dragon Keeper is the first of four books in the Rain Wild Chronicles. The series is a continuation from the events in Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Liveship Traders series, though with a different cast of protagonists. Chronologically, the Rain Wild Chronicles sit at the end of Hobb’s long list of published series in her ‘Realm of the Elderlings’ universe and it is most closely linked to events in the preceding Liveship Traders series.

For readers new to Robin Hobb: if this seems like an intimidating number of books to read before you start, never fear. While reading the Liveship Traders will give you a more rounded understanding of the setting, certain characters, and previous events, Hobb does a good job in grounding these world details within the Rain Wild books and even new readers will be able to enjoy the series fully.

The first book in Rain Wild Chronicles takes you on a journey of exploration up the acidic – and deadly – Rain Wild River. Unable to fly and incapable of self-sufficiency, an array of deformed dragons stuck near the Rain Wild city of Cassarick need to find a home that will support their needs. In a bargain struck with the Rain Wild council, the dragons and their keepers journey up river to find the lost city of Kelsingra; a place once home to dragons and their mysterious Elderling companions. The people who aid the dragons have an array of personal and political reasons for joining an expedition that is rife with uncertainty and danger. This is a journey of survival for the protagonists; of seeking the true self and true belonging against the background of the inhospitable Rain Wilds and the richly written political situations. These themes of belonging and discovery run throughout the entire series and are also mirrored within the plots of the novels – yet the strength to this strength to this series is not its plot, but the characters.

And what a cast of characters: girls, women, men who are explicitly gay, outcasts, and dragons. Outsiders, all of them, in one way or another. They are what I like most about Dragon Keeper and the Rain Wild Chronicles as a whole. From the smallest supporting player to the main roles, these characters are deeply complex. They each have their own goals and motivations, as well as corresponding strengths and weaknesses. What’s more, all the characters experience challenges and growth. None of them are flawless characters, especially the protagonists, and yet they are characters to whom we relate and even sympathise with. It is not easy to do that with such a sizable cast –  yet Hobb does it and she does it with ease.

I especially like the dragons as Hobb has written them. Often, draconic characters are written on extreme ends of a spectrum: from inscrutable wisdom and altruism to unspeakable malice and cruelty. Instead, Hobb’s dragons are deeply self-concerned with the issues of dragons – especially with their survival as the last remnants of a species in a world that doesn’t value them as sentient beings. Their tenuous survival wars with their awareness that malformed dragons should not live and yet live they do. Unhuman, aloof, wise, and malicious at turns; these dragons are protagonists that are fully rounded characters in and of themselves. They are an utter delight to read, especially since they are central to the series.

I’m recommending this series because I return to it time and time again. The world of the Rain Wild Chronicles is rich and detailed, whilst the story is immersive and the characters arresting. Following the progression of the protagonists throughout the series makes you feel good for them because they grow so strong. With an empathetic eye, you can see parts of yourself and parts of the people you know in these characters. Diving into the world of the Rain Wild Chronicles is escapism at its finest; dark and uncomfortable at times, but always with that edge of hope that fights towards the light.

 


Words by Teaghan Buggy.

A Discussion of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A bold and visually-stunning film, The Last Jedi is one that will likely keep a place in your mind days after you have seen it. To that end, Liam, Simone, and Amelia, from the Tulpa team decided to discuss the latest happenings in the galaxy far, far away.

 

Firstly, how did The Last Jedi follow up on The Force Awakens?

Simone: I think this film took where JJ Abrams left off and went into over-drive. There’s so much just more here; more action, more characters, more story, more Kylo Ren being the most strangely attractive man in the franchise. It was far better than anything I expected.

Amelia: I thought it was an interesting follow up because The Force Awakens had a more straightforward plot, and this seemed a bit like the earlier trilogies [being] over the place plot wise, but I think rather because it had so many different elements to it and trying to tie them all together. I liked how they were including references to the Star Wars TV shows as well.

Liam: Narratively it follows very directly on but feels like a completely different beast. Where The Force Awakens was compelling but familiar, this felt like a tearing-up of the script. Anything could happen in this movie – and very frequently did.

 

 

What of the balance between the old and new characters?

Simone: I felt the balance of new characters was handled really well. Pairing them off in story lines with older characters allowed for them to be introduced and explored by bouncing off the dynamics and conflicts in a really satisfying way. It was also really exciting that all the new major characters were women.

Amelia: Once they connected the old characters to the new characters it’s logical to start phasing them out [see Han, The Force Awakens], especially before they all die of old age (poor Carrie). Episode IX will be interesting.

Liam: This felt a bit like a passing-of-the-torch moment. Episode VII started that but Episode VIII continues it. That’s not to say that the wonderful characters we remember from the original trilogy aren’t still a welcome and active part of the story. The fight against the First Order feels like it ought to be won by Rey, Finn, and Poe, not Leia, Luke, and Han.

 

 

Where do we think Episode IX will go?

Simone: I think the best way for Episode IX to go would be to properly dissolve the Jedi Order. And for Finn and Poe to bang.

Amelia: They seem pretty intent on ending the Jedi and the Sith. Ultimately I reckon either both Kylo and Rey will die, or they’ll live in exile together quietly arguing about how to use the Force.

Liam: I think we’ll see the beginning of a new Jedi Order that isn’t so backward-looking and embraces a future. I feel that’s the direction the series is going as well; becoming something new, that’s less governed by its past.

 

Perhaps the most important question of all: should Kylo Ren be redeemed?

Simone: Part of me does want Kylo to redeem himself but I’ve always been a fan of the redemption arc. Prince Zuko is the best part of Avatar the Last Airbender.

Amelia: Kylo Ren redemption, no. I think it’s going to happen, because they spent Episode VIII giving him complexities, and motivations, and personality. But I don’t want it to happen. It’s like all the murder and grief he’s caused would suddenly be forgiven with no consequences

Liam: There’s a moment when Kylo Ren and Rey are almost re-enacting a scene between Darth Vader and Luke. That Ren then goes on to undercut expectation by utterly diverging from the course that scene went last time made me feel like that was a very pointed way of saying (as Luke himself said) ‘this won’t go the way you think’. He shouldn’t follow Vader’s arc. He should stay evil.

 

Each gave a final note of the film. Beware – spoilers beyond this point.

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Simone: It was like they were deliberately trying to break the mould after everyone accused Episode VII of simply rehashing A New Hope.  I also like the exploration of Kylo’s back story which really paints him to be a more sympathetic character. It’s not a black and white situation. Kylo has good reason to hate Luke. Ultimately he just comes off as a sad kid who was failed by everyone who was supposed to help him. I can’t imagine Han and Leia were the best parents. Neither of them had the most normal upbringings, they probably struggled with trying to raise their son, especially one as powerful as Ben.

Amelia: Favourite element? The humour was a nice surprise. I was also surprised how Snoke just got killed off, because he was supposed to be this Emperor Palpatine-type figure and then the apprentice kills the master. But then again, unlike The Force Awakens, I felt like this film actually started to branch out into new territory, instead of having a death star planet and shadowy empire etc.

Liam: I felt Kylo Ren had a much more satisfying arc this film. His conflict is still there and he’s not a standard villain creating evil schemes for no reason. It seemed like he genuinely thought his actions good for the galaxy. The furthering of the stories for the other characters felt satisfying except for Snoke and Phasma who I felt got short changed. The inclusion of Rose was excellent. She proved to be an immediately likeable character who got a wonderful moment with the animals at the casino stables.

 

And a final rating?

Simone: Five stars. And a screaming porg.

Amelia: Four-and-a-half stars.

Liam: Four stars.


Words by Liam McNally, Simone Corletto, and Amelia Hughes.

To an Aussie Millennial, Money, Money, Money really isn’t that funny

Gen Ys are lazy, narcissistic and can’t commit to anything. Or at least that is a common controversial cliché expressed by baby boomers.  Let’s face it, the economic environment that Australians are currently immersed in is not practical nor sustainable. Although the world out there is a little tough right now, it’s time to put down the avocado toast and have a read about the things YOU can do to lessen the burden of financial stress.

 

According to an interview conducted by The New Daily with the co-chair of the G20 Youth Summit, ‘Generation Y could be the first generation in modern history to experience a lower standard of living than their parents’  This is due to the increasing burden of debt, costs of living and education, as well as the issue of unemployment and the unpredictable nature of job security in Australia.

 

Furthermore, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 data on Household Income and Wealth, Gen Y have a relatively high substantial annual gross household income of $113,152.00 per annum. However, they also have low wage growth of just 5% over a two-year period. To put it simply, things are getting more expensive, but incomes aren’t getting any higher, making the Australian Dream of owning your own home a little more out of reach.

 

It’s okay, I’ll give you a minute to have a quick cry.

 

So, now that little sobbing session is over, it’s time to have a think about how you can try and master the mysterious and complicated process of ‘trying to adult’ (one that I am still yet to conquer myself). Over the years I have learnt a few things, some the easy way and some the hard way.

 

Firstly, BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET!

 

Take the time to sit down and follow these three very simple steps:

 

  • Step 1: Calculate your total income per fortnight using bank statements, pay slips, Centrelink payments etc.
  • Step 2: Calculate your expenses. List all essential expenses (rent, food, bills, petrol, loan repayments and so on). Remember to include the less frequent expenses such as car registration or insurance payments. Ensure your expenses are less than your total income per fortnight.
  • Step 3: STICK TO THE NUMBER YOU HAVE ASSIGNED TO EACH OF THESE EXPENSES. It’s as simple as that. If your income changes or your ongoing expenses change, remember to review and update your budget.

 

Secondly, make smart money choices!

 

Some smart money moves may include (but are not limited to):

 

  • Eat in, not out. Cook meals in advance and freeze them. This will help to avoid the temptation of getting take away just because you can’t be bothered cooking (we’ve all been there).
  • Have shorter showers. It’s good for both the environment and your wallet.
  • Wait to get a pet. Save getting a pet until you are totally comfortable with your income. Trust me, the pet can wait.
  • Don’t get into debt. That’s right, you heard me, that means no AfterPay.
  • Avoid getting a gym membership. Instead try and create a safe and easy routine that can be completed at home with minimal equipment.

 

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to do a little research, find out what works best for you!

 

 

With that said, being Gen Y doesn’t have to be all doom, gloom and compromise. In the workplace, Gen Y are often viewed as both enthusiastic and optimistic in comparison to their Gen X and baby boomer co-workers. Also, they are known to be one of the more accepting by being more open to different opinions, sexualities, cultures, religions and ethnicities than previous generations.

 

So I guess that’s something uplifting… RIGHT?


Words by Maegan Hadden.

Genre Fiction vs Literary Fiction: why the literary canon of dead white men sucks.

There are two kind of people in the world: people who think Literary Fiction has more merit to society than Genre Fiction, and people who are correct.

 
Ever since the printing press made novels a commercially viable and accessible hobby, some group has been out to decry them as dangerous or a waste of time. These days many people, particularly in academia, make the distinction between works that are Literary, and books that are not.

 
Genre fiction encompasses a wide range of subcategories, from romance to crime to fantasy and sci-fi and everything in between. Historically these have been the “pulp” novels, short pieces of fiction with flashy covers to be consumed en mass. It’s entertainment. An escape.

 
Literature, on the other hand is Art. It’s a reflection of our own humanity, in all its raw edginess, thrown up at our face to make us really THINK.
Or at least that is the perception.

 
In reality, we can see some interesting biases when we break down the demographics of the writers and the intended readership of each of these genres. Great literary works are usually written by men. You know their names; Joyce, Hemmingway, Capote, Fitzgerald, Melville, etc. They’re the Big Names. The greats. They’re also typically from privileged social classes, and they’re white. And critics write about their books and their privileged white protagonists as exploring universal ideals. As representing all of us in some sort of singular truth. Like we’ve all been dissatisfied middle-aged men in crappy relationships.

 
Books by women, which tackle similar ideas, are instead labelled as “Chick-Lit”, and tend to be lumped into the Genre Fiction category. Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Elliot, all had to publish under male or anonymous pseudonyms because of course “women weren’t capable of literary merit”, only finding proper academic recognition more recently. And in laymen’s reading circles, their work is still considered the domain of bored housewives and the boozed up book clubs of middle-aged-women. The content of their stories may be identical to their male peers, but it’s automatically diminished because of their gender. Because while female readers tend not to be so discerning, male readers apparently are incapable of relating to anything if there isn’t a penis involved. Or so the gatekeepers of the literary canon would have you believe.

 
The argument is made that because a story may involve magic or dragons or zipping around outer space, that you can’t really learn anything from these characters. That these characters are unrelatable and certainly couldn’t fulfil the truest purpose of any Art form: to hold up a mirror of ourselves. But any reader regular of Genre Fiction would disagree.

 
Fundamentally, Literary and Genre Fiction books are the same. All these stories typically feature protagonists struggling with some issue or another, interacting with friends, family, enemies. Even if the physical events in genre fiction may be a little more extraordinary, the interactions, the relationships, they’re still the same. They’re still entirely relatable. In the Harry Potter series, we can still follow Harry’s feelings of loneliness at being an orphan and his trepidation at being flung into this whole new secret world he never knew about, even if it is a magical one. There are still fundamental emotions and problems that he experiences that aren’t invalidated by all the fantastical elements. And even these fantastical elements can stand in for excellent metaphors for real world problems. The class divisions between Pure Bloods and Muggle Borns is clearly an allusion to race and class issues. The Death Eaters could be a stand in for Nazis or the KKK. And Voldemort is whatever genocidal dictator you want him to be. In many ways the Harry Potter series is a highly sophisticated political statement about standing up to discrimination and banding together to fight hatred with love. And one might say that these messages are far more palatable told in metaphor here than in a preachy book which tries to shove it in your face.

 
Science fiction in particular has been a vehicle for societal criticism since its inception. Women have especially used this genre to criticise patriarchal constructs, such as Joanna Russ’ The Female Man, as an exploration of gender roles and the possible utopia in a world without men, or Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as a harrowing examination of religiously-motivated oppression and the hypocrisy of the anti-feminist pro-life movements which sacrifice the lives and autonomy of women. Dystopia – as a specific subgenre of science fiction – is renowned for its sharp political criticism, often even having real world consequences. Countless instances have sprung up just this year in the United States, with women donning the stark red robes and white hood of Atwood’s handmaids to protest the Trump administration and it’s repealing of abortion laws. These fantastical books are full of symbols and metaphors that can really speak to the heart of an issue, more so than something entirely contemporary. So it would be entirely foolish to simply dismiss these genre books because they were written by women or set in a world that isn’t 100% identical to our own. And such texts are exceedingly worthy of academic analysis, alongside any classic literature.

 
This level of societal critique isn’t limited to sci-fi either. Horror often features monsters which reflect our own societal fears – vampires were originally a stand in for the sexually charged and foreign (non-Anglo Saxon) “other”, zombies are frequently used as a metaphor for mob mentality and consumerism etc. Crime fiction can help us make sense of the truly dark elements in our communities, and try to either cathartically bring to justice murderers and rapists, or to help us explore and confront their psychology. Romance fiction has historically been an outlet for female sexuality and empowerment, an especially crucial role for women living in patriarchal societies which try to otherwise shame and oppress their desires as “sinful”.

 
The final argument here is that Literary works are seen to be written in a more technically pleasing way; in deep and dancing prose that reads almost like poetry, and truly marks this story as worthy of study. Firstly, not all works placed into the Literary fiction category are well written. Secondly, what defines something as well written can come down to taste, as well as historical context. Many books in the Literary canon are rather old and overly-wordy – partially because back in the day writers, such as Dickens, were paid by the word. And while some people consider it to be high art to be able to spend several pages musing on the colour and texture of wallpaper, as some deep literary message, most modern readers don’t have time for that crap.

 
The way we tell stories has changed. Genre fiction tends to be much more fast-paced, with a greater focus on plot and action, over the deep and lengthy stream-of-consciousness musings you might find in many older novels. This isn’t to say that writing today is better, or worse; it’s simply different. But continuing to uphold only this old classic style of writing as superior stinks of elitism. In labeling some books “better” than others, we’re also using our reading lists to judge one another. Someone who reads exclusively Salinger and Tolstoy isn’t inherently a better person than someone who prefers Meyer and Rowling. In fact it’s telling that in most scenarios it’s the people whose reading lists are exclusively Salinger and Tolstoy can be those who try to demean other readers. Just because a text is more difficult to read does not make it better than a page-turner.

 
Ultimately the takeaway here is that the label of “Genre fiction” has historically been used to diminish the significance of work that otherwise empowers and explores the voices of marginalised people; people outside of academia, women, people of colour, and the LGBT+ community. To participate in such literary snobbery is to deny these demographics a worthwhile voice. And while labels like this are indeed important, especially from a marketing and book-selling perspective, it’s foolish to think that said labels are any sign of quality. There are good and bad books in each category, and if you put side your preconceived notions, you might even find something that unexpectedly speaks to you.


Words by Simone Corletto.