Down and Out in Paradise

Down and Out in Paradise

Luke Williams

Echo Publishing 2019

ISBN:978-1-76068-584-3


Luke Williams’ Down and Out in Paradise is an intriguing memoir exploring the years he spent in Southeast Asia as a recovering and relapsing drug addict and an alternately employed and unemployed journalist. Living cheap, and sometimes even on nothing, Luke explores some of the debatably unsavoury hang-outs in Southeast Asia.

The idea of dropping everything and getting on a flight somewhere else is something that many people find incredibly attractive, more so when life isn’t quite going your way. When Luke Williams hopped on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, he was coming down off crystal meth. It was the cheapest flight he could book. He made his way to Thailand, the land of the free, where he chased drugs, stories, and sex. In Bangkok he became a thief, in Pattaya he became a prostitute, and somewhere along the way he discovered Buddhism. The memoir covers Williams’s travels throughout Southeast Asia and his penchant for fully embracing his journey.

Williams is very open about his sexuality and his time in Pattaya spent frequenting Boyztown and its bars and clubs. He met a number of Westerners there and for a short time, William’s worked as a prostitute himself. Much of the book fluctuates between him being broke in Southeast Asia and the occasional splendour of an expensive hotel and a bender.

During his time in Indonesia, Williams develops a fascination with his grandfather’s suicide.  Williams spent a lot of time considering the prevalence of mental illness in his family. His father’s late onset schizophrenia, his uncle’s comatose state, and his cousin’s suicide. Concerned that this could be the reason for his various issues, Williams is determined to use his skills as a journalist to uncover the truth.

At times within the memoir, Williams is critical of the influence of Westerner tourism throughout Southeast Asia, even as he contemplates that many the local people rely on tourism just to get by. Williams writes about the variety of people on his travels who coloured his world-view; reaffirming his privilege as a white Australian male and putting his problems in perspective compared to people working on the street for twelve or more hours a day just to afford food for their families. Together with perspective, Williams found spirituality as he explored various religions by trying them on for size.

There are sections of the memoir where it is clear that Williams was relieved to be clean and other sections where he embraced the highs of his addiction. Having struggled with addiction his whole life, Williams knew he needed help but had issues admitting it.  While Williams had a number of boyfriends and sexual partners throughout his travels, few of them appeared to help Luke with his recovery from addiction or his trouble with jealousy. However, there is one man who inspired Luke to do better, to keep living, and to eventually return to Australia to get help.

There is so much to unpack in this book and Luke Williams, as the author, presents himself as a highly complex character who might not be mistaken for a good person but also shouldn’t be dismissed for a bad one. He is complicated and real, struggling and adapting to his situation as he goes; sometimes driven by his addiction, his mental health, or by altruistic desire. I would highly recommend this book as it is downright fascinating to read as Williams details the highs and lows of his time in Southeast Asia as a journalist, an addict, and a human being.

4/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

 

Stranger Things Season Three

Stranger Things is something I came to later than most. The hype began and I put it on my list of things to watch. Eventually season two came out and I thought, “no better time to start”. I enjoyed it, there was nothing ground-breaking, simply a show that did all the little things right and told a good story along with it. Bit rough in places, but what show isn’t?

When season three came out, I was in a similar spot. I put on the list of things to watch and I inevitably caved because it’s popularity now means that spoilers are everywhere. I enjoyed the previous seasons, but I didn’t love them. Other than a few minor spoilers, I went in as blind as most would to season three but without the rushing enthusiasm of a big fan. Despite this I had questions: What will this third instalment of the Stranger Things story entail? Will it match the quality, humour and lovable nature of the characters it created?

The simple answer: Yes. Season three feels slightly different than the first two because it has more to tell and more characters to tell it with.  Season two introduced a new main character in Max, but gave bigger roles to season one’s recurring characters, most notably Steve Harrington. Season three continues in this fashion, introducing Robin, and providing Billy and Erica more screen time to create what ultimately becomes quite a large ensemble adventure.

Due to the large size, this season is almost entirely split into three main parties, each unravelling different parts of the mysteries within Hawkins as well as combatting their own issues along the way. This makes the start of season three a little stilted. A consequence of telling a complex, ensemble story in the time allowed. Season three is only eight episodes, one fewer than season two’s nine, and so the opening part of the season is setting up what is to come because of the larger cast.

What follows the slow start is simply the quality we have come to expect from Stranger Things up to this point.  This season manages to interweave character issues better than before, as the distance and time between characters seeing each other adds further depth to their individual struggles. The characters all naturally progress from season to season, with only Hopper seeming a little forced in his development. Stranger Things overarching story about the Mind Flayer is good, but it is the characters that make the show compelling. The show may overuse some of its tropes during this season, the most jarring being the romantic subplot between Joyce and Hopper which unfortunately feels like a carbon copy of Nancy and Jonathan’s season two arc. That particular subplot brings some comedic value but really hurts from being so similar. However, I think it speaks volumes that despite these minor gripes season three feels substantially different than its predecessors due its other character developments.

In the end, season three is worth watching despite the minor flaws it has. Each parties story unravels nicely, with threads coming together in a way that makes the whole thing feel complete. It’s a natural progression of the story that deals with new challenges, new emotions, provides new satisfying additions to each character and still manages to be creepy and heart-warming at the same time.

A special note should be made of the VFX artists for this season. Five studios took up the task for season three: Crafty Apes, RISE, Rodeo FX, Scanline VFX (Munich | Stuttgart), and Spin VFX. The work created by these folks are what make the world of Stranger Things feel so eerie and this season takes it to a new level. The previous seasons had great VFX, but the way it is used in this season combined with what looks like even higher quality standards help to produce some particularly gruesome effects.

We always ask the question of “Is this going to hold up to the previous instalment?” no matter the media type. Stranger Things season three, likes its first two seasons, is not ground-breaking, but it doesn’t try to be. It adds to more to the story, its characters, and world with a quality that is unwavering. Simply put: if you enjoyed it before, you will enjoy it again.


Words by Rhys Campbell

Beneath the Mother Tree

Beneath the Mother Tree
D.M Cameron
Midnight Sun 2018


 

The island is unsettled and Ayla’s Grappa thinks the mythological Irish figure of Far Dorocha is to blame. Mosquito specialist Marise has moved her only son Riley to the secluded island after the death of her husband and his stepfather. Their arrival sends ripples through the place’s normally serene ecosystem, and adds pressure to their already fraught relationship. Ayla, lost in her own way, and Riley form a connection, which is in turn strange and familiar. D.M Cameron’s debut novel, through Midnight Sun, is a dark narrative of love, belief, and twisted family ties.

For the most part this is a narrative about strangers in a small town. Marise and Riley are interlopers to a close-knit community, and Marise in particular struggles to acclimatise to their new life. She is drawn there by a house on the edge of a marsh heavily populated by mosquitos. For Riley, this is the first chance at a ‘normal’ life – his mother is a restricting and at times abusive woman and he was not allowed to go to school or foster relationships with outsiders. When hit with the double blow of Ayla and Riley’s deepening relationship and the local council’s decision to spray Marise’s precious marsh in order to control the insect population, she is forced to use some truly dark techniques to get what she wants.

Irish mythology plays a heavy part in the events of the novel. Grappa, in an almost childish way, believes in the spirits and creatures in the stories he tells Ayla. Ayla too, see-saws on the truth of her grandfather’s stories. When the bad things begin happening on the island – animals behaving strangely, the death of beloved pets through a deadly virus cultivated by Marise in her research – Grappa is convinced the evil Far Dorocha is at work through the scientist. Indeed, Cameron creates an almost magic-realist landscape for her characters – there are many scenes where Marise dreams she is transformed into a cloud of mosquitos, only to wake and find the pet of the islander she’s been having is dead; the titular Mother Tree seems to cast a protective shelter around Ayla.

Along with the Irish mythology, Cameron tries to include some Indigenous history and culture. For me, this was of the book’s biggest problem. Cameron’s fictional island, like most of Australia, contains a deeply colonial history and the site of a mass murder of Indigenous peoples is a reoccurring image and theme. However, this examination of Australia’s colonial violence feels heavy-handed and uneven as the novel only has two Indigenous characters – a teenage girl who studies on the mainland and has no narrative weight, and a wise-woman who also carries no real narrative importance. Given the importance placed on the Aboriginal mythology, it would have been beneficial to have an Indigenous voice to weigh in on the events of the novel. Instead, the weight of this piece of the island’s violent history is mostly carried by Ayla – a white character. Ayla spends much of the novel coming to terms with the massacre but given the lack of Indigenous voice I wasn’t sure what Cameron was trying to achieve with its inclusion.

The character of Marise was one of the novel’s short-comings for me. As the novel’s primary antagonist, she is a ruthless and possessive woman, who will do anything to get what she wants. However, her portrayal at times felt a little too cartoon villain-like. There was a lack of clarity in her machinations that made it hard to understand or empathise with her. Often the menace of an antagonist comes from their internal logic, twisted though it may be, and Marise’s internal logic was a little too murky.

However, Beneath the Mother Tree is also home to some moments of genuine sweetness. The sweetly awkward budding relationship between Ayla and Riley was a treat to read. The same could be said of the relationship between Grappa and his granddaughter. Ayla has a deep love of the Irish folklore and it shapes her entire character. Cameron also managed to capture the insidious, insular nature of small towns with some skill.

 

2.5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

Restarting Your Creativity: Part II

RC_Rediscovering-Your-Inspiration_Illustration

 

PART TWO: REDISCOVERING YOUR INSPIRATION

Being a writer is scary business and what most people tend to ask is what project you’re working on now. But what if there isn’t any current project? What if you’re just pottering around and looking for inspiration? Well I’m here to tell you that inspiration is everywhere!

In my first-year creative writing class we were told that when a “normal” person looks at a tree all they see is a tree, but when a creative person looks at a tree they see a range of things: colour, shape, texture, smell, sound, life… We recognise that there are endless things happening inside, on, and around the tree. I’ve always found this interesting when thinking about inspiration. There is so much around us to be inspired by that we often don’t know where to look or even begin looking.

Here are some ways in which you can find inspiration today:

1.) Go outside. I mean it. Don’t just look out your window.

Like the tree analogy it’s always great to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and look around you at what you can see. There might be a bird zipping through a nearby tree, but how would you describe it? How would you get the motion, noise, and impression onto the page? Piri Eddy’s ‘The Bus Stop of Innumerable Displeasures’ is a great example of using this technique.

You could go for a walk and write about what you see. Write a walk poem and see where that takes you. Who would be walking the same route? Why? What would they be thinking of? Are they trying to reach something or someone? Or are they trying to escape?

2.) Go somewhere new

I always find that going somewhere new ignites creativity. You don’t even have to go far. You might just hop on a bus to the next town and have a wander. Just go somewhere unfamiliar. While you’re trying to find your way around you’re also trying to take in everything. Most times in fiction you have an outsider character, and this is a good way to embrace this situation by letting yourself get and feel a little lost. You’ll find you’re trying to take in everything at once and that’s just what your character is doing too!

3.) Talk to a stranger

Remember how as a kid you were always told not to talk to strangers? Do it. Every single person you know and have ever seen is a wealth of information on something. You just need to get them talking and find out what. Every single person you ever interact with can help you with your writing, even if you simply notice one mannerism that is somehow different or intriguing. You can use that in your writing. Think about what it means.

4.) Go people-watching

Similar to talking to strangers, but without having to talk. This is very much a sport for introverts. Those kids on the train discussing their friend’s girlfriend? They’re your inspiration. The babies learning to walk and talk? Doesn’t that teach you something? The strange Russian man on the street giving you dinner recommendations in your own town? He

is inspiring! Who is he? What is he doing here? Why did he come to Adelaide? These are all questions you can start asking yourself to ignite your creativity!

5.) Look up writing prompts

This is perhaps one of the easiest options. Use a prompt. There are plenty of generators online and the AWC does a monthly competition called Furious Fiction where you’re given an image and asked to write a 500 word short story beginning with what you see. If you don’t have access to the internet you can also use books, photos, and objects as a writing prompt. That blue zippo you saw on your walk home? Where did it come from? What’s it’s story? Was it dropped by accident? Was it thrown away? Did someone have a fight? Is this someone’s way of quitting smoking or cleaning up their lives? Or does it belong to someone who likes lighting fires?

6.) Have a conversation with your characters

Does this sound stupid? Maybe, but you’re a writer so who cares! You probably know that all your characters have their own unique voices, knowledge, and habits. Which means it’s safe to say they know more than you do when it comes to themselves. Whether you treat it as if they exist in a parallel universe or just in your head, you can always sit down and have a conversation with them. Sometimes it helps to do this on paper—and I wouldn’t be too worried if they start abusing you. They’re a part of you and what is a writer other than self- deprecating?

7.) Be your character

I like to pretend that I am my character sometimes. I do everything that they would do (within reason) and get a feel for how they think. If my character knows a language I want to know the language too. If my character likes science, I want to know all about their interest in science.

8.) Free write

The aim of free writing is to not overthink it. But guess what, you’re a writer and you’ll probably overthink it until you get used to it. Free writing is writing whatever comes into your mind without worrying about spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Sometimes this will be entirely useless, but other times you’ll strike upon a gem of a phrase, the start to a scene, or overcome a problem you’ve been trying to solve since you were eight years old. When you free write it can be about anything or anyone. There is no right and no wrong way to do it. You just write.

9.) Indulge in some other creative practice

Paint, sing, play guitar, sew, make something—do something that is creative but has nothing to do with writing. You’d be surprised (even if you’re not good at whatever creative pursuit you try) at how much it helps to reset your mind. Art is all about expression and when you can’t seem to express yourself in one way, you should try to do it in another.

10.) Read a provocative writing book/post

This is my little secret. Generally, the idea is you read something about writing to inspire you, instead I think you should read bad advice about writing which will provoke you. For

me it’s Harry Bingham’s How to Write, which I do not own on principle. I came across the book at my local library when I was doing my research project in high school. I’m not going to tell you that the book is bad, I haven’t attempted to read it since, but there were certain quotes and passages I found provoking. I found that this particular book goaded me and during a write-in with Writers SA I came across the book again. And again, it encouraged me to get things done. So, read books about writing. Get to know which ones are good, which are bad, and which motivate you to succeed.

11.) Hang out with other writers/creatives

In part one I discussed the idea of a writers group. This is something which is good in all three respects (time, inspiration, and motivation) because you’ll be constantly challenged by your peers. When you talk to other writers or other creatives in general about their work it tends to be inspiring. Certain words or phrases lead you back to consider your own work and how you could be as together and as motivated as your fellow writer.

12.) Have a shower

Showers are a good way to reset your mind and body. In the shower your mind will often drift, and you’ll find yourself considering problems and scenarios both in your everyday life and your character’s. In the shower you can plan the next steps of your writing and get clean at the same time!

With any luck some of the above points will help you to rediscover your inspiration. Inspiration can be tricky sometimes, but it’s never gone completely and there are plenty of ways to rediscover it.


Art by Rhianna Carr

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Kayla Gaskell is an Adelaide based writer and reviewer whose work has appeared in Empire Times, Readplus, Buzzcuts, Where’s Pluto, and now Tulpa.

 

OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES:

Part I: Finding the Time to Write

Part III: Finding Motivation