Euro-Colony fantasy (was Re: Dart-Thornton (was Australian Fantasy))

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at
Wed Jun 26 01:06:29 EDT 2002

--- Kathleen Jennings <s368333 at>

> There are also some books and I want to say they're
> by Gary Crew but they're
> probably not. I'm not sure whether they're fantasy
> or horror. The remains of
> a colonial-era shipwreck, severed hand (with a
> ring?), the skeleton of a
> lizard, mandrakes, min-min lights. Mixed the
> Australian
> landscape/climate/history with the cultural
> heritage. Freaked me out at the
> time.

Gary Crew's "Strange objects" which is inspired by the
wreck of the Batavia perhaps, I think that had the
hand. mandrakes are perhaps from another novel of the
same era on a diferent shipwreck (the "Loch Aird")
David MacRobbie's "Mandragora". The only novel I can
think of with min-min lights is one called "the
Min-min" which has been around for quite a while
(1960s?) I can't recall the author - Mavis Thorpe
Clarke perhaps. (just checked - it was)

> They tap into some of the
> essential wierdness of the environment (wierd to our
> eyes, at least). .......... (None of
> this helped by the certain
> knowledge of snakes and red-backs and the fact we
> had an outdoor toilet
> (i.e. thunderbox) until I was 15).
> Oh, we have the stories now, all right. We just
> haven't had the time to get
> comfortable with them! There's something of the
> horror of the
> not-quite-known in old European folktales, but their
> fantasy can afford to
> be a lot more light-hearted. I think we still live
> in an imaginative
> dark-ages - and the imagination works overtime in
> the dark.

Lets face it the Australian bush is a pretty scary
place, and children who grew up in the bush even if
the are allowed to go off running through it quite
freely still have parents who warn us about its
inhabitants. We have many of the worlds most deadly
snakes (10 of the most dangerous 14 in the world or
something according to that great expert Terry
Pratchett :-) ) the worlds deadliest spider, with the
potentally lethal Redback (what Americans call the
Black widow) seen as almost friendly in comparison.
Our seas are teeming with sharks except where more
dangerous creatures like blue ringed octopuses and box
jellyfish keep them in check. Crocodiles, the dingoes
are always eating children and there are some bloody
big lizards and ants almost as big. Add to this a
landscape that is either in drought (and probably on
fire) or flooded, and even without the weather harsh
enough for children to be always getting lost in (and
to add injury to insult every plant seems to scratch
or prickle). The Blue Mountains of NSW where i grew up
are not very high but they are very rugged. We often
had to travel miles (as we measured things in those
days) through the bush just to get to the other side
of a gully, ending up only 100 metres away from where
we started. When i was about 20 the body of a little
girl who had been murdered 10 years earlier was found
in area of bush I'd often played in. I had been part
of the search parties that had looked for her after
she disapeared, and I later discovered, had been in
the same class at school as her murderer. I think this
is why "Picnic at hanging rock" works so well, the
rocks don't need faces - the Australian bush can be a
scary place. It is an untamed landscape - and very

Jon Noble

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