Just in is the next beautiful hardcover volume in editor (and academic) Danel Olson’s Exotic Gothic series of anthologies: Exotic Gothic 3: Strange Visitations (Ash-Tree Press, 2009). The Exotic Gothic anthologies, which deliberately seek out new work that pushes the boundaries of the Gothic literary tradition — particularly geographical boundaries — collected writing from right around the world that set its ghostly storytelling in places and utilising mindsets that may be considered exotic in their gothicness. Exotic Gothic 2, which was deservedly nominated in the 2008 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Anthology, included my noirish, supernatural outback tale “Kulpunya”: murder, vengeful ghosts, a giant dingo monster and all.
This third volume includes what amounts to a zombie tale set in the future — but not zombies of the cannibal apocalypse ilk. This one is a pseudo-scientific, technologically-driven offshoot of Haitian-style reanimation of the dead (or at least the mythic aspects of it), called “Behind Dark Blue Eyes” (and yes, for anyone familiar with The Who’s opus, that is a reference to one of the band’s quieter, more poignant songs). The story takes place in the context of Australian national politics. Is that exotic enough?
Here’s how it begins:
Like the rest of the press gallery I hadn’t been taking much notice of the Prime Minister’s address. It had been a long hot February sitting in Canberra, and we still hadn’t seen the introduction of the much-anticipated Corporate Representation Bill.
This was the bill, which, if passed through both Houses, would institutionalize big-business suffrage, finally giving corporations the right to purchase citizens’ votes put up for auction. That’s what we were there for, day after day. But in his usual manner, Titus Mulholland was keeping us waiting.
He’d always been a relentless speaker, equally at home with incisive political comment and prolix ranting. In either mode he was unstoppable, a demagogue who wouldn’t pause in the middle of a speech even if Parliament House were burning down. So when, right in the thick of some economic mudslinging, Mulholland shut up and looked blank, we all snapped to attention. ‘What’s the matter with the old bastard?’ Grace Everly from the Telegraph said to me. I shrugged. There was an odd expression on his face — not pre-occupation, not temporary unconsciousness, but sheer deadness. I’d have proclaimed him deceased there and then, except he hadn’t fallen over.
‘You think he’s had a stroke?’ I suggested.
‘Can strokes hit you like that?’ Grace said.
‘Like his puppetmaster got distracted and dropped the strings.’
After a moment or two, Mulholland snapped out of it and continued his speech to its end. No fuss, just a continuation. Within a few hours a press release from his Parliamentary Secretary appeared, denying the existence of any mental or physical problems. It stated that the PM had simply paused to consider important matters. Working an idea through, that’s all. I for one didn’t believe it. During his curious hiatus, Mulholland’s mind hadn’t been working through anything. It had been completely, and coldly, inoperative.
I was chuffed, I admit, when I heard from the editor that “Behind Dark Blue Eyes” was a favourite of both his and the publishers and would open the anthology. It’s these simple things that make writers happy.
While I haven’t read the rest of the book yet, it’s patently a great line-up, with (on my estimation) four or five top Australian writers included. Seeing Stephen Volk’s name there sent anticipatory chills up my spine, too. Volk is responsible for two of my all-time favourite TV shows: the one-off, pseudo-documentary Ghostwatch (1992) and the brilliant — and by far most dramatically convincing and horrific paranormal “medium” series ever — Afterlife (2005/6). He also wrote the screenplay of Gothic, Ken Russell’s bizarre take on the origins of Mary Shelley’s most famous tale.
Oceania and Australasia
- ‘Behind Dark Blue Eyes’ by Robert Hood
- ‘Sanguma’ by Lucy Taylor
- ‘The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall’ by Kaaron Warren
- ‘Bruhita’ by Dean Francis Alfar
- ‘Two Steps Along the Road’ by Terry Dowling
- ‘The Suicide Wood’ by Steve Duffy
- ‘Keramat’ by Tunku Halim
- ‘Extended Family’ by Tina Rath
- ‘From the Lips of Lazarus’ by Stephen Volk
- ‘Mine’ by Simon Clark
- ‘Mami Wata’ by Simon Kurt Unsworth
- ‘The Stranger’ by Isobelle Carmody
- ‘The Orange & Lemon Café’ by Dejana Dimitrijevic
- ‘Profanities’ by Paul Finch
- ‘To Forget and Be Forgotten’ by Adam L. G. Nevill
- ‘Meeting with Mike’ by Reggie Oliver
- From Paper Theater by Milorad Pavic
- ‘Citizen Komarova Finds Love’ by Ekaterina Sedia
- From Amarcord by Zoran Zivkovic
- From Freak House by James Cortese
- ‘The Dismal Mirror’ by Brian Evenson
- ‘The Haunted House in Etobicoke’ by Barbara Roden
- From Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem
You can order the book direct from the publisher, or through booksellers.