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Please note: the conference is in BUILDING 2 on the UC Bruce campus. 
Watch this space for information updates. 

DAILY FORECAST (care of Describing Things in Canberra):  

Wednesday Canberra weather: regardless of any thing Neil Finn may have said, you don’t really have your own personal weather bubble. You can easily test this by travelling from the Woden Valley to the northside on foggy morning. Or getting on a plane in December and flying to Helsinki.

So those of you who are in Canberra today will probably experience much the same weather as each other. Warm to hot and slighty sticky. The weather equivalent of spilling cocoa on your new trousers.

Chemical interventions such as deodorant, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and anti-histamines are strongly indicated. Consider long before you commit to opaque tights, however hairy your legs are. Once the sun is over the yard arm, applications of gin and tonic may be beneficial.



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Wednesday, November 30 • 10:00am - 11:00am
Considering the Future :: 2A12

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Lisa Dowdall: Unknowing

Unknowing is a fictocritical piece combining science fiction and essay to explore how ecological crisis necessitates new modes of story-telling. It is an experiment in writing the Chthulucene – a term coined by Donna Haraway that captures “real and possible timespaces” (160), borrowing from Lovecraftian horror to evoke the global, tentacular systems of inter-species being and becoming in the context of climate crisis, species loss and natural disaster.
      This piece appropriates the work of science fiction/weird writers China Miéville and Jeff Vandermeer to put forward some embryonic ideas on thinking, feeling and knowing in the Anthropocene, taking vegetal life as a powerful actor in worlds of mutual transformation between humans and non-humans. It therefore steals now only from existing literary practice but also the semiotic processes of plants themselves to suggest a way of recognising the subjectivities of autopoietic lifeforms within living systems of exchange.
      Informed by recent work in plant intelligence and new theories of posthumanism that call for a “flow of relations with multiple others” (Braidotti 50), Unknowing evokes the constantly evolving affiliations and assemblages that characterise vegetal life, especially within periods of planetary flux. It is a preliminary work that hopes to contribute to discussion of the role of weird, monstrous and fabulist writing in response to environmental crisis. 

Thom Conroy: A Slow Fake Song

As Jeremy Hawthorn and Jakob Lothe acknowledge in their introduction to an edited 2013 collection on the topic, the very mention of the term ‘narrative ethics’ ‘carries with it . . . a certain ideological charge’ (1). This charge signals a turn away from the assumptions—if not the tools—of the literary theories of structuralism and poststructuralism, and toward a contemporary discourse returning us to earlier notions of literature as an essentially ethical project. The new turn, or return, to ethics may be distinguished by its figuration as a rhetorically-constructed encounter or relationship between an author, the form of the narrative, and a reader. Conceiving of the reading experience as an ‘encounter’ shifts our conception from reading the ethical content of a work toward reading our encounter with that work.
     Lorrie’s Moore’s short story ‘People Like That are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Oink’ stands out as a text in which the readerly encounter is dominated by the ethical claims of the narrative. It may be more accurate to say that ‘People Like That are the Only People Here’ is a story built across what I might call ‘zones of narrative ethical ambiguity’: Moore’s story is told in a precarious and ethically-charged boundary space between fiction and non-fiction; art and reality; and narrative and the limits of narrative. The exceptional position of such a text makes equally exceptional ethical claims on its readers, and in this paper I work through attempts to negotiate these claims. 

Jason Nahrung: Stolen Futures: the Anthropocene in Australian SF mosaic novels
Commentators such as Naomi Klein (2016) and Kim Stanley Robinson (2016) have warned that a failure now to adequately address anthropogenic climate change is an act of intergenerational theft. So great are these man-made impacts the term Anthropocene has been suggested to delineate a new epoch in the planet’s history. Australian writers are using science fiction and cli-fi, or climate fiction, to examine possible conditions faced by future generations that reflect on our current approach to the phenomenon. This paper argues that the mosaic novel, in concert with a science-fiction approach, is particularly well suited to this task in its use of interlinked short stories as a reflection of the complex elements of global climate change. My mosaic novel, “Watermarks”, being written as part of my PhD in creative writing, is set in near-future Brisbane. It draws attention to what has been identified as a relatively neglected topic in climate fiction: mitigation (Clode and Stasiak, 2014; Jordan, 2014). “Watermarks” uses a bricolage method in its construction, which also has resonance for the amorphous, interwoven aspects of anthropogenic climate change. The book adds to the small canon of other Australian writers who have used the science fictional mosaic to present visions of future life in the Anthropocene: Sue Isle’s Nightsiders (2011); James Bradley’s Clade (2015); and Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming (2009).

Susan Presto: Poethics – taking responsibility for the unknowability

Is creativity a way to take control of chaos? In creating, the artist takes a chance on an uncertain outcome: a risk for something important, a need to express a view of the chaos of life, to make sense of the nonsensical. Considering how real life muddies the logic of ethical analysis, any attempt at recreating reality must take responsibility for reality’s unknowability.

Writing poethically must therefore acknowledge that ‘real’ is not an uncontested attribute, and reality is about individual conception. This ideal must also be tempered by a consideration of the one unchanging element, human nature.

avatar for Chantelle Bayes

Chantelle Bayes

Chantelle Bayes has recently submitted her creative writing PhD exploring nature/culture relationships in fiction about cities. 


Thom Conroy

Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing, Massey University
Thom Conroy teaches Creative Writing at Massey University. The Salted Air, his second novel, was published in 2016 (Penguin-Random House). The Naturalist, a historical novel featuring the German scientist Ernst Dieffenbach’s 1839 visit to New Zealand, was published in 2014 (Penguin-Random House). His short fiction has appeared in a variety of journals in the United States and New Zealand, including New England Review, Alaska Quarterly... Read More →

Lisa Dowdall

University of New South Wales
Lisa Dowdall recently submitted her PhD in Creative Practice at the University of New South Wales. Her fantasy novel, Impossible Things, imagines magic as a non-renewable resource, while her dissertation explores postcolonial women’s science fiction/fantasy. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Paradoxa, Spineless Wonders and Global Media Journal. 
avatar for Jason Nahrung

Jason Nahrung

University of Queensland
Jason Nahrung, a Ballarat-based journalist, editor and writer, is undertaking a PhD in creative writing at The University of Queensland. His MA in creative writing from QUT explored Australian vampire Gothic. While he writes across the gamut of speculative fiction, all four of his novels and most of his 20-odd short stories lean towards the dark side.
avatar for Susan Presto

Susan Presto

The Southport School
Currently working on my PhD in creativity and on year thirteen as an Senior English teacher at The Southport School on the Gold Coast. A background in film making and as a chef on private yachts has enhanced a lifelong engagement with creativity in all forms.

Wednesday November 30, 2016 10:00am - 11:00am
2A12 Building 2, UC

Attendees (6)