Stories & essays

Below are all my stories & essays published online – you can read these for free.

You can also pay to read my stories at Review of Australian Fiction (Lake and Amy’s twin, which is a prequel to my novella Formaldehyde) and Funny Ha Ha. My story, ‘The wrong side of history’, which includes people having their brains transplanted into kangaroos, was published in the Ticonderoga anthology Ecopunk!.

Sydney, another 2015

Sydney, another 2015, was first published on the Meanjin blog, Spike, in April 2018

She had waited three days for him to come home, and during those days she had never worried. If you haven’t done anything wrong, she reasoned, why should you have anything to fear? On the fourth day she got the Telegram. On the fifth day she went to Martin Place to leave a bouquet at his last-known place of breathing, but the Brave Digger there moved her on. Poppies only, he told her, and she looked down at the cluster of pink-grey proteas—he’d always loved proteas, like plump galahs he said—clutching them silently amid the sea of red. Read more

One plot, at most

One plot, at most, an essay on the Australian short story, was first published in Overland in April 2018

The other day I was trying to write a short story. While procrastinating, I googled ‘How to write a short story?’ The search yielded 1.75 million results, the first being ‘How to write an amazing short story’. This article’s number-one tip was to ‘know what a short story is’, and the author even provided a helpful definition: a short story is just like a story, but short. It shouldn’t be a novel, the article advised, and it should have limited characters. (I assume numerically, but perhaps psychologically. Then I tried to think of a story that had unlimited characters. Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate came close, but not quite. I concluded that on this basis, all stories are short stories.) ‘Keep it to 3000 words’ was another suggestion. The article went on to urge budding authors to ‘use everyday occurrences to inspire your short stories’. I realised I may have found the perfect guide to writing an archetypal Australian short story. Read more

Lunch with Julie Koh

Lunch with Julie Koh, which might be a story or an essay, was first published in Overland in October 2017

‘Have you read my book?’

It’s the first thing Julie Koh asks me as she takes a seat in the cosy booth I’ve reserved for us at the exclusive Pancake Parlour in Bourke Street Mall.

Koh looks stunning, as always. She’s wearing a close-fitting pantsuit with fabric custom-made to match the texture of the cover stock from her groundbreaking anthology, BooksActually’s Gold Standard.

Koh slips off her hand-embroidered ‘Julie Koh’s Portable Curiosities’ satin bomber jacket – ‘I know the most darling designer in Mosman – did I tell you I’ve moved to Mosman?’ – and reaches for the menu. Read more

The unwild world

The unwild world, a tiny essay, was first published by Seizure in December 2016

The way it feels, sitting in the library courtyard, and seeing a baby sparrow at your feet, scavenging the crumbs from your crusty roll. The way it feels when a cat, perched on a fence on your way to work, doesn’t flee but instead rubs its head against your hand. When a water dragon tries to steal your lamington outside the Gallery of Modern Art. When a tiny silver-eye crashes into your lounge-room window, breaking its neck, and you cradle its still-warm body, bones full of air. When a hundred seagulls glide high over your house at sunset. When you stand a little too long, looking at the bones and intestines of a dead rat on the railway station platform.  When a ring tail possum totters along a power line above your head as you walk moonlit home from the pub. When a praying mantis looms from a fresh-picked, vase-stuffed bouquet. Read more

The last idea

The last idea was first published by Slink Chunk Press in May 2016

The hurricane lantern was flickering more than usual. She checked the gas line but everything seemed fine. Oh blimey, she thought, not the mantle. Last time she’d had to ransack the outdoor shop in town it had been a two-day round trip. ‘Don’t be the mantle, don’t be the mantle…’ At least it wasn’t getting worse. She picked up her pen. Read more

 The reference

The reference was first published by Tincture in December 2015, and is now available free. This issue also includes an incredible story by Adam Ouston.

He made up his mind: if no one answered by the tenth ring he’d just hang up.
“Hello?”
“Um. Hi. Yes, hello.” He took a breath, tried to deepen his voice. “Is that Jim Czenovic?”
“Speaking.”
“Hello Mr Czenovic. My name is …” he paused, looked at the slip of paper he was crushing in his hand, then made his best guess at a European accent, “Vaughan Ramirez. I’m calling from Agate Recruitment. We’re reviewing references for a Mr Michael Jamieson. Mr Jamieson tells us he worked for you in 2011; is that correct?”
“Sorry, who did you say it was?”
“Vaughan,” he looked again at the paper, “Ramirez. Agate Recruiting. I’m doing a reference check, Mister Czenovic.” Read more

Rhetoric – Bob Brown

Bob Brown was first published in the Seizure – Rhetoric project.

Are you OK? Is everyone OK back there? Alright then, let’s rest here awhile.

First, I want to thank all of you – my fellow Earthians – for being here with me today. You’ve come so far, achieved so much, to be here this afternoon. To the survivors of last summer’s Victorian holocaust, I salute you. Those who made it here after Sydney was cut off from food supplies, who escaped the slaughter of Surry Hills, I can only imagine the horrors you have seen. And the orphans whose parents sacrificed everything to get them here as Brisbane went under, I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for you. All of you have contributed so much to our little community, and I thank you all for your self-sufficiency, your resilience and your undimmed hope. Read more

Don’t mention the war

Don’t mention the war, an essay about Anzac Day, was first published in Overland online in April 2015

For some time, ANZAC Day celebrations have kept the realities of war at arm’s length. Indeed, aside from during the Dawn Service, war barely gets a look in at all. Instead, on ANZAC Day we are encouraged to celebrate the ANZAC spirit.

The Australian War Memorial tells us ‘there is general consensus on what is regarded as the ANZAC spirit.’ It ‘came to stand for the qualities which Australians have seen their forces show in war.’ A complex bundle of qualities, then, you might think, but also much the same as the qualities shown by other forces in war. Bravery might be part of the package and maybe anger, frustration, terror, disabling boredom, loneliness, discomfort, hatred, love, selfishness, selflessness, initiative, blind obedience, wit and stupidity. But actually, no; the War Memorial goes on to tell us that the qualities which make up the ANZAC spirit are ‘courage, ingenuity, good humour and mateship’ and not any of that other stuff. More recently, sacrifice seems to have become part of the mantra: a recent update to the War Memorial’s site about this year’s commemorations says the ANZAC spirit is made up of ‘human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice.’ Read more

We saw the same sky

We saw the same sky was first published in Overland 218, Autumn 2015.

‘You are not going to make it to Australia,’ the Minister had told the Clients. ‘Not even in your dreams.’

The Bureaucrat watched her reflection in the mirrored window. Her colleagues’ screens flickered blue-green. Coffee cups clinked against glasses and papers rustled as her desk-mates packed up for the night. The hum of the fluorescent tube above her head had almost become inaudible. She clicked it off. Glimmers of faraway screens, islands in the dark, were picked out across the mirrored window. She pressed her face against the glass so she could see outside. Read more

 

Iridescence – clarity

‘Please,’ Sal begged.

‘Mate.’ Iri was only half listening now – he had accounts to check. ‘I already told you we don’t do replacements.’

‘But I…’

He cut her off. ‘You got the spiel when you came in for the removal. This is a one-way procedure. Once it’s off we can’t put it back. You should’ve done your research.’ He looked up, then wished he hadn’t when he saw Sal’s look of utter despair. His voice softened ‘It’s a serious procedure, Sal. That’s why we make you wait a week. I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do now.’ He pushed the cut-glass tray of mints over the counter and went back to his accounts. Read more

 

In Registry

In Registry was first published by Sleepers in 2009 in the collection Sleepers Almanac 5.

‘Did I tell you about the time everyone on my train was reading the same book?’ I said, but Steve wasn’t listening.

‘I said,’ I said, and he told me he heard what I said but that there was never a time when everyone on my train was reading the same book, and he was sick of hearing about my imaginary stories. Read more

 

Instructions for an installation

Instructions for an installation was first published by Cardigan Press in 2003, in the collection ‘Normal service will resume’.

Now

‘Here,’ he told me. ‘These are the taste buds for fear. These ones taste jasmine when it’s cold outside but the flowers think it’s warm. These ones are for the times while you wait for your friends to finish saying their goodbyes; the times you know the bus is coming but they just don’t care enough to wind up, to say “Hey, I’ve got to go. The bus is coming.” These ones taste oily grit under your fingernails when you’re looking in the bottom of your bag for 50 cents, but can only find 10. They taste what it’s like when the phone is there in front of you and all you have is the weight of 10 cents in your hand.’ Read more

 

A dynasty of square standers

A dynasty of square standers was first published by Vignette Press/Mini Shots in 2008. It later morphed into the novel, A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists.

We set fire to the shrivelled Christmas tree and we squat by the edge of the basketball court to watch it burn. It’s starting to rain so I turn my collar up to stop the water dripping down my neck. From a pub behind us I can hear football – it’s getting colder and I guess cricket season must be over by now. Read more

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