Thursday, 26 February 2015

Australian science fiction: Venture Journal & Nuclear Realism, 1957.

Three science fiction styled pieces of poetry, prose, and fiction from Venture, the Journal of Society of Realist Writers (from the collection of the SLV); ‘Automatic Progress’ by ‘Y.S.’, ‘Meditations of the Jovial Young Historian’ by Laurence Collinson, and ‘Pioneer Stock’ by Hilary Richmond. These were all taken from the seventh issue of Venture (October 1957), published from the suitably realist base of Altona in Melbourne. The Realist Writers’ Group were a group of politically committed nonconformist writers who were responsible for establishing Overland (among other activities). Their stance could be described as largely Communist, likely socialist - see also the Realist Film Unit. 

(8 McBain Street, Altona, 1950's prefab)

The first is a poem by 'Y.S.' on ultramodern alienation and proto-cybernetic dread. The other two are dystopic/imaginative takes on Peace Movement themes. Laurence Collinson's prose piece is twisted radiation recollections while Hilary Richmond’s short story is strangely claustrophobic; a felt-like domestic death-bed drama channeled through a speculative prism of a normalised post-disaster/trauma living-scape. The interior emphasis and implied scenarios of ‘Pioneer Stock’ align closer to later styles of science fiction writing in Australia than the prevailing space opera/extraterrestrial hostility tropes otherwise in vogue in Australia at the time. Though of course Melbourne itself was associated with the major piece of nuclear realism in Nevile Shutes’ 'On The Beach'. I’ve never actually watched the movie/read the book, perhaps an aversion to Gregory Peck?

‘Automatic Progress’ by ‘Y.S.’

‘Meditations of the Jovial Young Historian’ by Laurence Collinson

‘Pioneer Stock’ by Hilary Richmond

Collision was involved in establishing student magazine Barjai in the 1940's in Brisbane and was later connected with Barrett Reid (Heide & Contemporary Art Society etc.) and the Eltham scene and Overland, further information available here and here. Richmond was a New Zealander who had migrated across the channel. There is some information on Richmond detailed by Ian Syson in Hecate in 1993 (‘The problem was finding the time’ Working class women’s writing in Australasia’ v. 19, i. 2). Syson notes;

Her son Mark Richmond, in a letter to me dated 11 June 1993 (the first piece of biography on Hilary Richmond I have been able to obtain), revealed that she was domiciled in Australia at the time of publication. While he remembers her writing a great deal of material, including a lost manuscript of a novel, this story (My Realist Writing," Overland 7 (1956)) "is the only piece [he knows] of in print." He claims that his mother led an active life in the labour movement in both New Zealand and Australia and that "she saw her chosen vein of writing as an organic part, both product and instrument, of her political activism and ideological commitment, rather than as a conflicting impulse." Unfortunately, Hilary Richmond died an untimely death in New Zealand in 1962 after a stroke.”

 There is a slightly redacted copy of John McLaren’s ’Writing in Hope and Fear: Literature as Politics in Postwar Australia’ (Cambridge U.P., 1996) available online that chronicles the history/context of the Realist Writers’ Group for those inclined. McLaren writes that the Journal of the Realist Writers Group was incorporated into Overland in 1954 so I’m unsure if Venture was a new publication in response to political fractures between members and within parties (which ensnared Overland) or pre-dated its establishment.

1 comment:

KateBannet said...

When you are new to university study, the amount of reading you are expected to do can be daunting. However, you can learn how to prepare yourself in advance and find ways to make the going easier. What appears to be an impossible task (tackling all that text) becomes possible when you start becoming an active reader; that is, asking questions about what you need to find out, taking a strategic and critical approach, and then selecting readings that relate to your questions and tasks