Seen and unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific
Influencing this collection of 29 short stories, Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from Asia and the Pacific, is an acceptance that interactions with people from our own culture are generally tangible and familiar. By contrast, when beyond our immediate culture things change. Now meaning and understanding must often be negotiated in intangible, non-rational and unseen ways. Foucault’s notion of the third space has influenced this work. Another influence is the Balinese belief that reality is an interaction of Sekala (The Seen) and Niskala (The Unseen).
Precisely what comprises the unseen realm varies throughout the region. What might be understood as mere micro ecology, in the developed world, can have spiritual explanations in some Asian and Pacific cultures. In rational secular society people commonly eschew magic as mythology or superstition, yet in parts of Asia and the Pacific what might be seen as myths and misconceptions can possess the power of reality.
The unseen world is explored in another sense as well, within the political domain. Central to the Howard Doctrine, was a type of Ptolemaic system comprising several basic assumptions that could only be held as reality if one ignored the elephant in the room. This rapidly unravelled for me following the Bali Bombings of 2002. Fortunately, in this introspective space many of my stories crystallised.
The journey in 1914 with Sid Thompson and D Company, a tale inspired by the little known ANMEF sent to capture New Guinea from Germany. While easily defeating the enemy unseen forces took an enormous toll. Sid Thompson also appears in Red Poppies and Janur.
Several stories address changing Australian views of Japan through the encounters of ordinary people. Joss Sticks and Cracker Night and An Encounter with White Australia reveal Asian influences in Anglo-Australia of the 1950s. First Landfall and The Sublime to the Horrific chronicle my own first bumbling attempts at being in Asia. Some 15 stories are set over an 18-year period in Indonesia from the comfort of urban to life to that of forest people yet to develop the habit of money. These begin with tales about engaging with manifest cultural differences and lead into matters of more global significance. Campaign and The General Election take two Australians and Indonesian friends through a transition to democracy. An Unusual Kind Of Thunder and In The Charnel House deal directly with the Bali Bombings of 2002 while My Second Meeting With Jonathan unfolds in its aftermath. Singapore 43 years On is about returning to Singapore, a city transformed. Vietnam A War Revisited is a story of the anti-war movement and the draft told retrospectively from Hanoi. Finally, Sid Thompson returns in the more metaphysical tale Headland. The basic and enduring interplay of the seen and the unseen worlds is of great significance to those of us from Australia, the land that’s girt by sea. While we might choose not to see, to look inwards and to rejoice in the notion that our land abounds in nature’s gifts, regional and planetary systems are unfettered by such introspective cultural constructions.
Sid Thompson and D Company
Red Poppies and Janur
Camphor Silk and Ivory
Made in Japan
Joss Sticks and Cracker Night
An Encounter with White Australia
Surviving the Sixties
From the Sublime to the Horrific
The Thief and the Angels
Magic, Polygamy and Triangles
Beyond Bhoma’s Powers
Balikpapan: Looking Backwards and Forwards
The River Guide
Siberut and the Simple Life
The Pig and the Cockfight
Kanda Empat: The Four Siblings
A Day of Departures
Kampanye – The Campaign Procession
Pemilihan Umum – The General Election
An Unusual Kind of Thunder
In the Charnel House
Baby Boomers and Japan
My Second Meeting with Jonathan
Singapore 43 Years on
Vietnam: A War Revisited
Get your copy
Interactive Publications, Glass House Books – text
Google Play – text and audio
Amazon – Kindle and Paperback
Beyond Borders: Conversations across boundaries
“Beyond Borders is a collection of short stories, a work of creative non-fiction, and largely memoir. It concludes as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, a time when borders are tighter in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Set in Australia and Asia the stories begin in 2002, long after my childhood, with Iniquity Shall Abound. This is a reflection on the experience of children in Australian immigration detention. I chose to lead with this story because the children who speak from it had lives that contrasted starkly with the freedom of my childhood, explored in the next story Seventy Years On.
From this point, the collection follows a chronology through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The stories do cross temporal borders so this is not a linear chronology.
Rather than produce a simple printed book I decided to create a multimedia work. My sense is that books, as I’ve known them, are no longer the only option. So, this book combines text, photo galleries, free-standing images, video, a little music, and the audio version of each story. Beyond this work is a dedicated platform of additional content, accessible from a link on the on the last page of the book.
Borders have long been with us though for numerous reasons are not always easy to discern, their locations and porosity varying over time. Leaving Australia in 1972, bound for Singapore, I travelled first from Sydney to Perth, a journey that crossed as many as twenty-six ancient borders within Australia. It took me years to realise this.
Just as there are physical borders there are also temporal and disciplinary borders. This work aims to step beyond these and offer a conversation across such boundaries.”
Iniquity Shall Abound
Seventy Years On
Bay of Debris
Unravelling Crossie’s Past
A Prelude to War
We Don’t Want War
Darkest Before the Dawn
Can You Help Me?
A Sergeant’s Progress
Ancient Belonging Places
Memories of Fires Past
A Morning by a River
A Departure for Timor L’Este
A New Era
A Journey to Jakarta Dois
Beyond the Geomorphic
Tarzan in Tights
Get your copy
Apple Books – full multimedia version
Google Play – text and audio
Amazon – Kindle
From this blog – pdf
The Google Play, Kindle and text only versions of the book link to the multimedia resources published in the Apple Books version