I’ve just had the good fortune to spend a long weekend in Australia’s capital city. For those of you unfamiliar with Canberra, it is a well-planned city devoid of nearly all forms of street advertising, which makes it feel, at times, just a little too tidy. Possibly also because it has an abundance of architecturally designed, well…everything. As it should. It does, after all, have our Parliament House, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Botanic Gardens, National Arboretum, National Library, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, National Zoo & Aquarium, National Archives, National Museum, National Dinosaur Museum…you get the idea. Makes you wonder where it ends. The National Skatepark? National Duck Pond? Actually, that last one isn’t that far-fetched. Canberra does love its lakes. Even the round-a-bouts have lakes inside them. The city feels like it’s been built around Lake Burley Griffin, which may be why everything is so curvy.
When we arrived after the eight-hour drive from outer-Melbourne, we managed to scrounge an hour at the Museum before it closed. The Museum just happens to be running an exhibition called ‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’. Yeah, you bet I went along. And an hour was not enough. The display included paintings, sculptures, artefacts, video-based stories told by people with permission to share them, light shows and music. Such a richly woven gathering of stories from different nations across the country. And yes, those sisters managed to out-manoeuvre their randy shape-shifting pursuer all the way across the desert before escaping into the starry sky. If you want to hear about a genuine Songline journey, this exhibition is well worth negotiating all those lakes and round-a-bouts.
The other reason we drove all that way was to attend the Conflux Spec-Fiction Convention (surprisingly, not the ‘National’ one). Odyssey Books ran a dealer’s table there, and many of my fellow authors were attending as panellists or running workshops. What a privilege to be surrounded by such a diverse crowd of readers, artists, musicians and writers! The Guests of Honour, Ellen Datlow and Angela Slatter, were full of fun wisdom and very generous in the sharing of it. I had my hand up so often to ask questions that I probably should have apologised to the poor MCs trying to keep to their time limits. Much like the Songlines exhibition, there was artwork, sculptures, artefacts, video stories, music, books and other merchandise. In fact, here is a little demonstration of the parallels:
So now I’m home again, back to my squeezy schedule and trying to polish up the third instalment of the Sentinels of Eden series. Feeling inspired and awed by the wealth of creativity this world has to offer. It may not be Eden, but we still get to hear vibrant stories, both ancient and new, if we take the time to listen.