All posts by Narrelle

My Library: New Acquisitions

3 books acquired for my research

I really need to stop buying books faster than I can read them.

*pause for mad laughter*

Yeah, we know that’s never going to happen. So while we’re recovering from our hysterical mirth, let’s have a look at three of my most recent acquisitions!

The Outcasts of Melbourne

ed. Graeme Davison, David Dunstan and Chris McConville

The Outcasts of Melbourne

In February, I attended the “Marvellous Smellbourne: early Melbourne’s noxious trades” talk at Docklands Library, presented by John Lack of the Docklands History Group. He spoke about the tanneries, abattoirs and glue factories that gave Melbourne its unflattering epithet, and how the city cleaned up its filthy air and waterways. He also spoke about this book, for which he’d written about the noxious trades.

I’m reading as much as I can about 19th century Melbourne, particularly about the working classes and the era’s social history as well as contemporaneous attitudes towards queerness (rather than what we *think* went on from a 21st century perspective).

The Outcasts of Melbourne offers insights on Chinatown, crime, poverty, disease and “low life” so it should be a rich source of period detail and plot ideas!

Inventing the Victorians

Matthew Sweet

Inventing the Victorians

I found out about this book during the recent broo-haha when author Naomi Wolf discovered she’d misinterpreted data about the death sentences for men convicted of homosexual sex in the 19th century. The radio host and author who highlighted the error live on air was Matthew Sweet, an expert in the era.

I’d been considering getting Wolf’s book, Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love , partly because its claims of the number of men executed for sodomy seemed at odds with some of my other reading (notably Graham Robb’s Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century).

I’ll still get Outrages in due course – a later edition with the corrections Wolf is said to be making, having found out that ‘Death recorded’ in the old records actually didn’t mean an execution took place. However, the whole thing introduced me to Matthew Sweet, so I’ve picked up his Inventing the Victorians to see what he has to say about what the Victorians were actually like instead of what we only *think* they were like. I’m looking forward to reading what the Literary Review says “overturns cliche after cliche”.

(One thing I keep discovering in my reading is that what people think the Victorians were like has a lot more to do with film and television and narrow interpretations through current social lenses than actual social history.)

Pages Passed from Hand to Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914

ed. Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt

Pages Passed from Hand to Hand

I don’t now recall where I read of this title, but it came up in relation to all the commentary on the Matthew Sweet/Naomi Wolf commentary.

Among the things that interest me (or agitates me) is how some people like to insist that if two men or two women in the historical past had an intense relationship that ‘they were just good friends and stop trying to make everything gay you’re spoiling it la la la la I can’t hear you!’. I mean. Maybe it was intense friendship and hello, maybe they were lovers negotiating their love in a difficult time when they couldn’t openly acknowledge it, and either is a reasonable view maybe, but statistically a good number of those relationships were in fact deeper bonds and all my reading suggests quite a lot of them were, in fact, and so shush now, and stop pretending gayness never existed before people started labelling it. Shush now.

Ahem.

Pages Passed from Hand to Hand is an anthology of stories published before E.M. Forster’s seminal Maurice that contains the rich coding by which queerness was explored, hinted at, subliminally supported or otherwise threaded into writing during periods where same-sex sexual practices (and by association, same-sex affections, desires and hopes for established relationships) were under the shadow of the law.

The anthology contains stories and extracts by Herman Melville, Ambrose Bierce, Henry James, Kenneth Grahame and many others.

If nothing else, I’ll know which tomes to put subtly into the hands of my 19th century queer characters – from my interpretations of Holmes and Watson to other inhabitants of my historical fiction.

Research: The (invented) Hobart Kites

In the new Duo Ex Machina novella, Kiss and Crycurrently being serialised on my Patreon – I have my muso couple, Frank and Milo, hitting their late thirties and a bumpy patch in their relationship.

While Frank is working long hours as a producer now, Milo is burning the candle at both ends keeping his charitable foundation running. One way he’s doing that is by competing on an ice dancing show – Icing it!

One of Milo’s fellow celebrity contestants is Adam Wills, Indigenous star mid-fielder for the Hobart Kites, Tasmania’s Australian Rules Football team.

Sharp-eyed Australians will know that at present in real life, Tasmania does not have an Australian Football League (AFL) team playing in the nationals.

I decided to invent an AFL team for this story because of the kind of off-field shenanigans some of Adam’s team-mates get up to. Real life AFL is full of scandals and misbehaviour, but I felt for Kiss and Cry, it would be better if I assigned any such activity to a not-real club, so that I wouldn’t be perceived to be accusing anyone of anything.

Thus the Hobart Kites were born – the club coming from Tasmania’s capital and given a bird motif (common among the clubs). Tasmania has four kinds of native kite – a predator bird. Tassie boasts eagles and hawks as predator birds as well, but other clubs in the AFL have already adopted those as mascots. So far, no Kites are in the big league.

(The Tasmanian Devil or the Tasmanian Tiger might have worked too, but of course such obvious names are already in use by other sporting teams in Tasmania and/or those mascots are also already claimed within the AFL!)

The colours for the Hobart Kites –  green, yellow and maroon – are the state colours of Tasmania, so it made sense for the Kites jerseys to be in those hues. I’ve attempted to make a mock-up of the jersey (using a template) but please excuse my terrible Paint skills. 

Tasmania would LOVE to have an AFL team and have a website to promote it – I’ve no idea when or if it will ever happen. I honestly don’t know that much about the rules or the current AFL ladder, though I’ve been to games in the past and support the Richmond Tigers because that’s where I lived when I first moved to Melbourne (and they have the best club song!).

tl;dr – Tasmania does not currently have a team in the AFL. I invented one to use in Kiss and Cry to avoid any unpleasantness with real people and clubs and reiterate that the Hobart Kites are not based on anyone or anything in particular. 🙂 

If you want to find out more about Frank and Milo’s relationship crisis, the Icing It! dance competition or the Hobart Kites shenanigans, you can either sign up to my Patreon at the Backstage Pass level for fortnightly updates (and loads more) or wait until the novella ha run its course there and is available for sale.

In the meantime, you can look at getting the first three novellas in the Duo Ex Machina series!