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“Inelegant compromises amidst a climate that wants us gone”

Australian dark fantasy author Deborah Biancotti, guest blogging at Poe’s Deadly Daughters, confesses to something she suspects “will never be fashionable”: hating the Australian landscape.

I stopped pretending I found the landscape anything but creepy and revolting. The sweaty, swollen rainforests that threaten, in my memory, to tip into the thin wedge of playgrounds. The vast brownness of some places, the spindly silver trees, the ungenerous scrub by the sides of roads, wild grasses that whip the edges of beaches. Strange powers control those spaces. Indifferent powers.

And later, an emphatic condemnation of Dorothea Mackellar’s famous poem, ‘My Country’:

Man. Has anyone ever written a more banal poem about a more fatal place?

Marcus Clarke famously expressed a sort of pre-Lovecraftian counterpoint to the kinds of empty platitudes that would later lodge themselves in the Australian consciousness:

The Australian mountain forests are funereal, secret, stern. Their solitude is desolation. They seem to stifle, in their black gorges, a story of sullen despair. No tender sentiment is nourished in their shade. In other lands the dying year is mourned, the falling leaves drop lightly on his bier. In the Australian forests no leaves fall. The savage winds shout among the rock clefts. From the melancholy gums strips of white bark hang and rustle. The very animal life of these frowning hills is either grotesque or ghostly. Great grey kangaroos hop noiselessly over the coarse grass. Flights of white cockatoos stream out, shrieking like evil souls. The sun suddenly sinks, and the mopokes burst out into horrible peals of semi-human laughter. The natives aver that, when night comes, from out the bottomless depth of some lagoon the Bunyip rises, and, in form like monstrous sea-calf, drags his loathsome length from out the ooze.

With literary precedents like this, it’s not surprising that Australia has lately produced such excellent writers of dark fiction — what’s surprising is that it hasn’t happened sooner.