FORTY is a special anniversary collection of short stories selected from previous editions of the UTS Writers’ Anthology and not only showcases the creativity and talent of its authors but acts as a reflection of the eras in which those authors were writing. From the cigarettes, share-houses and blooming postmodernism of the early stories to the multiculturalism and social awareness of the more recent ones, each piece is a time capsule; an inherent reflection of the time in which it was written. As such, the anthology captures the history and concerns of each decade in a series of moments, hopping from youth crime and drugs featuring heavily in stories such as 'Sermon on the Mount', to an awareness of the natural world and climate change in the early 2000s in stories such as 'Song of the Many', to an exploration of sexuality in 2018 with sydney khoo’s 'I’m (Not) Lovin’ It'. And yet throughout each story within the anthology is the question of what it means to live in Australia and how this shapes who we become. Here are some of LitSoc’s favourite pieces . . .
. . . tackles a collapsing relationship and presents it to the reader from the individual perspectives of both people. It is distinct in that it encourages conflicting sympathies since readers empathise with both characters as they read each perspective, forcing the reader to consider the truth of the information they are presented with along with what may have been left out. I loved its poignancy and simplicity, presenting a heartbreaking but all-too-real scenario for the reader to grapple with.
. . . opens with two roommates discovering the dead body of their friend in their fridge and only increases in absurdity from there. Written in play form, the story follows the roommates as they try to avoid the discovery of their dead friend with the intention of avoiding an investigation that could interfere with their evening plans. Witty and unique, this play emphasises the humour in absurdity and is a refreshingly light read.
. . . provides a stream-of-consciousness, wandering narration of the destruction of both the natural and built world due to a plague of locust-like creatures. Told from the perspective of the bugs, the story is filled with a sense of impending dread as the creatures travel closer and closer to a place the reader would identify as their reality, leaving behind total destruction. It was this combination of a unique writing style and a pervasive sense of doom that made this story stand out, as the poetic and almost rhythmic phrasing contrasts create a sense of beauty in the destruction of life.
. . . this metatheatrical play follows the argument of two people as, in front of a live audience, they discuss their play and their past. This story is intriguing in that it blurs the lines between fiction and reality; a play within a play. Further, the bulk of the content appears to occur outside of what happens on stage. The characters merely discuss, in vague terms, their past and present, leaving the audience to wonder what exactly Matthew did. The play has the sense of leading up to a huge dramatic moment, building up anticipation, but cuts off just before that moment occurs, leaving the audience wondering and yet unable to receive an answer.
. . . follows the narrator’s journey of self-discovery as they experiment with their sexuality and identity. By intermingling the narrator’s personal anecdotes and factual definitions and explanations, the reader gains an understanding of the nuance of modern sexual labels. This story is representative of a time, both in literature and wider society, of developing and rapidly changing understandings of sexuality and gender as labels become more complex and nuanced to reflect the needs of individuals within our modern society. sydney khoo’s story is therefore mirrored by hundreds of millions of people worldwide as they search for their identity.
. . . establishes an eerie world in which an unnamed creature smelling of rotting seaweed hunts humanity, locating people by sensing their emotions. The reader is informed that this creature evolved from the global experience of despair and outrage Verity Borthwick saw in her own society. Most of humanity has been destroyed by this creature, and the rest have learned to live in an emotionless state. And yet, by the end of the story they decide that mere survival is not worth sacrificing joy and love, submitting to the creature voluntarily. This paints an uncomfortable and disturbing picture of an emotionless society, and yet in choosing emotion and thus death, the narrative becomes hauntingly beautiful and is not something that is easily forgotten.