Thursday night, Luscious and I had dinner with the wonderful Glenda Larke, who has recently moved back to Western Australia after umpty million years overseas, and the equally lovely Donna Maree Hanson, who was over for this year’s Romance Writers of Australia symposium and who we haven’t seen in something like 7 years, which is verging on ridiculous.
Amidst a night of laughs, Glenda’s excellent cooking, delightful conversation and more laughs, we spent a short period discussing some of our favourite Australian authors, and some of our favourite Australian short stories, and how one did not necessarily match seamlessly with the other.
So, for kicks, I’ve decided to create an anthology of the mind: It Could Be You: Battersby’s Favourite Australian SF Stories. A bunch of my favourite Australian SF stories, by some of my favourite authors, and some of my favourite Australian SF stories written by people I would cross the street to avoid but who are bloody magicians on paper.
I’ll leave you to decide which is which 🙂
First up, the titular entry.
It Could be You
by Frank Roberts.
I’ve talked about this story before. First published in the early 60s in (from memory, I can’t find an accurate reference) F&SF, it’s a scathing and brutal rebuttal of the television culture that finds more reality and worth in game shows than in the interpersonal relationships that form the backdrop to relentless televisual intrusion into our privacy, both mental and physical. Everyman hero Earl Kramer is relentlessly hunted throughout his day by television cameras, as the eponymous and all-pervasive game show ‘It Could Be You’ slowly and inevitably closes in on him as he goes about his daily life. The ending is stunning: a moment of cynicism and heartbreaking realism that hits me between the eyes every single time I read it.
I found this story in an anthology given to me by my parents for my 9th birthday, and it was a life-changing moment. I didn’t know about being an author, didn’t understand the way the literary world worked and moreover, had no real idea of the role of narrative in everyday culture. But the person who finished the story was not the person who started reading it: I didn’t know how, or really make any conscious decision to set out to become an author, but I did know that I wanted to do to others whatever it was the author of that story had done to me.
I know almost nothing about Frank Roberts, other than he wrote for ‘The Bulletin’. But he lies at the very heart of my karass. What’s more, the story is as brilliant and relevant today as it was in 1962, and 1979.