'Seeing Is Believing: Science, Spirituality and Silliness in “I Origins”', by Mel Campbell

A still from I Origins.

Mike Cahill’s loopy sci-fi fantasy I Origins plays with the double function of the human eye: at once our primary organ of judgment, with which we verify our experiences, and the ‘window to the soul’, symbol of our essential selves. We can study their structure, Cahill suggests, but holding someone’s gaze can also forge a mystic connection that evades logical explanations.

As a graduate student, molecular biologist Ian (Michael Pitt) is researching the evolutionary development of the human eye, along with his housemate Kenny (Steven Yeun). Initially dismissive of his new lab partner Karen (Brit Marling, reunited with Cahill after 2011’s Another Earth), Ian comes to admire her unexpected resourcefulness and tenacity.

Ian’s work is also his hobby; he photographs the irises of everyone he meets. At a Halloween party (Ian is the kind of guy who wears his lab coat as a costume), he photographs and briefly fucks an attractive masked woman. Afterwards, he fixates on her unusual irises and tracks her down. She is Sofi (Astrid Bregès-Frisbey), a free-spirited young model who believes she has otherworldly powers of perception.

Read More

'Flab and Excess: On Women, Writing, and the Publishing Industry', by Jessica Yu

'Sleeping Venus', by Giorgione, 1508-1510. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

“Short stories should be lean and clean. Taut and muscular. That’s the whole point of them.” My first year creative writing tutor chopped the air with his hand as he emphasised each adjective. I wrote his comment down in my notebook. It wouldn’t be the last time I heard that old creative writing maxim.

Three years later, I find that my creative writing classes have indoctrinated me. I am suspicious of adjectives and adverbs and think of them as “flab” and “excess,” thinking better of nouns and verbs, which I describe using words like “muscle” and “control.”

Recently, I have started to realise that this way of teaching and thinking about creative writing implicitly genders “good” and “bad” writing. We describe “bad” writing in language which recalls the monstrous excesses of the classical female form and “good” writing in terms of the controlled tautness of the ideal male figure. Somewhere in my mind I know that whenever my writing is economical, I can congratulate myself on having successfully imitated a “male” voice, masqueraded as a male body for a moment. And whenever it is wasteful, I am afraid that I have in some way flaunted my own femaleness, failed to safeguard my writing from the spillages of my own body. I wonder, too, what this surreptitiously gendered language has to say about the way we read, interpret and market female writers and their work.

Read More

Out Now! The Lifted Brow: Digital, Volume Thirteen, Issue One: The Noise Edition

Cover art by Jr.Blue/LashnaTuschewski.

That ringing in your ears you’ve been noticing lately is brought to you by none other than the brand-new Noise Edition of The Lifted Brow: Digital.

In this issue: new fiction by Adam Ouston; Emily Stewart writes Beyoncé-remix-poetry; Michael Skinner pours one out for the Silver Jews; Andrew Harper reveals the secrets of drone; noise recommendations by Pat O’Brien and Lisa MacKinney; and Rainbow Chan presents a mixtape for a horizontal state.

Let’s make some noise for our contributors:

  • Michael Skinner is a Melbourne musician and sometimes writer.
  • Pat O’Brien presents O’Tomorrow on 3RRR in Melbourne, Australia. He plays guitar in Mad Nanna, Bearded Iris and Galah Galah Galah.
  • Lisa MacKinney is a musician and historian who wrote a PhD on the Shangri-Las. Her solo guitar/organ noise project is Mystic Eyes. She is part of the Listen collective.
  • Adam Ouston is a writer of fiction and non-fiction whose work has appeared in Island, Overland, Southerly, The Lifted Brow, The Review of Australian Fiction, Voiceworks and Crikey. He has recently completed a PhD on the travel writing of Robert Dessaix and has contributed a story to the forthcoming anthology Transportation: Islands and Cities.
  • Emily Stewart is commissioning editor of Seizure. Her poetry has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Filmme Fatales, Feminartsy, Overland and The Age.
  • Andrew Harper is a writer and experimental artist from Hobart who performs under the name Mutterlard. His work has been published in Island Magazine. He works in community health and is a very happy, if overwhelmed, father.
  • Rainbow Chan is a Sydney-based singer/producer with a love for storytelling. Whether stitching together childhood dreams, rummaging through antique fairs or sampling odd sounds, Rainbow is constantly collecting bits and pieces for her music. An eclectic mix of vintage tones, sweet textural landscapes and layers of glitchy sounds, Rainbow Chan’s music is forward-thinking pop, embedded in the nostalgic imagination.
  • Cover art by Lashna Tuschewski, an artist working in illustration, embroidery, collage, hand made jewellery, and ceramics.

The Lifted Brow: Digital is available on your preferred iOS device – get the app now.

'Life, Death and The Apocalypse', by Shaun Prescott

Illustration by Ben Juers.

The apocalypse is one of the most enduring settings in video games. It’s right up there with high fantasy, space opera, and military warfare in its ubiquity. It verges on an obsession, and dovetails with another more established popular culture obsession: zombies. While apocalypse has often been an inconsequential backdrop, a mere graphical theme, at the moment a certain more thematically coherent iteration on the apocalypse genre is very popular. It merely asks the player to survive.

This is interesting, because death has always been the most common failstate in video games. You die and everything is over. It’s easy to understand. In games, death usually prevents the player from achieving something important: from rescuing a damsel, saving the world, defeating a vague evil, and so on. Your death is tragic, but not so tragic that you can’t use another life, or respawn with only ten minutes’ progress lost. Overall, mere survival has never been greatly important in games. Death is a punishment for not playing correctly; it’s circumstantial, and warding it off is not often the sole motivator. But what is the meaning of death when there’s no reason to live?

Recent games like Minecraft, DayZ, The Forest, and Rust have no particular goal, nor any correct way of playing. There is no embattled civilisation to save, no royalty to retrieve from the clutches of evil, and no sentient android race to fend off. These games simply ask that you survive. You don’t survive in wait of something, and nor do you survive in order that you might achieve some more specific goal. Your aim is simply continued existence.

Read More

‘“Here Come the Dogs”, by Omar Musa,’ A Review By Peter Polites

Russell Crowe held a surprise birthday party for thirty-year-old slam poet Omar Musa. There was a cake in the shape of a book and an inkwell. Guests were not allowed to buy a gift but had to bring something they’d made themselves. I wonder what the characters of Omar Musa’s debut novel Here Come the Dogs would think about that.

The main arc of the character Solomon in Here Come the Dogs is framed around his relationships with women. Initially he is in a relationship with the white middle class university student Georgie. Georgie is instantly dislikeable because of statements like ‘So I think I’m going to Africa these holidays to do some aid work.’ Solomon challenges her about this statement, identifying people in need in their own community. Georgie is a deliberate cliché; people from culturally diverse backgrounds can recognise this person in their lives. She has been rendered on the page without sympathy, without complexity. When Solomon breaks up with her he says “I’m not gonna fuck some colour into ya and I’m not gonna fuck that white guilt outta ya.” Georgie is a two-dimensional meme: Solomon ends the relationship with the same coldness that Musa used to create her. His resolution comes in Scarlett, a bisexual tattoo artist from New Zealand. She has an understanding of his background, traditions and artistic passions, helping him find the contentment that he never had with Georgie.

Read More

'The Nut Job', by John Van Tiggelen

Photograph by flydime, via Wikimedia Commons. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence.

Dr Sammy, as my kids know him, is a Woody Allen-ish hypochondriac, which lends him a slightly unnerving ‘been-there-felt-that’ manner. During a consultation he’ll peer at you over the rim of his glasses as if to say, ‘Do you really need to be here?’ He’s never more droll than when ruling something out, like antibiotics for a cold, or depression. And if you present with a suspicious lump, he’ll smile and tut-tut: “Ha! I get cancer once a week!”

Dr Sammy looms large for the men of my town. He has been the go-to for vasectomies for so long, he’s the de facto town planner. But the town, thanks in part to his scissor-hands, is a small one. Horror stories flourish. There’s the one about the chap who lost a testicle. There’s another about a bloke who gained one. Still, Dr Sammy can’t have botched too many procedures, or perhaps he’d be known as Dr Balls-Up, instead of Sammy the Slasher.

Read More

'How Giraffes Die', by Emily Meller

Public domain photograph from pixabay.com.

1. In the flat, open, dry savanna plains of sub-Saharan Africa, roaming giraffes routinely get struck by lightning and die.

2. When it enters the neck, around thirty thousand amps of energy surges through the body, singeing fur and causing the heart to beat itself to death.

3. In 2010 Hamley, the principal actor in TV series, Wild At Heart, wandered away from his pack and was struck by lightning and killed, all alone. He was aged seven years old. At the building where the series was filmed, Hamley would walk to the first floor window to have his ears scratched by fellow cast members.

4. Some experts say they are more susceptible because their stretched patchwork necks are perfect vectors for wayward storm energy, and that the space between their long legs makes it easy for the electricity to flow through their bodies. Others say it’s just a matter of chance.

5. I got taken to Taronga Zoo on a date, as a romantic gesture, even though as a pending vegan I was not sure I liked the idea of a zoo. As we walked through the gates, I imagined how a real vegan would have refused, forfeited the tickets, risked being ‘difficult’. Instead I went along and only winced quietly at the animals pacing their confines, wondering whether they realise they are trapped or just think boredom is part of life. I wonder if they ever worry about it.

Read More

Featured Contributor: Roger Nelson


Roger Nelson is an independent curator, and a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne researching Cambodian contemporary art. He publishes internationally on Southeast Asian contemporary art, and recently spoke on Cambodian performance at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Read Roger’s columns in TLB 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 23.

Featured Contributor: Roger Nelson


Roger Nelson is an independent curator, and a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne researching Cambodian contemporary art. He publishes internationally on Southeast Asian contemporary art, and recently spoke on Cambodian performance at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Read Roger’s columns in TLB 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 23.

Load More