Last night saw the publication of our fifth title for the year, and the first of our new Classics Reprint line – an ebook reprint of Rosaleen Love’s The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories. A collection that was published by the Women’s Press in 1989. I’ve been coming across Love’s work as I do data entry into my database for my PhD research into the overview picture of Australian small press over time. The very early anthologies (in the 70s and 80s) didn’t really include very many women within them but Rosaleen Love was a name that often appeared. I’ve also heard a lot of people mention her as one of the greats in our field and I was there – I think it was Natcon in Adelaide? – when she was awarded the Chandler award for her lifetime achievement in Australian science fiction. Having worked with her on her volume for the Twelve Planets, Secret Lives of Books – which is just so witty, and sharp and feminist – I just had to get my hands on more of her fiction. I was lucky enough to snag a paperback copy of The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories via Phill Berrie’s ebay store but I haven’t managed to get a copy of Evolution Annie yet.
It just seemed like Love’s work should be more widely and readily available. I approached her about doing an ebook version of them and she was happy to hand the task over. She’d been looking into it herself but only had hard copies of her work. And the job seemed insurmountable. Not so for us because of lovely people who help out at Twelfth Planet Press. David McDonald kindly scanned her books and then Elizabeth Disney took a fine tooth comb through the converted files – no easy task, there was lots of garble (if you’re looking for a proofer, she is without a doubt outstanding, and for hire! ) to come up with cleaner manuscripts which Rosaleen then went through to do a final proof. Rosaleen also wrote a new introduction for The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories which is really cool, I think, to be able to come back to a work 25 years later and add new perspective.
I’m so glad I got to work on this book – I did the final final line edits and got to enjoy these stories from the ground. She’s just such a strong and unique science fiction voice in the Australian field. I’m also so happy she agreed to write new stories for the Twelve Planets. We’re still working through a similar process for her second collection Evolution Annie. And when we’ve got that out, we’re teaming up with Aqueduct Press who have Love’s third collection, The Traveling Tide, in print, to offer the ultimate Rosaleen Love bundle of all four of her collections in ebook. (Early adoptions can get an upgrade to the bundle once it’s out.)
If I had to pick a favourite story in The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories, and it would be very hard, I think it might be “The Tea Room Tapes” which opens:
In every department up and down the country there is a crisis. It’s a scandal, and the cover-up is even worse. People don’t want it known, their inability to run a tea club. Or else others might start to wonder at their ability to run the country.
It all started the day the tea lady didn’t turn up with the morning tea. There have been some cutbacks, amalgamations and rationalisations round here lately. Or redundancies, sackings, lay-offs and push-outs. But when the tea lady goes, that’s serious. Any one of us could be next.
No tea! No biscuits! Farewell to morning coffee! No warmth, no comfort! End of civilisation as we know it!
‘No work!’ said the juniors, mutinous.
‘No pay,’ said Mr Humphries, the boss.
‘Oh, all right,’ said the juniors, easily browbeaten, returning empty and forlorn to their keyboards.
The next stage was the
SUBJECT: Tea crisis.
ATTENDANCE: One, the secretary Cathy, and she said she was only there to take the minutes. No one else came. They knew they’d be dobbed in to organise a roster, so they all stayed away. With the very best excuses.
So, there’s nothing else for it but
ACTION: Ask Cathy to bring in milk each day on her way to work.
RESPONSE: No dice.
Dear Mr Blazer,
Re Terms and Conditions of Employment of Secretaries: Secretaries are no longer the lackeys of the bosses. They cannot and will not pop down to the corner shop on the whim of the management. Gee, Mr Blazer, sorry about this, but the boys in the union won’t let me.
SOLUTION: BYO milk.
CONSEQUENCE: Rampant individualism on milk front.
Four weeks later, forty quarter-litre cardboard milk cartons in the fridge, with green furry things sprouting from them and a smell that underlines what’s rotten in yet another failure of departmental collective action.
Fridge a symbol of general decline of department under regime of cutbacks, lay-offs, sackings and redundancies. Entire department is composed of slime moulds and green furry things sprouting dusty antennae in vain attempt to keep ear well to ground whence rumours of cutbacks, lay-offs etc., spring.
Or maybe, “The Children Don’t Leave Home Any More”
The children don’t leave home any more. They stay on and expect to be loved, once they are well into the age of reason. They may make various attempts at escape, smiling and waving with joy the first time they take off, butterflies from the cocoon. Six months later back they come, bringing their live-in lovers and their dogs.
I wake in the morning and I find strange bodies on the floor of my house, people I have yet to meet over morning coffee. They lie curled up in sleeping bags or on the couch, back to the womb, my womb, though I cannot recollect I ever gave them birth. They are warm and comfortable, and sheltered, and my children’s friends.
I have friends, too, and my friend Jean thinks it is ridiculous. She tells me I am a doormat, a convenience and a dill. She never had children of her own, she says, because she saw what a trial they were to other people.
‘I rather like it,’ I tell her.
‘In my day, Marion,’ she replied, ‘if you wanted sex, you had to leave home for it, and that was that.’
‘Ah, the good old days!’
‘Next it’ll be grandchildren, and you’ll find yourself running a crèche.’
She may be right.
Or maybe “Bat Mania”
Here are some of the characteristics of the old bat:
1 She must be female.
2 She must have lost her looks, even if she’s the last person to know.
3 She must still regard herself as a person with rights, as someone whose voice should be heard, whose part should be understood, whose virtues should be appreciated, whose merit should be noted.
4 She doesn’t know the time is past for such demands.
5 She doesn’t know she must sit still and not be any bother to anyone, or else they will scheme to get rid of her and replace her by a dolly bird of nineteen plus, but not too much past that magic age of shimmering tights and playful demeanour.
Or the stories that are very science based – I have such a similar background to Love with my science studies and I just love her stories set on or about the ocean. I’m such a fangirl of her work I may very well chase down her nonfiction books on reefscapes because I’m interested in that too!
In any case, I’m delighted to have been able to republish The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories and I really hope other people enjoy it too. And I am so grateful to the help (and patience) of Amanda, Charles, David and Elizabeth who worked hard to bring this book to being too.
Today’s drink: Afternoon Tea from Monstrositea – pic here
Today’s total word count: 435
Year Total running word tally from (Nov 24): 3308
Progress on: Published The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories, further progress on organisation of the spare room, took baby to gymbaroo.