March 26th, 2012

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This morning is another of those mornings where the last little while catches up. I did too much yesterday (but oh, it was worth it!) and I didn't sleep much last night (I dreamed of various threats - these dreams will pass when they're ready) and I'm not where I want to be with almost anything.

I was feeling sorry for myself until I was dressed (feeling sorry for oneself is such a waste of energy, especially when there isn't much energy in the overall package) and then I realised: I don't go back to the hospital for checking until next week. Today I get to have coffee with two dear friends. And another has threatened coffee later in the week.

Friends got me through last week and the week before and it seems that friends are getting me through this week. I am very, very fortunate in my friends.

Also, I shan't do quite as much today. I was so chuffed about my eye behaving a bit better that I forgot that the rest of my body needed a bit of attention. That's the trouble with crises, one forgets the chronic illnesses. Still, I crossed things off lists yesterday. And I shall cross things off lists today. And - in a mere ten minutes - friends!

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The burglary just keeps on keeping on - it has an especially long-life battery. What looked like minor damage to the curtains (when they were dragged open - two lots of curtains) turns out to be unfixable. And the firm I got my teaching backpack from don't make them right now (wrong time of year, I suspect) - I shall give Nicole back hers and use tote bags until they *do* make them again, I think. And... and... lots more ands.

I've reached the stage where sorting out what's wrong and right is seguing into cleaning for Passover. This week was so not the week I'd planned for this. I have bought my last bread before Passover and bought my last everything except Pesachtic food and milk. At least my place will be beautiful by the end of it.

Things are improving and they will improve more. Right now, though, I'm beyond tired and can't think that far. I think this calls for a night-mostly-off.

Women's History Month - guest post from Donna Maree Hanson

My name is Donna Maree Hanson and I'm a Canberra-based author, who actually lives across the border in Queanbeyan, NSW. I’ve known Gillian Polack for a number of years now, and I was very happy to be invited to be a guest blogger during her women's history month.

This post is about a woman writer, who originally wrote as a man. Her name was Katharine Burdekin and she wrote under the name Murray Constantine in 1937. This reminds me of another author, who also inspired me and also wrote under a man's name, James Tiptree Jr. I was introduced to these authors by Lucy Sussex, a well respected Australian writer.

How did Lucy Sussex introduce me to these authors?

When I first started out writing creatively, way back in late 2000, I sent my embarrassingly rough draft of my first novel for a manuscript assessment. Lucy Sussex was the assessor and it was her commentary about feminist science fiction (that I had no idea I was writing) that introduced me to the works of James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon) and that there was an award every year all science fiction (speculative) writing that discussed gender issues.

I heard about Katharine through Lucy Sussex’s short story ‘Kay and Phil’ , which appeared in A Tour Guide To Utopia, a collection of short stories by Lucy Sussex published by Mirrordance in 2005. In this story, she has two deceased authors discussing their respective approaches to writing a Nazi dystopia. One is Burdekin and the other is Philip K Dick. I was fascinated by Katharine Burdekin’s story, well, how Lucy portrayed it. So I ordered the book.

Swastika Night is a very chilling tale, both because of when it was written and the terrifying future that it examines. I was also puzzled that I hadn't heard about this book and this writer previously. I had heard of 1984 by George Orwell, then a futuristic dystopia. (I read this in 1975). Why hadn’t I heard of Murray Constantine or Katharine Burdekin? Why did Katharine Burdekin need to write under another name, a male name?

Swastika Night portrays the world 700 years or so in the future, where the Nazi fascist dream has evolved. In this future, Hitler won. The hate of the Nazi regime has ripened. Having rid the world of Jews and Catholics, the hate refines itself. Women are kept like beasts in camps. The men are mostly sexual predators and prey on young boys. I can see perhaps why a woman writing this in 1937 would have a hard time publishing a story like this at that time. This was a time when the West apparently did not know what was happening in Nazi Germany, but apparently Burdekin did. I’m not an historian but still I wonder. I would like to peel pack time and peer into this nasty wound in history.

This story is not an easy read. It is dark and devastating. 1984 is dark too, but its truth is more palatable than Burdekin’s. She pointed a finger with a sharpened nail and ripped.
I think modern readers should read Swastika Night, because when it was written it was profound. The war had not been won. She was seeing into a bleak future. A world dominated and changed by fear. A future where no one wins.

So there you have it—an early female speculative fiction writer who dealt with social criticism. I thank Lucy Sussex for pointing her out to me in her short story ‘Kay and Phil’. I thank the universe for Alice Sheldon.

If you want to know more about Donna and her writing, she keeps a writing blog at