Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aussie August: What makes Aussie fiction Aussie fiction?

So what makes Australian fiction Australian?

Before you guys get excited for a thorough and eloquent discussion of a widely-loved genre, stop and turn turn turn down your expectations meter. A couple of people said they were looking forward to this post, and that scared the crap out of me.

Australian fiction is, on the most basic level, fiction penned by Australians, and ordinarily set in Australia. So the major difference between Australian fiction and fiction from overseas is the context, but it’s such an unbelievably large component to a story. The setting, the language, the social conventions the characters adhere to -- they all have a huge effect on the story.

The small suburbs outside of Australia’s biggest cities that pose as backdrops to Aussie YAs like All I Ever Wanted and A Straight Line To My Heart give the stories a whole different atmosphere. Things as simple as the characters speaking in Strine help to create a unique feel to the setting. Reading foreign books, there's always a small suspension of disbelief required as the characters talk (I thought people only said things like that on TV?) or just plain do things (You take the same classes everyday? Really?). Some of the smaller things in Aussie YA feel so natural that sometimes they just slide by unnoticed (and often in my case, unappreciated).

There are also many Aussie YAs not set in Australia that still have an Aussie vibe to them, like Alaska and Burn Bright. The authors' experiences have an undoubtedly huge effect on their writing, and Australian writers bring a little of their country with them even into their other settings.

And I think this is what gives Aussie YA its allure: the familiarity. It’s why, in a book market dominated by American books, we cherish the small Australian novel. It’s like coming home after the long journeys other books take us on; it's comfortable. I read part of Beatle Meets Destiny on the very tram that Beatle took to school. The day after I read Graffiti Moon I went and toured all of the painted alley ways in Melbourne. The characters in Aussie YA can be so incredibly relatable on a whole other level. It isn't just like knowing the character -- it's like being friends with the character.

So what do you think makes Aussie fiction Aussie fiction? What do you think makes Aussie fiction unique?

P. S. A couple of the books I mentioned specifically here are prizes in my Aussie August giveaway -- open internationally until the 30th of August.