The art of storytelling has existed since humans first scratched messages in the sand with sticks. From paintings on walls or camp-fire corroborees, to a travelling sage bringing news of battle, humans have always sought out stories as a way to make sense of life, writes Liss Caldwell.
Franz Kafka once wrote: “Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” Words have always had the power to unite or divide – and in the past few weeks Queensland has had more than its fair share of words whipping around the state.
We crossed the border last weekend and headed to the Queensland Museum which is currently hosting Medieval Power: Symbols and Splendour, curated by the British Museum. The exhibition tells a story of the reigning monarchs of the time through a display that includes books, playing cards, coins and chess pieces depicting. One of the highlights was definitely the photograph and section of the incomparable Bayeux Tapestry – a 70 metre long tapestry displaying hand-sewn pictures recounting The Battle of Hastings, when the Normans, under William the Conquerer invaded England. The exhibition includes a Knight’s quest trail for kids to follow. It was fascinating to learn how even the shields, seals and signet rings display symbols revealing inherited family stories.
Theatre of course is another platform that embraces story, and of all the theatrical storytellers, Shakespeare, for me, still towers above any other. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays all over the world, and of all of them, A Midsummer Night’s Dream with its timeless theme of the true lover never running smoothly is still my favourite. The Queensland Ballet’s interpretation of this play is my favourite – and I’ve seen plenty – eleven others to be exact. The whimsical set instantly evokes magic transporting you to the realms of the Faerie woods. Choreographer Liam Scarlett has captured the tragic comedy of love and jealously within the essence of each character.
Speculative Fiction was not a genre when Shakespeare was writing – unless some of the more extreme political pamphlets of the day were the predecessors to this form of writing, which highlights society’s current issues by inviting readers into an alternative world. In fact one debate centred on whether some Victorian fiction could be classified as Speculative Fiction.
I recently attended NatCon, the 55th Australian National Speculative Fiction Convention, an interactive assortment of nearly two hundred fabulously opinionated people. The youngest members didn’t hold back in discussions on everyday magic and Cosplay (costuming) and neither, I have to say, did Bill Wright, a Con veteran, who attended his first Con in 1956. Bill embraces the evolution of story with strongly-held opinions and generosity, giving away Mocking Jay Brooches in tribute to The Hunger Games.
NatCon encourages audience participation and expression across a range of platforms. The common theme – despite passionate and sometimes conflicting opinions was the diversity that Speculative Fiction brings to the market through its stories, whether it’s film, anime, animation, gaming or illustration.
Nat Con was about inclusion – and in all its forms it embraces the concept of ‘fandom’. No longer hidden at home fandom has leapt into the mainstream through multimedia platforms which reach the greater population and generate further discussions and retellings of our favourite tales. It would be hard to find someone who has not heard of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. I’m more a book girl, but even I sought out the graphic novels of The Walking Dead after I saw the TV series.
Closer to home, back in the Shire another form of words will be active this weekend when a diverse tribe of people gather at the Byron Bay Spirit Festival to celebrate expression and culture through music, yoga, wellbeing, conversation and the almost de rigeur bare feet. A festival full of good vibes, collaboration, dreadlocks, vegan paleo ice cream (and if such a thing doesn’t exist I’m sure it will soon) lazy smiles and open hearts.
No matter what your form of creative expression or story platform you choose to embrace none of us are truly solo as we continue to evolve this ancient art form. The power of words continues, as J. K. Rowling’s Dumbledore says: “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and mending it.” By using words to create positivity we unite to enjoy our varied opinions, individual expression and diversity.
The pen truly is more powerful than the (laser) sword.
You can read more about Liss Caldwell here: thewriterscoach