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Fins, masks, and podcasts

Jennifer Mills at Point Lowly In June last year, I went snorkelling with the giant Australian cuttlefish in their breeding waters at Point Lowly, near Whyalla. These astonishing animals appear in various forms throughout Dyschronia, and I did plenty of research into them, but I didn’t go to see them in person until I’d finished the novel, perhaps wary that such an encounter would overwhelm the image I held in my mind; the glittering skin of the cuttlefish came to echo the migraine visuals of the books’ protagonist, Sam.

When my partner and I finally made the trip over to Whyalla, it was at a time of crisis for the region, and I decided to write about the cuttlefish in the context of South Australia’s industrial transformation, as we rapidly shift from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy. The Whyalla steelworks, closed when we visited, has been re-opened with huge investment in solar and storage, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the possibilities for the region.

The essay, Swimming with Aliens, was shortlisted for the Horne prize, and has now found a happy home at Overland – which means you can read it for free on the website (though if you can afford it, a subscription helps the journal keep up its good work).

The week this essay went to print, we had a state election in SA. The result meant that I had to snatch the final version back and make some minor adjustments. I made an effort to retain the note of optimism, even though I wasn’t really feeling it then. I’m less despairing now, having had time to think it over. The energy transformation in SA has largely come from a place of desperation – and in a time of industrial closures, renewable energy is providing a much-needed economic boost to regional towns. With the federal Liberal government pushing its ‘worse than nothing’ NEG and trying to keep coal in business, the political discourse is disappointing, to put it politely. The SA Liberals, who privatised the state’s electricity grid in 1999 (to help pay for the state bank bailout, don’t forget), are back in power, but the economic realities have profoundly changed, so much so that 100% renewable generation looks inevitable. So I’m clinging to my fragile optimism, but I’m also grounded in the stories that I’m telling, and always aware of the power of narrative in working for change.

I am not just underwater this week, but also on the airwaves. Radio National’s Hub on Books has just played the interview I recorded earlier in the year – I am pictured in the ABC studios in Adelaide back in February, with my preferred mode of transportation. You can listen to the podcast here. I am on last, so about 45 minutes in.

Secondly, the podcasts from Adelaide Writers Week are up, so I am catching up on some of the conversations I missed or want to revisit. I highly recommend Teju Cole and Sarah Sentilles, who incorporated the fighter-plane flyovers into their discussion about images of war. You can also catch me with Eva Hornung talking about small towns, trauma, and time (The Last Garden is phenomenal), and discussing the future alongside Cory Doctorow and Maja Lunde.

Third, I’m featured in the recently-revived Meanjin podcast, reading from a recent short story, ‘Miracles’, and chatting about Dyschronia, time, climate change, and writing the mythic.

Miracles‘ is in a new anthology out this week, Meanjin A-Z, which is edited by Jonathan Green and features fiction from the journal from 1980 to now, organised alphabetically by author (I always get a little thrill when I see my name next to David Malouf’s). It’s a fine collection and one I am sure I will read, re-read, and use in writing workshops for many years to come.

All good bookshops, etc.



I am still recovering from the wonderful Adelaide Writers Week – such a great festival, carefully curated and full of considered conversations about the world. My personal highlight was to share a stage with one of my favourite writers, the brilliant Eva Hornung. Eva was the deserving winner of the Premier’s Prize at the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature this year, and as one of the judges for the fiction prize, I was thrilled to see her work being celebrated (not to mention remunerated).

Adelaide Writer’s Week – Signing books with Maja Lunde and Cory Doctorow

AWW cephalopod squad with Peter Godfrey-Smith and Jane Rawson — Having a laugh in the green room with Rebekah Clarkson and Eva Hornung

Reviews of Dyschronia have been appearing here and there. Some engage deeply with the novel in ways I hardly dared to hope for. I humbly direct your attention to the ever-astute James Bradley at ABR and the wonderfully furious Michalia Arathimos at The Lifted Brow, both of whom have made me feel a little airborne.

I have recorded some interviews about the book, too, so will let you know when those are to be broadcast.

Meanwhile, I have a couple of essays out soon:

1. A long, personal essay about climate change, nature, and art, the outcome of the residency I did with my mother last year at BigCi in Bilpin, NSW. “Seeing Landscape” was hard to write, partly because of the personal nature of the experience, but mostly because it required me to go back to first principles regarding something that feels almost innate, i.e. my relationship to “nature”. It took me forever to let this one go, and I’m very pleased it’s found a home in the new issue of Meanjin.

2. An essay I wrote about snorkeling with the giant Australian cuttlefish during their breeding aggregation at Point Lowly near Whyalla, and the ongoing industrial transformation of the Upper Spencer Gulf – two kinds of miracle. “Swimming with Aliens” was shortlisted for the Horne Prize last year, and will appear in the next issue of Overland (it will also be online – link to come).

Both of these non-fiction pieces have preoccupations similar to those in Dyschronia – so much so that I find I am looking around for something else to think about. The problem with anthropogenic climate disruption, however, is that once you begin to consider the implications they are everywhere you look. Perhaps this is why for so many of us it remains a problem too large and difficult to think through… but not to read or dream about, I hope.



The time has come!* Dyschronia is in all the best bookshops, in paperback and epub. Here is a pic of me sneaking in a quick signing at Dymocks in Adelaide:

There is a funny story about Stephen King doing this in Alice Springs and getting into trouble. I must be somewhat stealthier than Stephen King though, because nobody noticed. (Except H, who took the photo.)

Here is a smashing first review in The Australian – it’s paywalled, but I have extracted some choice quotes:

‘There is a poetry in Mills’s writing that shimmers like desert air — “The infinite glistens in the minute” — and in her storytelling, in the way she captures the moods of time, there is something mystical…’

‘This is a novel that is daring, original and ambitious. And in its near-apocalyptic vision, there’s an awful beauty but also a cautious hope.’

A dream start for a book that has caused its fair share of nightmares! And not just for me, if early reader feedback is anything to go by…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In March, I’ll be making a couple of author appearances at Adelaide Writers Week – it’s a fantastic program this year and I hope to see you there! Until then, keep an eye out for more reviews and interviews over the next few weeks. I will keep this blog updated regularly but you can also follow me on twitter if you want the latest.

Oh, and the folks at Picador made this cool gif:

If you look at it for a while, then look at the book, the cover starts to move. I swear it’s not just me.

*(What is time, though? And where from?)


Shiny new year

What a joy it was to arrive home to a box of these marvelous, glittering beauties:

Dyschronia in print

H and I have just spent three weeks driving around Tasmania and Victoria, visiting some stunning national parks and some of our favourite national people. We hiked the Three Capes track over xmas, spotted Tassie devils in the wild, swam in cold southern seas, investigated a few distilleries, saw in the new year with old friends, and very gracefully fell into a wombat hole while picking raspberries. (Ok, that last one was just me.) I am glad to be home, energised and restored, and ready to get back to work.

This gleaming creature is already swimming out into the world and by the 1st February will be waiting in a bookshop near you. It feels fitting that the release date for Dyschronia coincides with a super lunar eclipse. It has been a transformative book in many ways, some of them painful – a lesson in holding fast to one’s vision, even when it seems impossible.

I can’t wait for you to read it.