Trail of disinformation

August 18, 2011

Must find accent key...

Trail of disinformation

P.S. Cottier

‘Does it really matter, love?  After all, we’re talking about a snail, aren’t we?  I put down bait for them.  Or squash them.  It’s them or my veggies.’  Bill smiled, ate a peanut, and drank a little more beer.

‘It’s a special snail.  A green one. Tiny.’  I sounded vaguely desperate, and I knew it.

‘But it’s still a snail, green, orange or purple.  Rainbow even.  I just don’t see the point, worrying about an ugly little bugger like that.’

Bill had hit the nail, or the snail shell, on the head.  We were just talking about ‘ugly little buggers’.  We wanted to prevent the development of a proposed mine because of the presence of rare miniature green snails, only found in one small pocket of rain-forest.  If it were koalas, once the subject of a bounty, we would have been national heroes.  A rare species of bird would be understandable.  Everyone can see beauty in a bird.  But a mollusc is quite a different kettle of fish.  Too far beneath our eyes to count.  Too near our feet.

It was Jennifer, my best friend and fellow conservationist, who came up with the idea to give our campaign to save the habitat of the endangered snail a certain indefinable…je ne sais quoi.

I knew we were onto a winner the next time I ran into Bill at the pub.  He was reading the newspaper, the one that Jennifer had just leaked her ‘secret information’ to.  It trembled in his hands.  I noticed that he wasn’t smiling, or cracking jokes like errant carapaces amongst the beans.  Indeed, he seemed a little angry, a little red in the face.

Bill turned the paper over so I could read the article he had just read.  I had to cover my nascent smile as I read:

French offer to take Aussie snails

 This paper has heard that an offer has been made, through official channels, for all the endangered miniature green snails in the area currently being considered for the development of a new mine to be removed and relocated to France, at the expense of the French Government.  It is hoped that the species may prove edible.’

‘Bloody cheek’, said Bill, as he took a long drink of beer.  ‘They’ve got their own snails.  Poor little buggers.  Why do they want to steal ours?’

He’d forgotten his previous comments about pellets and gardening.  We had wrapped the miniature green snail in the flag, rendered it as Australian as the kangaroo.  We eat them, but that’s different, apparently.

Despite vigorous denials from the French embassy, the story stuck.  The public was outraged.  Next week, the Government officially declared the snail habitat protected.

And deep in the bush, the tiny snails act out their slimy lives, safe from the development of a new tin mine.  And of course, safe from any forced repatriation to the restaurant rich and risky boulevards of Paris.

What a year for disasters.  New Zealand, Japan, the recent storms in the United States, and, of course, the catastrophic floods in Queensland.  There are probably many more too, but these four are the ones I’m most familiar with, perhaps because they happened in developed countries, which tend to get more attention in the media.  But wherever such events occur, the suffering is undeniably real.  And to have a disaster in one’s own country means a certain responsibility to help in some way rests on those who were not affected.

I am very proud to have a tiny story called ‘Beating creativity’ (so flash, if you blink, you’ll miss it) in the book 100 stories for Queensland, which will raise funds for the Premier’s Flood appeal.  The book will be launched on 3rd May, and will cost $19.99, and you should be able to order it through your local bookshop soon after that.  Or you will be able to go here to find out how to order the book electonically, as a hard copy or an ebook.  Here is some more information about the project, from the home site:

“One hundred beautiful stories. Our stories. When so much was lost or destroyed, this was created. That’s something that can never recede or wash away.” ~ Kate Eltham
CEO of The Queensland Writers Centre

100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND has something for everyone, from slice of life to science fiction, fantasy to romance, paranormal to literary fiction. Heart-warming, quirky, inspiring and funny the stories between these covers will lift readers to higher ground.

ISBN (Print): 978-0-9871126-2-0
ISBN (eBook): 978-0-9871126-3-7
Pages: 316
Dimensions: 229x152mm
RRP: A$19.99, US$19.99, ₤9.99,  €9.99

UPDATE:  There will be a slight delay with the hard copy.  Best to go to the 100 stories link in the blogroll (or here) for further details.  The hard copy book can now also be ordered from Amazon.

…is that you can post poems or stories that you know would be rejected from serious poetry journals.  This little piece (not a story, certainly not a poem) deals with the Antipodean writer seeking publication in a Very Serious American journal.  It’s partially based on fact: I had one editor tell me that while international submissions would be  accepted for a competition, he didn’t encourage them, as some of the publisher’s books once went astray in Asia.  A broad geographical area that presumably includes Australia.  Needless to say I didn’t enter that competition.  (Most US journals/publishers are much better than this, by the way.)

Smart and Serious

‘Be professional, patient and persistent’

Advice given on Duotrope’s Digest web-site

Three communications received from Smart and Serious: America’s premier journal of the literary short story and of avant-garde poesie by Ms Felicity Quillpien, writer (retired) of Sydney, Australia.


Dear Ms Quillpien,

We love your story!  It deals with the essential paradoxes of the human condition in an elegant and thought-provoking way.  I particularly enjoyed the way you played with notions of gender throughout your story.  Your style rivals that of Jane Austen and the description of the house of endless rooms is positively Kafka-esque!  Congratulations!

However, Smart and Serious is a literary journal, and we are therefore unable, under any circumstances, to publish science fiction.

I suggest you submit to a genre magazine, if such pulpy things exist outside of my worst nightmares.

Yours sincerely,

Roland K Roland


P.S. We are unable to return the manuscript, or your attractive ornamental tokens (‘IRCs’ whatever they may be) due to your disregard for our instructions that adequate postage be attached to a self-addressed envelope.


Dear Ms Quillpien,

Sincere praise for your new story.  I am glad to see that you have jettisoned any suggestion of the future, adventure, humor (note spelling, please) or the possibility of a life in any way different from that currently lived in North America (excluding Canada).  The lack of any verb in the first ten paragraphs struck me as particularly conducive to engendering a feeling of contemplation on behalf of the more sensitive reader of our peerless feuilleton.

I was about to mail the acceptance letter, when I noticed you live in Australia.  Smart and Serious does not accept stories translated from the original, although we often favor (spelling) the French language in our use of English.  We find it adds a certain Proustian quality, the soft pas of a boulevardier, the frou-frou of dresses and the enchanting smell of the salon, would you not agree?

I suggest you submit to a German language literary journal, if such boldly Teutonic things exist.

Yours sincerely,

Roland K Roland,



Dear Ms Quillpien,

Thank you for your enquiry about submitting to Smart and Serious‘s first ever short story competition.  I answer your rather curt questions and complaints in turn:

1. Payment must be made by check.  (Please check your spelling before even considering further communication.  Last I heard, a cheque was a type of European to be found quite close to Australia’s borders.)

2.  I am sorry that a check for $15 US costs so much to arrange in Australia.  May I suggest that a change of venue might be in order?  Smart and Serious, as a literary journal, can hardly concern itself with the realities of international commerce, politics, or economics.  ‘Countries may come and go but soft Literature is forever/  She slides through crepuscular mornings like a feline snail.’ (Copyright, Roland K. Roland, from Stanza 58 of my ‘Thoughts for Twilight Mornings’, forthcoming in next month’s Smart and Serious.)

3.  Cash is not acceptable.  It would lower the tone.  Your suggestion that ‘money is money and at least the dollar speaks clearly’ does not bode well for any story that might be about to spring from your marsupial pen.

4.  Electronic submission is similarly vulgar.  If we embraced technology, next we knew, we’d be publishing science fiction!   God only knows where that might lead!

I hope that this helps you in your admirable if rather surprising intention of submitting an entry (English original only, danke) to Smart and Serious.  We like to think of ourselves as literary missionaries, bringing culture to the world.  The world can only learn from the American literary journal, of which Smart and Serious is the exemplar, par excellence.

As I have been busy lately, I am afraid that the closing date for the contest has already passed.  As the French put it, Temps fugit!  Perhaps you might consider an entry in next year’s contest instead?

Yours sincerely,

Roland K Roland,