The State of Play: Australian Popular Fiction in the Twenty-First Century

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Millicent Weber

Millicent is a Research Assistant on the ARC Discovery project Genre Worlds: Australian Popular Fiction in the Twenty-First Century, in the University of Melbourne’s Publishing and Communication program. She is also an assistant archivist with the University of Melbourne Archives. Millicent recently submitted her PhD thesis in literary sociology, through  Monash University’s Centre for the Book. Her doctoral research investigates literary festivals: their significance and impact within contemporary literary culture.

Who publishes Australian genre fiction, and in what ways? What do crime, fantasy and romance genre communities look like? How do their books reach booksellers, reviewers and readers? And why are crime writers always so chill?

Popular fiction is one of the biggest growth areas in Australian trade publishing, but to date these kinds of questions have received little critical attention. Genre Worlds is an ARC-funded project (2016-2018) that investigates the whos, wheres, hows and whys of twenty-first century Australian romance, crime and fantasy fiction. The mechanics of publication, distribution and consumption, and the ways that popular genres are understood by both practitioners and the general public: these are the key focal points for the project.

In October 2016, a number of academics, writers, editors, bloggers, reviewers and readers came together at some genre fiction events co-hosted by the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne. The popularity of these events was testament to the interest in – and need for – research into genre fiction publishing. Ninety people attended the main symposium, and collaboratively pushed the events’ hashtag, #popfic16, to number one in Australia’s Twitter trend charts.

Academic Scene-Setting

So what is a ‘genre world’? On Wednesday 5 October, three of the ARC project’s Chief Investigators, Kim Wilkins, Lisa Fletcher and Beth Driscoll, joined Ken Gelder to present some of their research to staff and students in English and Theatre Studies. This extended seminar offered theorisations and critical readings of the mechanics of Australia’s contemporary ‘genre worlds’ of crime, romance and fantasy. The talks explored the way that these genres are defined both textually and contextually; their relationships to the worlds of literary publishing and to middlebrow cultural practices; the networked relationships between writers, readers, publishers, critics; and definitions of genre communities.

The State of Play symposium was held the next day and re-introduced some of these ideas in an industry- and public-facing context. Guest speakers at this event included romance writer Anne Gracie; fantasy writers Angela Slatter, Jack Dann, and Rjurik Davidson; crime writers Candice Fox, Adrian McKinty, and Angela Savage; publishers Kate Cuthbert, Rochelle Fernandez and Angela Meyer; and romance reviewer Kat Mayo.

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The State of Play symposium was held in the 1888 Building, on the only sunny day in Melbourne for months

Routes to Market

Publishers of genre fiction operate in a contested space, influenced by cultural, commercial and technological trends. The first panel, chaired by Beth Driscoll, was entitled ‘Popular Fiction and New Routes to Market’, and featured Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing, the digital-first imprint of Harlequin Australia, Rochelle Fernandez from Harper-Collins’ speculative fiction imprint Voyager, and Echo Publishing’s Angela Meyer. Combining the perspectives of publishers and commissioning editors, each working with a different genre, afforded comparisons between these genres’ different publishing processes.

Speaking to the boundaries of the different genres, Meyer emphasised the ways that Echo’s activities often bleed into both commercial publishing and literary fiction; while Cuthbert pointed to the proliferation of sub-genres within romance, with Escape currently publishing into 14 defined sub-categories. All of the panellists agreed that there has been significant growth in the publishing of cross-genre titles in Australia in recent years, particularly among smaller presses, and that there has also been a spike in publication of titles by authors and with protagonists from marginalised backgrounds. The speakers argued that these trends are connected to the growth of digital publishing, which opens up international and more diverse markets, and crucially helps more experimental or unusual genre titles to circulate beyond what are often conservative local markets.

The rise in digital reading has also seen an increased prominence of backlist titles on sales lists – 80% of Voyager’s sales, for example, are now from this long tail. These backlist titles often gain traction as a result of sudden, unexpected surges or drops in popularity of specific sub-genres, such as paranormal romance and rural romance.

Communities

Writing might be a solitary activity, but it requires the support of strong networks of peers. The second panel, ‘Genre Communities: How Is Popular Fiction Organised and Supported?’ was chaired by Lisa Fletcher, and featured romance author Anne Gracie, speculative-fiction author Jack Dann, and crime author Angela Savage. Each author spoke to the importance of different socially and textually constituted communities in defining and supporting the authors within their genre, as well as the value provided by more mainstream groups like the Australian Society of Authors.

Romance Writers Australia is notable for its 1000-strong membership, as well as for the support it provides through both online and offline channels. Gracie also spoke to the role that the organisation Novelists, Inc. plays in the romance community, particularly in the way it positions novel-writing as professionalised and career-driven. Dann discussed the important work done by trade magazines such as Locus in providing a venue for established and emerging science-fiction writers, but also in engaging science fiction and fantasy readers and writers around a key publication. In addition to professional organisations like Science Fiction Writers Australia, the other characteristic gathering points for the speculative fiction community are unsurprisingly conventions and associated trade fairs. These are places where writers and fans converge. By contrast, Gracie emphasised that some members of the Australian Romance Readers Association, although highly involved in the broader romance community, are often reluctant to come to RWA conferences. They don’t want to ruin the ‘magic’ of their reading experience by hearing craft-talk.

Adding to this conversation, Savage discussed the important role played by the organisation Sisters in Crime, which offered her a supportive, feminist crime-writing community (and a community of which Gracie, incidentally, is also a member). She also emphasised the deliberately politic, promotional and inclusive decisions made by the Sisters, commenting humorously that, ‘The women at Sisters in Crime chose a writer – Ellen Davitt – to name their awards. The men at ACWA (Australian Crime Writers Association) chose Ned Kelly’.

Alongside publishers, these communities also play a crucial genre-defining role. Publishers apply genre labels as marketing categories, while booksellers use them to decide which shelf to place a book on. Writers turn to these communities to find out what a genre actually is once they discover they’re writing in it. They’re important in bringing together readers and writers to decide what those genres entail, particularly so in a post-digital world where physical shelves in a bookstore hold less weight.

Gatekeepers

Who really decides what gets read – the critics, or the market? The third panel was called ‘Systems of Value: Gatekeepers, Critics, and Popular Fiction’. Chaired by Ken Gelder, the speakers were romance reviewer Kat Mayo, fantasy author Rjurik Davidson, and crime author Adrian McKinty.

Mayo is an avid reader of romance, and spoke to the way that this encourages her to write ‘from a position of sincere appreciation’. Further exploring the role that gatekeepers play as advocates, perhaps particularly when invested in genres, McKinty talked about the differences between punching up – giving a bad review to a Stephen King novel, for example – and punching down – giving one to a debut writer. This kind of personal investment also produces ambivalent feelings, with writers wanting to see success and the best possible writing within their genres, but feeling frustrated when these kinds of standards are not met.

This lead to a discussion of the commercial imperatives of popular fiction publishing. With the emphasis on ‘popular’, the market becomes the primary gatekeeper for popular fiction. Frantic publishing schedules leave writers with little time to enrich their work. This also often leads publishers and writers to make conservative decisions – as Davidson remarked, this explains the proliferation of plots centred on ‘the Destiny of the Kitchen-Boy’. But it’s a fine line. Familiarity is an important part of many readers’ experiences: a certain degree of repetition (when combined with a captivating story and some good writing) ensures the contract between the reader and the genre is fulfilled, and also promotes a sense of genre community through establishing shared knowledge. In Mayo’s words, ‘Any romance reader will know what it means when a hero smirks. He’s hot, but grumpy’.

Discussing the structural tensions in each of these genre spaces also led to a discussion of class politics. Contemporary crime fiction does important work in representing diverse social and class backgrounds. It introduces poor and working class characters to readers, while literary fiction is often regarded as middle or upper middle class in focus. But despite the established genre tropes, McKinty suggested there doesn’t always need to be a body on page forty-five – and he called for more crime novels investigating the minor crimes of everyday life, like bicycle thefts and plagiarism.

With the increasing growth of books that break down boundaries, open up new sub-spaces and challenge established conventions, reviewers of genre fiction need to be adaptable and open-minded. As Davidson put it, ‘Genres aren’t really boxes. They’re cords that run through a novel. Something can be crime, sci-fi and fantasy all at once’.

Writing Craft

Writers don’t choose genres – the genres choose them. But how does this happen? The final panel, chaired by Kim Wilkins, was titled ‘Breaking Through: Crafting a Career as a Popular Fiction Writer’, and featured romance author Anne Gracie, fantasy author Angela Slatter, and crime author Candice Fox.

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Writing Craft Panel, L-R: Angela Slatter, Anne Gracie, Candice Fox and Kim Wilkins

Each author offered personal accounts of the way she came to write in her genre and the way she crafted her work. When Fox was at school, all of her friends were reading Narnia books – but she was reading true crime. Gracie turned to a life of romance after deciding her great literary masterpiece wouldn’t make any money. Slatter was exposed to everything from a young age, from fairytales, to horror, to autopsy reports. Her place in fantasy clicked when she found herself rewriting ‘The Little Match Girl’ on a cocktail napkin.

Everyone agreed on the importance of wide reading, of honest feedback, and of experienced teachers and mentors. They also agreed that a certain level of plotting and planning was helpful in avoiding anxiety, but equally that an unplanned or only semi-structured approach might lead to better writing, allowing them to follow the lead of their characters. Slatter’s writing process begins with a draft that directly retells a fairy tale, followed by a more personalised second draft. Gracie focuses on combining historical detail with compelling characterisations. Fox pumps friends, family, and even her personal trainer, for expected plot developments – and then makes sure to defy those expectations.

Asked what advice they would give themselves when first starting out, Gracie spoke to the importance of joining writing communities from the word ‘go’. Fox made the mistake of reading negative reviews of her work online, and Slatter cautioned against writers restricting themselves to an Australian market. What is the best things about writing? For Fox, ‘Being a successful writer has given me permission to be who I always really was’. And for Gracie: ‘When writing is going well, I lose big chunks of time. When it’s not, I live a whole week before lunch’.

Afterword: Battle of the Genres

After the serious day’s talk, it was time for drinks, nibbles, and a less serious debate. The topic: ‘In the Battle of the Genres, Romance Will Always Win’. Team Romance featured Kathryn Tafra, Adrian McKinty and Anne Gracie, and Team Other Genres Kara Liddell, Kim Wilkins and Kate Cuthbert.

Thoughts from TEAM ROMANCE:

‘Romance does not battle. We are lovers, not fighters. Besides, we outsell the other genres’.

‘Statistics show that romance writers and readers have better sex’.

‘Crime fiction writers will tell you the oldest story is Cane and Abel. Of course, this is not true – the oldest story is Adam and Eve, a romance’.

‘Romance does not always win. But women always win. Romance has just sided with women a lot’.

Thoughts from TEAM OTHER GENRES:

‘Genre fiction is known for plot, and for conflict. Romance doesn’t have plot or conflict – therefore it’s not even a genre!’

‘No matter how great the romance, someone is still going to die alone’.

‘You don’t need to blow out other people’s candles to make yours burn brighter’.

With watertight arguments like these, it’s no wonder that the debate was a tie. And clearly the true winners of the day were team Genre Worlds. But it seems appropriate to end with a quote borrowed from the romance writers: ‘There’s something good about going home to an attractive lover, clean dishes, and a happy ending’.

Teaching and Learning Australia: re-thinking the archives in the Australian Humanities

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On 10 April 2015, the Australian Centre hosted a one-day symposium about education and archives in the Australian Humanities. There were 22 speakers in attendance, each addressing different aspects of working with and in the archive. A key objective of the symposium was to investigate how bodies of knowledge are managed, accessed, and translated for education, and also how archives perform more broadly in the production of cultural, literary, virtual, performative and artistic works. As the title suggests, there were two main and interconnected threads of enquiry. The first related to approaches in teaching and education in the humanities, assessing what the humanities look like in contemporary Australia, and how this landscape might shift in the future.

The second thread involved an investigation of the role and concept of the archive itself, including tracing how archival research forms dominant cultural histories and narratives, and taking up issues of authority and access. During the course of the day a picture about archives and their role for education in the Australian humanities began to emerge. The redressing of lost or hidden histories in the form of cultural experiences and identities, urban landscapes, historical events, and popular ephemera, was prominent.

The symposium’s objective of re-imagining the archive for education included offerings by Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s Kamarra Bell-Wykes, who evoked the idea of theatre as a ‘living archival document’. Kamarra described Ilbijerri’s production of BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY as ‘an immersive history lesson’ communicating what it was like ‘living under the act’ in Palm Island and how the legacy of colonial rule continues to resonate well into the 21st Century. Kimberley Moulton from Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Melbourne Museum, spoke about the aesthetic space of the Birrarung Gallery, which also houses a number of significant Aboriginal artefacts dating back to 1826. Kimberly spoke about the consultative and affective processes promoted by the gallery, outlining the methods used by Koorie artists actively engaging the artefacts in creating their own art works. Kimberly gave an impression of the gallery space as an embodied and contemporary site; interested in the specific and deliberate encounters to be had between Aboriginal artefacts and the public.

Heidi Norman presented a case study of the New South Wales Annual Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival focusing on the challenges, unexpected insights, and delights provided by a community-generated archive. Heidi demonstrated how the ad-hoc nature of managing unofficial documentation, its ethical, financial, as well as administrative aspects, yielded an important insight for the scoping of ‘Aboriginal social and political life’ in N.S.W. Heidi’s gathering of these materials, including candid community photographs of the Rugby League Knockout participants, maps the points of intersection between popular sport, politics and ‘the effects of rule’ on Indigenous communities.

Lyndall Ley Osborne outlined the significance of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (A.I.T.S.I.S) for the teaching of Indigenous knowledge in schools, but also for key cultural institutions and artistic groups, including Bangarra Dance Theatre. Lyndall gave an overview of the breadth and depth of cultural materials that comprise the archive, stating that assessments conducted on the significance of AIATSIS revealed that it is the ‘most extensive and best contextualised collection of Indigenous Australia in the world’.

Melissa Bellanta’s extensive archival work contributed to her social and cultural analysis of the figure of the ‘larrikin’. She found a predominance of the use of the term in narratives of turn-of-the-century police and court reports held in the Trove archival holdings. Narratives of criminality attended the larrikin along with associations of over consumption by ‘the larrikin’ of popular and cultural entertainments. This suggests a particular historical convergence of ideas around criminality with aesthetics and popular culture. Melissa cites evidence of the over policing of youth culture and the moral panic about ‘youth out of control’. Melissa’s approach to this study as one that insists on ‘thinking about history from below’ offers an important methodological view and metaphor, one that considers the hidden hierarchies of research practices associated with archives and challenges presumptions about the top-down formations and interpretations of knowledge.

Nerida Campbell’s presentation, ‘Dark Inspiration: the NSW Police forensic photography archive’, traces the many uses of this collection for ‘student, scholars, artists, musicians, writers and fashion designers from around the world’. What occurs to me as I listen to both Melissa and Nerida is that there is great scope to re-engage with the ‘performative’ aspects of the official documentation. Not only does police photography of criminal figures, their postures and clothing, give an invaluable insight into Australian cultural life during the early twentieth Century, it provides a point of departure for artistic and theatrical reinterpretations of the ‘real document’. Divisions of class, as well as the gendered aspects of “performing” the mug shot, might be deciphered in these materials.The aesthetics of performing ‘criminality’, its applications in the fashion world for instance, including its influence on the proliferation of late-twentieth and 21st Century street styles, present some of the possibilities of interpreting historical photography from an artistic perspective.

The forensic photography archive is made up of over 130,000 negatives taken by NSW Police investigators’ and Nerida showed us the kinds of artistic projects borne out of an engagement with the archival images. San Francisco artist Michael Jason Enriquez created his photographic project titled, Mugshot Doppelganger, using the police photography as a starting point. In this 2012 project, Michael superimposes the faces of famous Hollywood celebrities onto the faces of the N.S.W based criminals photographed in the early twentieth Century Australia producing an uncanny and anachronistic effect. http://mugshotdoppelganger.tumblr.com/ See also the innovative work of Sydney based organisation, Penguin Plays Rough. In 2013 the company used the photography housed in the Justice and Police Museum as a point of departure for the staging of an event at the museum. Penguin Plays Rough stage events around the objective of establishing creative engagements with what they call ‘imaginatively wild literature’. http://penguinplaysrough.com/2013/09/18/1056/

Antonina Lewis draws on the Greek etymology of the meaning of ‘archive’ highlighting the co-implication of the concept with the hierarchical model of knowledge established in the Western legal tradition. Antonina states that it is no coincidence that juridical terminology such as ‘sentencing’ should find its way into the formations of the archive, or archon (Gk). Her proposition being that legislation continues to shape the future direction of archives and the governance of data, data collection and retention, into the current day. Privilege, power and restriction establish the importance of the archival mechanism, however Antonina reflects how the processes of archiving and the conceptual ‘site’ of archival knowledge might be potentially ‘reconstituted as a site of emancipation’. Overall, the presentations reflected the idea that in the 21st Century we have moved beyond the definition and representation of the archive that abides by its original etymology and Athenian, legal logic. The idea of the archive as performing the function of a ‘living document’ is perhaps informed by the type of re-thinking around archival work that has been taking place across a number of fields and disciplines, and is identified as participating in the ‘new archival turn’. The speakers each elaborated on questions such as: How do archives perform as depositories of official knowledge; how might we expand on the idea of the archive to include marginal stories and identities, sites of unofficial culture and consideration of popular forms?

Angela Ndalianis describes ‘the popular memory’ archive in her research about locally written video games of 1980s Australia and New Zealand. The possibility offered by the community-generated archive establishes a democratised structure for the collection and housing of data. The body of knowledge becomes reinscribed in the form of a ‘demotic archive’, established by the collections of a living fan culture. The typically disavowed ‘body’ of the collector must necessarily come into focus in the games archive, as it must consider the embodied experiences of the game-player so central to its production. Angela states that ‘games are dead unless you can play them’; therefore an accounting of the embodied game player becomes key in assessing the usability, operability and significance of such an archive. Many of these games are out of copyright and for this reason it is easier to manage archival knowledge gleaned from a collective memory, without the strictures of copyright law and other bureaucratic limitations. The definition of the archive as an official space of containment and data management gives way to the concept of the archive as a demotic form of popular and collective memory, but also a space for proliferation and bottom-up aesthetic, historical transmission of cultural production.

Katrina Dean and Janine Barrand map the movements from a body of knowledge that initially begins as a personal collection and then requires transformation as it takes public form. In the case of the Germaine Greer archive, Katrina traced the difficulties of moving from ‘a personal regime’, i.e., the notes, diaries, drafts, photographs, and random personal effects, incidentally collected by Greer, to a public archival ‘regime’ that implicitly demands linearity and regimentality. Janine Barrand’s work curating the 2007 Arts Centre exhibition on Nick Cave’s career highlighted the very personal and nuanced work demanded of the archivist as mediator, collaborator, and witness to the artistic process of a living artist.

Professor Julie McLeod offered useful conceptual framing for approaching the key themes of the symposium. She interrogated the politics of knowledge associated with the archive by asking, what do we mean when we invoke the archive, its multiple and hegemonic function as truth, authority, partiality, and how does the archive enact a public pedagogy? Julie’s address prompted a consideration of the ways in which working in the archive implies materiality; the dustiness of the documents and the embodied gestures, often taken for granted when moving through the archive. Julie’s address prompted a deeper thinking around the ‘gaps’ in archival bodies of knowledge in which things, events, embodied entities, are inevitable left out, forgotten, or compressed. The speakers presented a picture of the Australian Humanities as a pedagogical and sometimes anachronistic site, which intuitively calls for a rethinking of what archival practices, outcomes, might achieve in 21st Century Australia.

The speakers reflected the embodied imagining that informs the labour of archival exploration, its transformation into curricula for education at all levels, as well as the cultural production performed across literary, historical and performative genres; all contributing to an expansion as well as interrogation of the kinds of public imaginaries that proliferate freely, are at stake, and inevitably furnish cultural life in contemporary Australia. Themes included the recovery of potentially lost bodies of knowledge, forgotten urban landscapes and the lives lived within them. For example Dr. Stefan Schutt recovered a pile of what appeared to be industrial detritus from a demolished building site, only to learn that the ‘garbage’ contained design proofs for commercial signage contracts, which in turn inadvertently tell the story of lost urban sites, milk bars, shops, preferred brands of tea and more broadly ways of living in historical Melbourne.

There was a chronicling of minoritarian identities, such as Jan Molloy presenting on the Immigration Museum’s newest permanent exhibition, ‘Identity: yours, mine, ours’. The exhibition explores ‘who we are, who others think we are, and what it means to belong and not belong’. The mapping of hidden or lost architectures and landscapes as well as reflection on methodologies of archival practice was discussed during the day. Christine Healey presented on the implementation of Inquiry based learning in the museum, in the form of VTS or Visual Thinking Strategies. Christine explains that VTS was developed ‘during the 1980s by cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen and veteran museum educator Philip Yenawine at the Museum of Modern Art, New York’. What struck me in Christine’s description of VTS was again the principle of a bottom-up, or horizontal, engagement with history, in which the student’s reading of the ‘image’ becomes an act of authorial interpretation; one that supplements the canonical historical account, rather than being supplanted by it.

The strategy of queering the archive was explored in the work done in The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archive by Nick Henderson and Daniel Marshall. However the act of queering as methodology might extend beyond the specific intersection of knowledge and sexuality to include more broadly an archival strategy that engages specifically with the gaps in official reportage, documentation, and witness; gaps that fall between, or ghost the official accounts of history often taken for granted. This strategy of employing a performative queering of the archon, was reflected in the engagement with the documented faces and identities of criminals found in the N.S.W Police and forensic archive; the lost urban landmarks and commercial signs that have in the past inscribed a history to a ‘place’; ghost signs that are periodically demolished, or do not conform to dominant aesthetic evaluations of what objects, persons, and cultural materials contain ‘prestige’ or official appeal. The scope and reach of this methodology, which seeks an active engagement with the gaps and dark spots in official cultural narrative reappraises the voices and faces of the criminalised and the marginal, their gestures, stories, clothing. The queering maps the stories of women and migrants, the lesbian and gay lives documented in photos and political ephemera as well as sites that document the minor theatres and venues of artistic production that are not evaluated as culturally significant, by dominant cultural institutions and arts funding bodies.

Caroline Wake presented a ‘premature’ report about her work in the Performance Space Archive. For Caroline this work is an act of remembrance for an under documented and under-theorised tradition in Australian Live Art, which has the potential to map to ‘global debates about the changing relationship between theatre, performance and live art’. Jenny Fewster’s (AusStage) metaphor of ‘catching lightening in a bucket’ providing a salient motif for describing the capture of ephemeral acts and objects whether they be theatrical or performative in the broader sense. The metaphor evokes the potentially difficult if not impossible relationship between ephemeral practices such as live performance and theatre, with their technologies of capture – the archive – that seek to contain them. Jenny describes AusStage as a unique data set about live performance in Australia, a site that represents the ability for researchers to glean and map the kind of verifiable networks concerning all aspects of performance, which then contributes to the production of ‘in-depth analysis and visualisations that reveal hidden patterns’ about live performance practice in Australia. Kerry Kilner similarly positions the AustLit database as being ‘unique on the world stage’ in its capacity to trace the ‘art of story in Australia’.

Is there scope for a horizontal discussion across bodies of knowledge housed in seemingly unrelated archives, which might perform the unexpected and expansive labour of ‘filling in the gaps’ for education and cultural activity more broadly? How might the work of figuring ‘Australia’, its historically shadowed position in relation to global debates around performance and literature, be done across the archive? How do we imagine those negotiations and connections happening? How might seemingly unrelated or incongruent bodies of knowledge, cultural materials, stories, and archival resources speak to each other? I’d like to employ Nerida Campbell’s experience of the archive as ‘dark inspiration’ as away of extending the methodological scope of investigating the gaps; the hidden, inexplicable, antipodean, and forgotten traces of history coded in the document; whether that be a photograph, a commercial sign, a piece of jewellery, suicide letter, lyrics, an outmoded piece of technology.

Megan Perry (State Library of N.S.W) emphasises the important role of the mobility of archives and their key resources and objects. She contends that the mobility of histories and artefacts ‘also speaks to risk, responsibility and reward…’ Curators, education officers, artists, and archivists from organisations such as ACMI, Auststage, Austlit, Australian Lesbian and Gay archives, Performance Space Archive, The Immigration Museum, The Germaine Greer archive and more, contributed to the fleshing out of the conceptual terrain around archival practices; the significance of these practices in the broadening of selection, uptake, and access of materials; the understanding of the intellectual and historical impact of losing touch with these official and unofficial sites of cultural memory, and the affective production they yield in the imaginings and ways of living in contemporary Australian life. We hope to keep this discussion going throughout 2015.