Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 17, 2013

The Great Unknown (2013), Edited by Angela Meyer

The Great Unknown

I don’t usually post about books I haven’t finished reading, but hey, it’s nearly Christmas and you might well be wracking your brains to think of an interesting gift for a friend – and this might be just what you are looking for …

This is the blurb:

In this anthology,  editor Angela Meyer, pays tribute to the undeniable cultural influence that American TV programs such as Twilight Zone and Outer Limits have had on our lives ‘down under’. ‘These TV dramas,’ Meyer says, ‘ were often metaphors for equality, justice, the nuclear threat and more. Though they were just as often pure, spooky fun.’ Meyer has selected short stories and microfiction which range from the fantastical and macabre to the absurd. In Paddy O’Reilly’s Reality TV, a guest is confronted with her husband’s infidelity in front of a live audience and Ali Alizedah’s Truth and Reconciliation satirizes American celebrity television. Chris Flynn’s Sealer’s Cove has a nudist caught in a time slip. Carmel Bird evokes Edgar Allan Poe when over-sized hares incite the good folk of rural Victoria to commit criminal acts and in Sticks and Stones, Ryan O’Neill has an academic attacked by a demonic alphabet. Contributors include established and emerging writers such as Marion Halligan, Krissy Kneen as well as new talents.

Angela, who I had the pleasure of meeting when I launched Annabel Smith’s Whisky Charlie Foxtrot last year, has edited a collection of weird and wonderful short stories and microfiction under the title The Great Unknown.  I’ve read two of these stories, choosing ones by my favourite authors: ‘Reality TV’ by Paddy O’Reilly, and ‘Her Dress was a Pale Glimmer’ by Marion Halligan, so I can certainly vouch for Angela’s good taste in making her selections!

Paddy O’Reilly skewers the hideousness of reality TV without mercy:

From the corner of her eye Carly could see the iris of the camera widen to take in the whole scene. She knew the kind of thing they were hoping she’d say, the weeping and shrieking they wanted her to do. She grew up with television and its conventions. She had laughed at the women on shows like this who lunged at their betraying husbands, tried to hit them with weak half-closed fists, who moaned and wept, who bared themselves.

Carly didn’t want to be one of those women. She was here on stage, betrayed, sure enough, but by a man she had already grown to despise. Sitting in the blindingly bright studio watched by a crowd of screamers, she could only come up with one thought. The words popped out of her mouth, harmless missiles out of a peashooter. ‘Why didn’t I leave you years ago?’

A small man holding up a large placard raced backwards and forwards across the studio floor in front of the audience.

The placard said Laugh. Scattered on the floor at the side of the stage were more that said Scream and Howl and Hiss and other instructions for whatever he wanted the audience to do. Right now they were doing it all at once. A woman in clingy aqua pants barrelled down the stairs, arms flailing, calling out that Carly should punch the dirty bastard. She was caught at the bottom of the steps by two hefty men and escorted backstage to the cheering of the crowd.

Marion Halligan delights with her trademark talent for describing the decorative arts:

Ysabeau put on her best Goth outfit: filmy layers of black, long skirt, floating cape. She made this herself, Granny taught her to use the sewing machine and she’s good at it. Her face was pale and she wore deep red lipstick. On her feet were mid calf boots, laced up, not very summery but then neither was the whole outfit. I wore my favourite vintage dress, in polished cotton, with a pattern of convolvulus flowers in purple and blue colours thickly clustered over it. It has a neat fitting bodice with a scoop neckline and a small waist, with a full skirt both gored and gathered. It actually belonged to Granny when she was a girl in the fifties, she made her own clothes and this was a favourite style. She showed me the little five-sided gussets under the arms, which give a close but comfortable fit. It’s exactly your size, she said, it suits you perfectly. This is because Granny and I have similar figures, small neat top halves with quite wide hips and curvaceous legs, but luckily with thin ankles, whereas Ysabeau is more straight and slender. Granny looked at me and sighed and smiled at the same time. I remember the petticoat I had, she said. Tiers of tulle, straight at the top but the final tier forty yards around the bottom. In your terms forty metres, she said, near enough. It was wonderful, solid frills of tulle against your legs, holding the skirt right out.

What happened to it? I asked.

Your mother wore it for dress-ups when she was a little girl. It made a wonderful bride dress. But all those flounces, they got trodden on, and ripped, finally it was ripped to pieces. Thrown away.

This seemed a pity. I’d have liked that petticoat.

Some girls, said Granny, dipped their net petticoats in sugar and water, to make them stiff. Some had crinolines of rope, to make them stick out.

I thought I would look in op-shops for such a petticoat, but I’ve never seen one.

Angela Meyer is a Melbourne-based writer and reviewer. Her fiction has been published in Seizure, Wet Ink, and The Lifted Brow. She has written on books for many publications including The Big Issue, The Australian, and Crikey and she has interviewed authors at festivals across Australia and overseas. A chapbook of her flash fiction will be published by Inkerman & Blunt in 2014.  She blogs at Literary Minded.

Editor: Angela Meyer
Title: The Great Unknown
Publisher: Spineless Wonders, 2013
ISBN: 9780987447937
Source: Review copy courtesy of Angela Meyer.

You can buy the book from Fishpond: The Great Unknown or at any good bookstore.


  1. Sounds like an excellent lineup of Australian writers + some very quirky stories. :-)


  2. Excellent – this is on my shelf to read next!


    • I’ll be interested to see which ones you choose to read first…


  3. I agree, Reality TV does need skewering. Never watch any of it myself.


    • Um, I succumb to Masterchef every year. But all the other stuff, noooooooooo


  4. […] at ANZ Litlovers took a peek at and enjoyed a couple of the collection’s other stories too. Click here for her […]


  5. […] Review of Books has some kind words for the anthology, and you can find other reviews here and here.  Finally, you can read Angela Meyer’s thoughts on putting the anthology together on the […]


  6. […] Angela Meyer, blogger at Literary Minded, who edited an anthology of short stories and micro-fiction called  The Great Unknown.  (I reviewed a couple of stories from the collection here.) […]


  7. […] Meyer, editor of The Great Unknown  (see my review) and author of […]


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