by Rowena Cory Daniells
I grew up on the Gold Coast in the 60s and 70s.
Me with my cat. In the background you can see the shed. We kept chickens and grew vegetables, went swimming every weekend.
Back then the Gold Coast was fibro shacks, surf, sun and sand. All very idyllic but lacking in any sense of permanence. Back then the Gold Coast was famous for metre maids.
These were girls (not women) who wore golden bikinis and dropped coins in your metre if it ran out, so that people didn’t get tickets. (As a child I didn’t want to grow up to be a metre maid, I wanted to be an astronaut).
The closest we came to history was this wreck on Stradbroke Island.
But of course, I’d never seen it. I’d heard the grown ups mention it in passing and no one seemed to know much about it. Back then, there was no way to find out anything. I suppose I could have gone to the library and asked, but I only remember going into the library once when I was about eleven, and I didn’t know you could ask librarians to find things. I didn’t know that there were people interested in history, trying to piece the past together. See here. (The Galleon they are talking about is not the wreck in the photo above. More on the galleon here).
Back then we had one bookshelf in our home and it contained a couple of books and some magazines. I read everything I could find. The only way I could see the world was through TV which was black and white and our local TV stations must have bought a couple of seasons of Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched and Hogan’s Heroes and just kept playing them over and over until I knew the dialogue off by heart and was close to gnawing off my leg in frustration.
To put it simply I was desperately hungry for anything that gave me a glimpse of the wider world.
In my early twenties I moved to Melbourne and opened a second-hand book and record shop. It was heaven. I could read all day long and talk to people about books. As soon as I found an interesting book I would devour it, and I’d keep it just in case I ever needed to refer to it again. Books were like treasures. The more I had, the richer I felt. Beautiful books on art. Books on science. Fantasy and SF books... In fact, it got to the point recently when I had to go through my shelves and cull my books. They were starting to block the windows.
Resorting to great ruthlessness, I sorted them into keep and give to the local second-hand bookstore piles. The second-hand bookstore gave me $500 credit. I’ve used it all up, plus every time I go to a convention I come back with a couple of hundred dollars worth of books.
Confession - It’s been over twelve months since I cleaned out my book shelves but they are stacked two rows deep again.
All of which brings me to why I love the internet. I can find out anything, at the click of a mouse. I know. It’s amazing...
Recently, I was writing a fantasy set in a dangerous tropical paradise and I needed to know how far the horizon was if you were sitting in a rowboat, then how far it was if you were up on the lookout of a sailing ship. It’s out there. The information is out there, all you have to do is look.
My ‘bookmark’ file on my web browser now looks like my bookshelves. There are hundreds of folders and subfolders with all sorts of amazing facts about the world. I love it that I can read the science blogs, and New Scientist. This is the kid who memorised the planets of the solar system when she found a book about it, just in case she never found the book again.
I love it that people put up pictures of cats with funny captions.
It is such a relief from the official news, which is all doom and gloom. The world can’t be such a bad place, when people love their pets.
I love it that I can find links like this - the Paris apartment that was locked up before World War two and only opened again recently. (There’s a romantic story attached to this apartment).
I love the wonderful but sad, like Hashima Island, where 5,000 people used to live on one square mile. But when the coal ran out the island was deserted (more photos here). And this is a link to a video made by a man who goes back to the island to look around.
The internet brings me closer to people all around the world. It’s not a perfect world. For instance, there’s this series of photos of people with degrees who spent years studying and find themselves sweeping streets or serving tables.
I love twitter because I follow artists, writers and political activists who are always putting up interesting links. I’m still hungry for information about the world and its people.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s a writer thing. Writers find people and the world endlessly fascinating because we are always observing, trying to make sense of life. This is why I love the WWW because it has set me free. The more I learn, the more I want to know.
Rowena has a copy of either her gritty, noir-paranormal crime thriller The Price of Fame, or the first book of either of her fantasy trilogies, King Rolen’s Kin or The Outcast Chronicles to give away.
This competition is open to anyone anywhere in the world.
Just answer Rowena's question in the comments below: "What do you love about the web? Surprise me!"