SPARKS OF THE DIVINE: HIDEOUT IN THE APOCALYPSE
Hideout in the Apocalypse is about surveillance and the crushing of Australia’s larrikin culture.
In the last two years the Abbott/Turnbull government has prosecuted the greatest assault on freedom on freedom of speech in the nation’s history.
The government knew from international research that when it introduced the panopticon, universal surveillance, into Australia it would have a chilling effect on the culture. When people know they are being watched, they behave differently. Dissent is stifled, conformity becomes the norm. This is the so-called chilling effect.
Forced to use novelistic techniques to tell a fantastical story, in his latest book Hideout from the Apocalypse veteran reporter John Stapleton confirms the old adage, truth is stranger than fiction.
His essential theme: a place which should have been safe from an impending apocalypse, the quagmire of religious wars enveloping the Middle East, is not safe at all.
“Australia is a democracy in name only,” says John Stapleton. “The war on terror has become a war on the people. It has justified an enormous expansion of state power. Ideas are contagious, and the Abbott/Turnbull government is afraid of them.
“The arts have seen dramatic cuts in funding, the Australian book industry has been directly attacked, with all the country’s most significant writers launching bitter critiques of the government actions, while journalism is a shadow of its former self. Investigative journalism is all but dead.
“Ludicrously tight legislation introduced by Abbott but enacted under Turnbull’s watch mean journalists can face jail for multiple alleged crimes. A Journalist Information Warrant, issued without the knowledge of either the journalist or their employer, allows 21 government agencies access to all their phone and internet records. If a journalist discovers that a Warrant has been made out against him and publicly reveals the fact, they face two years jail. If a journalist is called before a corruption watchdog and told to give up their source, they will face jail if so much as tell a friend, a family member or their own union they are being called before what is essentially a “star chamber”.
“A journalist also faces jail of up to 10 years if they unknowingly report a Security Intelligence Operation, a SIO. What does or does not constitute an SIO is left to Australia’s plethora of secretive agencies to decide. Even if the information has been previously published, that will not save them.”
Hideout in the Apocalypse, in the tradition of The Lucky Country, uses novelistic techniques to take a snapshot of the country, 50 years on from Donald Horne’s classic cautionary tale.
The central character is a retired reporter known as Old Alex. Using fantastical imagery so fitting for the times, he believes he is a cluster intelligence dispatched, with hundreds of others of his kind, to a strategic point in Earth’s timeline to help rescue it from an impending apocalypse. He has the gift of being able to summon up many of history’s greatest writers to assist him in the struggle.
An empath, Old Alex can hear the words and the thoughts of the agency personnel pursuing him after he wrote a book called Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost.
The agencies which most wish to see him escorted off the mortal coil are the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). At the same time an even more clandestine, and far more adroitly managed agency, is secretly trying to hire him.
In the real world the author also wrote a book called Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost. But Old Alex is a great believer in parallel universes, and that is entirely beside the point.
“A war which is all about God is already running out of control,” says Mr Stapleton. “There is end time imagery everywhere you look.”
“Old Alex believes that the only solution is a magical one, and lies in the ‘creatives’, the artists, writers, magicians, actors, the greatest minds in history which, through the remarkable technologies of our era, have gifted their wisdom down the ages, to us.
“That is, a new Enlightenment is the only thing that will save civilisation in these darkening days of barbarism, cruel gods, mass casualty events and the West’s brutal bombing of that cradle of civilisation, the Middle East.
“As Old Alex looks around at the military bastardry to which Australia is so closely tied, he fears the worst. He believes the ever tightening controls over domestic populations, surveillance and the expansion of state power are killing the very culture the war on terror is allegedly aiming to preserve.
“The Australian people deserve to know what is happening to their own country, what is being done to them, in their name, by their elected representatives and the armies of self-serving politicians, bureaucrats and social engineers infesting the government architecture.
The book merges documentary, reportage, fantasy and memoir to tell a story that could not otherwise be told.
For author interviews, pre-publication copies and further information, in the first instance please email: [email protected]
The first money Australian journalist John Stapleton ever made out of writing was in 1972 when he was co-winner of a short story competition held by what was then Australia’s leading cultural celebration, the Adelaide Arts Festival.
He graduated from Macquarie University in 1975 with a double major in philosophy and did post-graduate work with the Sociology Department at Flinders University.
As a freelance journalist in the 1970s and 1980s, while alternating between living in Sydney and London, his articles and fiction appeared in a wide range of magazines, newspapers and anthologies, including the now defunct Bulletin and The Australian Financial Review.
John Stapleton worked on the then esteemed newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald as a staff news reporter between 1986 and 1994. The paper was then listed as one of the Top 20 newspapers in the world.
He worked for the national newspaper The Australian from 1994 to 2009.
His books include: Thailand: Deadly Destination, Terror in Australia: Workers’ Paradise Lost, Chaos at the Crossroads: Family Law Reform in Australia, Hunting the Famous, The Twilight Soi and The Final Days of Alastair Nicholson.
Hunting the Famous is a meditation on journalism and writing which spans more than 40 years, form the late 1960s until 2010.
Prior to becoming a staff reporter Stapleton’s unlikely promise to himself to live or die by the typewriter led to a string of encounters with some of the world’s most famous authors, including Gore Vidal, Dirk Bogarde, Paul Bowles, Joseph Heller, Al Alvarez, Anthony Burgess, Norman Mailer and Salman Rushdie. Hunting the Famous also includes affectionate portraits of Australian writers such as author David Malouf, poet Vicki Viidikas and hard drinking journalistic legends such as Jack Darmody and Joe Glascott.
As a news reporter Stapleton encountered and wrote stories about everyone from street alcoholics to Australian Prime Ministers, including Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. He covered many hundreds of stories, from the staple flood, drought, fire and natural disasters of the Australian bush to scenes of urban dysfunction in inner Sydney. Hunting the Famous covers a period of profound change within newspapers as the Information Revolution transformed the nature of the profession.
Thailand: Deadly Destination, an expose of the tourist safety in the so-called Land of Smiles, received widespread coverage. It was particularly controversial within Thailand, where it was banned.
The pamphlet Agent Orange: The Cleanup Begins, documents the efforts to rid Vietnam of the legacy of the accidental byproduct of Agent Orange, dioxin, a key factor in the high levels of disability the country suffered after the Vietnam War.
After leaving The Australian John Stapleton established the niche publishing company A Sense of Place Publishing. Books published by the company include Travels with My Hat: A Lifetime on the Road by Christine Osborne, America’s Destruction of Iraq by Michael O’Brien and Bloody Colonials by Stafford Sanders.
He continues to write as a contributor for the news site The New Daily.
His next book, due out in late 2016, is called Hideout in the Apocalypse.
A collection of John Stapleton’s journalism can be found here: