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Supplementary Materials and Resources for Podcast 29 - Notes


mySF Project: notes from class used as scaffolds for analysis
of Post-Apocalyptic texts and Kelleher's Taronga


This page supports Podcast 29 of the mySF Project blog and podcast series, found at
You can find the full script for Podcast 29 at



Background to the notes for the class
General notes on Post-Apocalyptic fictions
General notes on Kelleher's 'Taronga'
The Cosy Catastrophe
Problems in Microcosm
Resource list


Background to the notes for the class


As mentioned in the Teacher's background to this unit of study, notes were used in many classes. The notes were created in Word and then magnified to an Arial font size 24 or so for display on the ActiveVision IWB. The classes leading up to the class focus exercise for the QTM class were often broken into separate parts, as seemed to suit the individual nature of the class.


The teacher and students might start with a segment of videos such as seen in the video list, then jump into the notes in Word, have a look at one of the definitions or quotes on Post-Apocalyptic fiction, and then work in groups or discuss the topics raised in discussions across the class.



The notes here were created on the teacher computer near the front of the class, next to the IWB screen. As a few paragraphs were added in their large type, the points would be discussed with the class and amended, often with suggestions from students. Citations and close notes on sources were not included as the ongoing notes (created over perhaps six to seven classes) were aimed as stiumulii to further thoughts on the novel Taronga (Kelleher, 1986) or relating to the sub-genre of Post-Apocalyptic fiction within SF, as discussed in the teachers' background page. The notes were saved to the students' VLE and uploaded at the end of each class, as an ongoing chronicle of discussion, as part of a flexible or blended learning environment (Felicia, nd) in line with CSILE models (Bereiter, 2001). Of course, this also meant students who missed classes could stay up with the work.



They notes are offered here in a smaller size, but just as they appeared on the student VLE.



General notes on Post-Apocalyptic fictions


Most cultures have imagined a terrible end to their world. In Western civilisation, many stories of the Apocalypse derive from religious texts, such as the Jewish Bible.

In the story of Noah, God punishes the people with a great flood. This flood story is also known before the Bible in a story found in cuneiform mud tablets.

Stories of the end of the world have circulated over the centuries. Jumping to more times, the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, wrote a long narrative called ‘The Last Man’ about a world decimated by a new, pandemic plague.

The rapid expanse in population after the Industrial Revolution also gave rise to worries about the end of the world through too many people with too few resources. The writer Malthus prophesised the end of the world by 2000.

Writers have always taken up the idea of a terrible disaster decimating the world, resulting in just a few survivors. Often these stories looked at the essential nature of humanity – if it was basically good or evil after judgement.

In many texts, the writers show us a group of people who represent the whole world, in microcosm. Amongst the survivors, archetypal characters emerge: the leader, the religious zealot, the follower and the scientist.


Taronga, by Victor Kelleher

The novel Taronga (1986) assumes a Post Apocalyptic setting. The reader never learns the nature of the disaster but there are hints. One of the hints is Last Days, a term implying the end of the world as we know it. There is also reference to a Doomsday process, based perhaps on the Cold War MAD scenario.

The reader does know that the microcosm of Taronga Zoo would be destroyed with all its animals. The controlling leaders would rather destroy Taronga than let it fall into the hands of others. 

The Post Apocalyptic scenario of Taronga (1986) provides an opportunity for the author to explore human nature, and even perhaps the animal nature of humans.

The novel focuses on animal nature because Ben, the protagonist, can make telepathic contact with some animals, and can even control their behaviour to some extent. The novel explores the mind of the main animal character, Raja the tiger, seen on the cover of the novel.

This device of telepathy from Ben is well known in Science Fiction. In many Post-Apocalyptic scenarios, a mutant with advantages can lead the way to a new recovery for society. Kelleher uses this device to delve deeply into the dark, animal heart of man, arguing if killing of any sort is ever necessary.


The Cosy Catastrophe

There have been many texts and films looking at a small remnant of humanity after a global disaster. One early example of this was John Wyndham’s The Triffids. Critics of this successful novel and series of films called it a ‘cosy catastrophe’.

Cosy catastrophes are when a few survivors see a spectacular end of the world but they are not too threatened. They inherit all of the wealth of the world. Their real work is to repopulate the Earth, with a beautiful, young woman/man. Is this a sort of wish-fulfilment fantasy?


Problems in Microcosm

The cosy catastrophe story seemed to relate to wish-fulfilment, particularly for men. Some texts also looked at both racism and sexism in the Post-Apocalyptic narrative.

In some notable stories, writers played with the clash of cultures in a Post-Apocalyptic world, including a black man, a white man and a white woman as the only survivors of a disaster. Such films include, The Quiet Earth, and several others.

The Post-Apocalyptic story was used to look at social problems in microcosm, putting a few characters together after a disaster to see if the same old problems are recreated, or if the survivors can build a newer, better world.


Resource list

Bereiter, C.  (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.

Felicia, D.    (n.d.). 'Blended Learning: Choosing the Right Blend'. Encyclopaedia of Educational Technology. Retrieved 27 February, 2005 from

Kelleher, V. (1986). Taronga.  Scoresby, Victoria: Penguin Group Australia. Paperback 9780140326314

NSWDET (2006). A classroom practice guide: Quality teaching in ACT Schools. Copyright NSW Department of Education and Training. Canberra: Publishing Services for the ACT Department of Education and Training.

NSWDET (2006a). An assessment practice guide: Quality teaching in ACT Schools. Copyright NSW Department of Education and Training. Canberra: Publishing Services for the ACT Department of Education and Training.


Michael Sisley


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