2015 Convenors’ Award for Excellence Entries

AA logoLast year was the first time we publicly announced the nominees for the Convenors’ Award for Excellence. However, we feel it is now appropriate to make these nominations public, mostly because they are great things you may not otherwise have come across, so we’d like to make sure you know about them, but also to help people figure out what might be eligible in future.

It is very important to note that this list is NOT a shortlist – it is simply a list of the eligible nominations we received for the Award this year. The convenors will consider all eligible entries, but there is no shortlist generated, and only the winner will be presented at the ceremony.

A reminder what this award is for:

The Convenors’ Award for Excellence is awarded at the discretion of the convenors for a particular achievement in speculative fiction or related areas in the year that cannot otherwise be judged for the Aurealis Awards.

It can be for a work of non-fiction, artwork, film, television, electronic or multimedia work, or that which brings credit or attention to the speculative fiction genres.

The award was originally known as The Convenors’ Award for Excellence and was renamed in 2002 after Peter McNamara (d. 2004), publisher, editor and the original Aurealis Awards convenor, shortly after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In 2014, the award guidelines were revised and it was renamed to its original form, to avoid confusion with the Peter McNamara Achievement Award presented annually at the National Science Fiction Convention.

And the nominees are:

Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein, Letters to Tiptree (Twelfth Planet Press)

About the Nomination: Letters to Tiptree is a significant Australian production for 2015. This book, which celebrates the contribution of Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr to the science fiction field, presents 40 letters from major names in the field today, as well as academic essays about the importance of Sheldon/Tiptree and original letters to and from Sheldon, Ursula Le Guin and Joanna Russ. This is an important contribution not only to thinking about Sheldon/Tiptree but to the history of science fiction, the place of women in it, and how those who have gone before us can have a significant impact. It also explores the importance of discussing issues of feminism, and how vital it is to see others like us (women, queer, questioning) around us, succeeding in our field. This book is the most significant action undertaken to celebrate the centenary of Sheldon’s birth; very little else has occurred in her honour.

Black Lab Games (Director: Paul Turbett / Writer+Designer: Anthony Sweet / Art Director: Anthony Carriero), Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy (Slitherine Ltd)

About the Nomination: Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy is a story-centric sci-fi tactical game that embraces character-driven plot. The game features a number of innovative mechanics that creates a focus on the emotions and relationships between crew members, not just blowing up the enemy (although that part is pretty fun, too).

Star Hammer has 2,500+ lines of dialogue, descriptive mission briefings and a dynamic War Scale system that tells the story of Valeron Dyce, a freshly graduated Lieutenant in the Coalition Navy, and the part she eventually plays in the Second Contact War. Depending on how Valeron conducts herself throughout the war determines how her story unfolds; instead of static plot choices, the player’s in-game tactics and performance are evaluated by the War Scale system, which in turn determines the storylines and missions that become available to Valeron.

Another mechanic featured in Star Hammer is the Crew Relationship Matrix, where changing the focus of your crew members affects their mood, which in turn affects their relationships with other crew members. This leads to different inter-crew vignettes and gameplay bonuses.

We spent a lot of time looking at the narrative structure of sci-fi strategy games and figuring out how we can tell a different kind story that is focused on characters, while maintaining the spectacle and intensity of space battle gameplay.

Enzo Tedeschi & Julian Harvey, Airlock

About the Nomination: A drifting rogue spaceship docks with an isolated space station. Inside is a dead crew and a band of stowaway refugees. Tasked with the investigation, Security Officer Jonah Ashbrook (Mark Coles Smith) is thrown headlong into a series of events that will turn life on the station into a life or death crisis.

Felicity Banks, Attack of the Clockwork Army, hosted (but not published) by Choice of Games

About the Nomination: Attack of the Clockwork Army is interactive fiction – a modern digital form of Choose Your Own Adventure books.

It is set mainly in a fantastical steampunk (alternate Victorian era) Australia.

L. M. Myles and Liz Barr (eds), Companion Piece: Women celebrate the humans, aliens and tin dogs of Doctor Who (Mad Norwegian Press)

About the Nomination: Companion Piece provides a lighthearted, intelligent and informative feminist perspective on the companions of Doctor Who.

With an Australian co-editor and seven Australian contributors, it also represents a particularly Australian perspective on Doctor Who, which is often lost amidst the more dominant US and UK voices.

Laura E. Goodin and Houston Dunleavy (producers), The Cabinet of Oddities (Moonburn Productions)

About the Nomination: The Cabinet of Oddities, a performance of new compositions linked with new writing that was produced at this year’s Conflux, uniquely showcased Australian speculative fiction in a number of innovative ways. Producers Laura E. Goodin and Houston Dunleavy solicited fiction and artwork from some of Australia’s best-known speculative-fiction practitioners, who provided work of exceptional quality and range, most of which was created specifically for this project. The producers matched the writers with composers to work collaboratively on a performance piece. As far as the producers know, this is the first time such a project has been undertaken anywhere. The producers took advantage of the simultaneous occurrence of the Australian Flute Festival to secure the participation of four top-level flutists, including Peter Sheridan, specialist in low flutes. Not only has the project resulted in new works that will have lasting benefit to both the Australian speculative and contemporary-music communities, it has also had other valuable outcomes. Conflux attendees heard challenging and beautiful contemporary pieces that broadened their understanding of music (a frequent comment was “I’ve never heard anything like that before in my life!”). The project forged partnerships between two of Australia’s arts communities, with the likelihood of future collaborations. It publicised and expanded the repertoire for the low flutes, which are relatively new instruments. It positioned the Australian spec-fiction community as innovators in artistic collaboration and the presentation of spec fiction as performance. And it expanded Australian con-goers’ conceptions of the kinds of events that can happen at conventions, thereby enriching the planning and realisation of cons in the future.

Matthew Tait, Different Masks: A Decade In The Dark (HodgePodge Press)

About the Nomination: Australian author, Matthew Tait, has spent decades immersed in the horror community, home and abroad. From the written word to the cinematic world, Different Masks is a culmination of Mr. Tait’s zest for all things macabre. Thousands of man-hours have been spent scouring the titles of not only well-known authors but independent authors such as Greg Chapman and Daniel I. Russell, giving them a voice in the vast sea of dark fiction. A cinephile by nature, Mr. Tait does not limit himself to books; his enjoyment of all things horror also comes in the form of jump-scares and bloodbaths on the big screen. Different Masks contains over a hundred well-rounded critiques, a delicacy of appreciation served on a silver platter for all to enjoy.

Tom Taylor, James Brouwer, The Deep – The Animated Series (DHX Media, Technicolor, A Stark Production)

About the Nomination: The Deep animated series is adapted from the award-winning graphic novels published by Gestalt Comics.

It is the first major animated series adapted from graphic novels in Australia, produced out of Australia and Canada with all scripts, character & environment design and musical score produced by Australians.

It has been sold internationally with Germany, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, USA and UK broadcast partners slated to air the series in 2016. Australian broadcast begins on 7TWO on 1 December 2015, followed by screenings on ABC3 later in 2016.

The series retains the integrity of the graphic novels owing to Gestalt having negotiated for the creative team to hold key roles. Original writer Tom Taylor is the Story Editor and artist James Brouwer is Art Director, heading up the design studio for the series.

The animated series demonstrates that world-class IP can be developed, produced and retained in Australia whilst still finding a global audience.

Van Ikin, Other Spacetimes: Interviews with Speculative Fiction Writers (Wildside)

About the Nomination: This collection of interviews with Australian spec.fic. authors extends from 1978 to 2005. It provides a record of the authors’ views and opinions at the time and is therefore an archive of practitioners’ thinking about Australian spec.fic. The book is the fourth (and final) volume in Wildside’s reprinting of work from Van Ikin’s career (the other three volumes are “Best of” collections from the journal Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature). Van Ikin was a major contributor to all interviews, but note that some interviews involved other interviewers as well.

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