2018 Convenors’ Award for Excellence nominations

Each year we make the eligible nominations received for the annual Convenors’ Award for Excellence public. There are several reasons for this:

  • There is no shortlist announced, so it feels right to recognise the entries;
  • These are items you may not otherwise have come across, so we’d like to make sure you know about them;
  • It may 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 entries we received for the Award this year (please note also that these can be self-nominated). The convenors consider all eligible entries in deciding the winner, 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 that year that cannot otherwise by judged for the Aurealis Awards. 

This award can be given to a work of non-fiction, artwork, film, television, electronic or multimedia work, or one that brings credit or attention to the speculative fiction genres.

This year’s entries are:

Eugen Bacon, “What is AfroSF?”, Aurealis #111

In her capacity as an African Australian writer, a creative writer and a scholar, Dr Eugen Bacon in this work of non-fiction continues her contribution to speculative fiction in insightful and accessible conversations that connect broad audiences. In this article Bacon interrogates the term ‘AfroSF’ in the context of science fiction by African writers, and its potential non-application to a wider logic as a ‘concept’ rather than a ‘naming’. The article is poignant and merits the attention of Australia’s AustLit society, a non-profit collaboration of academic, library and research organisations in discovering Australian creative writing, criticism, ‘blackworks’ and stage and screen productions. ‘What is AfroSF’ is creative non-fiction that credits the speculative fiction genre in expanding current debates by diverse storytellers in Australia’s literary, print and narrative landscape.

Jac Colvin, “Lost Ones”, Sub-Q Magazine

The dream’s half-remembered song pulls you towards the river at night. What will you find? “Lost Ones” is an eerie, atmospheric take on the rusalka, Slavic water nymphs whose intentions could be downright murderous. In “Lost Ones”, you’ll pit your wits and desperation against one. But something about this particular rusalka is familiar… “Lost Ones” is a short work of electronic interactive fiction which combines the old with the new. The rusalki, creatures from half remembered folk tales, are brought to life in a way that allows the audience to become part of the story. Readers take the part of the protagonist, influencing the story with their decisions and allowing it to conclude in multiple ways.

Ruqiyah Patel, “if not us: an interactive fiction anthology”

if not us is unique to interactive fiction: a collection of five different stories, each with different presentations, narrators, mechanics and styles. It draws on traditional literary techniques and classic fantasy tropes to tell an epic story with minimal exposition: five heroes embark on a journey to save the world, but the journey claims their lives one by one, and at the end the sole remaining hero stands outside their enemy’s fortress and wonders: can I be victorious alone? Is this the battle that I must fight? What success will I find, if I continue onwards? ‘Tragedy’ is a classic literary genre, but it’s rarely seen in video games – I argue this is because the archetypal tragedy relies on the protagonist’s own flaws leading to their downfall, and having to play through this yourself in a video game can be a gruelling, unpleasant experience. if not us brings tragedy to games in a more palatable way – yes, you play as a character whose flaws have cost them everything, but the question is: what next? Must this remain a tragedy? if not us runs on Mac/Windows/Linux and can be downloaded for free at https://ub4q.itch.io/ifnotus

Tansy Rayner Roberts, “Gentlewomen of the Press”, self-published

A themed collection of pop culture essays from an award-winning Australian critic.

Cat Sparks, “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction”, Curtin University

The exegesis, The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction, examines key cultural concerns of the sixties and seventies as expressed through ecocatastrophe science fiction: overpopulation, pollution, resource depletion and contamination, considering that, despite sophisticated literary efforts, science fiction’s cautionary tales were rendered ineffective, diffused by genre cringe and prejudice, dismissed as mere entertainment. This is contrasted with contemporary climate fiction, written with the presumption that the processes leading to resource depleted, climate ravaged futures are already inexorably in motion. Anthropocene fiction is pushing beyond its origins as a subgenre of science fiction, evolving into a bold new genre responding directly to looming environmental crisis, laying the foundations for new literatures to emerge alongside new technologies, new attitudes, new social ecologies and new hope. This exegesis brings both credit and attention to the speculative fiction genre by detailing storytelling’s call for the expansion of literary boundaries into frontiers, the pulling down of fences, the retiring of the old and the invigoration of fresh, new perspectives as our societies and cultures are forced to embrace a reality in which all mimetic fiction will eventually be climate fiction by default.

Kim Wilkins, Lisa Fletcher, and Beth Driscoll, “Genre Worlds: Australian Popular Fiction in the 21st Century”

This large-scale research project sought to understand the interlinked textual, social, and industrial complexities of the production of Australian fantasy, crime, and romance. Over the three years of the project, the team interviewed over 100 writers and publishing personnel, organised an industry conference (http://www.genreworlds.com/genre-worlds-symposium-2016/), an academic conference (http://www.genreworlds.com/genre-worlds-conference-2017/), curated a special issue of Australian Literary Studies (https://www.australianliterarystudies.com.au/issues/genre-worlds-popular-fiction-in-the-twenty-first-century), and published findings about Australian genre fiction of the 21st century, including one on small press and fantasy fandoms, and another tracing the publishing ecosystems of fantasy, crime, and romance (attached). The project was funded with more the $300,000 of Australian Research Council money, and was the first large funded project in Australia that took as its object of study the “”genre worlds”” of fantasy, crime, and romance. As such, it has raised the profile of those genres and the profile of speculative fiction in the academic world, and has expanded the field through nurturing multiple PhD students and early career researchers.

 

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