2022 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 nominations 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.

The winner of the 2022 Convenors’ Award for Excellence will be announced at the Awards ceremony in Canberra on Saturday June 3, 2023.

This year’s nominations are:

Eugen Bacon, An Earnest Blackness (Anti-Oedipus Press)

In this debut collection of personal essays, Eugen Bacon offers critical perspectives on blackness, Afrofuturism, colonialism, historicity, and (mis)recognition as she explores the untapped possibilities of speculative fiction. Using a variety of analytic, narrative, and anecdotal techniques, Bacon shares her experiences as an African Australian woman, mother, and writer who occupies a liminal space that is “betwixt” worlds and genres. She also considers work by “other” writers—ranging from Roland Barthes and Jorge Luis Borges to Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Sheree Renée Thomas—in an effort to chart a path towards greater social and cultural truth. Literary, adventurous, and insightful, An Earnest Blackness excavates the world(s) that not only construct contemporary authorship but the fluid nature of identity itself.

Chris Large, Darkendore (Tales, Inc)

A digital branching narrative story, scripting, artwork, sound design and effects that began life as a graphic novel pitch, and came to fruition with Tales, Inc for their Tales: Choose Your Own Story platform. Not long after the final chapter was published in August it rose to the top of the chart on the Tales app and is still in and out of the top 20 stories several months later. Darkendore is blurbed as follows: “You’d think that working as the right hand of Death would bring you some sort of invincibility, but you’re still painfully mortal…and someone (or something) wants you dead.”

Maria Lewis, The Phantom Never Dies podcast (Nova)

Maria Lewis is the presenter, producer, writer and researcher of the audio documentary The Phantom Never Dies. Released by Nova and spanning six episodes, this series brought light to the history of the world’s first superhero – The Phantom – and underlined to an international audience why speculative fiction stories matter, both historically and in the present, and the far reaching impact the genre has had on the world as a whole. Through the awards The Phantom Never Dies has won – AWGIE for Non-Fiction Audio and nominations for Host of the Year at the Radio Today Awards and Best Arts & Culture Program at the Australian Podcast Awards – it has helped to highlight diverse fans and fandoms both behind the scenes in its production and on-air.

Matt Ottley, The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness film (One Tentacle Publishing)

The Tree of Ecstasy and Unbearable Sadness is a masterful allegorical tale for the 21st century, weaving together the worlds of literature, music and visual art in the poignant story of one boy’s journey into mental illness. Audiences are offered a mesmerising visual and auditory tour de force about beauty and resilience, society and belief, that at its heart expresses hope for a greater understanding and embracing of difference. The narrative unfolds around the metaphor of a tree growing within the boy, whose flower is ecstasy and whose fruit is sadness. This luminous, multi-faceted work is inspired by the experiences of its award-winning creator, Matt Ottley, who has lived with bipolar disorder all his life and been hospitalised on numerous occasions in mental health facilities. Having personally experienced the prejudices and challenges that come from suffering a mental illness, Matt’s aim is to offer a sensory insight through words, music and images into the experiences of those who suffer from such debilitating illnesses, particularly psychosis. At the heart of the film, created by Ottley, is a 50-minute orchestral composition, written by Matt (with guest composition by Alf Demasi) and performed by the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno and tenor Ben Reynolds. Through the film’s “Ken Burns”-like cinematic treatment of Ottley’s large-scale oil and mixed-media and digital paintings, Ottley invites viewers to slow down, reflect, and immerse themselves into a fantastical world of beauty and wonder.

Gillian Polack, Story Matrices: Cultural Encoding and Cultural Baggage in the Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Luna Press Publishing)

Polack’s study serves an important function in understanding cultural transmission through genre writing. The culture we live in shapes us. We also shape the culture we live in. Stories we tell play critical roles in this shaping. The heart of cultural transmission is how stories and the way we shape knowledge come together and make a novel work. How do they combine within the novel? Genre writing plays a critical role in demonstrating how this transmission functions. Science fiction and fantasy illustrate this through shared traditions and understanding, colonialism, diasporic experiences, own voices, ethics, selective forgetting and silencing. They illuminate ways in which speculative fiction is important for cultural transmission. This study uses cultural encoding and baggage within speculative fiction to decode critical elements of modern English-language culture.

Julia Robinson, Damien Warman & Sean Williams, Nine Lullabies (Myth & Lore Zine)

Julia Robinson is a significant Australian artist who works in a slew of skiffy spaces. For instance, her giant tentacle monster “Beatrice” was recently bought by the Art Gallery of SA.
Her latest highly successful exhibition “The Beckoning Blade“delved deeply into folk horror traditions and imagery beloved by many horror fans. Julia approached Sean Williams to compose a written response. That response took the shape of nine folk horror lullabies, and a ninth lullaby in the form of an hour-long sinister soundscape that premiered during the exhibition. Julia and Sean approached Damien Warman (printer extraordinaire, well known in SF fandom) who hand type set a bespoke chapbook edition of the lullabies that was given away at the launch opening. Those editions are now extremely rare collectors items. After the opening, Julia approached Myth & Lore with a submission of the poems in their printed forms, plus scanned scraperboards of nine of the physical artworks, and the soundscape. This multimedia work was immediately and enthusiastically accepted for publication in the December 2022 issue.

Rowena Specht-Whyte, “Broken in Ways That Look Like Success”: Trish Walker in Marvel’s Jessica Jones (UQ eSpace | University of Queensland Library)

This academic Masters thesis is in the discipline of Communication for Social Change. This thesis argues that storytelling is a way for people to understand their world, and it is through stories that people construct their own narrative and empathise with and understand other viewpoints and experiences. Speculative fiction, referring to fiction placed within the broad genres of fantasy, science fiction and horror, is able to challenge existing hegemonies (Carson, 2003). By placing stories in a context removed from the audience’s constructed reality (for example, in a dystopian future world, or a world with superheroes) the audience is encouraged to abandon their societal expectations and cultural understandings of the real world, allowing that audience to see alternate possibilities. From a perspective of social change, the stories we tell can allow people to comprehend counter-hegemonic discourse. By analysing the representation of Trish Walker (Trish) in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, as well as the audience reaction to Trish’s character arc, this thesis identifies societal misunderstandings of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), survival and addiction, and provides a way for both society and treating professionals to better recognise the breadth of complex trauma and PTSD.

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