Aurealis Awards celebration: a grand night

I’m home again after a flying visit to Sydney where the spec fic clan gathered at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney for the 2010 Aurealis Awards, recognising excellence in Aussie spec fic published last year.

There were some extremely strong fields with some diverse entries — on the home front, the good news is that Kirstyn’s Madigan Mine brought home the very attractive trophy for Best Horror Novel. The full list of winners is below. Other highlights included the special awards — the Peter McNamara Convenors Award to Helen Merrick and the (non-AA, Fantastic Queensland-sponsored) Kris Hembury encouragement award to Jodi Cleghorn (the driving force behind 100 Stories for Brisbane) — and a breakthrough SF Novel award for Marianne de Pierres. Rob Hood provided some wonderfully Pythonesque animations to introduce the sections and Garth Nix was a superbly dry-witted and engaging Master of Ceremonies.

Cat Sparks has put her photos from the night up onFlickr

There were several elements that really came together on the night. The first was that Rydges North Sydney, which served pretty much as the awards hotel, was on the same block as the theatre. The second was that the theatre was the right size for the crowd, who dressed up to make the occasion LOOK like an occasion, and that the bonhomie was fostered with a generous cocktail reception I believe largely thanks to sponsor HarperVoyager, who also provided novels in the awards bag. The third was the after party, first with another round of free drinks at the theatre, and then discounted basics at Rydges. The fourth was Rydges itself, where the staff were very accommodating indeed. The buffet breakfast went down a treat this morning, with a few of us lingering till the harried staff really DID have to change over for the lunch crowd. The awards themselves were handled efficiently and respectfully, and the organisers appreciated the fact that folks had come from across the country for this, so the chance to socialise was high on the agenda.

So, as 2 o’clock rolled around last night, the bar having been shut since midnight and the staff preparing the breakfast tables, we closed the curtains on a great night of meeting old friends and making new ones, which often entailed a Facebook face or Twitter name finally resolving in the flesh.

Great venue, deserving winners, awesome company. Well done, Sydney. Book me in for next year!

THE AUREALIS AWARD WINNERS FOR 2010

CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through words)
The Keepers, Lian Tanner, Allen & nwin
CHILDREN’S FICTION (told primarily through pictures)
The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett (writer) & Lucia Masciullo (illustrator), Penguin Viking
YOUNG ADULT SHORT STORY
• A Thousand Flowers, Margo Lanagan, Zombies and Unicorns, Allen & Unwin
YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey, Allen & Unwin
BEST ILLUSTRATED BOOK/ GRAPHIC NOVEL
Changing Ways Book 1, Justin Randall, Gestalt Publishing
BEST COLLECTION
The Girl With No Hands, Angela Slatter, Ticonderoga Publications
BEST ANTHOLOGY
• Wings of Fire, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S. Jablon, Night Shade Books
HORROR SHORT STORY
• The Fear, Richard Harland, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears,
Brimstone Press
HORROR NOVEL
Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott, Pan Macmillan
FANTASY SHORT STORY (joint winners)
• The February Dragon, LL Hannett & Angela Slatter, Scary Kisses, Ticonderoga Publications
• Yowie, Thoraiya Dyer, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press
FANTASY NOVEL
Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts, HarperVoyager (HarperCollins) [Tansy notably won a Ditmar with this novel earlier this year! I reviewed it here.]
SCIENCE FICTION SHORT STORY
• The Heart of a Mouse, K.J. Bishop, Subterranean Online (Winter 2010)
SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres, Orbit (Hachette)
PETER MCNAMARA AWARD
• Helen Merrick

Advertisements

Aussies vie for Stoker horror awards

The Horror Writers Association has announced the long list of contenders for the 2010 Bram Stoker Awards, and there are some Aussies in the running.

Closest to home is Kirstyn’s Madigan Mine — huzzah! — in the category for Superior Achievement in a First Novel.

It’s also very cool that Scenes from the Second Storey has made the long list for Superior Achievement in an Anthology: all Aussies in that one (including Kirstyn!), edited by Aussies, and a premise in that the stories are all based around an album by The God Machine.

A Chaosium collection of Cthulhu-inspired stories, appropriately named Cthulhu’s Dark Cults, lands two mentions on the Aussie front: editor David Conyers in the Anthology category and Shane Jiraiya Cummings for his yarn in that antho, Requiem for the Burning God.

The long list will be pared down to a list of finalists, with winners to be announced at the Stoker Weekend in June.

Aurealis Awards, Leviathan and Red Queen

Brisbane’s run as host of the Aurealis Awards appears over, with the end of Fantastic Queensland’s tenure as organisers of the awards, and the likely replacement coming from down south. In that time, the awards have gone from being a drab adjunct to an insular convention to an event in their own right, with sponsorship, attendance and attention from major publishers. It’s a hell of an achievement; FQ have earned their rest.

This year’s awards ceremony was another packed event at the Judith Wright Centre and didn’t disappoint, hosted by FQ committee members, and featuring readings from seminal books published outside the awards’ timeframe. Book seller Justin Ackroyd (of Slow Glass Books) was acknowledged, and in an emotional moment, late Brisbane writer Kris Hembury’s contribution to the community was memorialised with a new award for emerging talent, awarded to artist and writer Kathleen Jennings.

red queen by honey brown

The awards were also expanded to include picture books. A list of finalists and winners is here.

I was most interested in the horror finalists this year, because the breadth was large: paranormal romance, ghosts, witches, noir unicorns. And Red Queen, by HM (Honey) Brown, the one title I had not read, and the winner. It’s a good, solid debut thriller. Set in the Victorian bush, two brothers are living in isolation while a virus devastates the Earth. Into that scenario enters a woman — one with secrets that are not fully revealed until an action-packed ending. The bush, the characters, the situation are all well-drawn, and the prose is accomplished, but I found myself wondering: where’s the horror?

This is always an argument with the old horror beastie – it’s a mood, an emotion, where other genres within the speculative fiction umbrella are easier to qualify based on content. If the story is set in the future, chances are it’s science fiction. If it is otherworldly, with magic, well, it’s probably a fantasy. But horror lends itself to many stories.

Unfortunately, the judges’ reports aren’t online yet, so it’s hard to know just what it was about Red Queen that swayed them to choose this book over the other four, which to my mind are all identifiable as horror stories (menace, suspense, fear, a dark slant on what we accept as the real world). Red Queen has some suspense and a touch of the Gothic — it’s an effective thriller — but seems pale by comparison.

Andrew McGahan’s win in science fiction might offer a similar genre-bending experience, based on its synopsis, but I’ve yet to track it down to make my own opinion.

That’s the beauty of awards, I guess. They stretch our perceptions, challenge our biases, and introduce us to new stories and writers and ways of thinking about our craft and our stories.

leviathan by scott westerfeld

I had no such qualms with the best young adult novel, Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, a rollicking steampunk novel set in an alternative Europe at the outbreak of World War I. It follows the adventures of two teens thrust into the conflict, one English, one Austrian. There are mechanical marvels such as tanks on legs and bio-tweaked creatures such as zeppelin-like whales. Some pushed my limit of disbelief, but mostly I was able to sail along and enjoy the action and the likeable hero and heroine, and the adults around them, as they are pushed together by the vagaries of war and politics.

I hope next year’s awards provide not only a similar level of professionalism and camaraderie, but also enhance my reading list as equally.