A prize for Watermarks, the thesis

It is an absolute thrill to be able to share the news that my PhD thesis, (short title) “Watermarks”, has been awarded the Aurealis Awards Convenors’ Award for Excellence.

The award, to quote the Aurealis website:

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.

To be more accurate, I guess, it was the exegesis that received the award, as the creative component was not included; the judges considered the non-fiction element of the thesis only.

The thesis, minus the creative component, is available to read at Academica.edu. In short, again borrowing from the AA website, the thesis

examines the benefits of the application of science fiction approaches and tropes to climate fiction with the aim of breaking down barriers to understanding climate change and adopting mitigation measures. In particular, it looks at mosaic fiction, and examines three Australian texts – Things We Didn’t See Coming (Amsterdam), Clade (Bradley) and Nightsiders (Isle) – as case studies that draw on the mosaic form and SF to create affective and effective climate fiction

Unfortunately, I had already made plans for the night of the awards (25 July 2020) when the date was announced, and it never occurred to me to send in an acceptance speech on the off-chance. My apologies, and gratitude, again to the hardworking crew who make these awards happen. And heartfelt thanks to my supervisors at The University of Queensland for their brilliant support, my wife for putting up with a PhD student in the house, and all those others who helped ferry me along the journey. The award is a lovely postscript to a challenging and rewarding endeavour.

I’ve been to so many Aurealis Awards nights because they are such a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Australian speculative fiction, and just catch up; I’m especially bummed to have not been (tele)present at the one ceremony where I actually won something!

Do check out the full list of finalists to get an idea of what’s happening in the field; it’s a great reading list.

A doctor in the house

Four years ago I headed up to Brisbane to start a creative writing doctorate at The University of Queensland, and now the journey is complete.

What a strange and wonderful process it has been. I’ll probably write more on that presently, but for now, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what was a lengthy and challenging endeavour, enriched and enabled by the support of friends, family and colleagues, and of course my supervisors and the staff at UQ. Thank you all!

Those spare beds for the initial three months I was required to be on campus? Invaluable. A wife prepared to hold the fort while I was away? Beloved.

watermarks in cosmos 57: art by joe whyte, story by jason nahrungThe final thesis title was “Watermarks: Science Fiction, Mitigation and the Mosaic Novel Structure in Australian Climate Fiction”. It grew from my short story “Watermarks”, bought by then Cosmos fiction editor Cat Sparks, who has recently been awarded a PhD in climate fiction studies too.

Graduation is in July and I’m looking forward to celebrating with friends from my cohort who have also ticked off their research higher degrees this year.

So what’s with the Canadian chocolate bar? Well, last year, we had our first holiday in a long time, to celebrate significant birthdays with dear Canadian friends. I submitted my thesis on the day before we flew out. It was Halloween while we were away, so I brought back this tasty morsel with the intention of signifying the conclusion of my doctorate by munching it! Coffin Crisp, your time is up!

Stranded Assets finds a home

Colloquy journal 35/36 December 2018I guess the headline is a little contradictory, but anyway, I’m pleased as punch that ‘Stranded Assets’ has found a berth in Colloquy journal — a nice dip of the hat to 2018.

The short story was written as part of my PhD in creative writing, but is somewhat smaller than the version included in the thesis* due to word count constraints. It is a look into the future after the coal miners intent on tearing up Central Queensland, planet be damned, have come unstuck, and how the mess they make might be salvaged.

Editors Zachary Kendal and Aisling Smith describe it thus:

Nahrung’s futuristic ‘Stranded Assets’ strongly evokes its Queensland setting and subtly engages with issues confronting contemporary Australia. The story also engages with broader issues, such as the role of technology and the pressures of parenthood.

There are some amazing papers in the journal … Lovecraft, Angela Carter, Blake’s 7, and some Gothic horror! Just the stuff for some yuletide reading!

*The thesis was submitted in October, so I’m awaiting examiners’ reports in the new year.

Ecopunk! The end of the world as we know it

Ecopunk anthologyTiconderoga Publications brought this rather splendid volume out this year — 19 tales of how we might adapt to climate change. It’s an important topic, and given I’ve spent the best of three years studying it for my (ongoing) PhD, one that’s close to my heart. So I’m doubly chuffed to have a story in this, one written as part of my PhD project. I talk about it over at the Ticonderoga site — please do check out the book should you visit (it’s colourful, would look grand under the Xmas tree, eh!). There are some damn good writers there, collected by editors Liz Grzyb and Cat Sparks.

Keeping up, when the future is now

wind-powered greenhouse in victoria

Image: reneweconomy.com.au

One of the hardest parts about writing a near-future novel is keeping ahead of the news, but that’s not always a bad thing. For instance, here’s a news article about an awesome project in Victoria: a massive glasshouse for growing vegetables that will be totally powered by an adjacent wind farm. Extra rehab points for being built on the site of an old gold mine!

Meanwhile, the federal government and the Queensland government appear intent on dropping their dacks for Adani’s Carmichael coal minean unconscionable project by any metric you want to apply.

And here I am, with a mosaic novel* set in near-future Queensland (mainly Brisbane) in which the Galilee coal mines feature prominently — as stranded assets, now being converted into, you guessed it, giant greenhouses. (One of the three stories involving Galilee has been selected for the Ecopunk! anthology, coming from Ticonderoga Publications — the TOC looks amazing!)

It’d be really neat to have to rewrite the stories because the governments in question grew some social conscience (and economic nous) and canned the entire idea (I can hear the Asia-Pacific nations who are begging the world to stop building coal-fired power stations from here), but I can’t see that happening.

It’s a bit like the narrative spike I copped when BP (boo! not forgiven for Deepwater Horizon) pulled out of exploration in the Great Australian Bight, only to be replaced by Chevron. And so the battle, and the story, goes on …

* mosaic novel = a fictional work made up of interconnected short stories; the form has many names (composite novel and novel-in-stories are just two of the more common ones, but I prefer mosaic)