2006 Ditmar Award nominations: one man’s guide

It’s been brought to my attention that the 2006* Ditmar Awards are now open for nominations (*I’m never sure of the year as the awards take place in 2007 for events/works that took place in 2006, so I’m sticking with 2006 for now). I’ve done a bit of blog browsing and see that a few people have started spruiking their wares.

In the past I would have done the same, although my own Ditmar from last year, the one with the most excellent gum leaf inside, of which I’m exceedingly proud, has settled me down in this regard. My fiction is out there. It can stand on its own two feet – readers remember what they liked and didn’t like from 2006, they don’t need a prod from me.

Now, I want to share the good work of a few good people who I think might be under people’s radars – or worse, they’re in plain sight but are such fixtures in this SF community, they’re at risk of being taken for granted.

The Ditmar nomination form is available from the Convergence 2 website and you have until March 24 to get your noms in, but I’d urge you to act before complacency sets in. Think of someone who has been toiling hard and pop their name and achievement on the form, then email it to the good folks at Convergence – it’s that easy! If you’re really committed, take out a membership (either supporting or attending) and vote! if nothing else, you’ll be helping out the con organisers – and often a few votes can make a big difference. It’s a small pond we swim in.

I’ve read damn near every short story by Aussies from 2006 but precious few novels. Likewise, I’m not up on the best artwork from 2006, nor have I seen many critical essays. So I’ll attempt to list those I think deserve some recognition below, but please don’t accept my word as entirely exhaustive, nor as gospel.

The categories – and my nods/reasons under those categories – are:

NOVEL – Any work of science fiction, fantasy or horror of more than 40,000 words.

Carnies by Martin Livings (Lothian Books) – Martin’s first novel is a cracker of a werew… umm… manimal? story. Anyone who starts a novel with the words “he would have given his left ball…” has some gumption.
I’ve heard good things about the other Lothian novels – Prismatic by “Edwina Grey” and The Mother by Brett McBean, but I haven’t read them. I also hear Will Elliot’s The Pilo Family Circus is a great read. These are all dark fiction novels – so I can’t help out fantasy or science fiction fans with any recommendations, although I did hear people speak well of Grace Dugan’s The Silver Road.

NOVELLA OR NOVELETTE – Any work of science fiction, fantasy or horror of 7,500 to 40,000 words.

This is a tricky category because no one ever advertises word counts when things are published.

Stephen Dedman’s Dead of Winter (from Weird Tales) is a novelette, and is a classy, well-rounded story, to boot.
I’m pretty sure Aftermath by David Conyers (Agog Ripping Reads) is a novelette, and may be well worth your consideration.

SHORT STORY – Any work of science fiction, fantasy or horror less than 7,500 words.

Surrender 1: Rope Artist by Deborah Biancotti (Shadowed Realms #9) – this, for me, is the epitome of brilliant flash fiction and an outstanding claustrophobic story to boot.
Finding the Words by Steven Cavanagh (Shadowed Realms #11) – another great flash story, this one a moving piece that should touch the heart of any father. It won the AHWA flash fiction comp for a reason.
(there are several other great Shadowed Realms stories from this year, IMO – from Nathan Burrage, Robert Hood, Kyla Ward etc. – but if I had to pick two, these would be it).
Down to the Tethys Sea by Stephen Dedman (SF Chronicle) – for me, the standout science fiction piece of the year, bar none.
I also quite liked Iron Shirt by Susan Wardle (Ticonderoga Online #10), Ache by David Witteveen (Hardboiled Cthulhu), Burning from the Inside by Paul Haines (Doorways for the Dispossessed), The Red Priest’s Vigil by Dirk Flinthart (ASIM #25), and any number of Margo Lanagan’s stories from Red Spikes, although they were all of a consistent level for me, without a particular stand-out. Both of Terry Dowling’s originals from his collection Basic Black – Cheat Light and La Profunde – were good but very similar.

I think Australian short fiction had a good year but not a great year – there didn’t seem to be any ‘instant classics’ for mine, except maybe Biancotti’s story, although I’ll admit my bias (however slight) on that one.

COLLECTED WORK – Any collection of science fiction, fantasy or horror (anthology, magazine, journal, ezine or webzine) which must pay contributors in other than contributor copies and incidentals, or is sponsored by an institution other than a fan club, or the editors of which declare the work to be professional.

Ahh.. the fun category…

Year’s Best Australian SF/F vol 2 edited by Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt (MirrorDanse Books) – I think Bill and Michelle delivered a better product in 2006. Easily a contender.
Troy by Simon Brown (Ticonderoga Publications) – the first Ticonderoga Publications book from Russell is a solid project and a worthy start. The stories aren’t too shabby, either!
Ticonderoga Online edited by Russell B Farr and Liz Gryzb (and formely Lyn Battersby) – had its best year to date and deserves recognition above and beyond a fanzine! πŸ˜‰
Borderlands (edited by the Borderlands collective) also had their best year to date and are good at slipping under radars.

There’s also Margo Lanagan’s collection Red Spikes, Terry Dowling’s collection Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear, Paul Haine’s collection Doorways for the Dispossessed, Trent Jamieson’s collection Reserved for Travelling Shows, Lee Battersby’s collection Through Soft Air, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Agog! Ripping Reads, Eidolon 1, and C0ck (among others) – but residents of the blogosphere will know and spruik these products better than I.

Again, I admit my bias on the following (surely a little pride is forgivable), but I think the Brimstone Press projects are also worthy contenders: Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror 2006 edition, Book of Shadows Vol 1, and Shadowed Realms (which published fewer issues in 2006, but I thought Angela made up for that in quality and design).

This category will be hotly contested!

BEST ARTWORK An artwork is a single work or a series of related works of art in any medium other than text.

Sorry, I really don’t know on this one. I do graphic design for Shadowed Realms, but that’s as far as my art knowledge extends. I’d recommend discovering who did the artwork for your favourite book or zine and nominating that person.

FAN WRITER – FOR A WORK OR BODY OF WORK. The writer must have not received any payment other than contributor copies or incidentals.

At first I was going to nominate the industrious Gary Kemble for his tireless work on promoting SF and horror on Articulate (and other places), but since he’s in the employ of the ABC, I’ve moved that nom to the Pro Achievement category. I recommend you do too!

That leaves a lot of other industrious unpaid folks out there. For my money (and from my experience), the crew at HorrorScope had an even bigger 2006 than 2005. If you want to nominate any of the 2006 team, they are:
Miranda Siemienowicz
Mark Smith
Matthew Tait
Andrew McKiernan
AD John
Stephanie Gunn

If you weren’t a fan of HorrorScope, I’m sure there were reviewers or critics on ASif and elsewhere who floated your boat. Go float theirs!

FAN ARTIST – FOR A WORK OR BODY OF WORK. The artist must have not received payment other than contributor copies or incidentals.

Again, I know little about art from 2006. Your call!

FAN PRODUCTION – FOR WORK IN ANY MEDIUM. The author or artist must not have received payment other than contributor copies or incidentals.

After the kerfuffle last year, I’d put ASif in here.

FANZINE – FOR WORK IN ANY MEDIUM. The writer or artist must not have received payment other than contributor copies or incidentals. Eligible works include, but are not limited to, a periodical, journal, ezine or webzine.

HorrorScope – of course! Which other zine brought you the latest spec fic news and local and international reviews, with 244 items posted? This is something in the order of over 200,000 words!

With last year’s classification of ASif as a fan production (which I tend to agree with), I can’t think of any other fanzines off the top of my head. I’m just not aware of who else is out there – but I am a tad busy these days, so please forgive me!

Special Awards
BEST PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT Award – For outstanding professional achievements in science fiction fantasy, or horror not eligible in other existing categories.

Gary Kemble – for his work on promoting SF and horror on Articulate and elsewhere.
Russell B Farr – for re-establishing Ticonderoga Publications, and his energy and enthusiasm with projects like the Aussie SF survey.
Angela Challis – for establishing Brimstone Press as a mass-market publisher, establishing Shadowed Realms as a SFWA pro market, and her promotion/support for Aussie dark fiction.

These are the people who deserve nomination. Publishing a collection or a book is par for the course for authors and illustrators – I’d like to see the people who slog their guts out with little expecation of reward (and I reckon these guys really do a lot of invisible/back door stuff for the good of all) actually receive nominations.

BEST FAN ACHIEVEMENT – For outstanding fan achievements in science fiction fantasy, or horror not eligible in other existing categories.

Marty Young – for his work establishing, promoting, and maintaining the Australian Horror Writers Association – a brilliant resource to a whole new generation of Aussie dark fiction writers. Marty’s job really is tough and thankless and most definitely for the love!

BEST NEW TALENTFor excellence of professional achievement in any field of the genre by an individual who has not been nominated for a professional award three or more years before the year the award is held. An individual is only eligible for two consecutive years.

I know others in the blogosphere will put forward the names of upcoming writers who are cracking their first few publications, and fair enough (and good luck to them!). I know a lot of emerging writers out there who might want to be listed here, but I honestly think it’s too soon, guys. While this is a ‘new talent’ category, I think the standards should go beyond someone with a half-dozen short story credits or less, as you’ll see below.

A couple of guys whom I think might be eligible and probably deserving of a nod would be Brett McBean (who has been steadily making inroads into US markets and put out 2 novels and a novella that I know of – each through decent-sized publishers), David Conyers (who has been very active in RPG writing and Lovecraftian fiction in the US, but is only now being seen locally), and (*gulp* at the risk of self-indulgence – but being brutally honest, I’ve explained this before as my one remaining awards vice) me. My publishing, writing, editing, and fan-writing achievements are in the public domain, and this is probably my last year of eligibility. If she hasn’t been nominated, I reckon Grace Dugan should get a nod. I also reckon Karen Miller had the goods to win last year, and certainly deserves a second crack if she’s eligible. Susan Wardle is amassing herself a body work and is another one to watch. It might be too soon (going by my logic, anyway) but Steven Cavanagh is another writer who probably should be here if he keeps powering on, but perhaps next year.

THE WILLIAM ATHELING JR. AWARDFor the writing or editing of criticism or review pertaining to the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

I was struck by how few pieces of criticism I’ve read from 2006. Sure, there are great reviews on HorrorScope, ASif, Ticonderoga Online, and elsewhere (and if you liked one enough – nominate it!), but few detailed critical essays. The work in Borderlands comes to mind – with Robert Hood’s Daikaju essay “Man and Super Monster” in issue #7 and Grant Watson’s excellent Bad Film Diary on Water World in issue #8. I can’t say I’ve come across much else.

If there is a special ‘Peter McNamara award’ type award for lifetime achievement, or whatever, there could be no more deserving person to win it than Bill Congreve. Except for his Year’s Best antho, he’s had a quiet 2006, but no one else in the last five years has been publishing single-author collections and anthologies with the skill and love for the genre than Bill. No one until Ticonderoga and Brimstone emerged in 2006, aside from a couple of earnest and enthusiastic PODers, has been producing SF collections in this country. For being a lone publishing voice for so long, ever-offering advice to his publishing peers, and for receiving little recognition for it, I reckon Bill deserves some sort of official nod.