Aussie awards (the annual subjective guide)

It’s awards season and from a quick trawl it seems like almost everyone has been sensible about it all this year. Here’s a few thoughts/comments:

1. Australian Shadows – mock the statue if you like (although I haven’t seen this year’s statue, so I suspect there will be a move away from the semi-naked dead chick, which in my book would be a travesty!), but the 2007 awards panel is on track. I’m one of the judges (along with Gary Kemble and Mark Smith-Briggs – guest judge is Richard Harland), and I’ve brought all the material and tips from my time as an Aurealis horror judge to the table. The decision-making is coming to the pointy end of the season and results will be available in a few months. Although I’ll decline another stint as an Aurealis Awards judge in 2008, I have volunteered to have another crack as an Australian Shadows judge this year. I feel the Australian Horror Writers Association, as the peak body for Aussie horror fiction, should be supported wherever possible, and so I’d like to ensure their Australian Shadows award is a success.

2. Gratia Placenti (ed. Jason Sizemore), the anthology published only last month from Apex Publications in the US and containing my story “The Cutting Room”, has made it to the preliminary ballot of the US Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award. Although not yet a shortlisted nominee, I have a feeling it will repeat the performance of the earlier Apex anthology Aegri Somnia and make the Stoker shortlist. Gratia is, in my view, a stronger product than Aegri. If there are any active HWA members out there, I’d strongly urge you to get a copy of the anthology from Jason at Apex. It has some big names, and more importantly, some kick-arse horror. On a personal note, “The Cutting Room” is the strongest horror story I’ve ever had published.

3. Nominations for the Ditmar Awards (for work released in 2007) will close in a couple of weeks. You don’t need to be a paid member of Swancon (this year’s Natcon) to nominate (although only paid members can vote). Popular voting awards like the Ditmars are at their best when as many people as possible are involved. So I’d encourage anyone reading this to submit some nominations. It doesn’t matter if you’re not aware of everything published or know little about some of the categories. If you have read and enjoyed fiction or non-fiction or enjoyed someone’s art etc, nominate that. You don’t need to nominate something in every category.

If you trawl the blogosphere, you’ll find lists a-plenty. The folks over at the Last Short Story project have thrown up a number of Aussie SF lists (although I find them a shade biased, to use a term that sounds harsher than I really mean, but you tend to be when you’re proud of your own product, right?). I posted an editorial on HorrorScope citing a number of editors’ and authors’ favourites from 2007 (conveniently divided into Australian and international fiction). ASIF has also compiled a near-exhaustive list of eligible Aussie short stories published in 2007 here.

So, without further adieu, here is my entirely subjective, dark fiction biased long-list of material I think is worth nominating for the Ditmars. I read and review much of the local scene (as well as contribute to it) and I’ve judged two awards in 2007, so feel free to use it as a basis for your own list. Alternatively, throw my list out and devise one of your own! Consider this more of a discussion point than a Bible, so with that in mind, I’ll be nominating (in no particular order) thusly [throwing one or two of my own into the mix]:

NOVEL

  • The Company of the Dead, by David Kowalski (Pan Macmillan) – the Golden Aurealis winner and an alt history SF thriller with the lot.
  • The Darkness Within, by Jason Nahrung (and Mil Clayton) (Hachette Livre) – a great darker paranormal romance and a good effort on debut.
  • Blood of Dreams, by Susan Parisi (Penguin) – the Aurealis Horror Novel winner and a damn fine, full-flavoured piece of historical fiction.

NOVELLA/NOVELETTE

  • “Weapon Grade” by David Conyers (The Spiraling Worm)
  • “Yamabushi Kaidan and the Smoke Dragon” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Fantastic Wonder Stories)
  • “Inducing” by Paul Haines (Orb #7)
  • “Kadimakara and Curlew” by Jason Nahrung (Daikaiju! 2)
  • “Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go To War Again” by Garth Nix (Jim Baen’s Universe)
  • “Signs of Death” by Sean Williams (Light Bodies Falling)

SHORT STORY

  • “The Cutting Room” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Gratia Placenti – read it here)
  • “Toother” by Terry Dowling (Eclipse 1)
  • “The Dark and What It Said” by Rick Kennett (ASIM #28)
  • “A Scar for Leida” by Deborah Biancotti (Fantastic Wonder Stories)
  • “Bride of the Deep” by Nike Bourke (The Willows)
  • “Special Perceptions” by Richard Harland (At Ease with the Dead)
  • “Stranger and Sojourner” by Sue Isle (Orb #7)
  • “There was Darkness” by Martin Livings (Fantastic Wonder Stories)
  • “Inside” by Ben Payne (Ticonderoga Online #11)
  • “Lion’s Breath” by Miranda Siemienowicz (Island #108)
  • “The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe” by Anna Tambour (Subterranean #7)
  • “The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank” by Stephanie Campisi (In Bad Dreams)
  • “Black and Bitter, Thanks” by Nathan Burrage (The Workers’ Paradise)
  • “Trail of Dead” by Joanne Anderton (Zombies)
  • “Between the Memories” by Matthew Chrulew (Aurealis #38/39)

COLLECTED WORK

  • Fantastic Wonder Stories, edited by Russell B Farr (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • The Workers’ Paradise, edited by Russell B Farr & Nick Evans (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • The Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy, edited by Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt (MirrorDanse Books)
  • Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror 2007 edition, edited by Angela Challis (Brimstone Press) – it was published in Dec07 as a limited edition and mailed out this month, so very few people will have read it, although I can say with certainty that it is a kick-arse and far superior book to the 2006 edition.
  • The Spiraling Worm, by David Conyers & John Sunseri (Chaosium)
  • Orb #7, edited by Sarah Endacott
  • Aurealis #38/39, edited by Stuart Mayne & Stephen Higgins

FAN ARTWORK & PROFESSIONAL ARTWORK
I don’t know enough about these categories to make a call this year.

FAN WRITER
Again, the HorrorScope crew did an incredible job reviewing Aussie and international books and movies, as well as posting many an invaluable news item. Take a look at the roster to single out anyone you think did an outstanding job, although I’ll single out a few of the especially hard workers from 2007. There’s also a couple of hard-working reviewers on ASIF that I think deserve a nod:

  • Talie Helene (HorrorScope) – as the AHWA news editor, she posted a truckload of useful news pieces.
  • Shane Jiraiya Cummings (HorrorScope)
  • Mark Smith-Briggs (HorrorScope)
  • Robert Hood (HorrorScope/Undead Backbrain)
  • Matthew Tait (HorrorScope)
  • Miranda Siemienowicz (HorrorScope)
  • Stephanie Gunn (HorrorScope)
  • Alexandra Pierce (Australian SpecFic in Focus)
  • Lorraine Cormack (Australian SpecFic in Focus)

FANZINE
According to this, ASif belongs in the Fan Production category, if you’re inclined to vote for it. Which leaves, as the only zines I’m aware of:

FAN PRODUCTION

FAN ACHIEVEMENT

  • Marty Young – for his work as President of the Australian Horror Writers Association (he and the committee established the AHWA mentor program in 2007, implemented a successful Australian Shadows award and short story/flash fiction competition, and promoted dark fiction in the media).

PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT

  • Russell B Farr – for Ticonderoga Publications (in 2007, Russell produced The Workers’ Paradise and Fantastic Wonders stories, which produced five Aurealis Award nominees, and an issue of Ticonderoga Online)
  • Gary Kemble – for his continued coverage of speculative fiction on Articulate and ABC news online.
  • Alisa Krasnostein – for Twelfth Planet Press (ASif ticked over and a new zine, Shiny, was produced).

BEST NEW TALENT

  • Nathan Burrage – the last 12 months have seen Nathan emerge with a novel from Random House (Fivefold, published this month), great stories in The Workers’ Paradise and Orb #7, and an appearance in Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror 2007 edition.
  • David Conyers – his second (and final) year of eligibility. In 2007, David released his collection The Spiraling Worm (Chaosium), the Call of Cthulhu sourcebook Secrets of Kenya, and a slew of short stories published in the US.
  • David Kowalski – producing a Golden Aurealis winner with his debut novel ain’t a bad effort!
  • Susan Parisi – another fine, award-winning debut novelist.

I’m sure there are other fine authors and artists out there, but they’re not yet in the centre of my radar. People I’ll be watching in 2008 (who may produce big things) are Joanne Anderton, Angela Slatter, Miranda Siemienowicz, Mark Smith-Briggs, and Gary Kemble. Steven Cavanagh is another to watch (as I said this time last year, although he had a quiet 2007).

WILLIAM ATHELING JR AWARD
This award has been realigned in the last couple of years to reflect a single piece of criticism or review. There’s plenty of stuff on HorrorScope, ASif, and on a multitude of blogs and zines that I’m not aware of. I can’t pin anything down that resonated with me, but Robert Hood has produced a brilliant body of critical work (check his website), and I’m sure Borderlands, Aurealis, and ASIM would have something to fit the bill.

That’s it. I’ll comment on the Tin Ducks when the formal rules and nomination processes are announced.

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