Once and Future: Australian Speculative Fiction
In Memoriam, Peter Nicholls, 1939–2018
‘Science fiction writers are the hounds of hell. They raise their shaggy black heads and sniff the wind, and feel the future coming,’ the late critic and editor Peter Nicholls once said. ‘And then they howl.'
Can the same be said of writers of other forms of speculative fiction? What do the future and alternative worlds imagined by Australian authors say about our country today?
At this special event at the Wheeler Centre, we hear readings from some of this country’s leading contemporary writers of speculative fiction – Claire G. Coleman, Rjurik Davidson, Marlee Jane Ward, Jack Dann and Peter Nicholls's children, Jack Nicholls and Sophie Cunningham. They share thoughts on the foundational Australian fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian texts, and consider how local writers are expanding and subverting genre traditions.
Sophie Cunningham is the author of five books, the most recent of which is City of Trees: Essays on Life, Death & the Need for a Forest. She is a former publisher, former editor of Meanjin, former Chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council and was a co-founder of The Stella Prize. She is an Adjunct Professor with RMIT's Non/fiction lab.
Claire G. Coleman is a Noongar woman whose family have belonged to the south coast of Western Australia since long before history started being recorded. Claire writes fiction, essays, poetry and art writing while either living in Naarm (Melbourne) or on the road. During an extended circuit of the continent she wrote a novel, Terra Nullius, which won the black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship and was listed for eight awards including a shortlisting for The Stella Prize. Lies, Damned Lies is her first full length work of non-fiction.
Rjurik Davidson is a writer and editor. He has written short stories, essays, reviews and screenplays.
His works include the novels Unwrapped Sky and The Stars Askew, and the collection The Library of Forgotten Books.
Rjurik writes imaginative fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction, surrealism, magic realism and fantasy. His unique and radical speculative fiction has seen him nominated for or win a number of awards. He is also an accomplished professional and educational writer.
Jack Dann has written or edited over seventy-five books, including the international bestseller The Memory Cathedral, The Rebel, The Silent, and The Man Who Melted. He is a recipient of the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Australian Aurealis Award (three times), the Chronos Award, the Darrell Award for Best Mid-South Novel, the Ditmar Award (five times), the Peter McNamara Achievement Award and also the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Premios Gilgames de Narrativa Fantastica award.
Jack Nicholls is a speculative fiction writer and essayist, and three-time Aurealis Award nominee. It is possible that his career was influenced by twenty years of dinner-table lectures from his father, the Australian science-fiction critic Peter Nicholls.
Jack lives in Melbourne, except when he doesn’t.
Marlee Jane Ward is a writer, reader and weirdo living in Melbourne. She grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales and studied Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong. In 2014 she attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, Washington.
You can find her short stories in the Hear Me Roar Anthology, Interdictions and Mad Scientist Journal. Her debut novella, Welcome to Orphancorp, won the 2015 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize and the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. Its sequel, Psynode, was published in 2017.