The Wheeler Centre
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Claire G. Coleman: The Old Lie
Claire G. Coleman believes speculative fiction is a powerful political tool. ‘It’s a genre in which there’s great scope for Aboriginal literature … It’s able to sneak politics into places people don’t expect to see it.'
Coleman's revelatory 2017 debut novel, Terra Nullius, depicted an alternative Australia – a continent of either the distant past or the distant future – with an entire, brutal ‘future history’ constructed in meticulous detail. The novel received local and international critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize.
Every Aboriginal piece of literature is apocalyptic, because Aboriginal people are a post-apocalyptic people.
With Coleman's new book, The Old Lie, she returns to themes of invasion, dispossession and apocalypse. Again, it's a novel of startling and alarming twists. And again, it's an outstanding contribution to the growing body of superb speculative fiction from Aboriginal authors, also including Alexis Wright and Ellen van Neerven.
For this conversation, Coleman is joined by Tyson Yunkaporta, author of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. The pair discuss craft, creativity and Indigenous imaginations. Does speculative fiction have in-built critical mechanisms that especially serve Indigenous authors?
Claire G. Coleman is a writer from Western Australia. She identifies with the South Coast Noongar people. Her family are associated with the area around Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun. Claire grew up in a Forestry settlement in the middle of a tree plantation, where her dad worked, not far out of Perth.
She wrote her black&write! fellowship-winning manuscript Terra Nullius while travelling around Australia in a caravan. Terra Nullius was published by Hachette Australia and will be available in North America in 2018 with Small Beer Press. Terra Nullius won the Norma K Hemming Award, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize and for Best Sci-Fi Novel in the 2017 Aurealis Awards. The Old Lie, coming in September 2019, is her second novel.
Tyson Yunkaporta is an academic, arts critic and researcher, who belongs to the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland. He carves traditional tools and weapons and also works as a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University in Melbourne.