2018 Award

The 2018 Norma K Hemming Award for excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in speculative fiction published in 2016 and 2017, was presented on Friday 8 June, 2018 at a ceremony in Melbourne.

It is with great pleasure we announce that Claire G Coleman won the Long Work category with her novel Terra Nullius (Hachette), while the Short Fiction category was won by Foz Meadows, for “Coral Bones”, from Monstrous Little Voices (Abaddon Books).

Congratulations to the winners, finalists and all the entrants for creating such a strong field. Thank you to the Australian Science Fiction Foundation for their role in overseeing the Award, and to the jury, Stephanie Gunn, Russell Kirkpatrick, Stephanie Lai and Alexandra Pierce, for their hard work, commitment and professionalism in delivering this year’s finalists and winners.

The judges have provided citations on all the shortlisted works.

Short Fiction Award

“Induction”, Thoraiya Dyer (Bridging Infinity, Solaris)

“Induction” was a beautiful exploration of race, gender, economics, climate change, and the individual versus the community. It’s a walking through of family, and the ways in which grief changes how we act and interact with the world.

 “The Rock in the Water”, Thoraiya Dyer (People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy!Fantasy Magazine)

Beautifully written, this powerful story reflects on the plight and powerlessness of refugees. Dyer uses magical realism to give the two girls agency. The heartbreaking final scene is terrifically poignant..

“Braid”, Kirstyn McDermott (Review of Australian Fiction Volume 24, Issue 1)

McDermott uses the idea of hair – specifically, the magic of hair as suggested by the story of Rapunzel – to dig deep into ideas of femininity, motherhood, and gender. It’s a gripping story that looks at relationships across generations, and dissects how women, in particular, relate to one another.

“Coral Bones”, Foz Meadows (Monstrous Little Voices, Abaddon Books)

Meadows takes Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a starting point, and examines Miranda as a character much more thoroughly than the Bard ever did. Miranda is now married, but she’s unsure of her place in society and, indeed, her own identity. Meadows examines the performative nature of gender in this beautifully written piece that explores the trickster nature of Ariel and Puck, as well as the difficulty of knowing one’s self.

“Tea Party”, Lauren E Mitchell (Defying Doomsday, Twelfth Planet Press)

Mitchell reminds us that anxiety and depression are also disabilities, and create complications for those trying to survive the apocalypse. Her story trades the general pessimism of this genre for bright optimism and reminds us that, though humans might die, humanity will survive.

“Memories of Fish”, Shauna O’Meara (Interzone 270, TTA Press)

“Memories of Fish” explores the inequity of climate change in a near-future, reflecting our current colonial echoes in tourism and economics. The privilege of tourism, the future of internet voyeurism and extreme poverty versus extreme global wealth authentic weapons through which to explore class and racial inequities. It could have been so much longer!

“Two Somebodies Go Hunting”, Rivqa Rafael, (Defying Doomsday, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Two Somebodies Go Hunting” takes place in a post-apocalyptic Australia and follows two siblings, one with a physical disability and the other neurodiverse. Each of these disabilities is presented as a simple fact – just another complication in an already complicated life and world. The bonds of family are strong, and neither sibling judges the other, simply helps the other find their way.

“Did We Break the End of the World”, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Defying Doomsday, Twelfth Planet Press)

“Did We Break the End of the World” follows a group of young survivors as they make their way scavenging through a strange, apparently post-apocalyptic world. Several of the characters have disabilities which directly impact how they live and move through the world, said disabilities always presented in a frank but sympathetic light. As always, Roberts’ young characters are vivid, and even their deepest struggles are presented with some of Roberts’ wit and deep insight.

Long Form Award

The Barrier, Shankari Chandran, Pan Macmillan Australia

The Barrier is an interesting exploration of (modern) colonialism, racism and religious bias. Set in a near-future, it’s incredibly relevant to us today. Outstanding storytelling, using a post-colonial lens without becoming polemical and while telling a great tale.

Terra Nullius, Claire G Coleman, Hachette

Claire Coleman’s debut novel is a remarkable exploration of race and colonialism in a familiar, yet simultaneously dissonant, Australian landscape. The issues of who owns land and how that ownership is proclaimed, as well as the relationship between settlers and original inhabitants, is an important addition to the ongoing discussion of these issues in Australia.

Crossroads of Canopy, Thoraiya Dyer, Tor Books

Refreshingly original, Dyer includes a range of diverse characters in her debut fantasy novel. In particular, Dyer’s exploration of class issues is thoughtful and the story is painfully real, for all its fantastical  setting in Titan’s Forest.

Defying Doomsday, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench (Eds.), Twelfth Planet Press

People with chronic illnesses and disabilities face a post-apocalyptic world in this extremely worthy anthology of short stories. Optimism is the common denominator here, with these high-quality stories confronting the trope of post-apocalypse selfishness.

An Uncertain Grace, Krissy Kneen, Text Publishing

An Uncertain Grace is a confronting and bold exploration of all facets of sexuality through the lens of science fiction. Sometimes challenging, sometimes surreal, but always featuring Kneen’s extraordinarily beautiful writing and memorable characters, the book is extraordinary and unlike anything else a reader may have come across before.

Portable Curiosities, Julie Koh, University of Queensland Press

Surreal and striking, Portable Curiosities is a strong collection of stories addressing themes of race, gender, sexuality and class. The stories were at times difficult and at times easy, but all were a pleasure to read.

How to Bee, Bren MacDibble, Allen & Unwin

How to Bee is an interesting and excellent exploration of class, with a specific focus on poverty. Authentic and all too real, this story about family, kindness and bravery in our near-future was a fun and life-affirming read.

An Accident of Stars, Foz Meadows, Angry Robot Books

Meadows imbues her YA portal fantasy with thoughtful worldbuilding, including a convincing matrilineal society, multidimensional characters and plenty of diversity. Its real success is in presenting a secondary world without any standard fantasy tropes.

The Grief Hole, Kaaron Warren, IFWG Publishing Australia

One of Kaaron Warren’s talents is the ability to make a reader feel as though they have stepped aside from ordinary life and been allowed a view into something unseen, said something often disturbing and brutally honest in the way only good horror can be. The Grief Hole displays this talent superbly, exploring domestic violence and suicide in a confronting and deeply emotional novel that will not be easily forgotten.