Ditmar Awards: random notes and musings

The prevailing theme of the discussions/debates/flamewars surrounding the 2011 Ditmars this past week has been that the awards process is broken and needs to be fixed. As I talked about yesterday, the productions and publications of one small press publisher (Twelfth Planet Press) accounted for 50% of the combined 2011 Ditmar/Tin Duck awards.  For the sake of this post, however, I’m only going to talk about the Ditmars. This isn’t intended as a slight against or dismissal of the Tin Ducks, but simply an acknowledgement that they do not always coincide with the national award, and that the recent discussions did seem to centre around Ditmar Awards past, present and future.

[An aside for those who don’t know: the Tin Duck Awards are the annual Western Australian Science Fiction Foundation (WASFF) Achievement Awards for WA writers and artists. The awards are always presented at Swancon — the regional WA convention — and only coincide with the Ditmars in years where SwanCon doubles as the National SF Convention (where the Ditmars are always presented). This was the case in 2011. Interestingly, the 2012 NatCon will be hosted by Continuum8 in Melbourne and will also result in a double act — the Ditmars and the Chronos Awards, which are the Victoria equivalent of the Tin Ducks.]

With the Tin Ducks removed from the equation, we are left with a total of 11 Ditmar categories (including the Atheling) over which 12 awards were presented in 2011 due to one category being tied. Of these awards, Twelfth Planet Press won 5. It’s still an impressive amount, but it’s well under 50% of the total Ditmars given out this year. It does make me wonder if such a fuss would have been made had this tally not been compounded by the additional Tin Duck wins, but that’s something we’ll never know. I suspect there would have been some fussing because a) Ditmars always seem to attract controversy; and b) other award winners were grouped into the TPP conglomerate by way of association, as I discussed in detail yesterday.

Personally, I do not think the fact that TPP won a significant portion of the available awards is indicative of a problem with the process itself. The high level of quality, diversity and visibility of the work produced by TPP in 2010 is undeniable. These factors will always get you noticed, will usually get you onto awards ballots, and will often get you shiny trophies. (It’s well worth noting that it wasn’t simply one work or even one type/genre of work that resulted in TPP’s success.) Does this mean I believe that no one else in 2010 was producing high quality work deserving of awards? Of course not — the full 2011 Ditmar ballot shows just how impressive the work being produced by spec fic community in Australia is these days. But that’s how awards operate. Sometimes they’re spread widely and far afield, sometimes they’re concentrated. Sometimes the people you vote for win, sometimes they don’t.

The fact that the Ditmars are awarded by a popular ballot taken from members of the NatCon was also a matter of heated debate this week. Unlike WorldCons and other conventions overseas, the Australian National SF Convention doesn’t attract massive memberships. We’re talking figures in the low hundreds here, not the thousands. And only a relatively small number of NatCon members actually vote for the Ditmars in most years. Sometimes, as few as a dozen people can determine the winner of an award. Seriously. Twelve people liked your work enough to vote for you, and that means you have a trophy and a “Best Whatever”. I don’t say this to denigrate the Ditmars but to point out that voter participation really is a problem that the Awards need to overcome. (I’d hazard a guess that regional awards like the Tin Ducks and Chronos would face similar problems on an even smaller scale.) It’s also useful to remind people that an apparently “lopsided” ballot where one person or publisher wins quite a few awards can happen quite naturally in such a small voting pool.

Any popular ballot has intrinsic problems. Someone might have only knowledge of a handful of works on the ballot and choose to vote for them regardless of comparison with the other nominees. Likewise, she might have only come across a handful of works and choose not to vote at all because she doesn’t feel sufficiently qualified to do so. Someone else might base his vote on the personality of the nominee rather than the work being nominated. Another might decide to vote for a friend or colleague, regardless of any other consideration. And so on, and so on. However, if your voting pool is large enough, and enthusiasm and interest is high enough, then hopefully all of these wrinkles will be smoothed out in the bigger picture. Also smoothed out will be voting “hot spots” which can skew a result based on geographic and/or demographic factors, as well as concerns regarding “extrinsic popularity” vs “instrinc merit”. (And no, I am not getting any further into that debate here. See those inverted commas? Consider them my equivalent of grains of salt.)

But I absolutely disagree with the suggestion by some — with varying degrees of seriousness and snark — to change the names of the awards from “Best . . .” to “Most Popular . . .” in order to better reflect the voting process. Such a proposal would not only undermine the Awards, but would also belittle the integrity and judgement of the voters themselves by accepting the whole ugly argument of “popular” vs “quality”. (Grains. Salt.) Moreover, there is an abundance of highly regarded and popularly voted awards — Hugos, BSFA, Stokers, Oscars, etc — which all use the adjective “Best . . .” to describe their categories. It’s such an accepted usage of the term that it would actually seem a churlish, backhanded compliment to declare your award winners to be otherwise.

Another suggestion has been to open the voting for the Ditmars to the general public — although just how “general” that public would be remains undiscussed. Literally any Australian citizen or resident, or only those  designated with the cryptically nebulous “active member of fandom” moniker? What about members of the spec fic community overseas who participate in the Aussie scene, or who simply hold an interest? Who gets to vote? Who doesn’t? Who decides? However the rules for such awards are worked out, one thing is clear: you couldn’t call them Ditmars.

The formal name for the Ditmars is “The Australian SF Awards” and they have been awarded annually since 1969 at the Australian National Science Fiction Convention (Natcon) to recognise achievement in Australian science fiction (including fantasy and horror) and science fiction fandom. They are voted on by members of the NatCon, in the same way that the Hugos are voted on by members of the WorldCon, the BSFA Awards are voted on by members of British Science Fiction Association (and, recently, by EasterCon attendees in general), and the Stokers are voted on by members of the Horror Writers Association (though in 2012 they will change to a partially juried award). As a result, the awards are given to the “Best . . .” as determined by the members of the group/organisation which presents them.

I’m not sure I see the point in removing NatCon membership as the defining voter attribute or indeed why this would make the awards more meaningful. If anyone — with or without a vested interest in the spec fic community — could vote, then this would surely leave the process wide open to wroughting and vote-wrangling from friends, family, work buddies and passing stray cats. The Ditmar voting rules have already been broadened in recent years to allow eligibility for the members of the previous NatCon to vote in the current ballot — meaning two years worth of NatCon members can vote if they wish to. The actual nomination process is open beyond the constraints of NatCon membership, which is intended to allow for the creation of a more inclusive and representative ballot. As far as rules and procedures go, the Ditmar Awards are both simple and solid. Sure, there might be cause for tweaks and amendments in the future, but changing the nature and identity of the Awards themselves seems a drastic measure — and not one that would even be likely to fix the perceived problems surrounding the “popular” vote.

[Note: For those unaware, supporting members of the NatCon are also eligible to vote in the Ditmars. This could be seen as operating as almost a defacto “general public” vote. You don’t need to fork out for travel and accommodation and a full NatCon membership, nor do you need to take time away from work, family or other commitments. If you are passionate about voting for the Ditmars but can’t make it to the convention, you can take out a supporting membership at a much cheaper rate and have the same voting rights as attendees.]

So what can be done to increase the size of the voter pool and enhance the reputation of the awards? Perhaps voting should be open to anyone who attended a NatCon in the last five years. Or ten. Or any NatCon, ever. But who gets the unenviable task of keeping, collating and cross-checking those records? And would someone who went to a NatCon ten years ago and never again have any interest in voting for the current Ditmars anyway? I suspect that increasing the eligibility pool probably isn’t the answer — mostly, because no matter how big your pool of eligible voters may be, it’s only the active ones who count in the endgame.

What we need are more active voters. And that means voters who are enthusiastic, involved and informed. There are a hell of a lot of people who do not vote because they haven’t read/seen all the eligible nominees on the ballot and thus feel they aren’t qualified to make a “good” decision. Personally, I think that’s a bit of bunkum. I certainly do not condone voting for something of which you have no knowledge, but I do think that it’s perfectly all right for you to vote — for example — for a work in the “Best Novel” category even if it’s the only one of the nominees you have read. As long as you loved it and think it’s worthy of an award, then your vote is valid. I know there are people who vehemently disagree with me on this point, but my belief is that everything tends to get smoothed out in a large active voter pool. There will be a lot of people who only read the works they have voted for and there will be others who read and critically analyse everything before coming to a decision; both kinds contribute to the resulting hivemind of the Ditmar voting body.

Perhaps incentive is also needed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the provision of a digital voting pack containing the nominated works for the Hugo awards has lead to an increase in enthusiasm for and, hopefully, participation in the voting process. I know there was a Ditmar voting pack issued by the NatCon in 2008 or thereabouts but I think that’s been the only time — although I stand to be corrected. At the very least, such a voting pack will provide those people who need to feel fully informed with the material to be so — which will in turn hopefully lead to more active voting from that segment of the pool as well. However, this would all mean extra work for some poor soul in a community of volunteers which is already thinly stretched. Not to mention extra expense and possibly lost revenue for small presses — allowing one story from an anthology into a voting pack can be seen as promotion; packing in an entire novel or collection would most certainly result in lost sales. There are few easy answers.

Possibly most important of all is the need to actively promote Australian spec fic within the community and to encourage discussion and support all year round — not just at awards time. There are a lot of folks who already do this with great enthusiasm and they are to be commended. Sometimes, even, with awards!

Look, we all know that awards aren’t the be all and end all. They aren’t — or shouldn’t be — the reason to actually do any creative or critical work whatsoever. With the exception of a select few (usually those with generous purses attached) winning an award won’t do much for your career, happiness or general well-being. But they are a genuine sign of appreciation and admiration — whether awarded by your peers or via a jury panel — and it’s heartening to receive them. It’s equally heartening to see someone you admire and respect receive one, and possibly as disheartening when that same someone misses out. When it comes right down to it, awards are all about emotion.

One thing remains clear from the debates of the past week: the Ditmar Awards are far from meaningless. There are obviously a lot of people who care about the results and the reputation of the awards themselves — one way or another — and ultimately this is a good thing. It remains to be seen whether or not this translates into a greater increase in participation during nomination and voting for the awards in 2012. I’d certainly encourage anyone with an interest in Aussie spec fic to make note of your favourites over the course of this year so you can nominate them when the time comes around. If you weren’t at SwanCon36 and won’t be able to make it to Continuum8, then consider taking out a supporting membership. And vote. Vote. Vote.

Because in the end, as with so many things, the Ditmar Awards we get will be the Ditmar Awards we deserve.

[Addendum: On the subject of conventions and awards, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that voting in the 2011 Chronos Awards remains open until 15 May. If you are a member of Continuum7 to be held in Melbourne in June this year, then you are eligible to vote. If you are not a member but wish to vote for the Chronos Awards anyway, a voting membership is available from the Continuum Foundation for $5. The full Chronos ballot and further information can be found here.]


Ditmars Awards and Myth-Information

This is the first of two posts I plan to write about the latest Ditmar Awards controversy which ran rampant in certain corners of the internet over the past couple of days. I’m not going to name names or list a series of links. If you don’t already know what’s been happening — and you really care — it’s easy enough to dig around and find out. I’m writing this post first, because it’s the easy one.  Tomorrow I’m going to talk about the perceived problems surrounding the Ditmar Awards and hopefully contribute to finding solutions. But first, today.

As a lot of you will no doubt be aware, there has been some very heated discussion (to use the word loosely) over the results of this year’s Ditmar and Tin Duck Awards. If you’ve not yet seen the results, they are listed in full at the Locus website. A bunch of folks won multiple awards on the night and one small press publisher, Twelfth Planet Press (to be referred to herein as TPP), was very well represented indeed. The fact that Alisa Krasnostein (TPP owner and publisher) was also convener of SwanCon36/NatCon50 was pointed out as a possible conflict of interest and accusations of lobbying and unfair advantage were made. Some people defended the awards and the winners, others sided with those who felt the results were “embarrassing” and did not provide a true representation of the Australian spec fic community. I participated in the discussion on one forum and see little worth in hashing through it all it again here.

However, an aspect that I find particularly troubling is the grouping of a whole bunch of individual award winners into one homogeneous TPP mass, a grouping which has served as the basis of a lot of the recent argument and debate. The phrases “16 out of 18” (as a ratio of TPP wins to total awards) and “clean sweep” were repeated in various forums, and the concept seems to have become a slippery “fact” that even folks who were defending TPP from various insinuations no longer dispute. Twelfth Planet Press sweeped the 2011 Ditmar Awards; what remained to be discussed was how.

But let’s take a closer look:

Between the Ditmars (including the Atheling) and the Tin Ducks, there were a total of 20 awards given out over eighteen categories (two categories resulted in ties with joint winners).

Twelfth Planet Press was the publisher associated with a total of 10 awards. (Ditmars: Novella/Novelette, Short Story, Collected Work, Fan Writer, Fan Publication; Tin Ducks: Written Short Form, Professional Art, Professional Production, Fan Written, Fan Production.)

An astounding achievement, certainly, but hardly a “clean sweep”. So where does that phrase, and the 16/18 ratio, come from? The “18” part is easy — you discount the fact that two categories (one Ditmar, one Tin Duck) had joint winners and simply elect to count the categories rather than the actual awards given. But how does 10 awards turn into 16?

Watch closely kids, here’s some stellar prestidigitation for you:

  • The Ditmar Best Achievement was awarded to Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Tehani Wessely for the “Snapshot 2010”. This was not a TPP production but because Alisa was involved, you can count it as one anyway. So were her fellow Galactic Suburbanites, Tansy and Alex, for that matter. Plus Tehani reviews for ASiF (and won a Tin Duck for her work). Both Galactic Suburbia and ASiF are TPP productions. Doesn’t matter that the Snapshot wasn’t — you can definitely count it. That’s 1.
  • Now, Tansy Rayner Roberts also won Ditmar Best Novel and the Atheling Award. Power and Majesty was published by HarperVoyager and  “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who” appeared her own website. But it doesn’t matter, because she does work with Alisa and TPP as well, so these are obviously defacto wins for TPP. That makes 3 so far.
  • Then there’s Amanda Rainey, who won both a Ditmar (Fan Artist) and a Tin Duck (Fan Art) for her SwanCon36 logo. Nothing to do with TPP? No, but she has designed a lot of TPP book covers over the years. Sure, she’s also done covers for other small presses such as Ticonderoga and Fablecroft, but we’ll count these two awards for TPP anyway because Amanda does contract work for Alisa. There, now we have 5.
  • We can easily grab number 6 from the Ditmar Best New Talent, because Thoraiya Dyer has been published by TPP. Not exclusively, but enough that we can count her as part of the TPP conglomerate. That’s an extra 6 awards we can credit for TPP, which brings us to the magic number of 16. As in 16 out of 18.

And let’s take one last look at the number 18, shall we? As mentioned above, this was derived from counting categories rather than awards. In the Ditmar Short Story category, I tied with Cat Sparks. My story came from a Morrigan Books anthology, Cat’s from a TPP book. In the Tin Duck Fan Art category, Amanda Rainey’s SwanCon36 logo (designated TPP as above) tied with an artwork by Christina Lorenz. But if you’re making the case for a “clean sweep” then you simply use the number of categories for your total while counting any tied category with one TPP winner as win wholly for TPP. Sure, it’s not entirely accurate but does get rid of a couple of troubling non-TPP award winners when it comes to crunching numbers, and leaves only the winners of Ditmar Best Artwork (Shaun Tan) and Tin Duck Written Long Form (Juliet Marillier) standing apart from the Twelfth Planet Press crowd.

Quite a feat isn’t it? Of course Shaun Tan did supply cover artwork for Fablecroft, which is run by Tehani Wessely who won a Tin Duck for her ASiF reviews (a TPP publication) so perhaps we can count him as part of TPP as well. Then it would be 17 out of 18. I wonder if Julia has any connections with Alisa . . .

See how ridiculous it all gets? The Australian spec fic community is incredibly small, especially when you consider the wealth of creative talent and productivity to be found within its ranks. As I said somewhere yesterday, the famous rule about six degrees of separation is overkill when it comes to Aussie spec fic — two or three degrees would be enough to put you in touch with just about everyone else. To lump individuals, and their individual achievements, together in order to belabour a point or bolster an argument — just because they’re friends or have worked together on other projects —  is both unfair and unwarranted. It belittles the awards, it belittles individual achievement, and it belittles those who make such generalisations in the first place.

Regardless of which side you stand on the Great Ditmar Debate of 2011, and what outcomes you’d like to see in terms of rule changes or future voter encouragement (more on this tomorrow), I hope that at least you agree that care needs to be taken when talking about such potentially sensitive issues. Facts need to be correct, especially when you’re relying on said facts to argue a particular case. Moreover, I really do hope that the myth of the “TPP Clean Sweep” or the “16/18 ratio” gets put to bed. It’s not accurate, it’s not fair, and it’s not helpful.

And I thought this was the easy post.

[Disclaimer: Although I have not worked with Alisa Krasnostein or Twelfth Planet Press previously, I will be publishing a collection as part of the Twelve Planets series in 2012. I don’t believe this has any bearing on my opinions expressed either in this post or elsewhere over the past couple of days, but I’m happy to acknowledge the relationship.]

SwanCon, MegaPodcasts and Ditmar Awards

SwanCon36 was a wonderful convention and merriment was had by all. I was on a lot of panels and even managed to sit in the audience for quite a few that I wasn’t involved with — which doesn’t always happen, depending on how busy I am catching up with people and how good the bar is (and it was a very good bar). My program highlights were seeing Kaaron Warren interview Ellen Datlow — it was more of a friendly conversation — as well as being on a very lively discussion panel with Kaaron, Ellen and Paul Haines called “Darkness Beyond Borders”. Heaps of fantastic audience involvement and fascinating debate about horror and dark fiction, where the genre fits and how it bleeds into the mainstream. The live Galactic Suburbia podcast was also a lot of fun to watch and there were quite a few enthusiastic discussions over the weekend — on and off the program — concerning eBooks and social media. Much food for thought!

Speaking of podcasts, Jonathan Strahan from Coode Street, Helen Merrick from Pangalactic Interwebs, Alex Pierce from Galactic Suburbia and my own good self got together to record a live SwanCon MegaPodcast on the Friday afternoon. You can download or stream it from The Writer and the Critic, and the others will no doubt have their own links floating about the place in due course. It was a blast and gave me a welcome practice run for recording W&C with Ian live at Continuum 7 in June.

On Sunday afternoon Ticonderoga Publications threw a 15th Birthday celebration and launched their two newest anthologies, More Scary Kisses and Dead Red Heart. There were yummy cupcakes and fine wine and some heart-fluttery readings — I read an extract from “Frostbitten”, the story I have in More Scary Kisses, although I had to make a last minute switch when I saw there were kids in the room! Ticonderoga has been releasing some remarkable books in the last few years, with more exciting titles to come. I’m particularly looking forward to Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett, due for release later this year.

Ditmar Award 2011

Because SwanCon36 was also the 50th National Science Fiction Convention, the Ditmar Awards were presented on the Sunday night. I’m extremely proud to report that “She Said” (my piece from Scenes from the Second Storey) tied for Best Short Story with “All the Love in the World” by Cat Sparks. Cat’s story is brilliant and Sprawl, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology in which it was published, also won Best Collected Work. Twelfth Planet did extremely well at the awards overall which just goes to show what a powerhouse it has truly become in SpecFic publishing.  It’s worth pointing out that TTP doesn’t just publish traditional print books, but is also heavily involved in new media production, with Galactic Suburbia and the ASiF review website being well represented in the awards:

  • Best Novel: Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)
  • Best Novella or Novelette: “The Company Articles of Edward Teach”, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Short Story (tie): “All the Love in the World”, Cat Sparks (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press) & “She Said”, Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes From the Second Storey, Morrigan Books)
  • Best Collected Work: Sprawl, Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Artwork: “The Lost Thing” short film (Passion Pictures) Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan
  • Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Fan Artist: Amanda Rainey, for Swancon 36 logo
  • Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce  (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Achievement: Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, & Tehani Wessely, Snapshot 2010
  • Best New Talent: Thoraiya Dyer
  • William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who”

Locus has published the full list of Ditmar nominees and winners, as well as the results of the Tin Ducks and the other awards presented at SwanCon over here. Congratulations to everyone!

Now I’m back home and very tired, but also very much looking forward to the next time I get to hang out with the fine folks that make up the Australian speculative fiction community. Enthusiasm! Creativity! Gin and tonic! What more can you ask from a long weekend?

Win Books with Aussie Author Month!

Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott

Somehow I keep forgetting to post about this. To help celebrate Aussie Author Month during April, the Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (ASFFWA) is giving away a truckload of books by Australian writers — including my own novel, Madigan Mine.

To participate in Aussie Author Month — and have a chance at winning some books — you can choose to do any of the following:

1) Write a review on A Writer Goes on a Journey (minimum 300 words, will be moderated) of any spec fic Aussie written book.

2) Write a fictional article, converting any Australian news story, and putting a spec fic twist on it (can be obvious, like putting in a Yowie sighting, or subtle, such as two puncture marks at the neck). Minimum 300 words. When posting, please also post the link of the original news article.

3) Write on your own blog about anything to do with Australian authors or books, such as your favourites, what makes Australian fiction special, Australian small press or self publishers, or anything you can think of! You must also link to our donation page!

For more information and complete entry details, please visit A Writer Goes on a Journey, the official ASFFW news site. Entries close on 30 April 2011.

As well as supporting and promoting Australian authors, part of Aussie Author Month is to fundraise for the Indigenous Literacy Project. Donate if you can and help close the gap and support indigenous education. It’s truly a case worth supporting.

SwanCon 2011

I’m off to SwanCon over at the Hyatt Hotel in Perth this Friday and it’s turned into quite a busy convention for me! Here’s all the official panels and other fun stuff I’ll be doing:

  • 2.00pm — Friday, 22nd April — Plaza 1
    SF Book Club: The Windup Girl

    Discussion panel with Robin Pen, Helen Merrick, Andrew Cameron, Kirstyn McDermott, David Cake
  • 3.00pm — Friday, 22nd April — Freshwater Bay
    MegaPodcast: Read/View or Die

    Live podacast with The Coode St, The Writer and the Critic, The Pangalactic Interwebs and Galactic Suburbia
  • 4.00pm — Friday, 22nd April — Plaza 1
    Darkness Beyond Borders

    Discussion panel with Kaaron Warren, Kirstyn McDermott, Ellen Datlow, Paul Haines.
  • 6.00pm — Friday, 22nd April —  Conservatory Bar
    Book Launch: Toast the Twelve Planets!
  • 10.30am — Saturday, 23nd April — Plaza 2
    Author Reading
  • 11.30am — Saturday, 23nd April — Freshwater Bay
    The Mid-List Crisis and the Cult of Celebrity Authors
    Discussion panel with Ellen Datlow, Justina Robson, Kirstyn McDermott
  • 10.30am — Sunday, 24th April — Plaza 3
    Casting Your Pod

    Discussion panel with Grant Watson, Kirstyn McDermott, Helen Merrick, Jonathan Strahan
  • 5.00pm — Sunday, 24th April — Freshwater Bay
    Book Launch: More Scary Kisses / Dead Red Heart

It looks like it’s going to be a fantastic convention. Now all I have to do is pack . . .

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010

Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2010

Ticonderoga Publications has just announced the contents for its inaugural volume of The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror.

Edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, the anthology weighs in at a mighty 150,000 words and collects 33 of the best stories published last year  — and I’m very pleased to report that my own “She Said” has been selected to appear within its pages. It will also include a review of 2010 and a list of recommended works.

In alphabetical order of the author, the stories to be included are as follows:

RJ Astruc: “Johnny and Babushka”
Peter M Ball: “L’esprit de L’escalier”
Alan Baxter: “The King’s Accord”
Jenny Blackford: “Mirror”
Gitte Christensen: “A Sweet Story”
Matthew Chrulew: “Schubert By Candlelight”
Bill Congreve: “Ghia Likes Food”
Rjurik Davidson: “Lovers In Caeli-Amur”
Felicity Dowker: “After the Jump”
Dale Elvy: “Night Shift”
Jason Fischer: “The School Bus”
Dirk Flinthart: “Walker”
Bob Franklin: “Children’s Story”
Christopher Green: “Where We Go To Be Made Lighter”
Paul Haines: “High Tide At Hot Water Beach”
Lisa L. Hannett: “Soil From My Fingers”
Stephen Irwin: “Hive”
Gary Kemble: “Feast Or Famine”
Pete Kempshall: “Brave Face”
Tessa Kum: “Acception”
Martin Livings: “Home”
Maxine McArthur: “A Pearling Tale”
Kirstyn McDermott: “She Said”
Andrew McKiernan: “The Memory Of Water”
Ben Peek: “White Crocodile Jazz”
Simon Petrie: “Dark Rendezvous”
Lezli Robyn: “Anne-droid of Green Gables”
Angela Rega: “Slow Cookin’ ”
Angela Slatter: “The Bone Mother”
Angela Slatter & Lisa L Hannett: “The February Dragon”
Grant Stone: “Wood”
Kaaron Warren: “That Girl”
Janeen Webb: “Manifest Destiny”

The Year’s Best is due for release in June 2011 and is available for pre-order here. Look at that TOC! Look at that gorgeous cover! Go on, you know you want it!

Australian Shadows Award winners announced!


I awoke this morning to the wonderful news that my short story, “She Said” (from Scenes from the Second Storey), has won an Australian Shadows Award! I think this is one of the best stories I’ve written and I’m so very, very pleased to see it recognised.

This annual literary award is presented by the Australian Horror Writers Association and is judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of horror fiction written or edited by an Australian.

From the Judge’s report:

The story that resonated the most with me, and which came back to me at odd hours of the day for a week after reading, was Kirstyn McDermott’s “She Said.” McDermott’s story embodies all the qualities of the others: sadness, cruelty, bizarreness, and originality. Her imagery is deeply disturbing because it seems so right in the story. She has created a man so evil, so foul, and yet so attractive and lovable that I was conflicted as I read as to whether he was really evil or simply misunderstood. This trick, I think, is what makes McDermott’s story a brilliant one.

If you’d like to read the story for yourself, Morrigan Books has made it available as a free download from their website. The link will only be valid for a limited time in the run up to the Ditmar Awards, for which the story has been nominated. (Also available at that same link is “The Blind Man” by Felicity Dowker, a fellow Ditmar nominee.)

Congratulations to all the Australian Shadows winners and nominees:

LONG FICTION: Under Stones by Bob Franklin (Affirm Press)

Also Nominated:

  • Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott (Picador Australia)
  • The Girl With No Hands by Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healy (Allen & Unwin)
  • Bleed by Peter M. Ball (Twelfth Planet Press)

EDITED PUBLICATION: Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears, edited by Angela Challis & Marty Young (Brimstone Press)

Also Nominated:

  • Scenes From The Second Storey, edited by Amanda Pillar & Pete Kempshall (Morrigan Books)
  • Dark Pages 1, edited by Brenton Tomlinson (Blade Red Press)
  • Scary Kisses, edited by Liz Gryzb (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Midnight Echo #4, edited by Lee Battersby (AHWA)

SHORT FICTION: “She Said” by Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes from the Second Storey)

Also Nominated:

  • “Bread and Circuses” by Felicity Dowker (Scary Kisses)
  • “Brisneyland by Night” by Angela Slatter (Sprawl)
  • “All The Clowns In Clowntown” by Andrew J. McKiernan (Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears)
  • “Dream Machine” by David Conyers (Scenes from the Second Storey)

As an added sweetener for me, the judge’s report for the Long Fiction category includes a lovely write-up of my novel, Madigan Mine:

Madigan Mine (Kirstyn McDermott) is a truly frightening novel of obsession and the paranormal, related in a recognisably Australian tone. With a gripping plot revolving around destructive relationships, addictive personalities, and genuinely Evil machinations, this novel is absolutely ‘unputdownable’, and may well come to be considered a genre classic against which future Australian dark fiction is judged.

Ah … I’ll be able to bask in the Australian Shadows glow for weeks!