So, the Event – the Aurealis Award Gala Ceremony, to give the full title – is over; eight or ten authors or illustrators are feeling very happy, four times that number are feeling disappointed, or at the very least, slightly let down. Have to say that I’m among the disappointed crew. Yes, needless to say, my novel Amberlight didn’t get the cigar for best Autralian fantasy novel of 2008.
That said, it was quite an evening. The program book, as you can see from the cover, was quite spectacular. The theatre was sold out (the free drinks had already run out when my mates and I arrived half an hour before the start, though they lasted better at the post-awards cocktail party. ) The light show and musical accompaniment were accomplished, and nobody dropped an award, or their glasses, or any other intimate article of apparel. The award winners, many of whom appeared wholly gob-smacked, still rallied to make, in some cases, wholly ad lib acceptance speeches (I particularly liked the YA winner who remarked that it was only January 24th, but the Aurealis had already made her year.) The hosts were witty, and nobody talked too long (they were threatened with Discipline if they did, up to Ritual Disembowelment, or even worse, having the hosts do a Karaoke duet for them.)
That the whole thing ran so smoothly is largely down to the Aurealis Awards’ amazing volunteers, usually from Fantastic Queensland, the association/company currently running the Awards. It does give a warm and fuzzy feeling to think that this was going down in my own state capital, centre – well, southwest corner – of the faintly disdained Australian state colloquially known as The Banana Benders – (better than being a New South Wales person, whose state nickname is Cockroaches). And that people had come from as far away as Perth, the other side of the continent, for an award whose ceremony, only thirteen years ago, was limited to a few drinks in the back of a Melbourne bookstore.
I did try to take pix of the illuminati present, though my new mobile (cell) phone proved dismally bad at that. For ex., here’s our esteemed Aurealis Co-ordinator, Ron Serdiuk of Pulp Fiction, talking to somebody whose name I should know but don’t – Ron REALLY doesn’t look like he had a serious accident with the back of a truck back in childhood, believe me.
And here’s that perennial short-lister and usually winner, Sean Williams, with a friend called Tiffany, whose second name I’ve mislaid. (Note the preponderance of bare domes – it appears to be a male Aurealis fashion statement. Or perhaps the heat of much thinking has tended to thin the Oz speculative fiction community’s communal hair?)
Au contraire, here’s me and my minders, um, support group, um, mates, apparently at the phone camera’s absolute limit. The one at the right is me. The one on the left is my friend from undergrad days, Cheryl Taylor, now retired as an associate professor (a higher rank than the US version,which is our equivalent of a lecturer.) The one in the middle is my other u-grad mate, Penny Wensley, now very much un-retired as governor of Queensland (a vice-regal representative of the Queen, again, not the US version of a governor.) All of us dressed to the nines, or frocked up, as the current idiom has it, but rats, the camera doesn’t convey that at all well.
As for the award – well, here’s the list of competition, er, other shortlisters for the fantasy novel and short story. As you can see, if you really squint, Amberlight was the only small-press novel, and the only one not from a big-house branch – HarperCollins, Allen & Unwin, McMillan, etc. etc. Kinda like David in with Goliath – except in this case, David missed.
The strenght of said competition comes home when you leaf through the program, where the Award people shamelessly fleece, ah, urge the big publishers to promote their authors’ achievements. Here’s the HarperCollins full page advert – so many shortlisted works they had to resort to plaques and thumbnail pix to show them all.
Here, au contraire, is the ad for me and Amberlight, financed by nefarious means, and covering a modest half page, shown off by the Co-Ordinator himself.
And no, he really does have two eyes, it’s just that one of the baby browns is hidden behind the glasses rim.
Now it’s over for another year, and we have mostly retired to our respective Australian burrows to lick our wounds, that is, re-deploy our resources, and prepare for the next time the Oz speculative fiction(local shorthand for SF and F) community gathers, the women frocked up (I’m particularly fond of this new verb) and the men, well – some of the men dressed if not frocked up, and many sporting their immaculately defoliated but certainly not empty domes. And all of us thanking yet again the many volunteers, from Our Respected Co-Ordinator onward, who made the whole shebang possible.