Australian Women Writers Gen 5 Week 15-22 Jan. 2023
AWW Gen 5 is the generation of women who began writing in the 1990s up till now. It is, or I find it to be, difficult to pin down the characteristics of this current generation, but two trends stand out: the rise and rise of Indigenous Lit; and the amount of writing which in earlier days would have clearly been SF – but which now is generally characterised as Climate Fic., Dystopian, or less frequently, Fantasy/Surreal/Postmodern.
Women’s Indig.Lit does deserve an overview, especially the world class writing of Alexis Wright, surely our next Nobel laureate, but there are Indigenous women writing in the climate/dystopian stream, which for the sake of brevity I will deem SFF, so for AWW Gen 5 Week 2023 let’s start there.
Of course our Canadian friends will argue that this stream can only be discussed with reference to Margaret Atwood’s “not SF” The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and its sequel, The Testaments (2019). But Atwood’s implied claims that she invented dystopian fiction, or even just its American religious subset, or was the first person to bring dystopian writing into Literature, are all easily disprovable
This arbitrarily restrictive definition [not science fiction] seems designed to protect her novels from being relegated to a genre still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders. She doesn’t want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto.Ursula Le Guin talking about Atwood, 2010
Don’t mention SF seems to be the model preferred also by most Australian women (or their publishers), though Wirlomin-Noongar woman Claire G Coleman, at least, is clear about where she is coming from.
Following is a list of AWW Gen 5 – SFF works I have read/reviewed to date:
Georgia Blain, Special (2016)
Claire G Coleman, Terra Nullius (2017)
Claire G Coleman, The Old Lie (2019)
Claire G Coleman, Enclave (2022)
Melissa Ferguson, The Shining Wall (2019)
Janette Turner Hospital, Orpheus Lost (2007)
Linda Jaivan, Rock ‘n’ Roll Babes from Outer Space (1996)
Krissy Kneen, An Uncertain Grace (2017)
Krissy Kneen, Wintering (2018)
Rosaleen Love, The Total Devotion Machine and other stories (1989)
Catherine McKinnon, Storyland (2017)
Sue Parritt, Pia and the Skyman (2016)
Jane Rawson, A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (2013)
Jane Rawson, Formaldehyde (2015)
Jane Rawson, From the Wreck (2017)
Jane Rawson, A History of Dreams (2022)
Elizabeth Tan, Rubik (2017)
Elizabeth Tan, Smart Ovens for Lonely People (2020)
Ellen van Neerven, Heat and Light/Water (2014)
Charlotte Wood, The Natural Way of Things (2015)
Alexis Wright, Carpentaria (2006)
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (2013)
In making this list and looking over my shelves for works I might have missed, I see that I have passed over Australian Grunge which was a distinctive part of 1990s writing at least and which may in fact have been a precursor to the dystopian trend of the 2000s. So Justine Ettler misses out; Linda Jaivin is in, for one of her minor works; Fiona McGregor, who is often mentioned in this connection, I don’t know at all; and Nikki Gemmell, whom I would like to write about at length, is also out. And Heather Rose too, despite The Museum of Modern Love being one of our great books.
I have also reviewed a couple of YA-ish books which have a grungy feel and which I would like to have discussed again in the context of Gen 5 – Jamie Marina Lau, Pink Mountain on Locust Island and Madeleine Ryan, A Room Called Earth, but I can’t see any way of squeezing them into SFF.
I hope I’ve chosen a theme which you will find engaging – I’m not sure where we’ll take AWW Gen x Week after this – and I really hope you can add more/make a case for the inclusion of works I have forgotten/excluded. As usual, over the course of the Week I will attempt to post one review a day – a couple of my own, a guest maybe, and reposts of yours.
Pic. above: Anmatyerre woman, Bronwyn Payne Ngale (1970- ) holding ‘Antyarlkenth [native tuber] story’, 2008