Interview by Alexandra Pierce.
In the past, Katharine has been mentor and municipal liaison for NaNoWriMo (2005-2012), was the Northern Territory judge of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards for 2013/14, and is currently the Judging Coordinator for the Aurealis Awards.
You’ve recently taken over as the chief organiser of the Aurealis Awards – congratulations – and you’ve been involved as a judge for quite a long time. What value do you see in these awards?
Thank you! I don’t think it’ll be something I can manage for very long, there is so much work behind the scenes that it’s a little overwhelming. Tehani Wessely has been doing such an amazing job though, and she’s trained me well – and she’s still a few pixels away from helping me with further advice!
The value I see is having a group of people not only read the same works, but the collection of works from the entire year and be able to see both what we have to offer in that genre but also how it stacks up in general against each other, in an all-encompassing way. The more people on a panel the better in a way, to get as much of a balanced and invested view as possible, whilst also still making it manageable for the publishers or authors submitting copies, and the convenors managing their panels. We have a number of other awards in Australia but not all are judged by a panel – they can be judged by the public or members to a particular convention or group, which means that while the pool of voters is much, much larger, they may not have read the entire scope of what’s eligible for that year – hence the different results over the different awards. I like that the Aurealis Awards makes it as manageable as possible to read everything that’s eligible – we really push for everything that’s eligible to be entered as early as possible – and the discussions that come from this are grand.
It certainly makes it easier for the public who may not have the time or desire to read a hundred books a year, to have a shortlist to dive into!
You’ve done a lot of work as an intern for two Aussie indie presses, Fablecroft and Twelfth Planet Press. What drew you to wanting to be involved in these two endeavours?
I think it started out as just wanting to be helpful in general, and from there it’s expanded into taking on small projects here and there, handling the slush pile and taking pitches, and being mentored in how to proof and edit manuscripts. It’s all so interesting and I’m really passionate about doing it all full time one day – I can dream, at least! I love that indie press can do projects you’d rarely see from big publishers, and that authors have more say in what goes into their book as a whole – the graphic designs and the media. It’s such a nice step between the big publishers and really high quality self-publishing – more say in your book without having to do all the work! Indie publishers are also so much more a labour of love, too. We’re certainly not there for the pay (though the tea and chocolate is lovely!).
What plans do you have for future involvement in the Australian science fiction scene?
Oh, goodness only knows. I’d love to be part of a comeback of a ASIF style website, and really push more media on the excellent books we have here – especially from small press and self-published works.
As for anything else it’s a little hard, still, being stuck up in a remote part of Australia away from all the action – there’s so much I can do online, but it keeps me safe from doing anything really crazy, like joining a concomm. I’m happy seeing what comes in the next few years and flailing madly for volunteering when it happens. I still feel quite new and like I should keep quiet as I don’t know enough to do much… but I think I’d love to edit an anthology one day.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Hrm, what have I read so far this year? I’m part of a re-read of the Twelve Planets series by Twelfth Planet Press, where we read and review one book each month. Some I read when they first came out so it’s been a few years, and some I never actually got around to reading so it’s been excellent so far! What else… The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman – that was very enjoyable and I can’t wait for book two. The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French had a few speculative aspects, and I was sobbing by the end of it so I totally got attached to the poor characters. Squid’s Grief by DK Mok, and Vigil by Angela Slatter were both so engaging I couldn’t put them down, and I read them as quickly as possible – I loved the characters so much, and I was so happy when DK told me I’d probably be able to hug her main character without getting stabbed – that’s exciting. Defying Doomsday anthology edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench absolutely blew me away and I really, really hope we get some novels spawned from some of those short stories.
Other than that I’m really looking forward to Sisters of the fire by Kim Wilkins, If Blood Should Stain the Wattle by Jackie French, Swarm by our magical trio, Den of Wolves from Juliet Marillier… and countless other things. This is another awesome aspect of working with the Aurealis Awards, it’s impossible to miss what’s coming out! (But a little more impossible to have time to read it all!)
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Charles M. Schulz (creator of the Peanuts comic strip, Snoopy, etc) is such an amazing creator. He counts as speculative fiction, right? C’mon, Snoopy thought he was a WWI flying ace fighting the red baron! Jim C. Hines would agree with me.
Fine, after all the work we’ve done for Letters to Tiptree, I think I’d have to say Alice Sheldon. I’m not entirely sure that she’d want to talk to me, but I’d love to hear her just talk about opinions about just about anything. Or if someone was sitting next to her so I could listen in on their conversation. Hang on, since it’s a long plane trip, surely I can say that I’m sitting in the middle of a set of four seats on say, an British Airways A380-800 flying from Singapore to London on my way to Helsinki Worldcon 2017, right?