Post-Aurealis non-COVID hangover

The Aurealis Awards weekend has drawn to a close, and I’m done. Luckily for me, today is a public holiday in Canberra (for Reconciliation Day) so I don’t have to immediately switch back to my day job brain.

T R Napper in conversation with Cat Sparks at the launch of Tim's novel 36 Streets

At the launch of 36 Streets by T R Napper.

The weekend was by and large a smashing success: friends old and new gathered, winners were feted and runners-up commiserated, there was laughing, earnest and enthusiastic chit chat, and not a few tears were shed. After the ceremony was done, quite a lot of joyful teamwork was dedicated towards generating Sunday morning hangovers.

And, of course, there was at least one report (so far) of a positive COVID test. Ah. It was always a risk, of course, and hopefully one that in retrospect will feel more calculated than reckless. So far my tests have come back negative, and my exhaustion and slight cough have adequate alternative explanations. Fingers crossed that we didn’t just stage a super-spreader event.

The winners of the awards are all listed on the Aurealis website, and about the categories for which I had an opinion I certainly have no complaints. It was lovely to see several first time winners among some more familiar faces on the podium. In particular I have to give it up for Alan Baxter, whose win for his delightfully weird and creepy novella collection The Gulp broke a ten-year drought of Aurealis nominations without a win.

image shows a darkened clifftop with a bright light flaring through a pin tree

The Gulp by Alan Baxter

The bittersweet highlight of the night was undoubtedly the Best Anthology win for Aiki Flinthart’s Relics, Wrecks & Ruins, which she pulled together in the months leading up to her death from cancer in early 2021. Not only did Aiki bravely and shamelessly invite a cadre of some of the best writers in the genre to contribute, but she also turned out to be an excellent anthology editor. RWR is a terrific read, and just one of the many reasons Aiki will be fondly remembered and dearly missed. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when her friends and co-editors Pamela Jeffs and Geneve Flynn accepted the award on her behalf.

a painted book cover depicting a man looking at a crashed vehicle of indeterminate size and function

Relics, Wrecks & Ruins, edited by Aiki Flinthart.

As usual I completely forgot to get my phone out to take any photos, but luckily the indomitable Cat Sparks was there with her camera and did a great job of capturing the atmosphere of the afternoon and evening. Check out her extensive Flickr gallery to see all the glamour and joy of the affair (which I am startled to note includes several instances of me looking a lot more like my dad than I ever thought I did).

On Sunday my good mate and former day-job colleague Tim Napper got to hold a slightly belated launch for his debut novel 36 Streets, a near-future noir cyberpunk set in Chinese-occupied Hanoi. Tim chatted with Cat Sparks about some of the influences on his writing, including Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, the books of Richard K Morgan, and more than a decade working as an aid worker in south-east Asia (Hanoi in particular). The result is a hard-boiled, brutal futuristic thriller that grapples with some of Tim’s favourite themes – memory, identity, and the future of geopolitics. And vicious knife fights, if I had to guess (I’m only a few pages in so far, but I feel pretty safe to recommend it, if you like the sound of what I’ve described. Tim’s a reliably exciting writer and I’m incredibly pleased he’s finally got a novel out in the world).

a woman in a red jacket stands before a dark, neon-lit Hanoi street

36 Streets by T R Napper

As for me, I’m glad the weekend went without too many hitches, and pleased I got to see some old friends and make several new acquaintances for the first time in I guess maybe 40 years? I dunno, time seems to be broken so my counting may be a bit off. Could have been 50 years.

As often happens when the speculative fiction tribe gathers, I’m feeling more invigorated to do some writing. We’ll see after the exhausted relief of several months of accelerating stress and anxiety wear off in a week or two. In the meantime I’ll see what I can do about catching up on my sleep.


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