Some good news today. My story “Wasting Matilda” from Zombie Apocalypse! edited by Stephen Jones (Robinson UK and Running Press, US) has shuffled its way onto the shortlist for the Aurealis Awards, Best Horror Short Story category. For those who don’t know, the Aurealis Awards are the major speculative fiction awards for Australian genre writing — sort of the equivalent of the US Nebulas. Unlike the Nebulas, however, they are juried; in this case the Horror panel consists of three respected Aussie horror aficionados: Chuck McKenzie, Mark Smith-Briggs and Nyssa Pascoe.
For the record, the full list of shortlisted horror stories are:
- “Take the Free Tour”, Bob Franklin, Under Stones, Affirm Press
- “Her Gallant Needs”, Paul Haines, Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press
- “The Fear”, Richard Harland, Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press
- “Wasting Matilda”, Robert Hood, Zombie Apocalypse!, Constable & Robinson Ltd
- “Lollo”, Martin Livings, Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, Apex Publishing.
The shortlists for all the categories are available here.
For more information on the Aurealis Awards, sponsored this year by HarperVoyager — and to buy your tickets for the gala event, to be held in Sydney (the Independent Theatre, North Sydney) on 21 May — go to the AA website. Bookings are now open.
Writing “Wasting Matilda” was quite a challenge as editor Stephen Jones’ brief for the volume, while open, was rather demanding, in my case requiring a story told through HF radio transmissions — tricky when you want to ensure that it has believable dramatic immediacy. As well as fitting into a sketchy but well-thought-out over-arching back-story, the story had to fulfil certain other criteria, some easier to realise than others. Yet it proved to be a lot of fun to write, once I found a way of dealing with the logistics, and once I settled upon some enjoyable characters (members of the Royal Flying Doctor Service), an exciting situation (zombie refugees?) and a suitable location — or, as it happened, two locations. Though the story begins in the air and at sea off the east coast of Australia it mostly takes place in a small Australian country town, Gulargambone — a real place and one I eventually felt very familiar with even though I’ve never been there. The internet — and in particular Google Maps — certainly helped in that regard. I walked the streets of Gulargambone on my desktop and then killed off the entire population, turning most of them into zombies. I hope they didn’t mind.
The final anthology — though “anthology” is an inadequate word to describe this particular novelistic collection of interrelated stories — turned out to be a great pleasure to read, cleverly molded into a relatively consistent narrative by Jones and his chosen authors. These were an exciting bunch to share the book with. I’m in there with the likes of Michael Marshall Smith, Pat Cadigan, Kim Newman, Tanith Lee, Paul McAuley, Christopher Fowler, Paul Finch and many others. Reviews have ranged from cautiously positive through to wildly enthusiastic. The developing story of the zombie apocalypse is told via assorted documents, from diary entries, blogs and official reports, through to transcriptions of radio programs and other transmissions, Tweets, letters, film scripts … you name it. These are all formatted appropriately, sometimes complete with blood stains. The result could have been fractured and alienating, but instead it works brilliantly — and is often both poignant and terrifying in its impact, with engaging characters that are right there on the firing line. I heartily recommend that you check it out.