HomeAll postsSean Williams on the AWW challenge

Sean Williams on the AWW challenge

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series AWW challenge

Sean Williams on the AWW challenge

Sean Williams

Sean Williams is the award-winning, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of over thirty-five novels, eighty short stories, and the odd odd poem. He writes science fiction, fantasy and horror for adults, young adults and children, and enjoys the occasional franchise, too, such as Star Wars and Doctor Who. His latest book is Troubletwisters: The Monster, co-written with Garth Nix (and reviewed here).  Sean responds to issues around the AWW challenge, previously published in Dark Matter issue 9.

What are your thoughts on the Australian Women Writers Challenge and the Stella Prize? 

Affirmative action, positive discrimination–whatever we call it, I’m enthusiastically in favour of it. Anything that brings good writing to the public’s attention is automatically a good thing, and there’s a wealth of overlooked writing out there, by indigenous authors, LGTB authors, disabled authors, all manner of marginalized people who deserve their stories to be heard as much as anyone else. In a perfect world, there’d be no barriers to entry, but unfortunately we do live in a world that resists perfectly ordinary things like black protagonists, gay love affairs, certain kinds of fictions being restricted to certain kinds of slots (like women’s fiction and romance). The AWW Challenge and the Stella Prize are therefore important innovations.  Particularly so for the speculative fiction community, which you’d think would embrace all kinds of otherness, but in reality is just as hidebound and biased as any other, in its own way.

Are you participating in the Australian Women Writers challenge? If so, what is your level of commitment?

Unfortunately no, because my reading in the last year or so has been almost entirely restricted to that required by my PhD. (My field of research is largely mid-twentieth century SF dealing with a particular trope, which means I’m reading a lot of books by white guys who might never have met a woman, judging by the way they write them.) And when I’m not reading for my thesis, I’m reading for my work. So I recently read Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts, ahead of interviewing her at Adelaide Writers’ Week, and Anna Solding’s The Hum of Concrete, which I launched. Two wonderful books by wonderful women writers–sometimes work just doesn’t feel like work, you know? That said, I did have a run on Rosemary Sutcliff novels earlier this year, which was an absolute delight. Once the PhD is out of the way, I’m looking forward to reading and hopefully reviewing more. I’ve got books by Megan Abbott, Maureen McHugh and K D Wentworth at the top of my to-read pile.

Has the process of engaging with the issues inspiring the AWW challenge or the challenge itself affected your reading or reviewing habits? If so, in what way?

It’s made me feel unhappier about the reading practices forced on me by my work, and I’m making a concerted effort to liberate myself from them. The PhD will be gone by the end of the year (hopefully) and I’m dropping a bunch of committees and judging roles that should free up time to pursue my own interests.

How do you think the AWWC has impacted on the reading and writing communities in Australia? 

Because I’ve been so busy, I’m a little out of touch with the reading and writing communities, so I’m not remotely qualified to comment on them. I can’t imagine that this could have had a detrimental effect, though. The worst one could possibly claim is that positive discrimination might lead to average writing being elevated as great–but who decides what’s great and what isn’t? And why is this worse than the disproportionate amount of average writing by blokes that’s already out there? No one in their right mind would claim that everything published right now is perfect. Opening the doors to new writers, new possibilities, is the surest way to improve writing overall. If the AWWC hasn’t had a measurable positive effect, I’ll eat my fez.

Series Navigation<< Sean McMullen: From Science Fantasy To GalileoNalini Haynes: On Gender Parity >>
Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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