SpecFicNZ was well represented at the recent Australian Shadows Awards, which recognise excellence in the Horror writing field in Australasia. Three of the top awards were taken away by SpecFicNZ members: Debbie Cowens won Best Short Story for her creepy-kid tale “Caterpillars”; Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray won Best Edited Work for Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror (Paper Road Press, 2013); and Marty Young won Best Novel with his debut novel 809 Jacob Street (Black Beacon Books, 2013).
Debbie Cowens, whose winning story appears in winning collection Baby Teeth, missed the initial announcement due to the time difference between New Zealand and Australia. “To be shortlisted for a AHWA Shadow award was far beyond my expectations and to be included alongside an impressive line-up of fantastic Aussie writers as well as fellow Baby Teeth SpecFicNZ writer, the talented JC Hart, was flattering and surprising. When I woke up to discover that I had actually won, the language with which I conveyed my astonishment would not be printed in a respectable publication such as this!”
Dan, who was the FFANZ delegate to Continuum X earlier this year, was similarly blown away by the results. “I think I speak for all of us when I say that I was in a state of shock when we won this award, and a state of euphoria when Debbie won Best Short Story. This state – shocked euphoria – was rather confusing, but I think I’ve come out the other side now. Settled into just being quietly stoked. For a little book from New Zealand to have come from such humble beginnings and to win not one but two categories in a major Australian award is fantastic, and we can all be proud to be a part of that.
“I’d like to thank the AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association) for running these awards, and for making it open not only to New Zealanders but also to all Oceania residents. In a time when the SF/F/H community is crying out for more diversity in genre fiction, respecting and inviting the contributions of our wider Pacific community in a highly-esteemed awards program like the Australian Shadows is a big step forward in this direction. Good on you, AHWA.”
Co-editor Lee agrees. “If you could just write ‘we’ everywhere Dan has said ‘I’ because his comments are a fair representation of how I’m feeling. ‘Humbled’ is another word that comes to mind.”
Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror was the first book to be released by Paper Road Press, a small Wellington publisher that specialises in quirky fiction. A horror collection with a difference, Baby Teeth features 37 snappy short stories about the creepy things kids say and do – and all proceeds from sales of the book are donated to Duffy Books in Homes. Creepy stories about kids, supporting kids, but definitely not meant to be read by kids – it’s a strange niche, but with an Australian Shadows Award and a Sir Julius Vogel Award under its belt and several prize-winning stories between its covers, one that seems to have struck a chord with horror fans.
Time differences seem to have been a theme with this year’s Shadows: while Dan, Lee and Debbie were in New Zealand during the shortlist announcement, Marty Young was working on a rig site in the “deep dark jungles of Papua New Guinea”.
“I didn’t expect to win the Best Novel award,” Marty says, “so I kind of pushed the awards to the back of my mind that week, and focused on my job on the rig site (I’m a palynologist). But it was impossible to completely forget about it, and come the night of the winners being announced, I was lying in bed, trying to sleep, trying not to wonder if I’d won. At 9.45, I was still awake, still wondering, getting restless, and depressed, thinking I hadn’t won, when my wife phoned me to say, ‘You won! You won! You won! You won! You won!’ It was kind of surreal – and then I couldn’t sleep for several hours after that because of my excitement! When my alarm went off at 4.30am the next morning, the tiredness I felt was nothing compared to the enjoyment of having won Best Novel for my debut novel.”
Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror and 809 Jacob Street are available to order in print and ebook formats at the retailers below: