2003: Lucy Sussex

Lucy Sussex

Written by Bruce Gillespie, with much thanks to Steve Paulsen (his entry on Lucy Sussex in The MUP Encyclopedia of Australian Science Fiction & fantasy) and Yvonne Rousseau

This year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award is to Lucy Sussex for the enormous variety and depth of her achievements in writing, research, editing and teaching in the science fiction, fantasy and related fields in Australia since 1979.

Born in New Zealand in 1957, and educated in New Zealand, France, the United Kingdom and Australia, Lucy Sussex has been writing since she was eleven. She moved to Australia in 1971 and in 1979 attended the Sydney Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, which was conducted by Terry Carr and George Turner. She joined the wider science fiction circle of Melbourne, and quickly began to publish short stories, both here and overseas. In 1979, she was invited by John Foyster to become part of the original collective that published the revitalised Australian Science Fiction Review in the 1980s.

Lucy’s first published short story was “The Parish and Mrs Brown”, in the 1983 anthology Dreamworks. Since then she has published more than 30 short stories. Her stories have been extensively anthologised, both here and overseas, most notably in My Lady Tongue and Other Tales, a collection of her stories published by Heinemann in 1990, and in The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women (her story “Kay and Phil”). In 1998 she won the Aurealis Award for her story “Merlusine”, published in America in the collection Horns of Elfland; and she has won two short story Ditmar Awards, for “My Lady Tongue” in 1989 and “Absolute Uncertainty”, published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 2001. “The Queen of Erewhon” was selected for The Year’s Best SF 5 (2000), edited by David Hartwell.

In 1997, Lucy won her first novel Ditmar for The Scarlet Rider, published by Tor Books in New York (1996). She has published novels for children, young adults and adults. Her first book was The Peace Garden (1989), followed by Deersnake (1994), The Penguin Friend (1997) and Black Ice (1997). The Revognase, part of the Quentaris series, has been published in 2003.

At the same time as she was writing a great deal of fiction, Lucy was gaining a reputation as an anthologist and editor, beginning with The Lottery and The Patternmaker (1994), which were collections of short science fiction for young adults. In 1995, she and Judith Raphael Buckrich edited She’s Fantastical, a beautifully produced volume of short science fiction and fantasy by Australian women writers. The book was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award.

Lucy’s most original research achievement was to track down a previously unknown author, a pioneer of women’s detective fiction. A writer using the pseudonyms of W.W.or Waif Wander had published over 500 short stories in Australian magazines throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. Lucy, through remorseless research discovered the true name of Waif Wander was Mary Fortune. This research led to the publication in 1989 of The Fortunes of Mary Fortune, a collection of Fortune’s stories. Since then, Lucy has undertaken further researches into mystery fiction written by women in the nineteenth century, including Ellen Davitt’s Force and Fraud, the first Australian murder mystery novel. She is currently completing her doctorate in this field.

As if all that were not enough, Lucy has maintained her interest in the writers’ workshop movement as a way of handing on and encouraging writing skills in budding writers. She has conducted several workshops herself, most notably the Writers’ Workshop that accompanied Aussiecon III, the World SF Convention held in Melbourne in 1999, and as one of the teachers at Clarion West, in Seattle, in 2001. In January 2004, she will be one of the teachers at Clarion South, to be held in Brisbane.

In talking about the work of Lucy Sussex, we run the constant danger of leaving something out. We should mention, for instance, that she has become a highly valued book editor of fiction. She also writes a weekly review column in The Sunday Age and The West Australian.

She and her partner Julian Warner have been leading lights of Australian and world fandom for more than two decades. For the last five years, they have been hosts to the monthly Nova Mob, Melbourne’s SF discussion group. Julian won DUFF in 2002, and Lucy was a Guest of Honour at Convergence and Con with the Wind (the 2002 New Zealand National Convention).

And if we have left out anything, it is only because we cannot keep up with the astonishing number or nature of the achievements of Lucy Sussex. Not that we would suggest that she had done everything; instead we give her this award in the belief that she has only just started her brilliant career.