2009: Rosaleen Love

Rosaleen Love

Winner of the 2009 A. Bertram Chandler Award

This year’s A Bertram Chandler Award goes to Rosaleen Love. She has had a distinguished career, firstly in the philosophy of science, and science writing, but also expressed in lively, playful, diverting and yet deeply serious speculative fiction short stories. She is an intellectual game-player with the notions of science.

Rosaleen Love
Rosaleen Love

Rosaleen Love, née King, was born in 1940, in Sydney, but grew up in Ipswich, Queensland. She gained early knowledge of science from her father Rocky, a pioneer in country veterinarian practice. Her mother Lucille combined science and writing, being first a cattle bacteriologist, then as Mary Bishop, a writer of short stories and two books, In the Doghouse, and It’s a Dog’s Life, about being married to a country vet. Her sister Kathleen is a soil biologist. She studied at Queensland, Cambridge and Melbourne Universities, firstly graduating in science, then the history and philosophy of science.

As she says, she has an abiding interest in the history of wrong ideas. She later taught in this subject at Swinburne University, switching to creative writing teaching at Victoria University. Currently she is a research associate at La Trobe and Monash Universities, teaching the writing of fiction at La Trobe.

In 1961 she married Harold Love, who became a Professor of English at Monash University. His research interests varied from seventeenth-century manuscripts to the Australian theatre. They both had an enthusiasm for Baroque music. They have four children. Harold Love died in 2007. She has two grandsons.

Her creative writing began with short stories, which while not being published initially, kept winning short story awards. Her first story, ‘The Laws of Life’, won the FAW State of Victoria award for 1983. When she did publish, she placed stories both in science fiction and literary publications, from Aphelion to Overland and Westerly. At the same time she was science writing, being a science columnist for Australian Society, and a contributing editor, Science and Technology, for the Age Monthly Review.

Her first book was an edited anthology of Australian science writing, If Atoms Could Talk, for Greenhouse Press (1987). She followed with The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories, published in London with the Women’s Press in 1989. Australian writer George Turner had noted her work whilst judging a SF convention short story competition; now he contributed an apt blurb: ‘Here is a writer who takes joy in absurdity, laughing not at life but with it. To Rosaleen Love the extraordinary is what we do all the time.’

Rosaleen Love thus became the first Australian women speculative fiction writer to publish a collection of short stories internationally. The title story was typical Love, using the established science-fictional motif of intelligent robots, but here applied to childcare. Mary Beth is an astronaut, a single mother with two children. When she flies off to Mars she hires a Total Devotion Machine, to look after the children. But the machine is both pragmatic, and deeply manipulative, and settles the situation to its own, the children’s and Mary Beth’s satisfaction. The tone might be playful, but the concerns were serious. Other stories showed that ecology was as much a concern of the author’s as feminism, explored in a distinctive auctorial voice that managed both to be both warm and ironic.

Love has commented that at midnight, all her novels resolve themselves into short stories. She has continued to work in the short-story mode, alternating with science writing. In 1993 the Women’s Press published her second collection, Evolution Annie, whose stories had debuted in such varied publications as Arena, Eidolon, and Dale Spender’s 1991 anthology Heroines. Continuing to set herself challenges, she learnt to scuba-dive for the non-fiction Reefscape: Reflections on the Great Barrier Reef, which appeared from Allen & Unwin in 2000, and was reprinted by Joseph Henry Press in the US. During this time, she was an invited member of the Humanity 3000 series, 1999-2000, organised by the Foundation for the Future in Seattle. Another Seattle connection came when a third collection of stories, The Travelling Tide, was published by Aqueduct Press in their Conversation Pieces series, 2005. Like Reefscape, it had a nautical theme. She also appeared on numerous convention panels, science-fictional, scientific, and futuristic, being a regular guest at the Wiscon convention.

Although she had regularly appeared in science fictional shortlists, it was not until 2006 that she won an Aurealis award, for ‘Once Giants Ruled the Earth’, in the category of best fantasy short story.

Her writing encompasses fiction and non-fiction, writing for children and adults, science, ecology, the indigenous and the spiritual. She is wit and soda fizz, serious extrapolation and a keen sense of life’s absurdities. Long may she continue to delight us!

Lucy Sussex