Australian literature is made up of many genres. Australian science fiction and fantasy began to grow after World War Two, in the fifties and sixties. The growth of the genre has allowed for the idea of stories in Australia to be seen in a new way, a different way, to what might be traditionally expected. The development of an Australian genre of science fiction and fantasy ensured the creation of science fiction and fantasy-centric imprints under larger publishers, bookshops specifically for the genres, and magazines, such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. These magazines showcase short stories from Australian authors with science fiction and fantasy themes.
1976 saw the formal establishment of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. It sponsors and encourages the presence and creation of science fiction in Australia, and participates in conventions where Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and authors are present.
Australian authors of science fiction and fantasy do not always use Australia as their base setting, though sometimes they do. Kate Forsyth, author of many books for children and adults, created the world of Eileanan for her series, The Witches of Eileanan and it’s sequel trilogy, Rhiannon’s Ride, but has based it around Scottish ideas and pagan culture, with the setting feeling as though it resembles parts of Scotland. Lynette Noni, author of the Medoran Chronicles sets her series in Medora, a fantasy world similar to Earth but far more technologically advanced. Garth Nix, in Newt’s Emerald, sets his world in Regency England with a magical twist. These are all Australian authors who have effectively and successfully managed to write a fantasy world or used a science fiction setting to propel their story along. Having these stories set elsewhere opens up new possibilities.
There are examples of science fiction and fantasy authors in Australia using the landscape and culture of Australia to write their stories. In 1980, Damien Broderick wrote The Dreaming Dragons, utilising Indigenous mythology to tell a unique Australian and Indigenous fantasy story. However, as contemporary Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers tend to make their money overseas, creating a new world that can perhaps be inspired by the real world, is possibly more marketable and accessible than an Australian world that overseas readers may not identify with.
These aspects of this genre add to the Australian literary landscape and identity because it shows the broad appeal of varying settings and genres to Australian readers, the desire to see their country in books but also a desire to communicate to the world, even if through a fantasy or science fiction novel, the talents hidden within Australia. Fantasy and science fiction perhaps give Australian writers more scope to explore themes and places beyond what they know through Australian historical fiction, Australian poetry or Australian crime fiction, and scope to reach more readers beyond the borders of the nation.
Indeed, the prevalence and love of science fiction and fantasy as a broad genre, regardless of where the books come from, has created a need for bookshops such as Galaxy Books in Sydney, specialising in the sale of any and all science fiction and fantasy, and to promote the Australian authors working in these genres.
The Australian Writer’s Centre runs a course called Fantasy, Science Fiction and More, touching on many of the key elements of these genres. Once an author has identified the key elements, they can adapt them to any setting, and therefore, writing a fantasy book set in Australia using these elements could be a very interesting undertaking. Isobelle Carmody is another well-known author of science fiction in Australia. The Obernewtyn Chronicles, set in a post-apocalyptic world, explores the events that occur in a dystopian world following a nuclear holocaust. Carmody is an example of an Australian author in any genre who was broken global barriers. A list of her books, including Australian, U.S. and U.K. editions can be found here:http://www.isobellecarmody.net/books/.
Even though Australian science fiction and fantasy doesn’t always take place within Australia, it is still a popular genre and the authors still have a loyal, popular, and in some cases, global following. Though many science fiction and fantasy series are marketed or aimed at a YA audience, adults can enjoy them too, which will hopefully promote the creation of more stories in these genres. Science fiction and fantasy in Australia may not shape our cultural landscape the way other genres that utilise Australian settings do, but the genre, stories, and authors still contribute to a valuable body of work for the literary landscape of Australia.