from the editor's desk

The Year of Experimentation


In the Westerly essay on fiction last year, Annabel Smith cited those ‘lamenting the death of the novel, the demise of publishing’. But her closer look at emerging and established writers indicated ‘there is every reason to be positive about the future of Australian fiction, whatever forms it may take’. The year before that, David Whish-Wilson’s essay countered a then-popular notion that an ‘outbreak in crime’ had overwhelmed Australian publishing, degrading it. His essay demonstrated that literary standards were intact, despite increased use of crime conventions in literary fiction.

Both essays responded to a gloom surrounding Australian literary publishing in recent years. I won’t deride or deny this gloom, because I felt it myself. But reading a significant chunk of the fiction from 2012/13—novels, novellas, short story collections and crime—has heartened me. Why? Because this year has seen an outburst of experimentation. Not only have writers tried out new strategies, but publishers have published them. Across Australia, from A&U to UWAP, publishers have—at last again—taken risks instead of publishing standardly for airport bookshops and Big W. As a caution, however, in 2012 we did have the spectacle of multiple copies of Fifty Shades of Grey piled on tables among peaches and leeks in the fresh food section of Coles. But this was itself a delightful experiment—in marketing, if not in narrative.

I stress the importance of experimentation in narrative because I believe it’s the way forward for publishing. New delivery platforms for fiction—the iPad and what will follow—are not bound by attached-at-the-spine linearity. Digital publishing offers fiction writers more interactivity, more freedom-to-create, than paper publishing ever did. Currently the e-book is merely a paper book digitized, but the digital allows for greatly enhanced narratives. In future, the fiction writer will be part of a different process—more like that of the script writer currently—a cog in a larger machine of production, but the initiating and major cog just the same. It’s good to see that paper publishing in 2012 has dipped its inky digits into the currents of change. Perhaps publishers have finally noticed that digital publishing demands more radical moves than were at first thought. For paper publishing, 2012/13 might be seen as a moving-on year, a digital-future rehearsal.

Works reviewed in this essay:

Bail, Murray. The Voyage, Melbourne: Text, 2012.
Castro, Brian. Street to Street. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2012.
Cavanaugh, Tony. Promise. Sydney: Hachette, 2012.
Cole, Jessie. Darkness on the Edge of Town. Sydney: Fourth Estate, 2012.
Condon, Matthew. The Toe Tag Quintet: Five novellas of murder and mayhem. Vintage, 2012
Conti, Christopher. Proofs. Glebe: Puncher & Wattmann, 2012.
Corris, Peter. The Dunbar Case. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2013.
Henry, Kristin. All the Way Home. Crawley: UWA Publishing, 2012.
Johnson, Susan. My Hundred Lovers. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2012.
Keneally, Thomas. The Daughters of Mars. London: Sceptre, 2012.
Kissane, Andy. The Swarm. Glebe: Puncher & Wattmann, 2012.
Koch, Christopher. Lost Voices. Sydney: Fourth Estate, 2012.
Lovitt, Zane. The Midnight Promise: A Detective’s Story in Ten Cases. Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2012.
Mills, Jennifer. The Rest is Weight. St Lucia: UQP, 2012.
Murnane, Gerald. A History of Books. Artamon: Giramondo, 2012.
Raynes, Cameron. The Colour of Kerosene and Other Stories. Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2012.
Rowe, Josephine. Tarcutta Wake. St Lucia: UQP, 2012.
Silvey, Craig. The Amber Amulet. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2012.
Stedman, M. L. [Margaret] The Light Between Oceans. London: Doubleday, 2012.
Vu, Chi. Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2012.
White, Patrick. The Hanging Garden. London: Jonathan Cape, 2012.
Woolfe, Sue. The Oldest Song in the World. Sydney : Fourth Estate, 2012.

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