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New Australian Fiction 2020 is out today! Purchase yours from our website, bundle it with a KYD Membership, or order from your local independent bookseller.

Featuring: Maame Blue, Claire G. Coleman, Elizabeth Flux, Katerina Gibson, Jack Kirne, Daria Lebedyeva, Donna Mazza, Laura McPhee-Browne, Sophie Overett, KA Rees, Mirandi Riwoe, Mykaela Saunders, Laura Stortenbeker, Jessie Tu, Jack Vening and Madeleine Watts. Check out the KYD Podcast to hear readings from a selection of these brilliant pieces!

Introduction—July 2020

Publishing in the time of a global pandemic is an unpredictable activity. The literary sector has always been a precarious one, but throwing a plague into the mix really tests an industry’s mettle. As submissions for New Australian Fiction 2020 were closing, so too were our international and domestic borders. The country had already endured an apocalyptic summer, with bushfires ravaging millions of hectares of land, destroying homes and businesses across the nation. Dozens of people died, while hundreds of thousands of animals and native flora perished, some to the point of extinction.

Australians were still shell-shocked from those events when we went into lockdown.We were ordered to stay home and to not socialise. Physical contact was dangerous, potentially deadly. Millions of people lost their jobs in the space of twenty-four hours, the economy redirected towards a deep and lasting recession. By the time you’re reading this, we will still be grappling with the ways events of early 2020 have changed our lives.

Yet one fortifying revelation during this hardship has been our community’s commitment to writing. So often we have been too preoccupied to discover new voices. But more time on our hands meant a return to old loves: for many, it was creating the perfect sourdough, for others it was books. And because I can’t bake to save myself, I found myself rereading Annie Dillard’s inspirational The Writing Life during lockdown, and it reminded me not only of the sanctuary in stories but also of how much they can ‘magnify and dramatize our days’. Why are we reading, Dillard asks,

if not in hope that the writer will […] illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so that we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?

For many of us, returning to something more like normal does feel a little bewildering. We are fortunate, then, that fiction can provide some guidance on how to understand our world again.

This anthology of sixteen stories was selected from over 300 submissions. Our contributors, based all around Australia and some further afield, have explored how their characters respond to some of the most important issues of our time, including genetic experimentation in the name of art, the commodification of nuclear disaster, and the devastation caused by ongoing white-settler colonialism. These are also tales about human connection, finding empathy with the natural environment and each other, and the enduring spirit of our society. And though these are stories produced in and shaped by our current moment, they also offer respite from a news cycle filled with gloom. Our collection begins on the cusp of the pandemic before we embark to other, sometimes brighter places, trying not to look back; I hope you find within these pages some escape and, occasionally, some comfort.