There is an elusive element to selecting and editing fiction. We are all creatures of taste; it follows, therefore, that we have particular tastes in our reading too.
But I’ve always thought the best kind of story is one that performs that most extraordinary balancing act: examining those shared aspects of lived experience while at the same time taking us out of ourselves and exploring alternative imaginative realms. With this in mind, I aspired to collate in the New Australian Fiction anthology stories that felt especially prescient to our current social and political moment. The most affecting fiction, after all, has that transcendent quality; the story, its characters and their dilemmas the prism through which the particular question is refracted.
‘For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain,’ said John Cheever. ‘A page of good prose is when one hears the noise of battle. A page of good prose seems to me the most serious dialogue that well-informed and intelligent men and women carry on today in their endeavour to make sure that the fires of this planet burn peaceably.’
Sometimes it can feel lofty to ask what fiction’s role is in our lives, but as our planet literally burns un-peaceably, it is worth reminding ourselves how stories offer a way to explore the most urgent issues of our time – and how they can test these issues with restraint and introspection. Fiction also has the capacity to move us, emotionally but also ideologically; and on the days when it seems like all other means of communicating are futile, when we feel like we’re banging our heads on the proverbial brick wall, there is comfort to be sought, as well as strength, in stories that speak to us.
When it seems like all other means of communicating are futile, there is comfort to be sought, as well as strength, in stories that speak to us.
Over three hundred writers submitted their work to the anthology call-out, and this collection comprises a selection of just eighteen. Within these pages, you will find stories about the menacing danger of Tinder and the rippling effects of ice addiction in small towns; the erosion of innocence as a young boy befriends an elderly man; stories about men who are punished for emotion; the pain and loneliness of wanting a child, and the terror of having one; stories about how Australia remains nightmarish and misunderstood by those who seek to conquer it; and how ghosts can inhabit the most unlikely objects.
In this anthology, there is humour and pathos, love and betrayal, madness and calm, infatuation and rejection. There is cruelty, there is romance. There is death, blood and darkness, but there is also so much light and new life.
Publishing Director and Series editor, New Australian Fiction