First, I discovered the genres of science fiction and fantasy. Then, maybe a year or two later, I discovered that Australians wrote it too. Sometimes they even got published in their own country. Much, much later, I discovered that there was such a thing as feminist science fiction, and a very small amount of that was written by Australians too, and what was left of my brain at that point was duly blown.
For all my excitement, though, science fiction and fantasy remained categorised in my head as things that were novels. It took me much longer to get to grips with the significance and indeed pleasure that the short story form could offer, as a reader as well as a writer. It didn’t help that I had spent far too many hours in creative writing classes, being told that I should steer away from writing fantastical fiction because ‘it only came in big thick series of multiple books, not short stories.’
An important and often overlooked writer in the history of the field, Lucy Sussex and her collection My Lady Tongue and Other Tales went a long way towards helping me understand that my teachers were wrong, and almost everything that I thought I knew about science fiction and fantasy (and the boundaries of those genres) were indeed wrong.
When “My Lady Tongue” won the Ditmar (Australian SF Award, voted on my members of the National SF Convention each year) for “Best Australian Short Fiction” in 1989, it was only the second story by a woman to win that category - and made Sussex only the third Australian woman to win a Ditmar for fiction in the twenty years since the inception of the awards.
More to the point, it was an overtly feminist story, set in a lesbian commune and looking at the issues that might stem from being raised in an all female environment - both the positives and negatives. Shakespeare, the utopian/dystopian question, lesbians and feminists! The fact that such a radical story received such recognition from Australian fandom at the time is quite impressive.
Reading it nearly 15 years after it was first published, it was like a light had gone on in my head - oh, science fiction can do THIS, and it led to my searching out more fiction like it, discovering Tiptree, the academic works of Helen Merrick, Justine Larbalestier and Joanna Russ, and the massive body of crunchy, political speculative fiction and commentary that women in our field have produced over the decades.
Lucy went on to write and curate many books, including She’s Fantastical (1995) the first Australian all-female speculative fiction anthology. She is committed to reclaiming and reprinting Australian female crime writers of the 19th century, a topic which is also her academic speciality. In 2003, Lucy was awarded the A Bertram Chandler award for "Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction", which recognised the scope of her achievements in the Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy fields as practitioner, academic and teacher. She has taught Clarion, judged the Tiptree award, and writes book reviews for national newspapers.
Lucy’s most recent collections are Thief of Lives (Twelfth Planet Press) and Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies: The Essential Lucy Sussex (Ticonderoga Press), both published in 2011.