The Fantastica Winner is . . .

And now, after great deliberations we are pleased and proud to announce that the winner of our sci-fi competition is:

Ben Marshall for The Last Circus on Earth

It’s 2070, and the post-Collapse world is staggering toward another, perhaps final, destruction. Blanco, a young albino, is a reluctant member of the Magnifico Cirque de Curiosities. Travelling through dangerous lands, this heavily-armed band of freaks and circus performers survive by conning and killing, robbing and running – and putting on a show. 

But simple survival is not their real purpose. Their leader, seen only by his 'doctors', enforces brutal rule, and none are more harshly treated than Blanco, who becomes aware the circus is much more than it seems.

Worse, something is growing inside him, something that is changing and killing him. From the ruins of London, across Europe and Asia Minor to the remote Tien Shan mountains, Blanco and the circus fight toward a final showdown, for Blanco's last chance of survival – and perhaps even for the entire human species.

This page-turning ride through the near future will be out in 2020.

Fantastic(a) Shortlist


In its inaugural year, the Fantastica Prize received 80 entries from Australia and New Zealand and the judges had a very difficult job, debating and discussing at length to reach a shortlist. 

We are proud to announce the shortlisted works:

BG Hilton for Shelley

Jan Henderson for Hide

Mark Braidwood for The Beasts of Nenovar

Anna Paxton for Lamb

Alison Ferguson for Grey Nomad

Ben Marshall for The Last Circus on Earth

The winner will be announced in the coming weeks. 

Q&A with Marlee Jane

Of all the stories you could have written, why did you write this story?

This is a hard one. I originally wrote Orphancorp because it seemed like a good dystopia to explore, and you know, I wasn’t doing anything else at the time. But then it took on a life of its own, or Mirii took on a life, and people really engaged with her. Prisoncorp was written as the ultimate end to the story, an inevitable outcome to the kind of life Mirii has been forced to lead. When one is raised to be institutionalised, their options are limited. She barely has the right to choose what kind of life she wants, and all the options are bullshit anyway. I wanted to explore what the prison-industrial complex might look like in the future, and honestly, I could have taken it further - I just didn’t want the whole book to be a total bummer. 

Do you have a fear of the future? Is the Orphancorp world a prediction for you?

I would say that I have a fear of the future, yes. Without drastic changes, our way of life will be irrevocably altered in the not-too-distant future. With the willful ignorance and greed of governments and corporations, I don’t see that the kind of changes we need will come to fruition. I have hope that they will, but I mean, for a macro example of this: our government is still pushing coal, in this age of climate change awareness! It baffles me. I believe people have the capacity for change, I am less certain that governments and big business do, and ultimately, they are the ones with our future gripped in their fists. It’s funny, though - even with these dire outlooks, I’m still a really positive person. It’s just that I’m also realistic. I don’t know how prescient the Orphancorp world is, but it does just make sense to me that humans will become commodities in the future - that corporate interests will overwhelm human rights. We already see the first stirrings of this today.

Your work seems conscious about a lot of contemporary issues, diversity, sexuality, capitalism etc, how intentional was this?

Very intentional. I wanted to make books as diverse as the world I see around me. I didn’t want to write an anglo-centric Australia, because it’s just not realistic. Likewise with the queer themes in the books: diverse sexualities are the norm in my world. I just wanted to represent that in fiction. As for the capitalism-gone-mad themes, well, I’ll do anything to jam a little anti-capitalism into my stories. Perhaps I’m preaching to the converted, but I want to draw attention to the terror and sheer absurdity of late capitalism.

Did you always see Mirii’s story as a trilogy?

I always had three places in mind for her to be, so I’m glad I got to explore those. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with the first novella in the beginning, so the fact that I’ve been able to continue Mirii’s story has been such a treat. I just hope I did her justice.

It’s been 4 years since Orphancorp was published. How has life changed since you started writing this series?

My life is so incredibly different since Orphancorp came out. I now have a little writing career. Before Orphancorp I was pretty dissatisfied with my workaday life, whereas now I get to do something that is fulfilling and makes me really happy. Back then I think I was getting complacent, which is so easy to do when you work 9-5. Now, I’m always challenging myself.

What are you working on next?

I’ve just started a new project. I’d call it ‘retro-speculative’, though perhaps it’s just recent-historical fiction. It deals with small towns, future fear, and small, personal apocalypses. I think it’s YA, but like all my YA stuff, it deals with some mature themes. I recently finished another novella for adults, and that is on submission. I’d describe it as ‘#metoo in space’. 

Can you ever see yourself returning to this world in the future?

I am not sure. I reckon there are hundreds of stories I could tell about the world, but I do feel like my time with Mirii is up. I don’t want to put her through any more than I already have. 

Viva 7 – Open for submissions


Now in its seventh year, Viva la Novella is once again open for entries. 

We want your novellas. We want extraordinary stories surprise, unnerve, discomfort and inspire. The competition is open to all genres and in the past we have awarded the prize to dystopian spec-fic, a reimagined Colonial story and realist fiction amongst others. 

Seizure invites Australian and New Zealand writers to submit their completed novella manuscripts for consideration. We are looking for two writers, who will each receive a $1000 prize and publication with Seizure in print and digital formats. 

What’s a novella? By our reckoning it's 20–50,000 words of solid narrative goodness.

What isn't a novella? Collected short stories are not novellas, they are short story collections. Also, we're sticking with fiction but that includes auto-fiction, semi-fictionalised life writing and any other narrative-based autoethnographic work you care to mention. We're open to all genres but also works that self-identify as anti-genre. 

Why a novella?  Because they are great. You don't need big word counts to communicate big ideas and you don't need eight hundred pages to tell a great story.

What’s the prize? $1000 + print and digital publication with Seizure. Winners will have their manuscript carefully shepherded to publication by an editor and the Seizure team. The winning novellas will be designed with the usual Seizure flair and unleashed in digital and printed form in bookshops, on our website and ebook retailers.

There is no fee to enter. 

Entries close December 31st 2018

Shortlisting February 2019

Publication September 2019

For further information, please contact

Terms and Conditions

• Entries must be lodged by 1 January 2019 (EST)

• Entrants must normally be residents of Australia or New Zealand.

• All persons, other than immediate family members of Brio Books Pty Ltd or Seizure volunteers, may enter the competition.

• The manuscript should be a work of fiction between 20,000 and 50,000 words in length.

• The manuscript must be an original work, written entirely by the entrant and it must be written in English.

• No more than 10 per cent of the manuscript can have been previously published in print form, or in electronic form.

• The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

• The judges shall have the discretion to divide the prize equally between authors of entries they consider of equal merit. If, in their opinion, no entry is worthy of the prize, no winner shall be chosen. No entrant may win the prize in successive years.

• Pending acceptance of the publishing contract and reaching publication, winning entries will each receive a cash prize of AUD$1000. In addition, Seizure will publish a printed and electronic edition of the novellas.

• The publishing contract offered to the winners is based on the standard Brio Books Publishing contract and includes 10% royalty on print sales and 50% on ebook sales. Please note, the prize money is not an advance against royalties, royalty income is generated from the first sale.

• The winners will be notified in strict confidence February 2019, at which time they must agree to keep this news confidential until the simultaneous announcement and publication of the winning entry in 2019.

Viva la Novella VI Winners

It is with great pleasure that we announce this year’s winners, two novellas very different in tone but alike in quality. Swim by Avi Duckor-Jones is a vital, vivid work on facing the past while being daunted by the future. The Bed-Making Competitionis an intimate and witty look at the joys and strains of family life.

Read More

The Fantastica Prize

Fantastica invites Australian and New Zealand writers to submit science fiction manuscripts for consideration.

What are we after

  1. Science fiction, not fantasy. Anything high-tech, low-tech or even no-tech (if you are OK with post-apoc style sci fi?). Stories set on a generation ship, on a futuristic terra firma or on a planet a million light years away.

  2. Manuscripts of 30,000 words or more.

  3. Works that start with a bang, blow our minds and subvert our expectations.

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WHY I WRITE by Andreas Heger, author of Cooktown

Andreas Heger gave a short speech at the launch of Cooktown at Better Read than Dead, that we thought was worth repeating.

Jennifer Egan has noted that, of all the forms of artistic expression, the novel is the only truly internal one; it’s the only one that brings you into the mind of another person. The image, although powerful, is external.

For me, this means there is an intimacy in the novel which no other medium can produce. I write for that intimacy – that connection with each individual reader.

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Drover's Wives off to print!

It’s always a big day, sending a book to print, regardless of how many times we do it. There is no turning back now - except for the proof check I suppose. 

This book has been five years in the making. It was first submitted as an entry to Viva la Novella then appeared as part of Seizure’s AltTxt Project. It is now a beautifully designed book (so beautifully designed it couldn’t be an ebook given the current technology). 

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Birthday Interview with Sean Williams

We knew it was Fantastica's Sean William's birthday soon, so we threw him 10 questions to reflect upon his life and times.

Would you like to tell us how old you are turning?

According to the calendar, I’m turning 51 this year. In my head, I’m a mixture of 18 and 80, but I’m told this is normal. Maturity is apparently the state of being uncertain about everything.

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The Carter Brown Mystery Writing Awards

The Carter Brown Foundation in conjunction with Brio Books and Stark House Press is delighted to announce a new award for mystery writing.

The competition is open to all writers over the age of 18 writing novella-length adult crime/mystery fiction (around 20,000–30,000 words).

Entries open 1 August 2018 and close 5 pm AEST 31 October 2018. The winner will be announced in February 2019 and the winning entry will be published in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in May 2019.

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the 2017 XO Romance Prize winner

Guest judge Alexandra Nahlous called On the Same Page “A wonderful, captivating story about a writer desperate to keep her identity hidden, and the man determined to expose her – in every way.”

Penelope Janu says, “It’s an honour to have been selected as the 2017 winner of the XO Romance Prize, particularly given the strengths of the other writers in the shortlist. I am happy that On the Same Page, a very Australian novel, has found a home with Brio Books, a very Australian publisher.”

Penelope receives a $5000 advance and a publishing contract with XO Romance. On the Same Page will be released later in 2018

The inaugural XO Romance Prize winner Jean Flynn received extensive media coverage, including TV and radio interviews, on publication of her debut, Lovesick, in August 2017 and a very positive response from booksellers.

XO Romance would also like to congratulate all the shortlisted entrants.

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Inaugural XO Romance Prize Winner 2016

Xoum Publishing is delighted to announce the winner of their inaugural XO Romance Prize is Jean Flynn for her novel Lovesick. Guest judge Alexandra Nahlous called Lovesick ‘a witty and fun page-turner about a lovelorn medical receptionist seemingly destined to make bad choices’. Jean receives a $5000 cash prize and a publishing contract with XO Romance. Lovesick will be published in August to coincide with the 2017 RWA annual conference.

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