Claire G Coleman’s first novel, Terra Nullius, used speculative fiction to confront the horrors of colonization and expropriation. Perhaps the biggest influence on her debut was HG Wells’ science fiction classic The War of the Worlds, which itself was inspired by the British colonial treatment of native Tasmanians. Coleman felt that Wells’s book and hers “approached the same question from different sides,” she told Guardian Australia at the time.
It was a hit: among a long list of other accolades, Terra Nullius saw Coleman win the Norma Kathleen Hemming Prize, which celebrates Australia’s best science fiction. Last week, the Noongar author returned with her third novel, Enclave, which weaves another dystopian allegory about the ugly realities of racism — as well as the dangers of homophobia, surveillance, greed and privilege. While Terra Nullius was written while traveling in Australia in a caravan, Enclave was written in a slightly more ergonomic setting at home.
The Perth-born, Melbourne-based writer considers a work of art she has hung at home as one of her most prized possessions. Here Coleman tells us why she cherishes her Arone Meeks lithograph, as well as the story of two other important personal belongings.
What I would save from my house in a fire
At Cairns Indigenous Art Fair a few years ago, I spoke at length with the legendary artist Arone Meeks, whose artistic language is modernist and unique. I bought from the artist a lithograph called Star Koiki, a tribute to the land rights hero Koiki Mabo, who started the lawsuit that destroyed terra nullius.
It is beautiful, powerful, picturesque and passionate – one of the artist’s simplest works, on the surface, but its power hovers beneath the surface. Its connection to the land rights narrative adds to that strength.
I was devastated when I learned of the artist’s passing. When I look at the work, his death strikes me and adds morbidly how special the work is. It was my last chance to hang a work by that artist on my walls and I didn’t even know it. If it were lost in a fire, it would be a terrible loss to art.
My most useful object
I’ve never wanted an air fryer. They are advertised as a “low-fat” cooking method and I’m not afraid of fat; in fact, I eat mostly low-carb, so fat is an important part of my diet.
But it’s not an air fryer, not really. It doesn’t cook any food at all. Essentially, the plastic thing that’s always on my kitchen bench is a powerful fan oven that blows food with hot air. It’s simple, right. But nothing I’ve ever tried cooks a better roast chicken or pork crackling half, as well as my misnamed tool.
In that thing, a whole roast chicken can be made in 20 minutes and the skin gets crispy with no additives. Even if it uses the same amount of power in an hour as the electric oven in my rental home – which it doesn’t – the food cooks faster, so I can save power and we can eat faster. It doesn’t fry anything, but I love it.
The Item I Most Regret Losing
Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine is a relatively obscure punk pop band from the UK that was mainly active in the early 90s. Their songs are among my favorites, even though most people in Australia have never heard of them. When I was working in IT, doing website development and coding at a design company while I was studying computer science, I had their best-of CD in the drive, which blasted the music into my headphones for weeks.
I was working way too many hours then. Although I was a casual, there was more work than I could handle, and I was often there 40 hours a week while studying and teaching at a university. Burnout was inevitable, but Carter USM kept it at bay for a long time. Once I had those songs in my ears, I could go on.
Losing that CD was one of the stupidest mistakes I can ever remember. I got a call from my manager that they were upgrading the computers in the office. It never occurred to me, perhaps because I was tired, to ask someone to take my favorite album of the time out of the machine.