Tasmanian writer Tansy Rayner Roberts has won the 1998 George Turner Prize for Science Fiction and Fantasy for her comic fantasy novel, Splashdance Silver. The prize, which was announced by Transworld's publisher Shona Martyn at PhanCon on 11 July, included publication and a $10,000 advance.

Transworld, who will publish Splashdance Silver under their Bantam imprint in September, have signed Roberts for two more novels set in the same universe. The prize was judged by Peter Nicholls, bookseller Karen Miller and Transworld editor Louise Thurtell. Runners-up were: Tom Dullemond's The Final Arcanum, Elaine Edwards' Tales of Gwalthalion: Garden of Thorns, Narelle Harris's Witching Ways, Edwina Harvey's Boyfriend Wanted (No Experience Necessary), Luke Kendall's Leeth, Kim Matheson's Betrayer, Leslie Joseph Petersen's Supplejack and Joel Shepherd's Callisto.

Transworld has an option on the runners-up, and will announce which books, if any, it will pick up by September. Entry forms for the 1999 George Turner Prize will be available from Transworld shortly. Organisers are currently considering presenting separate science fiction and fantasy prizes in 1999.



I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and I started my first novel just after my fourteenth birthday. It was mostly terrible as I had been reading epic fantasy (of the Eddings/ Dragonlance/ anything-with-quests variety) for less than a year, and was terribly impressed with it all. I worked on this novel throughout high school and came to the conclusion, about three or four chapters away from the end, that it represented just about everything that I was now bored with in modern fantasy. So it got put into a drawer. My next novel - I was at college by this time - was more humorous in nature (a detective story set in Hobart with lots of magic and similar complications). This one was not bad, except for the plot, which started out mediocre and just couldn't be helped really. Also during college, I wrote a novel in six weeks about an assassin in deep space.

When I started university, I started thinking about my original epic fantasy novel (one of a planned series of twelve, naturally) and about all the things which were really bad about it. I cut out all the characters I hated (you know, the ones only created in order to die at some dramatic point). There were a few characters I was still very attached to, and I resolved to give them a better environment to work in. By this time, the only fantasy I was reading was that which took the genre in interesting and unusual directions-like Terry Pratchett, Simon R. Green (read Deathstalker! It's brilliant!) and other writers who combined genres. And at some stage in those early weeks of first year uni, Mocklore came to life.

On and off, Splashdance Silver took about 18 months to write. I heard about the George Turner Prize about three months before I was due to be finished (and the deadline coincided). The rest is history (except for the bit where I nearly decided not to bother, but my wonderful partner took me firmly by the elbow and made me post the damn manuscript).

I'm twenty now, and I'm very glad that I'm being published before I had to leave University and get a 'proper' job. This is much more fun.

Let me tell you about Kassa Daggersharp. She's a sweet girl really. She always means well, even when she's manipulating people to within an inch of their lives. But she can be very, very scary. The daughter of a renowned Pirate King and an ex-witch, she really can't help herself. She has to have things her own way, and if that involves sharp swords, major explosions, plagues of magic and flying sheep, then so be it. Splashdance Silver is entirely her book-or it would have been, if it wasn't for the Lady Emperor Talle. She was the scheming courtesan who made herself the first female Emperor of Mocklore, and was not supposed to be a main character. She was a villainess, a foil for the heroine and a temptation for my lovely anti-hero, Aragon Silversword. But somewhere along the way, she began to take over. My editor, Louise Thurtell, recognised this star quality instantly, and urged me to put more scenes with Talle in (and more, and more). And so instead of having one dangerous female as my main character, I have two, both used to having their own way. But one of them has to win.

Transworld have hooked me up for two more Mocklore books. The next, Liquid Gold, is about what happens when someone dies in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It has many of the characters from the first book in it, and quite a few new ones. It should be published late next year. The third in the series, Soapy Ballads, is about the daily machinations of The Smug Family, a crystal-ball soap opera for witches. Expect lots of gods, magical explosions, terrifying scenery and nearly true love (which is much more interesting than the real thing, when you get right down to it).

The best thing about winning the George Turner Prize is not just the money and not just being published, it's also having the immense support of the wonderful people at Transworld. I was very impressed with the way they have handled this competition, particularly getting booksellers and writers involved on the selection committee, rather than just people in publishing.