The Colonial Australian Popular Fiction series brings the excitement and diversity of colonial Australian fiction to the attention of contemporary readers – and there is certainly some remarkable fiction to read here.
Encompassing both novels and short-story collections, the series will include a range of popular genres that flourished during the colonial period: the bush sketch, the Lemurian novel, crime and detective fiction, the colonial romance, the Gothic tale, the convict novel, the goldfields adventure, and the bushranger novel. Some of the authors were bestsellers in their day, and their work can still take us by surprise. We aim to make colonial Australian fiction accessible to contemporary readers – and we hope the design and layout of these works will be helpful here.
But we also want to honour the original forms of these works. So we have reprinted from first editions or from the original serialisation of a work in newspapers or journals. Each publication includes a short introduction written by academic specialists, which provides a brief biography of the author (or authors) and offers critical insight into the work and its contexts. We would be particularly pleased if some of our publications eventually became set texts in university or senior secondary courses. We believe these vibrant works from our turbulent past have much to offer all readers of Australian literature. Some of them – especially those exploring the colonial frontier – can be confronting in the intensity of their racism and the level of their violence against Aboriginal people. But it is important for contemporary Australians to experience the legacies of colonialism in all their dark complexity. By doing so, we can begin to understand our historical condition and work towards a more reconciled future.
The Colonial Australian Popular Fiction series is an ongoing collaboration between the Grattan Street Press and the Australian Centre, both based within the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.
—Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver
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In Conversation with Rachael Weaver and Ken Gelder
Olivia Camilleri had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Rachael Weaver to discuss the digitisation of GSP’s entire Colonial Popular Fiction series. Here they discuss how the books continue to have a lasting impact on the modern literary scene and how releasing the eBooks allows for accessibility and a special opportunity to open colonialist fiction to those who previously found it hard to source.
Can you briefly describe the colonial literary scene, and more specifically could you tell us about colonial genres?
The first colonialist Australian novel was Quintus Servinton, by the transported forger Henry Savery. It was published in Hobart in 1831 and drew heavily on the real-life experience of its author. From this early beginning, crime was one of the key colonial Australian genres, together with adventure, romance, and the Gothic. These genres formed the nucleus of what, by the middle of the nineteenth century, had become a thriving popular literary scene…
Read more of this interview with Rachael here.