The Best Australian Science Writing
NewSouth, $29.99 pb, 301 pp, 9781742234410
In 2010, writing in Westerly, Carmel Lawrence despaired about the lack of science writing in the collection of 'best non-fiction' of the year that she had been asked to review. It wasn't, she concluded, for want of material. Science writing had undergone a huge resurgence in popularity at the turn of the twenty-first century. With no major anthologies of Australian science writing, nor a regular prize, it was difficult to gauge how well the genre was doing in Australia at the time. Were we missing great science writers like Primo Levi, Rachel Carson, or Carl Sagan? Was it just that such factual writing, in Australia, is not seen as sufficiently literary, or that literary writing – the beautiful, moving, engaging – is not regarded as sufficiently objective to be scientific?
The publication of The Best Australian Science Writing anthologies by NewSouth, annually since 2011, has gone a long way towards addressing some of Lawrence's concerns. Science writing is doing very well in Australia, it seems, despite the smallness of the market and the continual waxing and waning of science magazines. While the anthology does not provide a venue for new science writing, it does afford recognition of some of the outstanding work that has already been published, bringing it together into one body of like-minded work.