Three things with Claire G Coleman: “If it were lost in a fire, it would be a terrible loss for the art” | australian way of life

VSLaire G Coleman’s first novel, Terra Nullius, uses speculative fiction to confront the horrors of colonization and dispossession. Perhaps the biggest influence on his early days was HG Wells’ sci-fi classic War of the Worlds, itself inspired by Britain’s colonial treatment of indigenous Tasmanians. Coleman felt that Wells’s book and hers “address the same issue in opposite ways”, she told Guardian Australia at the time.

It was a success: among a long list of other accolades, Terra Nullius saw Coleman win the Norma Kathleen Hemming Award, which celebrates Australia’s best science fiction. Last week, the Noongar author returned with her third novel, Enclave, which again weaves a dystopian allegory about the ugly realities of racism – as well as the perils of homophobia, surveillance, greed and privileges. While Terra Nullius was written on a trip to Australia in a trailer, Enclave was written in a slightly more ergonomic setup at home.

The Perth-born, Melbourne-based writer considers a piece of art she has hung in the house one of her most prized possessions. Here, Coleman tells us why she treasures her Arone Meeks lithograph, as well as the story of two other important personal effects.

What I would save from my house in a fire

A few years ago at the Cairns Aboriginal Art Fair, I had a long chat with legendary artist Arone Meeks, whose artistic language is modernist and unique. I bought a lithograph from the artist called Star Koiki, a tribute to land rights hero Koiki Mabo, who started the lawsuit that overturned terra nullius.

It’s beautiful, powerful, painterly and passionate – one of the artist’s simplest works, on the surface, but its power floats beneath the surface. The link to the history of land rights adds to this power.

I was devastated when I learned of the artist’s death. When I look at the work, his passing hits me, adding, morbidly, to how special the work is. It was my last chance to have a work by this artist to hang on my walls and I didn’t even know it. If it were lost in a fire, it would be a terrible loss for the art.

My most useful item

I never wanted to own an air fryer. They are advertised as a “low fat” cooking method and I’m not afraid of the fat; in fact, I eat mostly low carb, so fats are a big part of my diet.

“Nothing I’ve Ever Tried Cooks a Better Roast Chicken”: Claire G Coleman’s Air Fryer. Photography: Claire G. Coleman

But it’s not an air fryer, not really. It does not fry food at all. Essentially, the plastic thing that sits on my kitchen bench at all times is a high-powered fan oven that blows food with hot air. It’s simple, huh. Yet nothing I’ve ever tried cooks a better roast chicken or a crispy half of pork as well as my misnamed tool.

A whole roast chicken can be produced in this thing in 20 minutes and the skin becomes crispy without additives. Even though it used as much energy in an hour as the electric oven in my rental – which it doesn’t – it cooks food faster so I can save energy and we can eat faster. It doesn’t fry anything, but I love it.

The item I most regret having lost

Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine are a relatively obscure punk-pop band from the UK who were mainly active in the early 90s. Their songs are some of my favorites, although most Australians have never heard of them. When I worked in IT, doing web development and code at a design company while studying IT, I had their best CD in the player, playing the music in my headphones all the time during weeks.

I was working way too many hours back then. Even though 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 university. Burnout was inevitable, but Carter USM kept it at bay for a long time. When I had these songs in my ears, I was able to continue.

Losing that CD was one of the dumbest mistakes I can remember. I got a call from my manager saying they were upgrading the computers in the office. It didn’t occur to me, maybe because I was tired, to ask someone to release my favorite album from the machine era.

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