Bio:N. K. Hemming

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This is an ISFDB biography page for N. K. Hemming. It is intended to contain a relatively brief, neutrally-written, biographical sketch of N. K. Hemming. Bibliographic comments and notes about the work of N. K. Hemming should be placed on Author:N. K. Hemming.

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The following biography is reprinted, with permission, from the Norma K. Hemming Award presentation booklet for the 2010 award:

Norma Kathleen Hemming (1927-1960) and her life and times, descent into obscurity and rediscovery at the turn of the century

Norma Kathleen Hemming (1927–1960) was a British author who migrated to Australia with her family in 1949 and wrote for local pulp magazine Thrills Incorporated and enthusiastically participated in the Australian fan scene.

She was a founding member of the femme fan group Vertical Horizons, and wrote and acted for the SF theatrical group The Arcturian Players.

Norma returned to international publishing in the late 1950s with stories in Nebula SF and New Worlds, but died at the age of 33 of lung cancer on 4 July 1960.

Early post-WWII SF Australian authors (including Frank Bryning, Wynne Whiteford and A. Bertram Chandler) were published overseas. So was Hemming at first. Fan historian Graham Stone recalls that the first of her sixteen (known) stories Loser Takes All appeared in a 1951 edition of the British magazine Science Fantasy as by N. K. Hemming. It was difficult to be published in science fiction if you were not male, or at least appeared to be male.

Norma Hemming outed herself as a woman to her readership at the first Australian science fiction Convention, Sydcon 1952.

University of Western Australia librarian David Medlen, in an address to local science fiction fans in April 2009 said that convention was a catalyst for change for women in Australian fandom. “Up until that time,” he said, “many women had been unable to take out full membership to science fiction clubs and had to be ‘guests’ of male members.” At the Sydney Futurian Society Rosemary Simmons and Norma Hemming, along with male sympathisers, pushed for change. After two votes a motion was finally passed ”not (to) discriminate on the grounds of race, creed, party or sex”. Rosemary Simmons was finally elected to membership followed by Norma Hemming.

Not satisfied with that, in the same month Rosemary Simmons, Norma Hemming and other female fans started the first Australian femme fan group and fanzine, both called Vertical Horizons. Like most fanzines it contained news and reviews but also passionate essays on being a female fan.”

In addition to her stories Norma Hemming also wrote for newspapers, fanzines and importantly for the stage, wrote Australia’s first science fiction plays.

For nearly forty years after her death she was a footnote for magazine bibliographers until, in 1998, Sean McMullen and Russell Blackford produced a detailed biography and analysis of her work in Fantasy Annual No 2, followed a year later by publication of the book Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction (Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy) by Russell Blackford, Van Ikin and Sean McMullen (1999). This important literary reference is a critical survey of the history of Australian science fiction from its nineteenth century origins to 1998.

And, in 2004, Rob Gerrand selected Hemming’s Debt of Lassor for inclusion in The Best Australian Science Fiction Writing: A Fifty Year Collection published by Black Inc (2004).

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