Benjamin Law is a journalist, columnist, TV screenwriter and author of The Family Law, Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East and Quarterly Essay 67: Moral Panic 101. The Family Law is an award-winning TV series for SBS that Benjamin created and co-wrote over three seasons. He co-host's ABC Radio's Stop Everything! with Beverley Wang, and is a weekly columnist for Good Weekend magazine.
In the lead-up to this year's Festival, Benjamin sat down with us to talk about his experience as a guest curator and give some recommendations of books to keep an eye out for and sessions to see.
1. This year's Festival theme is Stories For The Future. What prompted or motivated you as you were thinking about the sessions you've curated with Artistic Director Ann Mossop?
In so many ways, I think the future’s already here. We’ve got front row seats to potentially irrevocable ecological collapse. We’re arrived at a national reckoning about First Nations justice and recognition. We’re more aware of the diversity of identities and communities that have been here all along, and language is rushing to accommodate. The question for me is, are we going to keep up?
Benjamin's Curated Events
2. What influence do you think books and authors can have on shaping the future?
Think about it: there’s no more intimate conversation than the one between an author with their reader. And given how much noise there is, books and their authors are a way of cutting out the group chatter and having a one-on-one deep-dive into necessary and sometimes uncomfortable territory.
3. What books are currently on your nightstand?
Benjamin's Recommended Events
Gabrielle Zevin: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
At one point, it seemed like all of my friends were reading this novel… and then it was so popular that you couldn’t even buy a copy in Australia. It was worth the wait: I’ve been completely intoxicated by this word of mouth hit that explores a realm so seldom written about in fiction: video games – and what they tell us about play, human connection and love.
Bill Hayes: Sweat
Let’s face it: writers festivals are for a bunch of nerds. (N.B. I say this in a self-identified nerd-positive way). But I’ve long maintained there’s a connection between exercise and creativity, so it doesn’t surprise me that someone as brilliant as Bill Hayes (Insomniac City) has written a fascinating deep-dive into the history of exercise itself. I can’t wait to chat with him. But only after spotting each other while bench-pressing.
Daniel Lavery: Dear Prudence and more
Ah, two of my favourite queers together on stage: the ABC’s Mon Schafter (whose queer-focused journalism at the ABC I really admire) and Daniel Lavery, the internet’s favourite advice columnist. If you’re queer and of a certain age, you’ll know Daniel’s trademark agony aunt tenure for Slate, under the monicker of Dear Prudence. This is one session where you know the audience question round is gonna be GOOD.
The Voice to Parliament: All the Detail You Need
This year’s Sydney Writers' Festival is taking place at a turning point in Australian history. And for all the hand-wringing in certain quarters demanding detail about the proposed First Nations Voice to Parliament, here’s a session – led by Uluru Statement from the Heart spearhead Thomas Mayo and journalism icon Kerry O’Brien – that will help equip us for conversations with loved ones in the months ahead.