Longlisted for the 2022 Stella Prize

Permafrost – SJ Norman

Fiction · University of Queensland Press

About the Book

This brilliant collection of short fiction explores the shifting spaces of desire, loss and longing. Inverting and queering the gothic and romantic traditions, each story represents a different take on the concept of a haunting or the haunted. Though it ranges across themes and locations – from small-town Australia to Hokkaido to rural England – Permafrost is united by the power of the narratorial voice, with its auto-fictional resonances, dark wit and swagger.

Whether recounting the confusion of a child trying to decipher their father and stepmother’s new relationship, the surrealness of an after-hours tour of Auschwitz, or a journey to wintry Japan to reconnect with a former lover, Permafrost unsettles, transports and impresses in equal measure.

“What makes Norman’s achievement so successful is that their narrative manoeuvres occur without any particularly lurid or explicit affect;”

– 2022 Stella Prize Judges

SJ Norman

About the Author

SJ Norman

SJ Norman is an artist, writer and curator. Their career has so far spanned seventeen years and has embraced a diversity of disciplines, including solo and ensemble performance, installation, sculpture, text, video and sound. Their work has been commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney, Performance Space New York, Venice International Performance Art Week, and the National Gallery of Australia, to name a few. They are the recipient of numerous awards for contemporary art, including a Sidney Myer Creative Fellowship and an Australia Council Fellowship. Their writing has won or placed in numerous prizes, including the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award, the Peter Blazey Award, the Judith Wright Prize and the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. In 2019, they established Knowledge of Wounds, a global gathering of queer First Nations artists, which they co-curate with Joseph M Pierce. Permafrost is their first book.

Further Reading


“…seven eerily affecting stories that traverse and update gothic and romantic literary traditions, incorporating horror, queer, and folk elements to hair-raising effect.” – Paul DalgarnoI, Australian Book Review

“In each story, bodies and places expand and collapse, borders disintegrate and new environments carry the promise of liberation.” – Jessie Tu, The Sydney Morning Herald

“The stories end abruptly, severed almost too soon, but leave a deep, permanent imprint on the reader.” – Bec Kavanagh, Books + Publishing


Read an interview with SJ Norman by Yves Rees via Archer Magazine

Listen to SJ Norman discuss Permafrost on ABC Radio’s AWAYE! with Rubi Bremer

Read ‘Shelf Reflection: SJ Norman’ via Kill Your Darlings

Judges’ Report

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