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Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing Announced

News release from the Royal Society of New Zealand

For immediate release

22 November 2012

Winners of the 2012 Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing announced

The two winning entries in the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing were announced on Wednesday night with Brian Langham from Wellington being awarded the fiction prize and Dr Renee Liang from Auckland winning the non-fiction category.

They were each presented with $2500 at the New Zealand Research Honours event on Wednesday night hosted by the Royal Society of New Zealand at the Event Centre at the Auckland Museum.

Their winning entries will be broadcast on Radio New Zealand National.

The theme for the 2012 competition was inspired by the late Sir Paul Callaghan who saw the transit of Venus in June as symbolising a new chapter in New Zealand’s history. Entrants were asked to consider what future is on the horizon now.

Brian Langham’s winning fiction piece Fourteen starts “I heard that my father died on the same day Frank Zappa died”.

Judge Steve Braunias said, “it’s a great opening line, and great narrative – a father and son go to the Gold Coast during the Transit of Venus, which becomes a kind of metaphor for distances and also connections.

“It’s funny, gentle, superbly paced, under-stated, perfectly formed, good with science, always believable, and, winningly, very charming.”

Renee Liang’s winning non-fiction piece is entitled Epigenetics: navigating our inner seas.

“Science is universal, science is social – and science is also thrillingly personal”, says Braunias.
“This terrific essay personalises science right from the start, when the author writes about breastfeeding her two-month-old daughter. It soon widens to a thoughtful and inquiring discussion about epigenetics.”
Braunius complimented the “the narrative pacing, the easy intelligence and the engagement with the subject”.

Steve Braunias is an author of books and TV series, columnist, journalist and an editor.

The Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing is an annual competition organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand. It has been running since 2007 and aims to encourage exciting science writing. Entries are judged on their literary merits and how accessible they are to the general public.

The two winning entries and 20 shortlisted entries are online at


About the Royal Society of New Zealand

The Royal Society of New Zealand promotes science, technology and humanities in schools, in industry and in society. We administer funds for research, publish peer-reviewed journals, offer advice to government, and foster international scientific contact and co-operation.


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