The Year's Best Australian SF & Fantasy

Fourth Annual Volume

Edited by Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt

The Year's Best Australian SF & Fantasy, FourPaperback 198 mm x 128 mm (7¾ in x 5 in), 228 pages.
ISBN 978-0-9757736-3-5
RRP $19.95 (inc GST)
(Published October 2008)


Welcome to the fourth annual edition of The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy.

In 2007, the market for speculative short stories was more varied than it has ever been. While Australian market penetration into regions such as North America and the United Kingdom is not yet the same as for writers who live in those markets, the world market is developing. Anthologies are published or distributed across a wider range of markets, and the internet means that e-zine and website audiences are defined by language, not by national boundaries. The range of opportunities for Australians in the international marketplace continues to improve, with stories by Australians published in both independent press and mainstream publications around the world

Science fiction made a strong comeback during the year. We're pleased to include several SF stories in this year's volume. We've opened with Greg Egan's spectacular hard SF novelette, 'Glory', of human observers witnessing a conflict on an alien planet. The power of the story lies not just in the ethics of the situation that confronts the characters on the alien world, but also in the beauty of the science used to get the observers there. In contrast, Rjurik Davidson's 'Dominie' looks at the implications of interstellar travel from an alternative perspective: that of the family left at home. Lucy Sussex's 'Mist and Murder' takes a colonial era detective story and rewrites it on the world of New Ceres, where space age technology lies alongside a culture dedicated to preserving a nineteenth century.

Pure epic fantasy also makes a showing this year, with Garth Nix's tale of two tired warriors searching for corrupt gods, 'Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go to War Again'. Cat Sparks's 'A Lady of Adestan' follows the story of one sister who rescues another from a regal marriage in a society brutal to women. Adam Browne's 'An Account of an Experiment …' is fantasy of a more historical kind, where a cruel emperor -- a patron of the arts and sciences -- requires a monk to conduct an experiment to discover the language of God.

'New weird' is a new marketing label for an old phenomenon: that of fiction which crosses between genres. You'll see the label on novels by China Miéville, amongst others. The label applies as well to Ben Peek, whose 'John Wayne' takes the actor into a timeslip where he is confronted with the politics of contemporary America. The label applies as well to Trent Jamieson's 'Cracks', in which a young girl driven by the dead is called to a funeral.

Horror fiction also had a strong year. Terry Dowling has returned to the milieu of his character, Dan Truswell (of Blackwater Days fame) -- a serial killer profiler in a world where the supernatural is real. Rick Kennett's 'The Dark and What it Said' brings elements of urban gothic to the traditional Australian bush ghost story. Richard Harland's 'Special Perceptions' takes a poet in search of inspiration into alternate realms. Last, but definitely not least, Anna Tambour's 'The Jeweller of Second-hand Roe' shows us that family ties can be strong and vibrant, even in the strange history of France's second hand food dealers.

Independent presses and electronic publishing once again dominated the speculative short story field in Australia. Flash fiction again dominated the numbers, with quality again improving. Locally, five different e-zines or web sites dedicated to genre fiction published short stories, and five local magazines produced issues. The literary magazine Overland dedicated an issue to science fiction, and other mainstream literary magazines such as Island, Wet Ink and The Lifted Brow published genre stories.

Overseas, a diverse range of publications, from magazines such as Asimov's, Interzone, and Fantasy Magazine; anthologies such as Eclipse One, The Secret History of Vampires, Wizards and The New Space Opera, as well as a plethora of small press magazines and websites published Australians.

For this volume, calendar year 2007, we read five hundred stories totalling a million and a half words, covering all genres: SF, fantasy and horror, and blendings of all three.

Of the local e-zines, the new young adult e-zine, Shiny, was the most consistent, producing two strong issues, with standout stories by Sue Isle and Trent Jamieson. The same team at Twelfth Planet Press produced a single strong issue of New Ceres. Ticonderoga Online produced a single issue, with Ben Payne's 'Inside' the highlight. Shadowed Realms unfortunately folded, with the publishers moving on to produce the magazine Black: Australian Dark Culture, now available in newsagents. The ever reliable flash fiction e-zine, Antipodean SF, edited and published by Ion Newcombe, posted a dozen issues, with strong stories by Angela Slatter, Peter M. Ball, Kathleen Jennings, Mark Tremble and Stuart A Saunders.

Of the other electronic publications, Cosmos Online reprinted stories first published in Cosmos magazine, and also published some original fiction. Cosmos itself continued its tradition of publishing Australians alongside the best international writers, with Stephen Dedman's 'Centenary' being the standout. Specusphere published a number of original stories and also posted several stories reprinted from other venues.

Of the other print magazines, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine came the closest to meeting its schedule -- bi-monthly -- with five issues in 2007. This magazine continues to improve, and publishes a variety of fiction from around the world. We liked stories by Jennifer Fallon, Kate Forsyth, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Matthew Chrulew and Dirk Flinthart. The long-running Aurealis published a double issue and a single issue, both issues including a number of strong stories. Outside of those reprinted here, highlights are by Matthew Chrulew, Jarrah Moore and Dirk Strasser. Of the smaller magazines, Borderlands published a single issue -- highlights by C.A.L. and Hoa Pham -- and the long-running Orb returned after a hiatus with a single issue of high standard, with all stories recommended.

All the print magazines included a mix of fiction, reviews and articles.

Five collections were published during the year, two of which we consider major works. All were published by independent publishing houses -- no collections we saw came from major publishing houses.

Jack Dann's Promised Land: Stories of Another America, is a beautifully produced hardcover from small press, PS Publishing, in the United Kingdom. The collection documents a surreal alternate America that never was, a land in which fame, fortune and media exposure has distorted the lives of our heroes, seen through the eyes of James Dean.

Terry Dowling's Rynemonn completes the saga of Tom Tyson, also known as Tom Rynosseros. This is a future Australia stranger and more apocalyptic than Mad Max, where bizarre landscapes, politics and responsibilities play out their influences in the life of one man, the man from the Madhouse who was gifted the colour Blue, and who won a charvolant in the sandship lotteries.

Sean Williams's Light Bodies Falling was published by Adelaide small press, Altair Australia Books. The collection is a retrospective of Williams's lesser known work, but includes such classics as 'The Jackie Onassis Swamp-Buggy Concerto' and 'Love & Mandarins'. There is one original, the novella 'Signs of Death' which would have been included in this volume had we the room.

The Spiraling Worm, by David Conyers and John Sunseri was published by US gaming publisher, Chaosium under the Call to Cthulhu Fiction imprint. As the imprint name suggests, this collection brings Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos into the twenty-first century, with stories set in Asian jungles, modern cities, and mysterious Antarctic bases.

Navigating in the New World, by Stuart A Saunders, was published by AntiSF, an imprint of Wordright, which also publishes the Antipodean SF e-zine. The collection was published in both e-book and print on demand formats. The stories are mostly short, libertarian and pointedly political, with a number of reprints from Antipodean SF.

The small press anthologies published in 2007 all have much to recommend them. Daikaiju! 2: Revenge of the Giant Monsters, and Daikaiju! 3: Giant Monsters vs the World, are sequels to 2005's Daikaiju!: Giant Monster Tales. As with the first volume, both new volumes were edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen, and published by Agog! Press. These were the quirky, fun books of the year, with stories pitting giant monsters, both supernatural and other worldly, against society. The strongest stories by Tessa Kum and Chris McMahon were unfortunately both too long to reprint here. Both volumes are recommended.

Shadowplays, edited and published by Elise Bunter, has strong work by Brendan D. Carson, George Ivanoff, Penelope Love and Andrew J. McKiernan.

Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane, edited by Geoffrey Maloney, Trent Jamieson and Zoran Zivkovic, was published in English by Izvori in Zagreb, Croatia. This is the second anthology from this team and, thanks to the possibilities of modern day small press book production, took a roundabout route into existence. This series of speculative fiction anthologies are not related to the mainstream anthologies about Brisbane produced by Brisbane City Council. Standout stories are by Richard Pitchforth, Michele Cashmore and Paul Haines.

Fantastic Wonder Stories, edited by Russell B. Farr, and The Workers' Paradise, edited by Russell B. Farr and Nick Evans, were both published by the resurgent Ticonderoga Publications. Fantastic Wonder Stories is a solid anthology of original fiction. Blatantly political, The Workers' Paradise unfortunately did not see publication before the federal election. Yet there is much to recommend it, with strong work by Simon Brown, Rjurik Davidson, Susan Wardle, Kaaron Warren, and Matthew Chrulew & Roland Boer.

Zombies, edited by Robert N. Stephenson and published by Altair Australia Books, collects original zombie stories from around the world. Highlights are by Joanne Anderton and the editor, Robert N. Stephenson.

In Bad Dreams, edited by Mark S. Deniz and Sharyn Lilley, is the first volume from the new Eneit Press of Sweden. This volume also had a roundabout route to publication: the editors are from the UK and Australia, contributors mostly from Sweden and Australia, and the volume was published first in Australia and then Sweden. Highlight stories are by Robert Hood and Stephanie Campisi.

FlashSpec Volume Two, edited by Noel Cladingboel and published by Equilibrium Books, is an anthology of flash fiction. Most stories are less than a thousand words. Highlights are by Kirstyn McDermott and Clinton Green.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Pipette, based on the results of a creative writing competition held to mark the retirement of Dr Ron Sandland, Deputy Chief Executive of CSIRO, is an anthology of stories and verse from scientists at CSIRO. Not surprisingly, these stories are long on the philosophy of science and social roles for science. A number of the contributing scientists, such as Marty Young, Andrew Sullivan and Barbara Robson are also known as writers.

Full details of all publications are given on pages 281 to 284.

There you have it: a quick look at the short speculative fiction from Australian writers in 2007. As you can see, independent publishers and editors and writers learning their craft again dominated the scene.

It is impossible to report on all novels published by Australians in 2007; therefore we offer the considerations of others: the following books won awards as the best genre fiction of 2007.

The Aurealis Awards are decided on by a peer-group panel of writers, editors, reviewers and academics. For a complete list of all winners, including for short stories, go to: http://www.aurealis.com.au. These books won Aurealis Awards:

Golden Aurealis for Best Novel and Aurealis Award for best SF novel: The Company of the Dead, by David Kowalski (Pan Macmillan).

Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel: Heaven's Net is Wide, Tales of the Otori, The First Book, by Lian Hearn, (Hachette Livre).

Aurealis Award for best horror novel: Blood of Dreams, by Susan Parisi (Penguin).

Aurealis Award for best young adult novel: Skyfall, by Anthony Eaton (UQP).

The Australian Science Fiction Awards (nicknamed the Ditmar Awards) are voted on by fans -- members of the annual Australian Science Fiction Convention. For a complete list of all winners, including for short stories, artwork and fan activity, go to the Nomination Shortlist. The following books won Ditmar Awards:

Best Novel: Saturn Returns by Sean Williams (Orbit).

Best Collected Work (tie): The New Space Opera edited by Jonathan Strahan and Gardner Dozois (HarperCollins). While this anthology only contained one story by an Australian, it was largely edited by an Australian. This anthology tied with Fantastic Wonder Stories, edited by Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications).

We hope you enjoy the stories we have chosen.

Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt
Chatswood, August 2008.

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