Issue #49 of Aurealis Magazine is the first digital edition I have read. I am a fan of speculative fiction, especially in short story format, and the digital version works well. I should quickly add I am not a fan of technology, preferring to dog-ear pages of books and magazines.
It is no surprise, then, to read Crisetta Macleod’s interview with Grieg Beck about his forays into digital publishing. Other interviews I have read with publishers agree with Beck’s comment about printing costs being marginal to the overall production costs. He makes the point about public expectation as seeing no wad of paper involved therefore a digital publication should cost basically peanuts. He goes on to say the difference between ‘guys uploading their books for free or or 99c is if you have fine editing.’ How much life space does any individual have to wade through dross on the internet to find a good read? Will story editors in the digital future become as notable as let’s say movie producers in acquiring followers who trust their judgement, me wonders?
The First Boat by Sean McMullen is a story told by a thirteen year old caught in post-apocalyptic Perth where an Electromagnetic pulse bomb has destroyed all things electrical. The family escape marauding gangs by stealing a boat and steaming north. The boy’s father surmises that Indonesia is better placed for life without technology and the family will have a better chance there, mostly due to the father’s foresight in arriving when they do. The story ends with a twist on situations currently used for political advantage in Australia.
Rolling For Fetch by Jason Fisher is a dazzling story set in an unspecified period. The story opens with the character Whip being converted to a Skeg. His legs are amputated and a skeg rig fused to his shin-bone, a dive train is rigged to pneumatic tyres and he is no longer a typical human. Whip earns his gangdanna and joins a cruising mob who dash through metro traffic, wild like hornets. Jason Fisher creates a fascinating world where technology and nano science freely mix with nineteenth century horse cart and with steam bikes. Whip eventually gives up everything for love, but his physical modification has implications.
George W Bush is quoted as saying, ‘One of the greatest things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.’ A good point. Let’s not forget the book designers and artists who enhance a reader’s enjoyment of the publication. My one irritation of digital editions is that publishers have yet to get a good handle on the media; there is none of the pop-up windows, slide shows and other bells and whistles to feature art and design. For me to appreciate the front cover of issue 49, for example, requires scrolling around the image, and I don’t think the resolution is as good as a printed copy.
As for a monthly publication creating an outlet for those who love Australian speculative fiction, Aurealis Magazine is at the forefront and well worth dipping into.