on Nov. 25, 2012 :
I don't really see much point in reviewing this issue of Aurealis as it contains two stories that have already been voted on, and won, awards for fantasy and horror. That alone should speak to the quality of the writing. However Smaswords asks, and Smashwords gets...
Thoraiya Dyer's fantasy, Fruit of the Pipal Tree, was solid and satisfying, with dagger-sharp hooks and intelligent plotting. I've read a lot of Thoraiya's recent work, and although my political outlook is diametrically opposed to hers, I always enjoy her stories, and appreciate her views.
The second story, The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burned, was an odd one for me. I must admit to being a bit of a dunce when it comes to horror. It mostly doesn't scare me, and I find it difficult to relate to many of the concepts. Perhaps the subtext of this story about a man, haunted by his past, eluded me. I understand that the author, Paul Haines, recently passed away, and was regarded as somewhat of a maverick in the sf/f/horror writing community. I enjoyed this frank, and unsettling account of a dubious past that simply wouldn't be forgotten, or glossed over.
The only real gripe I have with this issue, and past issues of Aurealis, is that the covers, enticing though they are, don't appear to bear any relation whatsoever to the content. If you're hoping, upon purchasing this issue, to read a story about a spider queen, wielding a giant two-handed great sword, you will be sorely disappointed. ;)
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
on Nov. 24, 2012 :
Issue #56 from November 2012 of the Aurealis magazine is a monthly magazine showcasing Australian speculative fiction and with an emphasis on Australian content and news. This edition was edited by Dirk Strasser. This month is a second "Award Winners" editions, with two short stories that won Aurealis Awards this year. This is really the last edition of Aurealis for 2012 (I know, I mistakenly said that last month!), with the publication kicking off again in 2013.
Fittingly, Strasser's editorial focuses on summing up the 2012 publishing year for Aurealis, including their focus on turning around submissions quickly and highlighting their campaign to become recognised as a professional market by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. If they get to 1,000 subscribers they will increase their payments to 5c a word. Go on, you know you want to.
This month's first award winning story is The Fruit of the Pipal Tree by Thoraiya Dyer, which won the Best Fantasy Short Story award at this year's Aurealis Awards. The Fruit of the Pipal Tree originally was published in the After the Rain anthology which I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading. It is a beautifully written story, with some lovely imagery and well developed characters. My hopefully non spoiler description of the plot is "A scientist travels to a research camp on the Geruwa River in Nepal to attempt to save the suss dolphin from extinction".
The supernatural elements are kept to the last part in this story, with a very effective build up and skilfully inserted back story combining to make the ending quite powerful.
The second award winner in this month's edition was The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt by Paul Haines, which was part of his collection The Last Days of Kali Yuga (which I have reviewed here) and won the Best Horror Short Story category. Paul Haines sadly passed away from cancer earlier this year before winning the Aurealis. If you are interested in horror then I can't recommend The Last Days of Kali Yuga strongly enough - it is an extremely powerful collection with writing skill I could only dream of possessing.
Both stories were very worthy of award, and together they make a great edition of Aurealis (as I mentioned last month, purchasing this and issue #55 is a very cost effective way to get exposed to some excellent Australian short fiction).
Crisetta Macleod tantalises us with the thought that we may indeed not be real, using the vehicle of Philip K Dick's tales to illustrate her points. I have decided, on mature reflection, to proceed as if I am real in my day to day life but I must admit it was touch and go for a while.
There are the normal array of reviews of books. Robert N Stephenson is concerned that North Americans tend to replace decent genre TV shows with mindless crap in his Rants and Raves segment. Rob Parnell calls for more strong roles for women on the big screen in Surfing the Dark Side. And Robert Jenkins both swash and buckles his way through a review of the US TV series Revolution in his The Couch Potato Speaks article (I've been giving Revolution a go, but I agree with Rob's assessment - I just can't warm to the Gen Y protagonist. Which probably officially makes me old).
As always Carissa's Weblog provides a round up of some of the more interesting articles around on the web in the area of Australian speculative fiction, mostly in the form of audio interviews and video.
And I said it last time and I'll say it again - I've really enjoyed the Aurealis series of publications through 2012, and I'm looking forward to 2013.
This review can also be found on my website at www.markwebb.name.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)