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Aurealis #43

Aurealis #43
Aurealis
Aurealis, Australian Fantasy & Science Fiction, is an Australian semiprozine, edited by Stephen Higgins and Dirk Strasser. It has published a number of stories by the new stars of Australian science fiction such as: Greg Egan, Sean McMullen, Terry Dowling, and Stephen Dedman. Issues are very Australian, including Australian-related SF news, reviews of Australian SF, as well as guidelines in helping Australian writers crack the foreign markets. A 4-issue subscription is $38.50 (Australian), with a surcharge for overseas orders.
Chimaera Publications
PO Box 2164
Waverley VIC 3149, Australia

Aurealis

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Here's the latest issue of the now venerable Australian magazine Aurealis. (Though we might note that the much newer  Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine has already put out more numbers.) This is a pretty solid outing for this 'zine. There are of course the usual features: Patricia L. O'Neill's  science column (this one, "Xtreme Science: A Feast for the Census", is about the huge colonies of little beasties we can host), an interview with Trudi Canavan (conducted by Kate Forsyth), and book reviews by Keith Stevenson.

But I'll focus, as is my wont, on the fiction. The opener is "Latency," by Simon Petrie, a fairly decent SF story in a familiar mode: scientists trying to figure out the mystery of the strange biology of an alien planet. The mystery is why the algae that are the only life form don't seem to have evolved in what should have been plenty of time. Things are complicated by one character's conviction that the crew have been set up to fail -- in such a way that the sponsoring company will be allowed to develop the planet. There's a decent solution to the scientific mystery, and a decent enough, somewhat ambiguous, resolution to the human story. Next is Lachlan Huddy's "The Bunyipslayer." Louis is the title character. He's one of a small clan of humans who can apparently kill the dangerous bunyips, fantastic creatures of the Australian Outback, in what seems to be the future. Louis comes to a remote town having heard tales of a bunyip, and he ends up accompanying an Aboriginal man to the bunyip's lair, on the way encountering such other dangerous creatures as hoop snakes and dropbears. There's a surprise in store for us, to be sure, and a nice one really. It's an enjoyable piece, a nice mix of Australian tall tales, a desolate future landscape, some well-depicted characters.

Geoffrey Maloney's "Things That Dead People Do" is also quite enjoyable. It's a longish piece about ghosts, in particular Dr D, who likes to haunt people in such a way as to attract attention -- for example by jumping off bridges. One of his ghostly friends is Sister Midnight, who follows rumors of the mysterious White Lady to Kathmandu, hoping to find a way out of the wearying life (?death?) of a ghost. It's an oddly genial story for its subject matter, and also a somewhat hopeful piece. "Fragments of a Fractured Forever," by Nathan Burrage, opens in a futuristic milieu, with a man, apparently a hopeless drug addict, scoring a hit that might kill him from another man, then meeting and somehow recognizing a beautiful pop star ... then the scene shifts suddenly to the past, and what had seemed perhaps gritty SF becomes a fantasy of a couple of gypsies in love, and a murder, and a curse that lasts for centuries. The mix struck me as curious -- and while certainly intended by the author, not really successful. Promising materials end up failing to convince, especially as the central romantic story isn't quite sold. The following piece is Felicity Dowker's "After the Jump," about a diver who recovers the bodies of bridge jumpers, suicides. Predictably (according to narrative logic) he becomes obsessed -- and the course of his life remains (narratively) predictable. A well-executed story that nonetheless left me cold.

Aurealis has a continuing tendency to feature a fair admixture of horror in its SF and Fantasy. The Dowker story is horror, and one could makes arguments for Maloney's story and even Burrage's fitting that genre. And so too does "The Traps of Tumut," by Bill Congreve, about a woman returning to the country creek where her mother drowned. There she manages to unravel the mystery behind a series of mysterious drownings at the same place, and their origin, while of course she too is threatened. Again, a story that in the end left me rather cold. Finally Thoraiya Dyer offers "Death's Daughter and the Clockmaker," also arguably a horror story, but one that is sufficiently original, and with a sufficiently ambiguously toned ending, to please me more than most. The plot is simple -- an apprentice to a master clockmaker is lured to the strange woman in the upstairs room, eventually to be seduced by her apparent sad plight. She's not what she seems, of course. And the apprentice is in serious trouble -- but just perhaps there is a way out. And there is, but not the routine solution we might have expected. Nice work.

With strong stories from Simon Petrie, Lachlan Huddy, Geoffrey Maloney, and Thoraiya Dyer, and with the other stories, if not as successful for this reader, still being reasonably well done, this qualifies as a very good outing for this long-running magazine.

Copyright © 2010 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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