Edited by Maxine McArthur & Donna Maree Hanson
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In a science fictional context, the term "encounter" is frequently seen as synonymous with first contact between alien races. As is demonstrated by several of the authors in Maxine McArthur and Donna Maree Hanson's anthology Encounters, the ideas has a much broader definition and their authors are more than happy to explore its various meetings.
Although some of the stories do focus on first encounters with aliens, such as the first two, "Vortle" about how aliens view humans and "Davey's Gift" in which children encounter an alien on Earth, the stories in the anthology take on a different view, presenting encounters as simply meetings between people (including non-humans).
Human-vampire encounters, for instance seem popular, and both Richard Harland's "The Souvenir" and Dirk Flintheart's "The Flatmate from Hell" present vampires in a humorous (although not overly) and sympathetic fashion. In the former case, as humans go on safari in hopes of seeing the elusive undead and in the other, a vampire invading the home of a group of humans and providing them with salvation of a sort.
The breadth of stories included in Encounters clearly demonstrates how a theme which might at first appear narrow can be broadened by the clever application of thought to the theme. The stories range from the first contact type encounters to more pedestrian encounters, although the various authors' writing makes even these interesting and makes the reader want to find out how the encounters turn out.
The stories in Encounters are relatively short and give themselves to a slow savoring rather than reading through the book from beginning to end. At the same time, the harsh white pages and small size of the text make reading the text difficult on the eyes, which further leads the reader to enjoy the stories at a more leisurely pace. Each of the stories is illustrated with a black and white sketch. These pictures, by Shane Parker, are an interesting addition to the book and provide a needed break for the eye, given brilliance of the paper.
Many of the authors represented in Encounters are authors local to the Canberra region of Australia and their appearances in this book may well be readers' first encounters with these authors. Given the regionalism of these authors and the Australian publication of Encounters, it is quite possible that the majority of readers, especially those who aren't Australian or manage to acquire a copy of Encounters, will have the opportunity to discover new authors and find names to keep an eye out for. At the same time, included authors Richard Harland and Cat Sparks both won 2004 Aurealis Awards.
Readers, new and old, Australian and non-Australian, will appreciate their encounters with the authors represented within the pages of this collection. For several years now, Australia has been exporting the works of their science fiction and fantasy authors, whether Stephen Dedman, Sara Douglass, Greg Egan, Jennifer Fallon or others. Despite that export business, Encounters demonstrates that there are still a vast number of talented writers to be encountered by the world outside Australia.
|Kate Eltham||Davey's Gift|
|Richard Harland||The Souvenir|
|Trent Jamieson||Don't Got No Wings|
|Shane M. Brown||Garden Light|
|Dirk Flinthart||The Flatmate from Hell|
|Conor Bendle||The Ceremony of Innocence|
|Stuart Barrow||Crazy Little Thing|
|Frankie Seymour||Una, the One|
|Cory Daniells||The Faithless Priest and the Nameless King|
|Kim Westwood||Stella's Transformation|
|Michael Barry||Sleeping with Monsters|
|Carol Ryles||Remembering Bliss|
|Kaaron Warren||Guarding the Mound|
|Scott Robinson||The Final Battle|
|Cat Sparks||Meltdown my Plutonium Heart|
|Bruce Clark||Beggars on the Shore|
|Monica Carroll||The Teller|
|Gillian Pollack||Happy Faces for Happy Families|
|Nigel Read||The Dove|
|Chris Barnes||The Glass Flower|