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Aurealis #32

Aurealis #32
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 $28.00 (Australian), with a 30% surcharge for overseas orders. Back issues (1-14) are available for $6.00, while issue 15 is $7.00. Order from:
Chimaera Publications
PO Box 2164
Waverley VIC 3149, Australia


Past Feature Reviews
A review by Matthew Cheney

Aurealis is an Australian fantasy and science fiction magazine that includes fiction, interviews, essays, reviews, and market reports. Issue 32 contains six stories and a variety of non-fiction.

The non-fiction is, overall, stronger than the fiction, with good interviews with HarperCollins editor Stephanie Smith, literary agent Selwa Anthony, and writer Lynn Flewelling. There are articles on computer games and war games, an article titled "Why is the Most Popular Australian SF Not Published in Australia," the scientific possibilities of enhancing human evolution, and even a thoughtful essay on gun control. The magazine often reads as if it is aimed at aspiring writers who are just discovering the world of publishing. The editorial in this issue, for instance, lays out editor Keith Stevenson's criteria for selecting fiction for Aurealis, with specific examples from past issues of the magazine.

Unfortunately, issue 32 does not contain much fiction that lives up to the ideas Stevenson puts forth in his editorial. While he calls for original ideas and "using the tropes in a new way," none of the six stories struck me as being particularly original or new, and few of them were compelling. There is much awkward dialogue, plodding narrative, dully familiar settings, and predictable plot twists. The writers all may be capable of excellent work, but the work on display here is not particularly distinguished.

"The Gift of Hindsight" by Paul Haines is one of the better stories, a fantasy story of a roguish wanderer who receives a gift that allows him to turn back time, with unexpected consequences. It's a diverting story, but one that has been told similarly and much better by many other writers.

"Line of Defence" by Stephen Dedman is considerably less effective, a clunkingly obvious science fiction story. Sue Isle's "Dog Years" contains some good writing and good attempts at character, particularly the character of a man whose body ages much slower than other people's do, but the story itself needed either to be pruned or expanded -- it is stuck at a length that doesn't allow some of the most interesting ideas and characters to develop convincingly, but is long enough to have some dull spots. "Garments of the Dead" by Tansy Rayner Roberts manages to turn the story of Herakles and his wives from grand tragedy to pathetic psychodrama. There is some competent plotting in Richard Harland's "Catabolic Magic," and the story is set in a fantasy world that could be quite interesting with more development, but the characters are too thin to create interest in their actions and the background world is not vivid enough to sustain the story.

The sixth piece of fiction, "The Lamb" by Brendan Duffy, is probably the best of the lot, a mildly amusing UFO story. Most of the components of the story have been used in hundreds of other such tales, but there's a dry wit to the writing that makes its chronicle of alien abduction bearable.

Copyright © 2004 Matthew Cheney

Matthew Cheney teaches at the New Hampton School and has published in English Journal,, Ideomancer, and Locus, among other places. He writes regularly about science fiction on his weblog, The Mumpsimus.

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