August 31st, 2010

short stories

Aussiecon Special!

In honour of Aussiecon IV, which we are travelling to tomorrow, I have read some Australian anthologies and collections which are being launched at the con.  Keep an eye out for these!

Baggage (Eneit Press), edited by Gillian Polack, is an anthology based around the theme of the myths, legends and magic (as well as other, heavier obligations) that we carry around with us, and in particular that many cultures have brought to Australia.  The Girl With No Hands by Angela Slatter and Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren (Ticonderoga Press) are archival collections of two of Australia's most important recent short story writers, with only a few original pieces (we only review 2010 stories here otherwise I would be happily raving about many of the stories in these books which have been my favourites in previous years).  And finally Sprawl (Twelfth Planet Press) edited by Alisa Krasnostein, is a massive anthology based around the theme of Australian suburban fantasy - and is packed with stories I want to rave about, though of course the usual declarations of potential bias come along with it: Alisa is not only a fellow Last Short Story reviewer but also one of my best friends, and often publishes my work, including a story in this particular anthology.

Hunt down all these books at Aussiecon to get a taste of some of the best recent Australian spec fic!

Now, the stories.

Kaaron Warren, "Hive of Glass," Baggage - a dark, twisted story of a man quite literally haunted by his past.  I loved the everyday details of this one, juxtaposed with the horrific, something Warren does very well and to sinister effect.

Angela Slatter, "The Dead Ones Don't Hurt You," The Girl With No Hands - one of the few original stories in this collection, this is a more modern story than the traditional fairy tale fare from Slatter, about a woman who chooses a zombie boyfriend-for-hire and relishes his uniqueness until he proves to be just as unreliable as a living man.

Kaaron Warren, "Sins of the Ancestors," Dead Sea Fruit - I don't know how she manages to get us to sympathise with such unlikeable characters, but I always feel faintly dirty after reading a Warren story.  In this one, a woman struggles to overcome the stain on her character from a murder supposedly committed by one of her ancestors, while delving deep into the shittiest parts of the world in the hope of freeing herself. 

Stephanie Campisi, "How to Select a Durian at Footscray Market," Sprawl - Campisi's clever, lyrical language is at its best here, creating vivid scenes full of colour, character and mouthwatering food.

Peter Ball, "One Saturday Night, With Angel," Sprawl - a clever, dimly-lit story which takes the idea of a guardian angel watching over you and makes it utterly sinister.  Very good writing and a strong character voice in a very short story.

Thoraiya Dyer, "Yowie," Sprawl - I love this story completely.  It took me three readings to completely understand it, but it was so worth it.  The themes of motherhood and loss of identity and missing a person who is part of yourself are all so raw and powerful, the images so vivid.  And yes, I did read this one for the TPP podcast, but you know, if I hadn't, I might have only read it once. 

Simon Brown, "Sweep," Sprawl - a dark nostalgia piece about a man looking back on a sinister experience as a boy, when he returns to his home town.  My favourite piece of Brown fiction so far, and one which clearly conjures up a childhood suburbia.

Deborah Biancotti, "No Going Home," Sprawl - Biancotti's usual brand of extra-weird urban weird goes suburban, with the story of Gabe, a lost girl who reminds people of what they have lost, and the sanctuary she finds with a blind man.  A tightly-written, thought provoking piece.

Angela Slatter, "Brisneyland by Night," Sprawl - a cluttered, deeply noir magic version of Brisbane which is completely captivating.

Cat Sparks, "All the Love in the World," Sprawl - a sneaky piece of science fiction slipping into this anthology of suburban fantasy.  You can absolutely see why - this is a powerful, dark near-future story about one suburb that is just barely managing to survive the end of the civilised world, and one marriage that isn't.

Paul Haines, "Her Gallant Needs," Sprawl - a typical Haines piece of blokey grotesquerie (which is not to say bad, though the subject matter ensures that no Paul Haines story can ever be classified as 'good'), based around a sleepy New Zealand childhood in the days when living in Australasia meant being several years behind the rest of the world.  It's a Haines story.  You know how they work.  It's horrible. Not quite as horrible as "Wives," but it's way up there in the grottiness stakes.  Read it.

Hope to see some of you at the con!  Remember to buy an Australian book or three while you're there!  You don't want to displease the wombats or the drop bears...