Aurora Australis

Aurora Australis: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Consider this a Janus post: a little bit looking back, a little bit looking forward.

Firstly, a little smugness: it was great to see some Aussies on the Locus Recommended Reading List. There are too many to list, in fact, and a risk that I would miss someone…

Eat the Sky Drink the Ocean anthology On to the books: already published in India by Zubaan Books, and soon to be published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, is the intriguing anthology Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean—a “ground-breaking intercontinental collection of speculative stories, in both prose and graphic novel form” featuring Indian and Australian authors. The intrigue comes on a number of levels: concentrating on two countries, rather than either just one or claiming to be non-national, is a fascinating idea; combining prose and graphic stories (six of the latter) is something I’ve only seen done in the last few years, and helps to move graphic stories more into the mainstream; there’s both fantasy and science fiction, which is a winner for me; and the list of Australian authors is a wonderful one. Isobelle Carmody, Margo Lanagan, Justine Larbalestier, Penni Russon, oh my! Oh, and it’s an all-female line up. The anthology has been co-edited by Kirsty Murray (Aust), Anita Roy, and Payal Dhar and I cannot wait to get my little hands on it.

CladeJanuary saw the publication of James Bradley’s Clade from Penguin. It’s described as:

[T]he story of one family in a radically changing world, a place of loss and wonder where the extraordinary mingles with the everyday. Haunting, lyrical and unexpectedly hopeful…

There are bees, IVF, a pandemic. The first chapter (available at Penguin) contains the shock of online flirting becoming real-world, an art exhibition, and half a relationship’s life cycle, from first blush to difficult arguments. There’s a delicate balance of the global and the personal, acknowledging that the two can be, should be, equally important.

The Chimes Anna SmaillAlso on the ‘living in an unpleasant world’ theme is NZ’s Anna Smaill with her literary debut, The Chimes, coming out from Hachette. It’s “set in a re-imagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.” So far so intriguing enough; I’m a history teacher so the concept of memory is dear to me and the written word is precious. But then there’s this: “In the absence of both memory and writing is music” and I am SO THERE. Music as insurrection!

The Last QuarrelDuncan Lay writes of a nation “gripped by fear” in a new, serialised novel from Momentum. Called The Last Quarrel (fight or arrow?), it’s coming out once a fortnight (starting in January). People are going missing and no one seems to know why… enter Fallon, who really wants to be a hero because clearly he hasn’t read enough fantasy fiction. Momentum is also publishing the fourth novel in Amanda Bridgeman’s space opera series, Aurora: Centralis, in March. It promises to reveal a whole lot more back story about the protagonists, and the people they’ve been working for.

Dagger's PathAlso in an ongoing series was the January publication of Glenda Larke’s The Dagger’s Path. In it, the characters from The Lascar’s Dagger find that, of course, things are not going to go nearly as smoothly as they had hoped. After a few years without Larke books coming out, last year’s The Lascar’s Dagger (beginning the The Forsaken Land series) was joyously received by fans, and there seems no diminution in the joy at this one’s arrival.

January saw a few announcements of interest, like Twelfth Planet Press releasing the title of the twelfth (of thirteen!) in the Twelve Planets series. Deborah Kalin’s collection will be called “Cherry Crow Children,” and will be released at Swancon, Perth’s annual Easter convention (four years after the release of #1 and #2 also at Swancon). Each of the Twelve Planets features a female Australian writer (or in the case of #11, two of them) and (usually) four, generally original, short stories. This series has covered the gamut of fantasy and science fiction and horror, been nominated for and won diverse awards, and generally been a magnificent instance of showcasing Australian writing in general—women in particular. I have every hope that Kalin’s collection will continue that trend.

An anthology announcement comes from Jonathan Strahan, with the table of contents revealed for The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Vol 9, from Solaris. By my reckoning it includes two Australians, in Greg Egan and Garth Nix, among the 28 stories. The fact that this is Strahan’s ninth Best Of volume impresses me no end. I’m increasingly convinced—becoming more and more time-poor—that Best Ofs are a really useful addition to the scene.

And the world has just found out that Simon Pulse has bought the rights to a trilogy called Zeroes from two Australians and an American: Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti, and Scott Westerfeld. It will follow “three characters, all with special abilities, and several other teens born in the year 2000 in California who together make up the self-named Zeroes. Their abilities make them anything but heroes—until a high-stakes crisis changes everything.” Northern autumn 2015 cannot come fast enough.

Magazine-wise, Keith Stevenson flagged the line-up for issue #4 of Dimension6 (a free and DRM free magazine from indie press coeur de lion publishing), due out 27 March: it’s got stories from Jen White, Bren MacDibble, and Chris McMahon.

Companion Piece Doctor WhoNon-fictionally, Aussie Liz Barr has co-edited Companion Piece: Women Celebrate the Humans, Aliens and Tin Dogs of Doctor Who, another in the Doctor Who appreciation series from Mad Norwegian Press, out in April. The table of contents was recently released; Australians include Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely, Foz Meadows, Stephanie Lai, Sarah Groenewegen, Anne Goldsmith and Karen Miller. (Amusingly, Barr says that every Australian essay contains mention of the torture of watching Doctor Who on the ABC and the endless reruns instead of new episodes. Young people with their iTunes and Netflix have NO IDEA what we suffered.)

BattleAxe Sara DouglassFinally, twenty years ago Sara Douglass’ BattleAxe was published by HarperCollins Voyager—she was their first Australian signing. While Douglass sadly passed away a few years ago, HarperVoyager recently released the cover for the 20th anniversary edition (due in March). It’s a lot more minimalist than I remember the original being—presumably reflecting changing aesthetics—and I’m really looking forward to finding out how well this classic translates into the 21st century. My hunch is, quite well; the darkness fits current trends in fantasy, and while I haven’t read it in a while I recall the characters being compelling.

Alexandra Pierce reads, teaches, blogs, podcasts, cooks, knits, runs, eats, sleeps, and observes the stars. Not necessarily in that order of priority. She is a Christian, a feminist, and an Australian. She can be found at her website, and on the Galactic Suburbia podcast.


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