The Year's Best Australian SF & Fantasy

Third Annual Volume

Edited by Bill Congreve & Michelle Marquardt

The Year's Best Australian SF & Fantasy, ThreePaperback 195 mm x 128 mm (73/4 in x 5 in), 224 pages.
ISBN 978-0-9757736-2-8
RRP $19.95 (inc GST)
(Published October 2007)


Welcome to the third annual edition of The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy.

We make no claim to have considered all the novels published by Australians in 2006, so the following are the considerations of others — the award winners for the year.

The Aurealis Awards are decided on by a peer-group panel of writers, editors, reviewers and academics. For a complete list of all winners, including for short stories, go to: http://www.aurealis.com.au. These books won Aurealis Awards:

  • Golden Aurealis for Best Short Story: The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (Lothian). This graphic novel of emigration to a surreal, fantastical society and landscape, deservedly won numerous major literary prizes around Australia. Bizarrely, the Aurealis Award process considered it a short story. For us, this graphic novel is the book of the year.
  • Golden Aurealis for Best Novel, and Best Horror Novel (co winner): The Pilo Family Circus, by Will Elliott (ABC Books).
  • Best Horror Novel (co winner): Prismatic, by Edwina Grey (Lothian), the second of Lothian's ill-fated and lamented adult horror line.
  • Best SF Novel: K-Machines, by Damien Broderick (Avalon).
  • Best Fantasy Novel Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan).
  • Best Young Adult Novel: Monster Blood Tattoo by D.M. Cornish (Omnibus).

The Australian Science Fiction Awards (nicknamed the Ditmar Awards) are voted on by fans — members of the annual Australian Science Fiction Convention. For a complete list of all winners, including for short stories, artwork and fan activity, go to: http://www.natcon.org.au/2007/Noimination_shortlist_2007.html. The following books won Ditmar Awards:

  • Best Novel: Pilo Family Circus, by Will Elliott.
  • Best Collected Work: Year's Best Australian SF & Fantasy, Volume Two, edited by Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt (MirrorDanse Books).

A number of SF news and reviews websites are available to the interested reader:

In addition, most of the electronically published magazines listed below publish reviews. In print, both Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine offer reviews of local work.

In 2006, independent presses and electronic publishing dominated the speculative short story field. Flash fiction again dominated the numbers, with quality improving. The number of flash fiction stories reaching our recommended reading list increased with a number being shortlisted for inclusion. In addition, short stories were published in a total of twenty issues from four different e-zines and twenty-four issues of seven different magazines. Another two websites either published or reprinted short fiction. Overseas, a diverse range of publications, from Asimov's to Interzone, to Postscripts, published Australians. For this volume, calendar year 2006, we read over four hundred stories totalling a million and a quarter words.

The market is more varied than it has ever been.

The content of all these publications was spread across all genres: SF, fantasy and horror, and blendings of all three, with only hard SF sadly being under-represented. The quality of small press publications is as varied as ever. The anthologies Eidolon 1 and Agog! Ripping Reads set the editorial and production standards for the year.

Of the local e-zines, Ticonderoga Online was the most consistent, with four issues. The fiction was always competent, with stand out stories by Peter MacGregor and Susan Wardle. Shadowed Realms posted three issues; the first devoted to Australian women writers of horror. The reliable flash fiction e-zine, Antipodean SF, edited and published by Ion Newcombe, posted a dozen issues, including an anniversary 'double' celebrating 100 issues. New e-zine, Wyred, published a strong first issue late in the year.

Of the other electronic publications, Cosmos Online reprinted stories first published in Cosmos magazine, and also published some original fiction. Cosmos itself continued its tradition of publishing Australians alongside the best international writers.

Specusphere published a number of original stories and also posted a number of stories reprinted from other venues. Stories by the likes of Simon Brown and Richard Harland can be found online here.

Of the print magazines, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine met its bi-monthly schedule, keeping faith with readers, writers, advertisers, reviewers, booksellers and distributors. The long-running Aurealis published a single issue with a number of strong stories.

Of the smaller magazines, Borderlands published three issues. Fables and Reflections sadly published its last issue, with editor Lily Chrywenstrom now concentrating on her writing. We saw one issue from horror magazine Dark Animus. All the print magazines include a mix of fiction, reviews and articles.

Eleven collections were published during the year, three of which we consider major works.

Only one collection, Margo Lanagan's Red Spikes, came from a major publishing house, once again Allen & Unwin. Red Spikes is as strong a collection as the earlier Black Juice and White Time. At the time of writing, it has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection and has won the Children's Book Council Book of the Year: Older Readers. In addition, Gollancz in the UK reprinted Black Juice with one new story added.

Terry Dowling's Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear, is a major retrospective of the author's best horror fiction published by US independent press, Cemetery Dance Publications. Dowling has for many years been Australia's most significant horror writer and Basic Black demonstrates Dowling's love of language, strange devices and subtle twists of reality.

The third major collection is Simon Brown's Troy, from the resurrected print operation of Ticonderoga Publications. Simon Brown's career has been punctuated by a series of stories inspired by the legend of Troy: the characters, the history, the myth.

We unreservedly recommend all three collections.

US publisher Prime published three collections by upcoming Australian writers through its Prime Australia print-on-demand operation. With no local printer or distributor, all three books are difficult to find, your best bet is Amazon. Lee Battersby's Through Soft Air reprints the author's first twenty odd short stories, and includes seven originals. Included are the first two of Lee's Father Muerte cycle. Trent Jamieson's Reserved for Travelling Shows displays this writer's talent for eclectic, original, understated fiction across a range of genres. Paul Haines's strengths as a writer lie in the sexuality and twisted emotions of human relationships thrown into relief by the otherwise familiar conventions of genre fiction. Doorways for the Dispossessed is the best of his work.

Lucy Sussex published Absolute Uncertainty as part of US small press, Aqueduct Press's 'Conversation Pieces' series of feminist SF. Some of the stories are in the MirrorDanse collection, A Tour Guide in Utopia. Of the three original stories, two were reprinted in local publications during the year.

Terry Dartnall published The Ladder at the Bottom of the World as an e-book through US electronic publisher, Trantor Publications. Ladder... reprints twenty-five stories and includes another seven originals. Often sentimental, the stories explore philosophy, science and perceptions of reality.

Altair Books published three collections, two of them in 2005 but which we include here. Walking in the Garden of My Mind by Sophie Masson is a retrospective of her fantasy short fiction and historical essays. The stories are most often set in English or Celtic history and myth. Tales of the Dragon by Tony Shillitoe is exactly that, and evidence of the author's love of high fantasy. About half of the stories are original. When I Close My Eyes by Kurt von Trojan is a retrospective of the author's short fiction; about half the stories are original. Sadly, Kurt von Trojan died during the year.

The standout anthologies of the year are Eidolon 1 and Agog! Ripping Reads. Eidolon 1, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G. Byrne, raises memories of the long running Eidolon magazine, at its heyday through the 1990s. Agog! Ripping Reads is the fourth and strongest of Cat Sparks's original anthology series. Both books contain a number of strong stories from a mix of local and international talent. Try your local SF specialty store or Amazon.

The other anthologies published during 2006 also have much to recommend them. The Outcasts is a theme anthology of outsiders and people ostracized from society. Edited by Nicole R. Murphy, it is the latest publication from CSFG. Cock, edited by Keith Stevenson and Andrew Macrae and published by new small press, Coeur de Lion, is an exploration of masculinity through the speculative fiction short story. This is the kind of project that can probably only be done effectively by independent press without the influence of vested financial, political and social influence, and which therefore makes the independent press essential. Tales From the Black Wood from Altair Books, edited by Robert N. Stephenson, and published with the support of Mitcham City Council in Adelaide, continues the tradition of spec fic writing groups publishing their own anthology. FlashSpec Volume One, edited by Noel Cladingboel and published by Equilibrium Books is a print anthology of flash fiction. Most stories are less than a thousand words.

New independent hooror publisher, Brimstone Press, released two reprint anthologies in 2006. The first, Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2006 Edition, edited by Angela Challis & Shane Jiraiya Cummings, is a year's best style horror anthology covering the best of 2005. The second, Book of Shadows Vol One, edited by Angela Challis, reprints the flash fiction from the first six issues of the Shadowed Realms ezine. This volume includes a handful of original stories.

Full details of all publications are on pages 219 to 221.

There you have it: a quick look at the short speculative fiction from Australian writers in 2006.

Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt
Leura, August 2007.

A substantially different version of the first part of this introduction was published in Aurealis 37, 2007.

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