October 11, 2008
Edited by Jack Dann
For the past couple of weeks I've been using this collection of thirty-five speculative fiction stories from Australian writers as a present to myself. A story here, a story there, and I haven't even finished yet. (Oh, how I don't want it to end! I'm having fun!) Once I do, I need to find a copy of DREAMING DOWN-UNDER, the previous anthology edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. (Janeen Webb also contributed a story to the anthology.) If it impresses me as much as this one, they're going on my editors-to-trust list, with such people as Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
I love anthologies. Short stories allow authors to show off, to show their technique and style in a concise manner. I knew several names that contributed to this work, but I'd only previously read Garth Nix, Terry Dowling, and Stephen Dedman. You can bet I'm buying some more of the contributors' backlists now.
Of course, while anthologies are an excellent source of new authors to explore, there are always those stories that you feel bring the quality of the anthology down. Sometimes you wish you could pick and choose which stories you could buy if enough of them are duds. So far, with a mere ten stories to go, none of them have disappointed me. There have certainly been some I enjoyed more than others, but no bad stories whatsoever. I wish all anthologies were so well chosen.
The stories cover a variety of subjects, moods, and themes. Some are extremely unsettling, others funny, others mysterious. It's hard to pick favorites. The end of "This is My Blood" by Ben Francisco (the only American in the book) and Chris Lynch was the first thing to truly terrify me. They left the details of the end to my imagination, which is apparently a sick, sick place. This one is followed by the unnerving "Nightship" by Kim Westwood. I wanted more elaboration on how gender worked in the society (for instance, the ship's captain appeared to me to be a member of an Iron Family and female), but this one really caught my attention and made me think. The final one that's truly freaked me out is "In From the Snow" by Lee Battersby, the story of a pack living outside of human civilization. This wasn't truly a horror story, but my mind seized ahold of the darkness and continued thinking of it after I finished.
"The Constant Past" by Sean McMullen features a librarian and a time traveler. What more can one ask for, really? (The answer is found in "Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh" by Jason Fischer. To quote the TV Tropes wiki, it's Exactly What It Says On The Tin.)
The viral mystery "Lure" by Paul Collins had a nice twist at the end, even though I did expect it. I enjoyed his style, exploration of cyber-cheating, and assertion that PCs are better than Macs. "Empire" by Simon Brown is an amusing look at WAR OF THE WORLDS and Gilbert & Sullivan. Shortly after finishing, I learned the Mikado would be playing in my area soon (swoon-worthy) and that bubbles and squeak is a real dish in England (bemusing). "Smoking, Waiting for the Dawn" by Jason Nahrung is a vampire story that stands out from the current pack I've been reading. (Added bonus: zombies.)
I feel bad for not mentioning more of the stories I've read, because each had something special. These are just my personal highlights. DREAMING AGAIN comes out this month in the US, and more reviews are available at Out of this EOS. The other contributors are Richard Harland, Adam Browne, Angela Slatter, Kim Wilkins, Lucy Sussex, Sara Douglass, A. Bertram Chandler, Christopher Green, Jenny Blackford, Aaron Sterns, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Cecily Scutt, Rosaleen Love, Trudi Caravan, John Birmingham, Rowena Cory Daniells, Russell Blackford, Margo Lanagan, Rjurik Davidson, Trent Jamieson, Dirk Strasser, Peter M. Ball, and Isobelle Carmody.