Mermaids: Longing, Desire and Death Throughout History
Speculative Fiction Artwork—Revealing the Future
The Opposite of a Broken Mirror: My Time at Gollancz—Part 2
From the CloudStephen Higgins
From the Cloud
This has obviously been a tumultuous year. Here in Australia we have had severe bushfires, floods, the pandemic (of course) and a host of related issues that have upset our routines and lives. Lives have been lost. It has been in many regards a very science-fictional world.
Like many others I have watched the events unfolding with, at first, disbelief and, later, with a grim acceptance. Right at present, here in the state of Victoria in Australia, we are coming to the end of a severe lockdown that has halted the spread of Covid-19 but at the cost of many personal freedoms and the loss of employment for many people.
I myself have been largely unaffected by the pandemic (so far) and I consider myself lucky to be living where I live in rural Victoria. My job has changed. I’ve missed seeing friends and family and my lifestyle choices have been restricted. I’ve consoled myself with more screen time and more reading. I think I got out of the habit of reading for a little while. I’m a secondary school teacher and I spend my day reading and writing so I tend to gravitate towards music in my time off. However, for some reason I found myself both reading more and, oddly, writing more. I’ve dabbled with writing fiction off and on for years and I’ve been nowhere near as prolific as my co-editors in this area, but I did complete a novel during the pandemic lockdown. I’m not saying it’s any good, but I did write it.
If you’ve read my last editorial you will have seen my plea for fiction recommendations. My increased reading habits have meant I’ve tried a lot of new authors as well as a lot of old authors, and I just couldn’t settle with anything. I was afraid I had reached that point where the OMGs were replaced with the ‘Meh’s. Anyway, I think it was just me going through a phase. I think we’ve all got a bit pandemic-ed out and this was how it impacted me. There was a sort of general malaise around me.
As this is the last issue of Aurealis for the year, we hope that you and your family have kept safe and well and, of course, we send our best wishes and condolences to any who have lost loved ones. It’s a weird world and I know we’re all hoping for a change of fortunes next year. Whatever happens, Aurealis will be around to distract you, entertain you and even provide some light relief next year.
There will be plenty of OMG moments in 2021. But the ones you’ll get in Aurealis will be good OMG moments.
All the best from the cloud!
From How We FeltHelena O’Connor
In my target’s carriage, the passengers hunker on sparsely cushioned plastic seats. Station-wrapped sandwiches are balanced on their knees. I narrow in on the lemon candy smell and see her: a woman in a sleek, silver dress, wearing a small, tight smile. Her expression is determined, but those delicate bones would break apart easily in my hands. Under the excitement lemon scent, she smells like frangipani wafting on a salt, sea breeze. Something stirs deep below my memory: a flicker, an almost feeling. As I draw level, her small hand grabs my wrist and pulls me down to sit next to her. I am taken aback by the audacity, wondering what would drive her to be so bold. People barely make eye contact with us; skin to skin contact is prohibited. I am rarely touched, by any of them, and never on purpose. My wrist tingles. Curiosity buys her a few moments of my time.
From Fresh AirSeth Robinson
The wind felt hot enough to break the skin. It blasted the exposed patch between the cuff of Corrie’s coat and her glove, warning of future blisters if she wasn’t careful.
She fumbled with her sleeve, stuffing it into her glove, then lifted her gaze to the east, and even through her goggles found herself squinting against the steady blast of wind. She looked out across the blackened hills and the sweep of dry earth that had once been bush. The fires had taken care of the eucalypts. Now, there was only a scattering of deadwood carcasses jammed into the ground. With the land sick as it was, getting anything to grow required a steady fertiliser of blood, sweat and tears. Nothing came back of its own accord.
From Not Fade AwayEneasz Brodski
After three days of increasingly desperate struggle under Father Gregor’s tutelage, Mikhal wrenched forth his first spark of magic. In the church’s vestry, Mikhal’s attention had been momentarily obliterated. He’d tried to focus through a cloud of mental fog, thoughts slipping through his mind like eels, leaving barely a trace as they fled. He grasped after them, but they were nimble while he was old and slow. What was he doing?
From CONQUIST Part 10: The Final ConquestDirk Strasser
Betrayal can numb your soul like the coldest of frosts. I do not accept its bitterness lightly and hope always to have the will to battle the illusive rapture that it promises. Yet I also recognize that loyalty to one must sometimes necessarily mean betrayal of another. And in a world untethered from the certainties of good and evil, where entradas offer stark choices which cannot be undone, I can only hope I have chosen wisely.
What if an army of Spanish conquistadors, the most brutally effective conquerors in history, found their way into a truly new world beyond the New World of the Americas? Conquist tells the story of Captain Cristóbal de Varga whose drive for glory and power leads him to a place from which he can’t escape and a people he can’t conquer. Caught in a war between two eternal enemies that seem at first to be angels and demons, he must choose sides. When he loses everything he holds dear – his command, his Incan princess, his honor, his God – he needs to find a path to redemption by conquering his obsessions.
This time they’ve found a New World that refuses to be conquered.
The past is a foreign country, all right, but it’s chock full of great SF&F titles to get us through Corona Days. Here are the latest offerings from the Aurealis Editors, complete with our pithy teasers.
Overlooked: Darkfall by Isobelle Carmody (1997). Immersive, transfixing, interwoven.
Underrated: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick (1965). Unsettling, bleak, hallucinatory.
Forgotten: Out of the Silence by Erle Cox (1925). Ground-breaking, best-selling, Australian.
What better time to read? And, as such, Aurealis is continuing our deep dive into the SF/Fantasy of the past, those books that have been sitting at the back of bookshelves for ages awaiting a re-read. Why not these give a try?
Overlooked: The Prestige by Christopher Priest, 1995 . Imaginative, intelligent, gripping .
Underrated: Star Gate by Andre Norton, 1958. Engaging, robust, brisk.
Forgotten: The Devil’s Elixirs by E T A Hoffmann, 1815 in German, 2009 Oneworld Classics English translation. Macabre, disorienting, labyrinthine.