Michael Pryor on why everyone should GET HARD

by Michael Pryor

Hard SF can be a hard sell. Of all the multifarious and diverse aspects of Science Fiction, Hard Science Fiction is the one most likely to get non-readers recoiling in horror. It’s the SF sub-genre most parodied, most vilified and most misunderstood.

Which is a shame because, as with most things, the best of it is superb. Hard SF discusses, foregrounds and takes seriously an aspect of modern life that is shamefully neglected in literary fiction: science and technology. If these feature in literary fiction today, it’s superficially or with, at best, a jaundiced eye. Continue reading

Aurealis wants YOU!

Aurealis, Australia’s most successful Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine, is looking for an Editor-in-Chief to oversee the direction and management of the Aurealis digital platforms – including the Aurealis.com.au Blog and social media accounts.

The ideal candidate will have:

  • A desire to make a mark on the Fantasy and Science Fiction landscape
  • Experience writing for online publication – whether that’s blogs or digital magazines
  • An understanding of social media best practices and execution
  • The ability to manage a small group of contributors
  • Impeccable time-management skills
  • An interest in genre stories and storytelling

If you feel as though you meet the above criteria, and are interested in joining Australia’s foremost F+SF magazine, send an email to Dan at the below address with your relevant experience and your reasons for wanting to take over Aurealis Digital’s top gig.

We look forward to hearing from you.

CONTACT EMAIL – dan.aurealis@gmail.com
WEBSITE – https://www.aurealis.com.au
FACEBOOK – https://www.facebook.com/AurealisFSF
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/AurealisMag, https://twitter.com/AurealisBlog

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Aurealis #78 is here!

Aurealis_78Aurealis-#78-cover-purple-sky-dragon_1Now in its 25th year, Aurealis keeps up its tradition of bringing you the finest in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Issue #78 has the bracing neo-noir ‘Enfolded’, from J Michael Melican and the punchy ‘Discarded Pieces’ from David Coleman.

Terry Wood brings us visions of the future in the first part of his History of the Flying Car, and, as always, Aurealis brings you the best in reviews.

Download your copy HERE.

Aurealis #77 is out!

The first issue in Aurealis’ 25th year, Aurealis #77 is a feast of the eerie, the unsettling and the other side of ordinary. ‘Like a Boojum’ by Simon Petrie takes us to a world where the exotic is familiar and the familiar is not to be trusted.

‘The Death of Glinda, the Good Witch’ by Rebecca-Anne C Do Rozario probes and questions until reality itself is in question.

Lachlan Walter’s exploration of the often troubling amalgamation of SF movies and Western movies is illuminating and fun, while our regular roll-out of reviews has some important pointers to good SpecFic reading.

Aurealis – not to be missed.


Wish us a Happy 25th Birthday!

Win if you’ve already subscribed to Aurealis for 2015 or by subscribing to Aurealis for 2015 now!

Aurealis 77 Cover 290 x 440The first issue for our birthday year is about to be published and everyone can win!

Chimaera Publications / Aurealis books has just published new trade paperback and hardcover editions of Dirk Strasser’s acclaimed Books of Ascension trilogy: Zenith, Equinox and Eclipse.

We have two full hardcover sets to give away.

Everyone who subscribes to Aurealis by 5 February 2015 will be in the running for one of the three hardcover books from the first set.

And everyone who has already subscribed to Aurealis before this newsletter comes out will be in the running for one of the three hardcover books from the second set.

Yes, that’s right. As well as offering incentives to subscribe in 2015, we’re going to be rewarding our existing subscribers with freebies all year!

It’s our birthday, and our subscribers will be getting the presents. Please tweet, blog, socially mediate and tell you friends about the offer. It’s open to anyone who wants to take out a 2015 Aurealis subscription. The deadline is midnight 5 February 2015 (AEDT) and there won’t be any extensions.

Praise for the Books of Ascension

“The rich imagination that flows from the pages is nothing short of astounding, and the world Strasser creates completely envelopes you from the moment you begin to read.”

Lynsey James

“Strasser worked his magic and I was left one happy reader indeed.”

Reviewed the Book

Kate Forsyth takes home American Libraries award

Five-time Aurealis Award-winning author and fairy tale-telling extraordinaire Kate Forsyth has been honoured by the American Library Association, taking out the Best Historical Novel award for her 2014 release Bitter Greens.

Forsyth joined international bestseller Lauren Beukes on the ALA’s 2015 reading list, beating out novels from Amy Belding Brown, Nicola Griffith, James Lee Burke and Ariel Lawhon in the same category.

Continue reading

Imperial Imprecision

by Chris Large

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.13.57 PMIt’s long been known that Star Wars: A New Hope contains examples of some of the worst marksmanship in the history of cinema, particularly with respect to the Emperor’s ‘elite’ forces. But how bad were they really? Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a statistical measure of exactly how astonishingly bad imperial stormtroopers were at hitting their mark?

Well, fortunately, there is. In the United States, where police forces undergo rigorous (well, at least annual) firearms training, statistics are kept, and made available for, exactly the type of public scrutiny in which we are about to indulge.

But first to the question of “How can we calculate the number of shots fired and hits scored by stormtroopers in Star Wars in order to make a valid comparison with real-world figures?” The answer is simple. I counted them. Yes, I did. No, I’m not shitting you. Inspired by the purchase of a brand new TV boasting no less than 55 inches of HD LED OMFGoodness, I took it upon myself to re-watch Star Wars: A New Hope. And just for fun – because that’s how I roll – I decided to count each and every shot fired by stormtroopers in the name of generating an accurate hit-rate for comparison with figures issued by the NYPD. Before we get to the nitty gritty of raw statistics, I’ll briefly touch upon some potential excuses given by simpering Empire apologists for the atrocious stormtrooper hit-rate, and deftly debunk them all.

Continue reading

Apocalypse Soon-ish: Humanist science fiction and the rehabilitation of book snobs

by Lachlan Walter

We probably all know a book snob. Some of us might even be one, although if you’re reading this blog that’s reasonably unlikely. In my experience, there’s nothing that a book snob loves to hate more than genre fiction. Horror? Exploitative trash of the crudest kind. Thrillers? Airport rubbish that deserves to be remaindered. Romance? Pure drivel; good for nothing but the recycling bin. Westerns? Anachronistic macho bullshit. Fantasy? Nonsensical entertainment for the childish. Chick-lit? Mindless nonsense that should have stayed in the slush pile. Science fiction? Mechanical boys-own-adventure pap.

These are all criticisms that I’ve overheard at my local library, at my favourite bookshop, or that I remember from back in my uni days (although they have been made a little less crude). Statements like this are sad, really, and a little bit pathetic. They both symbolise a kind-of “literary bigotry” and deny those who hold such viewpoints the undeniable and unique pleasures that can be found in genre fiction. So, the question is, how do we convince these people to change their intolerant and blinkered attitudes? Especially in regard to both science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction – my preferred genres, as well as the ones I’m most familiar with, and the reason why we’re all here.

I believe we need to expose these book snobs to good works of genre fiction, works that both expand their understanding of each genre’s potential and make full use of the particular themes, tropes, devices and peculiarities inherent to each. But what a genre fan might consider good isn’t necessarily good for a reluctant reader with a nigh-intractable bias. I’ll use science fiction as my example. Classic works such as Philip K. Dick’s Valis, Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker and Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, and more contemporary works such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer, China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station and Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, might all be considered great works of science fiction by both fans and critics, but it’s unlikely that any of them would convert a book snob. They are too dependent on the reader’s knowledge of science fiction’s “rules” and too-often rely on said reader’s established appreciation of the genre and subsequent willingness to engage with works that are arguably “outside” the norm.

This brings us, in a rather roundabout way, to humanist science fiction.

Now, humanist is a somewhat elastic term, especially when we try and apply it to both fiction and science fiction. After all, it is technically “the non-religious philosophy based on liberal human values” (according to my trusty dictionary). Such a prosaic description doesn’t do justice to the beauty that can be found in what I consider to be humanist science fiction, never mind the fact that it sums up a non-religious philosophy rather than a narrative framework or guide. To me, works of humanist science fiction are those that focus on both the inner emotional lives of their characters and on the impact of “the big idea” on these inner emotional lives, rather than on “the big idea” itself. This isn’t to say that “the big idea” – the crux of the genre, the event/invention/technological breakthrough/environmental cataclysm that shapes and propels a science fiction plot – isn’t important to humanist science fiction. However, while it may be necessary to the plot, more often than not it is somewhat pushed to the background, chiefly existing to drive the examination and explication of the characters and their inner and emotional lives, and allowing these themes to occupy the foreground.

Does this all sound a bit complicated? Basically, I consider humanist science fiction to be that which shines a lot on both the beauty and the horror of being human, on the joys and sorrows and the triumphs and tragedies and the excitement and mundanity of being alive.

Take Matt Haig’s The Humans as an example. In this unbelievably moving work, “the big idea” is that Andrew Martin, a professor at Cambridge University, has solved a mathematical equation that will dramatically accelerate humanity’s technological progress. The Vonnadorians – alien beings with an almost hive-mind mentality, who operate according to cold logic and act as intergalactic observers – decide that humanity isn’t ready for this acceleration. Consequently, they send one of their own to “erase” this new knowledge by killing Martin, destroying the physical and digital evidence of his breakthrough, taking his place both literally and figuratively (assuming his physical identity through the use of alien technology and assuming his role as a husband, father and teacher), determining who Martin shared this knowledge with, and killing them as well.

So far, so science fiction.

This is merely the set-up, however, for Haig’s exploration of the “new” Martin’s assumption, acceptance and embrace of humanity. His journey begins with confusion and amusement in the face of such everyday things as our relationships with dogs and the human-centric nature of the news, all beautifully phrased and infused with a good dose of humour. But, as the plot progresses and the “new” Martin learns to love and to loathe and to feel joy and sorrow and to experience pleasure and pain and excitement and boredom, the tone becomes both more serious and more touching, while still maintaining its beautiful phrasing and sense of humour. The effect is startling: in the lessons that the “new” Martin learns, we ourselves are reminded of just how incredible and just how dull being alive really is. We realise that The Humans is a work that celebrates just that: being human, being alive.

Humanist science fiction like The Humans will move anyone, even a book snob. I ask you to try it, to go out and spread the word, to do your best to convert those people whose blinkered view stops them from seeing beauty in certain things.

Or just read some. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel better about yourself, and that’s no small thing.

(For furthering reading, I would recommend starting with Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake, Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, Jonathon Lethem’s Girl in Landscape and Steven Amsterdam’s What the Family Needed; while some good works of humanist post-apocalyptic fiction to begin with would be Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Thomas Glavinic’s Night Work, Judith Merril’s Shadow on the Hearth, Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars, and Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming.)

From the Cloud: 10 things Aurealis looks for in submissions

Last month’s Aurealis editorial concentrated on what we don’t want to see in stories submitted to this publication.

This month, in a fit of positivity, we want to share with you some of the things we look for, the aspects of Fantasy and SF writing that charm us and are likely to get the nod for inclusion in Aurealis, Australia’s longest-running speculative fiction magazine.

  1. Good writing. By this, we mean more than a simple facility with written English. Even though this is important, it should be a given, a basic expectation of any submission. Rather, we enjoy apposite language, sentences with flexibility and rhythm, dialogue that is alive with character and intonation, complexity of construction and stark simplicity used in the right times and places.
  2. Voice. This is hard to define, and has much to do with the point above. Your story should sound individual and alive through its narrative point of view.
  3. Characters. Your main character should be engaging. That’s it in a nutshell. Of course, there are a million different ways to make your main character engaging. You just have to choose the right one and implement it deftly.
  4. Originality. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your central premise needs to be wildly new, although this is desirable. A fresh take on a well-established concept is good. Quirky, idiosyncratic characters are also useful in upping your originality quotient.
  5. Conciseness. Be economical with your story.
  6. Quick movement into the heart of the story. We are a short story journal, which means you don’t have unlimited space to work with. This can be a challenge in Fantasy and SF, where world-building and background detail is important, but do your best. Don’t linger too long in the set-up. You’ll lose us.
  7. Hard SF. We don’t get enough of these sort of stories.
  8. Humour—but it has to be really funny.
  9. Diversity. Think about your characters. Are you making unwarranted assumptions about dominant cultures? Are you overlooking possibilities?
  10. The X Factor. It could be freshness, it could be the unexpected, it could be something shocking, or it could be something that makes us grin or wince or sit up straight after the first paragraph. We can’t tell you what the X Factor is, exactly, but we know it when we see it. Including it is a good thing.

Aurealis is, and always has been, committed to publishing the finest in Australian speculative fiction. With your help, we will continue to do so.

– Michael Pryor

Before (or after) grabbing your FREE six month-five issue subscription to Aurealis (you’ve got until the end of July!), be sure to pick up a copy of Michael Pryor’s latest page-turner Machine Wars – by clicking the appropriate image below.


Five of the Best for July 26 – The curiouser and curiouser edition

Can you believe it’s been 61 years to the day since Disney first premiered their animated classic Alice in Wonderland? I can’t! It feels like only yesterday I sat in the gloomy main hall of Westgarth Cinema in Northcote for the premiere, my grandchildren either side of me and a box of buttered chestnuts on my lap. This was before robotic organs had been fully perfected mind you, so I was just using my bio-rises, but my hat, what a spectacle.

Catch yourself up on the history of Alice and her wild adventures with today’s Five of the Best.

The Atlantic profiles the girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland.

Which of these 17 AiW adaptations is your favourite?

Was Lewis Carroll actually Jack the Ripper?

Here are 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about AiW – including the truth behind Mock Turtle soup.

Wonderland has its own Wikipedia page! For those who like to get caught down online rabbit holes…