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Overlooked, Underrated, Forgotten 3

Imposing Aurealis HQ is in Melbourne, Victoria, and we’re in full-on lockdown now, so quality reading is more important than ever. Here’s our next instalment in trawling the past to bring you books that you may have overlooked, others may have underrated, and we all may have forgotten.

  • Overlooked: The Luck of Brin’s Five, by Cherry Wilder (1977). Rich, detailed, knotty.
  • Underrated: Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, (1938 in Slovenian; 2004 in English). Unsettling, mesmerising, profound
  • Forgotten: Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin (1983). Inventive, imaginative thoughtful.
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Overlooked, Underrated, Forgotten 2

In our efforts to suggest titles for your CovidDays reading, here are three more books you may not have considered, along with our customarily pithy three word teasers:

Overlooked: The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg (1972) – disturbing, absorbing, unique.

Underrated: Ubik, by Philip K. Dick (1969) – quirky, entertaining, phildickian.

Forgotten: Synners by Pat Cadigan (1991) – punchy, dense, trenchant.

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Overlooked, Underrated, Forgotten

To help everyone find some good SF&F reads in these straitened times, the Aurealis editors will be offering an irregular series of ‘Overlooked, Underrated and Forgotten’ titles for your attention.
Here are our three for today:
Overlooked Replay by Ken Grimwood (1986). Poignant, thought-provoking, life-changing.
Underrated The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers ( 1983). Rollicking, twisty, entertaining.
Forgotten The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett ( 1955). Moving, powerful, sensitive.

Contributions welcome for the threefold ‘Overlooked, Underrated and Forgotten’ list – and don’t forget your three word teasers!

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The 16 best science fiction books of all time

Isabel Cabrera created and supplied this wondrous graphic. She says:

‘With the recent success of Annihilation and Ad Astra, science fiction films are proving to be as popular as ever.

And most of the great science fiction films of the past three decades were actually based on epic science fiction books, including The Martian and Blade Runner (based on the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep).

To help celebrate National Science Fiction Day held on January 2 each year, Global English Editing rounded up the best sci-fi novels that deserve a spot on your bookshelf.

From Dune and its intergalactic messiah, to the earth’s final survivor in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the iconic Frankenstein, this list features the best science fiction books from the past 200 years. 

Over this time, science fiction has created some of the most profound, compelling and popular novels ever written. 

The key theme connecting the best of these books is how emotional and primal humans fare in the face of the powerful scientific advances they create. So, although sci-fi delves into the unknown, the stories aren’t pure fantasy: they exist in settings in some way connected to our own human experience.’

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Aurealis is looking for New Zealand SFF books to review

Are you a New Zealander? Have you published or self-published a science fiction, fantasy or horror book in the last year?

Aurealis would like to consider your book for review in its all-New Zealand issue to be published at CoNZealand. Send eBooks only in both epub and mobi format to reviews@aurealis.com.au with the subject line: Ebook for NZ special issue by 31 March 2020 at the latest.

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The 2019 Aurealis Round-up!

Now that the last issue of Aurealis for 2019 has been published, here’s the Big List of all this year’s stories:
The Moonstone in the Dust by Carolyn Hine
The Excuses We Make For Our Children by Rebecca Fung
In the Mountain Valley by Gordon Grice
Of Roses and Electric Shock by Joshua Caleb Wilson
Tales of the Flame by Dirk Strasser
Getting Home by P.K. Torrens
Renascent by Pauline Yates
Leisure Culture by Maddison Stoff
Drink with the Dead by Craig Blane
Marked for Life by J.R. Schuyler
The Moth Tapes by Joseph Ashley-Smith
Ogali by Nuzo Onoh
Abomination by Michelle Birkette
To Hell and Back by Michael Pryor
The Stranger of Morden by Mike Adamson
Serine by Shane Drury
Wreck Diving by Joanne Anderton
Nie among the Tree People by Emma Mann
The Witch who Wove Dreams by Mike Adamson
Cradle by Stephen Higgins
She Sells Sea-Hells by the C Door by Eric Del Carlo
Dog Nebula by Subo Wijeyeratne
Fracture Line by Chris Walker
Timbuktu by Gerri Brightwell
Club Fiends by Paul Alex Gray
Tigers of Mars by Conor DiViesti
Big Heart by Lynn Wohlwend
Inheritance by James Rowland
Data by Laurence Barratt-Manning
Flesh of the Other by Eric Del Carlo

We’ve published stories from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, UK, Canada and USA and it’s been an abundance of riches. You can still get all 2019 issues by subscribing at aurealis.com.au.

And stay tuned! 2020 is going to be bigger and better than ever in the Aurealis universe!

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Aurealis is looking for non-fiction

Got an idea for a non-fiction article? Not sure if it will work. Send Aurealis an email and tell us. Maybe you’ve lined up an author interview, been watching trends in speculative fiction, seen something in science that spec fiction readers will find interesting, got something you just need to get off your chest.

In the last few years, Aurealis has published articles on the history of spec fiction in Australia, monsters, interstellar warfare, utopia, AfroSF, Kafka, artificial wombs, robotics, world-building, HP Lovecraft, non-violent SF—and lots of interviews and more.

We are interested in articles between 500 and 2000 words of interest to readers and writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror.. These include humorous pieces, serious articles and interviews. We prefer non-fiction where some visuals are included. Non-fiction must be previously unpublished and remain unpublished for 12 months after publication in Aurealis. Our payment is A$20 per 1000 words. Send all non-fiction articles and queries to nonfiction@aurealis.com.au.

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Gateway Kids SF Books

What were the kids’ books that got you into Science Fiction? At Aurealis, we’ve done a quick survey and here’s a decade by decade breakdown of some of the most influential kids SF books.

  • 1950s: any of Robert A Heinlein’s ‘juveniles’. Maybe some of the first real YA books.
  • 1960s: Andre Norton was one of the strongest voices writing SF for young readers in the 1960s. Hugely influential.
  • 1970s: John Christopher’s ‘Tripod’ trilogy converted a whole generation to SF.
  • 1980s: Space Demons was read by just about all teens in Australia and was an introduction to proto-cyberpunk.
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What’s the Most Popular Genre?

[This is Dirk Strasser’s editorial from Aurealis #116, our November 2018 issue.]

How popular is fantasy & science fiction compared to other fiction genres? Is its popularity trending up or down? These are obvious questions for a magazine like Aurealis to ask. My hunch based on my experiences in the industry would have been it was in the top two (or maybe three) most popular genres—but then I could be biased in my thinking because I write speculative fiction, read more speculative fiction than any other genre, and co-edit a speculative fiction magazine. I’m in contact with like-minded people daily. It’s easy to over-emphasise how widespread something is under those circumstances. Hunches are all well and good, but I decided to hunt up some recent statistics.

It proved quite tricky to do.

A survey of US readers by Statista last year asked people which genres they read regularly. These were the results. As you can see, people could nominate more than one genre.

Crime & Thriller 59%

Adventure 47%

Classics 44%

Fantasy 43%

Historic 42%

Romance 42%

Science Fiction 42%

Literature 40%

Horror 26%

Erotica 12%

Other 8%

Don’t know 1%

I don’t have access to the methodology or raw data behind this, but what struck me was that the top genre ‘Crime & Thriller’ was the only ‘double-barrelled’ category in the survey. I suppose it’s a natural association to combine the crime genre with the thriller genre, even though not every crime novel is a thriller, and not every thriller is a crime novel. However, wouldn’t the combining of fantasy & science fiction into one category for the purposes of this survey have been at least as natural?

You’re reading a magazine that clearly made the decision almost 30 years ago that fantasy & science fiction belong together. Most of the bookstores I’ve been to over the years also pair the two. It’s been argued by some that fantasy & science fiction are both part of the continuum of speculative genre fiction. Others have maintained that genres should be defined by the primary emotion they intend to evoke, and that both fantasy & science fiction are part of what should be called the Wonder Genre. There’s even a line of argument that science fiction is actually a subset of fantasy. Whatever, the case, the two are clearly closely linked.

So what would the result have been if they had been classed as the one ‘Fantasy & Science Fiction’ category within the survey. Clearly, since the respondents were allowed to give more than one answer, you can’t simply add the two percentages together, but there’s no doubt combining the two results would have changed the results considerably, most likely putting ‘Fantasy & Science Fiction’ at number two, possibly even number one. It all comes down to how many people in the survey said they read science fiction regularly but not fantasy and vice versa.

A 2017 survey by the Australia Council for the Arts and Macquarie University gives us some insight into the relative popularity of a combined ‘Fantasy & Science Fiction’ category. In this survey, people were asked to nominate their number one favourite adult fiction genre (that is, they couldn’t list more than one, so we can’t compare it directly to the Statista survey).

Their results were as follows:

Crime/Mystery/Thrillers 32%

Science Fiction & Fantasy 22%

Contemporary/General Fiction 14%

Romance 7%

Historical 6%

Classics 6%

Literary 3%

Graphic Novels, Manga & Comics 3%

Horror 2%

Erotica 2%

This one has a triple-barrelled category as the most popular. Interestingly, it focused solely on adult fiction titles, so it deliberately excluded Young Adult/New Adult titles which are often also read by adults and which have a high proportion of fantasy & science fiction titles.

It’s usually worth digging past the headlines of a statistical-based announcement. Statistics are incredible useful and a crucial part of modern life, but they can be misleading if they are naively interpreted. For example, industry statistics and publishing professionals have been reporting for years that since 2010 print sales for fantasy & science fiction have halved.

This belief was debunked at the 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference in a presentation based on data collected by www.authorearnings.com. It provided evidence that when ebooks and audio books are taken into account, traditional publishers are currently selling more adult fantasy & science fiction than ever before. Furthermore, in 2017, 48% of fantasy & science fiction bought in the US were non-traditionally published books. So in reality, instead of fantasy & science fiction numbers halving since 2010, as is often claimed, they have in fact doubled.

Just to add some local evidence that there’s a boom in fantasy & science fiction, thanks to all of our readers, in 2018 Aurealis has its most successful year since going digital.

See you all in 2019!

All the best from the cloud.

Dirk Strasser


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Aurealis looking for Reviewers

We’re keen to expand our team of book reviewers. Are you passionate about speculative fiction? We welcome enthusiasts in science fiction, fantasy, horror and cross genre work, who can work to a deadline.

If you have a discerning eye for a good story, and would like to join our avid reviewer crew, come talk to us. Email us at reviews@aurealis.com.au by 11 January 2019.

Tell us in 50 – 100 words why you’d love to join our team. We’ll also give you a sample ebook to review, and if we love your work, we’ll publish it in the March issue!