Aurealis #148 has great new fiction, non fiction, interviews, reviews and art. Aurealis continues to deliver quality fiction year after year. Subscribe now!
The Sense of Wonder
Many years ago, I read that it was the sense of wonder engendered by science fiction and fantasy that actually appealed to young readers and got them interested on a long-term basis. As the young reader progressed from juvenile adventures through to more adult fare, the sense of wonder was gradually amped up. However, as the young reader is having their sense of wonder engaged, the elements that induce the sense of wonder have to get bigger and better. Think of a series of Doctor Who. Each successive season of ‘New Who’ has had to dig deeper to give the viewer their ‘fix.’ And each successive ‘fix’ requires a stronger fix subsequently. So, by the time a reader has reached middle age (or older) they require pretty comprehensive wonders to appease them. In Doctor Who they tend to increase the Dalek ratio to get viewers ‘high’. Occasionally they can find some element that actually plugs into the sense of wonder in an original manner (I’m thinking of the ‘Blink’ episode here) but then, having exposed the ravening fan to the Weeping Angels once, they had to ramp up the Angel elements to keep the fans happy. This of course is going to lead to a Dalek/Weeping Angel episode if it hasn’t already.
I am in the happy position of reading lots of stories from a variety of writers and so I get my fix fairly regularly. It is a genuine thrill when, as editors, we come across a genuinely new voice, with a genuinely new idea. Sense of Wonder sated.
But I do worry sometimes that, like some addled drug addict, I am going to reach a point where it is impossible for me to get that hit of SF wonderment that is going to satisfy me. I know as we age, we tend to become a bit blasé about things. This, coupled with the fact that I have been reading speculative fiction for ages, means it takes a lot to really move me. The reassuring thing here is that the writers who are providing me with my ‘hit’ of wonder are in the same boat as me. They have read and seen just about every element that can be thrown at an audience member and it is up to them to come up with that new angle that will interest readers. So far so good in this area. My plea is for writers to keep going that extra mile to impress a reader. I don’t want to end up as a pathetic reader trying to get a fix from other genres simply because speculative fiction has run out of ideas.
All the best from the cloud!
From Mirrorsong by Leon D Furze:
That dream again. Waking, a thick clammy sweat coating my chest and back like oil. Gasping for air. Clawing at the sheets. The smell of smoke in my nostrils. But it is just a dream, isn’t it? This time.
I rub sleep from my eyes with the back of my hand and feel dampness. Crying in my sleep then. Good job there’s no-one around to hear me. No-one. I tell myself today’s the day, but then I tell myself that every morning. I tell myself there are too many ghosts here, that it’s time to pack up and move on, to head towards the city where there’s a chance… A chance of what, though?
A chance of getting shot or beaten or raped or worse. A chance that I’d get fifty kilometres out of here on foot before some injury—some dog bite or infected cut or a fucking blister—put me on my back in the dirt. I sit up in the bed and pull the thin sheet around me. The sheet smells of damp and the metallic, earthy scent of bore water. I shiver despite the heat of the morning. Maybe tomorrow then. Tomorrow I’ll leave.
From Enough Builders by Jennie Del Mastro:
The postie pushed a parcel at Madeleine. ‘This is addressed to Caleb.’
‘I’ll take it, thank you.’ The parcel was bulky but light in her hands, and fear rose in her. She knew what it contained.
She counted backwards by five, under her breath.
Fifty, forty-five, forty…
She signed the tablet, and handed it back, avoiding his skin.
Her heart stayed steady; the parcel stayed whole.
Twenty-five, twenty, fifteen…
The postie was walking out the gate. ‘You should fix this.’ He tapped a crack in the path with his shoe. ‘One day someone’ll trip on it.’
There was a flick inside her chest. ‘It’s the council’s path. They can fix it.’ Her heart stumbled, trying to find its rhythm. She hurried through the house to the backyard as her hands ate into the cardboard box. She tried to hold the pieces together, then gave up and dropped the parcel onto the grass, scattering shreds of packaging and shards of plastic. Broken model aeroplanes.
From Channeling Ernest by Ian Pohl:
‘Roger that. Don’t worry about the jacket—you could set a bomb off in that thing and it would be fine. Better leave off with the gear; time for you to get inside and get small. You’ve got about thirty minutes. Swap in new batteries, air and scrubbers for your suit while you’re at it, Sean-san.’
Sean pursed his lips as he moved to the ladder and started climbing. ‘Nik! I think you’re actually worried about me. I’m touched.’
There was a pause on her end, then: ‘Vectors have updated since the initial warning. The other Europan teams are in the clear but Earth’s now saying your grid will see impacts. This is not the usual hum-drum dusting from the Jovian Belt. This is different. We’re seeing bogies from a new eruption on Io: the largest ejecta frequency yet. So, watch yourself. I would hate to have to take over your work.’
He knew her every intonation and sensed her frustration at being stuck in orbit and unable to help on the ground.
‘The Shackleton bloodline is indestructible, Nik. You know that. Besides, there’s nothing more we can do. The lander is armoured. The site is secure. We’ll come out of this the same circus we are going into in. I’ll use the wait to check the chessboard. You move yet?’