Aurealis #158


Welcome to the Aurealis #158 voyage of discovery where you’ll find the bizarre ways in which societies can react to threats in Robinne Weiss’ ‘Section 7.3’, a novel concept of Death in Patrick Axford’s ‘Buttons’, and the Shakespearean subversion of the idea of the evil corporation in Robert Bagnall’s ‘Thus With a Kiss I Die’.


The definition of science fiction is notoriously hard to tie down. One way of looking at it is as the form of fiction that speculates on the impact of actual or imaginary science and technology. While the world heralds the latest technology and grapples with its consequences, the science fiction world has already explored its potential impact on individuals and society.

With the recent explosion of DALL-E, ChatGPT and other AI systems into our awareness, we are in a truly science-fictional moment in history: here is technology that science fictional writers have speculated about for decades. While this is either ecstatically or shockingly new for most of the world, to science fiction readers and writers it’s a matter of reality catching up to our imaginations. As a collective, we’ve already thought about where AI could take us.

DALL-E is an AI system that creates an image from a description. Here’s one I tried. The following is a description I wrote of a key scene in the first instalment of my serialised novel Conquist that appeared in Aurealis #127:

A black conquistador on horseback in the snow-capped Andes facing a shimmering curtain of light at the entrance of a cave.

DALL-E generated the following four options based on this description within seconds:

ChatGPT creates text from an instruction. Here’s an instruction I gave it:

Write a back cover blurb for CONQUIST, a historical fantasy novel about conquistadors, led by Capitán Cristóbal de Varga, who in their search for gold in 1538 Peru find a portal into a new world that refuses to be conquered, where they are trapped between the warring forces of demonic natives and angelic beings whose morality proves to be less black and white than it appears.

ChatGPT generated this text in a number of seconds:

Get ready to embark on an epic journey as CONQUIST takes you to the front lines of the 16th century conquest of the Americas, where greed and glory collide with the unearthly. Capitán Cristóbal de Varga and his conquistadors embark on a quest for gold in Peru, only to discover a portal to a new world, where the lines of good and evil are blurred. Trapped between the warring forces of demonic natives and angelic beings, they must navigate a dangerous game of alliances and betrayal to survive in a world that refuses to be conquered. Will they emerge with the treasure they seek or be trapped forever in this fantastical realm of moral ambiguities? With richly imagined characters and vivid world-building, CONQUIST is a thrilling historical fantasy that will leave you breathless.

Another instruction I gave ChatGPT was:

Write pop song lyrics praising the speculative fiction magazine Aurealis.

Here’s what it spat out:

Verse 1:

Lost in worlds of fantasy and dreams,

Where dragons soar and magic gleams,

A place where anything can be,

Welcome to the world of Aurealis.


Aurealis, you take us away,

From reality to another place,

With stories that capture our hearts,

And worlds that we never want to part.

Verse 2:

From cyberpunk to epic tales,

With writers that never ever fails,

To take us on a journey through time,

With stories that make our hearts rhyme.


Aurealis, you take us away,

From reality to another place,

With stories that capture our hearts,

And worlds that we never want to part.


A treasure trove of imagination,

A realm of pure creation,

With every turn of the page,

We’re transported to a new age.


Aurealis, you take us away,

From reality to another place,

With stories that capture our hearts,

And worlds that we never want to part.


So come on, let’s explore the unknown,

With Aurealis as our guide, we’ll never be alone.

With every issue, a new adventure awaits,

In the world of Aurealis, our imaginations take shape.

In addition to these text-to-image and text-to-text AIs, there are also text-to-music and image-to-video AIs in development.

With anything startingly new, there are the true believers, nay-sayers and head-in-sanders. For those of us into science fiction, this is simultaneously an ‘Oh, wow!’ and ‘Oh, shit!’ moment. We can see both sides. We’ve already pictured the potential future in our imaginations. So, let’s prepare ourselves for the exploration. I’ll be looking at some of the potential implications of this technology in the next issue of Aurealis.

All the best from the cloud!

Dirk Strasser

From Section 7.3 by Robinne Weiss

About Robinne Weiss

Robinne’s short stories have most recently appeared in the anthologies Magic Portals, Aftermath and Alternative Deathiness, and have won multiple awards. She’s published twelve books, including a series of children’s fantasy novels infested with dragons. Visit her at:

The rough hemp rope stuttered through my fingers as we lowered the dinghy from the side of the ship. I scanned the shoreline, where the skeletons of buildings jutted up from a dense tangle of trees.

From Buttons by Patrick Axford

About Patrick Axford

What began as a hobby for Patrick Axford when he was as young as eight or nine, soon became an obsession and he has been crafting stories ever since. When he isn’t writing, you can normally find him poring over his stacks of books or admiring his Lego collection he adamantly maintains is for his kids.

The doorbell sang. Thomas thought perhaps he had imagined it. It was such an unexpected sound, such an alien presence in his cramped shoebox apartment, that he didn’t move. The police only ever knocked, no, banged, at the door. He didn’t even know he had a doorbell, especially not one that sang such a lilting sing-song. It was almost a lullaby. Haunting in its simple beauty.

From Thus With a Kiss I Die by Robert Bagnall

About Robert Bagnall

Robert Bagnall is the author of the science fiction thriller 2084 – The Meschera Bandwidth and over fifty published short stories, twenty-four of which are collected in the anthology 24 0s & a 2. He blogs at andcan be contacted there.

They’re waiting for Zara in the marble and glass atrium outside the university lecture theatre. The air smells of fresh coffee and floor polish. She’s backing through the double swing doors, answering points from a gaggle of her keenest students. For some, freshly struck lines of thought demand to be explored there and then. Most, though, just want a coursework extension.

From Pioneering SF Women: Vonda N McIntyre: Good Things Come from Getting Involved by Lynne Lumsden Green

About Lynne Lumsden Green

Lynne Lumsden Green’s short stories have been published in over a score of anthologies and online magazines. You can find her stories online with Daily Science Fiction & Antipodean SF, and articles in Aurealis magazine and Writing Queensland.

In 2019, the speculative fiction community lost one its kindest and most respected writers, Vonda Neel McIntyre. Every eulogy mentioned her encouragement and support of new writers, as a mentor and as the founder of the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle.

From Dominant Themes in Afro-centric Fiction by Eugen Bacon

About Eugen Bacon

Eugen Bacon is a 2022 World Fantasy Award finalist and was announced in the honour list of the 2022 Otherwise Fellowships for ‘doing exciting work in gender and speculative fiction’. Eugen has two novels, a novella and two anthologies (ed) out in 2023. Visit her website at

With growing representation in international award nominations and winners, there’s a rapid rise in Afro-centric fiction and a hungry readership ready to consume it. But what are writers from Africa and the diaspora writing about?

From Discworld: An Introduction to Terry Pratchett’s Philosophy and Legacy by Amy Laurens

About Amy Laurens

Amy Laurens' novella Bones Of The Sea won the 2021 Aurealis for Best Fantasy Novella. She credits her obsession with the fantasy genre to Moving Pictures, a Terry Pratchett novel handed to her at age 13 by someone who turned into a lifelong best friend--for obvious reasons.

It is possible that no other author has been as widely mourned as Terry Pratchett. Certainly, other authors have outstripped him in terms of sheer sales, but Pratchett fans have a certain… insistence about them.