Aurealis #164


Yet another fantastic issue chock full of reading goodness. More art than you could poke a stick at and reviews and non fiction to make you think.

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From the Cloud
Stephen Higgins

After a while, you need some new blood in your To Be Read pile. I’ve been skimming through all of the usual sites to find new books by new authors. Like just about everyone else, I’ve downloaded a lot of excerpts and opening chapters and I’ve discovered two things: many authors are aware of the fact that many readers download the opening chapter of a novel and they have, understandably, amped up the excitement level of their openings. The other thing I’ve discovered is that many authors are not aware that many readers download the opening chapter of a novel and they proceed in a stately manner to slowly reveal their characters, setting and various plot elements.
There is no rule to this of course. Some people just have a style that lends itself to the slow reveal, and others like to jump in bots and all, as it were. Many years ago I taught creative writing in a TAFE college. I researched a lot and applied many of the lessons I’d learned whilst reading the Aurealis slush pile. Recently I was asked to talk to a group of high school students who were undertaking a creative writing class. I recalled that one of the best pieces of advice I imparted when I taught ages ago was to strike out the first paragraph of a short story. Often this is just the writer settling down to write and getting their mind in gear. And given the fact that writers are loathe to discard any hard won material, the dodgy opening often gets left in to the detriment of the story.
The result is that I have tons of sample chapters on my iPad. Sometimes I revisit these sample chapters and sometimes I really like them, so maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for the sample the first time I tried it. I guess sample chapters are not a good indicator for me. So my next tactic is to try review sites.
I haven’t decided if the best approach is to read the one star reviews first to find out what is wrong with a book, or to read the five star reviews to discover what works. Or is it best to read the three star reviews in the hope of getting balanced viewpoints? And then one can turn to trusted reviewers who seem to share the same tastes in books. But a reviewer can only review so many books and, besides, if I want something different, perhaps I need to look to different people to recommend books. It’s the same with friends. Some friends will recommend a book because they know my tastes. But that doesn’t take into account the fact that my reading habits are jaded.
Of course, I also read the reviews here in Aurealis and I’ve found some good new authors there. I must admit I was a bit afraid I’d reached the age where it is hard to surprise me. My sense of wonder has been worn out. Happily, however, this is not the case. I’m often surprised by some of the short fiction we publish, so that’s not the base problem. Maybe the real problem is that I have read so many authors. The search continues.
PS I found a new author I like.

From The Cost of Living by Daniel Matters

About Daniel Matters

Daniel Matters (he/him) is a creative writer from Melbourne who is currently completing his Honours in Creative Writing at Deakin University. After a life of getting lost in bookstores as well as doing theatre and LARP, it’s no surprise that his life became absorbed with storytelling. He especially focuses on the fantastical, environmental and speculative.

The sun beats down through grey smog as Loreal and I make our way along the beach. The sand mixes with the dark pigment of fresh ashfall and the copper murk of the ocean’s waves. Scattered across the shore, dragged in by the nightly tide, is a veritable smorgasbord. Shopping bags flitter like extinct birds. Plastic bottles roll like tumbleweeds. Shards of glass shimmer like veins of gems.

From The Song of Circles by Josephine Sarvaas

About Josephine Sarvaas

Josephine Sarvaas is an English teacher from Sydney. Her work has appeared in The Big Issue, The West Australian, A Public Space, NYC Midnight, ROOM Magazine, Factor Four Magazine and more. In her spare time she’s an avid Dungeons & Dragons player.

I’ll tell you the real story. Not the one we told the law-keepers, when they came asking their questions. Not the one we gave the heralds either, though they paid a pretty sum for it—the equivalent of a month’s wages waiting tables at the Hearth and Haven!
A sorcerer, we told them. One of those terrorists from the north, them that experiment with necromancy and turn rivers to blood and place curses on all who cross them.
An easy scapegoat. There have been more and more of them around lately, with all the trouble happening in high places and at the borders. We felt a little bad when we sent the lawmen on a wild goose chase, but not for long.
But anyway. Here’s what really happened.

From Accidents Will Happen by Connor White

About Connor White

Connor White is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He’s currently a PhD Candidate in English – Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA. His writing has earned support from the Key West Literary Workshop, and his work has most recently appeared in The Southern Humanities Review, Guesthouse, MonkeyBicycle and Flyover Country Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @conniewr

The dead do not rise. They sink. Gravity, decomposition and tectonic zipperings bury yesteryear’s corpses ever deeper.
I do not sink. At least not yet. My mountain grows several inches annually. A granite peak in its youth. The peak, and myself inside its sepulchre, continues to rise despite the seismic thumping of my drum shaking boulders from the cliffs with the heavy vibrations of my messages.