Aurealis #166


Aurealis #166 is packed with quality fiction, artwork and of course our famous non fiction. In fact, this issue has an absolute bumper amount of reviews and articles.

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From the Cloud
Stephen Higgins

As I am writing this editorial, we have had the news about the attacks in the Middle East. It is events like this that make you appreciate the ordinary day to day stuff that we deal with in our lives. I have always found a safe haven in books and reading, and I really appreciate the fact that I am able to lose myself in a world that someone else has created just for my benefit (ok not just mine) so I can be entertained, or enthralled or moved emotionally. And then I get to just exit that world and go back to mine. Of course, people involved in war and terror do not have that luxury. The world that has been created for them is not a good one. Yes it will move them emotionally but it will not entertain them. Hell, it might even kill them.
I am so thankful that my father taught me to read. I learned to read in school as well, but he got me started before I went to school. He used Treasure Island to teach me. I can still remember him going through the word ‘Treasure’ in order to show me how the letters and sounds went together. Then of course we moved on to ‘Island’. There you go. Two words and they gave me two lessons and hinted at a story all on their own. I am not sure what impact Treasure Island had on my reading tastes, but they must have kindled something in me that learnt to appreciate adventure in a story.
I can recall seeing books that one of my older brothers was reading at the time. I remember being drawn to the spaceships that adorned the cover of Brian Aldiss novels and I particularly remember the alien portrayed on an Aldiss collection of short stories called Space, Time and Nathaniel. I think most readers of Aurealis could easily pick my choices for cover art as they mostly have spaceships or are a bit ‘arty’. I mean, have a look at the three issues I had edited this year (#164, #165, #166). Spaceships and art. I was soon reading anything with an alien or a spaceship on the cover before I even knew I was reading within a genre. I thought they were just books like any other but with different settings.
I realised very early that there was much pleasure, as well as information to be gained by reading and I used to often get annoyed by the intrusion of the real world. But my world has not been violated by war. Imagine that dread entering your world.
I cannot imagine the horror, the sadness, the anger, the hopelessness, the heartache, the fear and the loss being felt by the peoples of world impacted by war and violence. I am unable to write a closing sentence.

All the best from the cloud!

Stephen Higgins

From Integrated Learning by C.H. Pearce

About C.H. Pearce

C H Pearce writes weird, near-future speculative fiction, and is a Ditmar award winning fan artist. Her short fiction has been published in Award Winning Australian Writing, Unnatural Order anthology, and StarShipSofa. She has a background in history and archives, and lives in Canberra with her partner and two small children. She is a member of the SFWA and the HWA.

‘… group assignment…’
My head snaps up from the scratched desk I’m contemplating. My stomach drops like a stone. It’s not like me to get distracted at the final hurdle. I tune into Teacher’s drone.
Stonegate’s classrooms are dark and damp. We have yellow, buzzing overhead lights and, beyond the windows, the tiertop of Level Two is lit with more overhead lights set to day-brightness to replicate the sun we don’t get this far down the domed city. The classroom reeks of vinegar—evidence of a constant battle against mould. A small mushroom peeks out between the stone tiles by my black, buckled shoe. I resist the urge to prod it.
I despise group work. Everyone lets me down. The best I can hope for is a lazy parasite who will let me do all the work right and coast on my success. If they insist on interfering and dragging me down…
I need to ace this assignment. I’m on track to graduate with a perfect score and be initiated into the Select at the end of term. We’re all the right age—18—but of our class of 28, only Jas, Rena and I are still in the running.
No one will tell me exactly what happens when we graduate as Select, but the Select who come to speak at our school smile knowingly and tell me it is wonderful. Teacher isn’t Select—god no, no Select ends up teaching squirts like us on the level they grew up on—but I see how he envies them. That’s as compelling as imagining myself happy.

From Cruel and Unusual by Scott Steensma

About Scott Steensma

Scott Steensma is a writer, librarian and third-generation cat aficionado from Melbourne. Scott's work has been published in Aurealis, Antipodean SF, Etherea, Andromeda Spaceways and Kill Your Darlings. He was shortlisted for the 2023 Aurealis SF Short Story Award.

Yesterday, they burned my eyes out. I say burned out, but I’m exaggerating, leading you into medieval hot-poker and ragged screams territory for effect. I wasn’t even chained down—I was lying on a comfy white couch underneath a ceiling mounted flatscreen, halfway through a 40-year-old episode of Seinfeld. The last thing I saw wasn’t a glowing red spike but George’s attempts to buy a calzone, partly obscured by a glass vial, clear liquid slopping over its edge. The moment the fluid hit me, my vision went black, and a seared plastic smell hit my nose. A second later, my eyes deflated like a pair of squashed jam donuts, leaking warm, sticky crap all down my face. They were melted really, or maybe dissolved, but ‘burned’ just sounds better and, honestly, I’d rather not dwell on the actual reality of it.

From Reciprocity by Azure Arther

About Azure Arther

Azure Arther is a college professor, a playwright who dabbles in surrealism and fantasy, and a children’s author. Her short stories and poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in two dozen publications, including Zooscape, Midnight & Indigo, Andromeda Spaceways, and a winning story in Writers of the Future, vol. 38. She is an editor for Tales and Feathers Magazine and a 2023 Marble House artist.

‘It’s made from all trash. Completely recycled. Top of the line garbage.’ The salesman, Phillip but you can call me Phil, smiled, a glint of gold in his mouth. Jill figured he probably thought that bit of shine made him seem interesting, wearing a throwback from before, but it actually aged him and let Jill know just how old Phil was. She didn’t comment on it, and she doubted Charles had even noticed. He was negotiating.
‘So, there’s no wood on it? No wood pulp paper products? No newspaper? Plywood? Wooden dowels?’ He was thorough, this husband of hers. Charles glanced back, his low top fade catching the light, shining like the soft sheen on his rich brown skin. So, it wasn’t just her that was hot. He winked and she smiled at him, a slight curve of her lips.
‘Well, there’s no guarantee that there’s nothing made from trees on anything, right? But all of our refuse is tree approved—’