- Editorial – Dirk Strasser
- Foreign Bodies – Stephen Dedman
- Daybreak – Sue Isle
- Dissections of Machaon – Simon Brown
- Trapdoor – Aaron Darrell
- The Taxi-driver – Geoffrey Maloney
- Paradise Discarded – Ashlei Kellings
- Outdoors – Peter Friend
- Tourist – Sean Williams
- Book Review: Sean McMullen's Call to the Edge – Dirk Strasser
- The Science Fiction Hall of Fame: Anna Michailovna Tikhonova
- Cover illustration – Greg Barnes
Is there such a thing as Australian science fiction? A silly question really. Of course there is right now you're holding the eighth issue of a magazine devoted to Australian science fiction. But what is Australian about the stories? Is a story Australian simply because kangaroos are bounding out of its pages or because gum trees have taken root in the sentences? Only a small percentage of science fiction published in Aurealis falls into that category. What would roos be doing on Triton anyway? And would eucalypts be an essential commodity in deep space?
The Australian landscape is certainly a unique starting point, and stories such as Rosaleen Love's "Hovering Rock" in issue two have used it to great effect. Aboriginal mythology, such as that which pervades issue four's "Twenty-First Century Dreamtime", and "Water" in issue six, has also been in evidence. While Australian science fiction should continue to draw on these features, it is ultimately limiting to suggest that our flora, fauna, and Aboriginal Dreaming form the only basis on which to build uniquely Australian writing. George Turner, in my interview with him in issue one, summed it up when he said: "Australianness is not a matter of familiar names and places and mentioning wallabies and kangaroos and Ayers Rock doesn't get you anywhere either. It's in the sound of the prose . . . Australianness is an attitude of mind. We think differently about things; we react differently to things."
At a recent National Book Council Seminar, Damien Broderick made an interesting off-the-cuff contribution to the definition of Australian science fiction. He said that in much of American SF there's a sense of "Let's get out there and kick ass", while Australian SF is more about getting our arses kicked.
He cited the differences in the military experiences between the two countries. During this century, the United States has had mainly successful military campaigns (Hey, let's forget about Vietnam), while the Australian experience is based on the Anzac tradition of Gallipoli (whatever else can be said about it, no-one could call it a military success).
Clearly not much science fiction now deals directly with military matters; however, this dichotomy can be applied to the much broader theme of power and its uses. Perhaps there is inherent in much of Australian SF the assumption that the society and culture in which the characters function is vulnerable and is always on the verge of getting its arse kicked by a more powerful society. The idea certainly bears thinking about.
Probably the most Australian story we have published so far is Greg Egan's "The Moat" in issue three, yet its milieu is thoroughly urban and high tech. Australia is one of the most urbanised societies on earth. We have one of the world's highest rates of acceptance of new technologies. Our science fiction should reflect this. The best Australian writers are the ones not being consciously imitative of overseas forms and styles. They are writing with their own voice, and that voice, whether it is talking about kangaroos or not, is producing uniquely Australian science fiction.
Foreign Bodies – Stephen Dedman
I woke just before dawn (not by choice: all the springs in my biological clock wore out last century), and Swiftie was sleeping on the balcony. She was there about one morning in three, lately. I lay there, looking past her to the sky, trying to remember whether the weather was turning wetter, or colder, or whatever. I'm supposed to know these things, neh?
Swiftie rolled over, her eyes closed, her face mobile. Whatever she was dreaming wasn't fun…
Daybreak – Sue Isle
Some of the men didn't like the idea of leaving her out for the werewolf, but she was Joshua's sister and Joshua had said it was all right. It had to be someone, and better it be Leila, who didn't already have a husband.
So they chained her by the ankle to the tall, slender eucalypt and left her to the gathering darkness and the firebreathed winds…
The Dissections of Machoan – Simon Brown
…I have heard stories, rumours really, that Ares and Athene have been witnessed striding the battlefield, and that even Aphrodite and Apollo have made brief appearances, but I have never seen them for myself nor felt their presence, so I must in all honesty say that I doubt the gods are anywhere near as interested as we are in this conflict. Podaleirius disagrees with me on this point, but our father Asclepius always said my brother was the more religious…the more spiritual…between us, while I was the more sceptical. However, Odysseus…the most intelligent of all the Greeks…thinks as I do, even going so far as saying that the gods are ignorant that anything at all is happening down here…
Trapdoor – Aaron Darrell
…The executioner was a mild, dapper man, concealed by nothing more startling than a whie lab coat. Bright feral eyes gleamed behind corrective lenses the colour of smoke. He fussed unnecessarily with the terminal. There was, of course, nothing that needed doing.
Dead eyes watched as the green body bag was fixed in place, and fans whirred in readiness to deal with the forthcoming stench of death…
The Taxi-Driver – Geoffrey Maloney
"…Those photographs that you've got might look like a bunch of dead cats and dogs but they're not. They're deactivated robots targeted at the domestic market. The Party suspects that the black-market pirates will be trying to run this stuff into every major city in Australia. This is illegal technology at its peak and Party wants BOSS to stop it."…
Paradise Discarded – Ashlei Kellings
"Hey, baby. You ever slept with an angel?" She laughed and turned.
"Now that's original. You don't look like an angel." I strolled over to where she stood, and touched her hair gently. She would run like a deer if I gave her the slightest hint of what I was…
"Would you believe my name is Lucifer?"…
Outdoors – Peter Friend
…Other people were still trapped in the restaurant, although I couldn't hear them any more. I tried to reopen the door … but couldn't. Oddly, this side of the door was polished mahogany and looked larger. And it was cold. Shouldn't a door be warm when there's a raging fire behind it?
I blinked stinging eyes and coughed hoarsely. My jacket was splashed with tiny charred circles; one cinder had burned through to my skin. I fumbled with the door again.
"You can't get back there from here," said Maria in a voice like drowning, as she walked away…
Tourist – Sean Williams
…I wandered in a daze to the nearest street bar and settled myself into a rickety wicker chair. A waiter dressed in little more than a loin-cloth approached my table with a hopeful look in his eyes. I briefly contemplated drowning my sorrows, but stopped myself. A long time ago, it seemed, one of my pet truisms had been, "If you're drinking for the sake of drinking, you're not having a good time." I waved the waiter away, then called him back. Somehow we negotiated the language barrier, and I ordered a flask of water.
When it arrived, it was at room temperature. I stared at the shimmering eye for a while before taking my first sip.
Am I having a good time now? I asked myself, and part of me replied:
No, I'm dying…