The latest issue of Aurealis has three great new stories from Leife Shallcross, James Milton and Beth Powers. There is an in depth interview with Jennifer Brandes-Helper, as well as reviews, news, articles and the usual dash of humour.
I find the continuing success of the Marvel series of films fascinating in many ways. I was one of those people who were really into super heroes at a very young age. Indeed, I can remember having a very early Captain America comic which is probably worth a lot of money right now. I don’t like to think about it too much. Anyway, as is the way of these things I chucked out all of my comics at some stage and began buying science fiction and fantasy books. It seemed the next logical progression. However, I do thank those early Marvel comics for giving me grounding in all sorts of areas. Thor gave me (begat?) some basic ideas of Norse mythology. Captain America taught me some notions of justice and humility. Iron Man developed the notion that power does not mean you are immune from the lassitude that might be induced from things other than enemies with super powers. Spiderman showed me that with great power, etc, etc.
These lessons were carried over into my reading of speculative fiction and the books I was drawn to added to my education. I was intensely interested in ‘social’ science fiction, or anything that explored the way that humans organise themselves socially. This meant I learnt a lot about politics and psychology, sociology, physiology and a whole lot of other ‘ologies’ that helped me in my day to day dealings with life, the universe and you can see how easily science fictional notions creep into our thinking. I was talking to a Year 12 student recently about the creative piece he was writing in English. He wanted to base it on some religious beliefs that he had. He had an Indian heritage and he was using that heritage to inform his creative piece. I suggested that he used the Shiva the Destroyer in the piece. I had thought about using Shiva as the name of some malware in a story I was writing. He was stunned that I knew the name and asked how I came to be aware of Shiva the Destroyer. I couldn’t answer him in detail. I was tempted to give the off the cuff answer of ‘I am educated’ but didn’t. I just said I had read about Shiva somewhere. I had of course. Ages ago in Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. So I could have answered with the ‘I am educated’ line in that I had acquired the knowledge from another source. I hadn’t studied it, but I had been open to the acquisition of information as I read in the same way as I had when I was very young.
Does this process stop or slow down? I recently had a discussion with co-editor Dirk Strasser regarding the lack of ‘Oh My God’ moments I experienced with speculative fiction as I got older. I had read other people’s accounts of this and they generally put it down to either a lack of good writing, or the fact that they had read it all before and nothing shocked or inspired anymore. This is a depressing thought for a genre that is meant to have that ‘wow’ factor. I tended to think the problem was with me and that I just didn’t get excited easily anymore. The last novel that really impressed me was The Scar by China Mieville. The last time I was really impressed by anything on the screen was the Doctor Who episode called ‘Blink’. Both of these really sent me back to the days when I would be genuinely wowed by a text. I still get a lot of enjoyment from the genre of course. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if I didn’t. But do I still learn from the material I read or watch? Does it add to my store of knowledge? I have a funny feeling this is down to me. Am I a jaded reader? Does it take more to impress me? Maybe. I think I enjoy something more if I have to put in a little effort. Difficult books can be difficult simply because they require more of an investment on the part of the reader. These days my reading time is precious to me. I have a lot on the go and I tend to read for pleasure rather than to better myself or to learn things. So maybe it’s just that I’m looking for reading that entertains, and if I get taught something, so much the better.
Part of the reason I enjoy working on Aurealis is that I get to read stories that are fresh and new and that introduce me to new ideas and thoughts. I like these stories because they offer something new to me. I hope you are entertained and informed by them. I hope the stories in this issue inspire you
All the best from the cloud.
From Running into the Rain by Beth Powers:
Plastic splintered as Greg crashed through the damaged window, his oversized boots hitting the street with enough force to send a jolt from his ankles to the neurochip at the base of his skull. His shots hadn’t broken the window, just weakened it enough to make it dangerous. Greg dimly registered the hot slice of pain as plastic ripped through his borrowed jacket into flesh.
He ran into the pouring rain. If he could reach the border, he might have a chance. Ignoring his exhausted body, Greg moved as fast as he could, stumbling on boots too big for his feet. He’d only encountered the one guard—Greg had no intention looking for another just to get a better shoe size. The rain soaked him to the bone and blurred his vision. Like a thousand clutching hands, memories dragged him back to another rainy night, when he had been running for his life.
From Breathing by Leife Shallcross:
The air-train was almost empty. Quiet enough that Alix could hear the never-ending ghostly wail of it zipping along its pneumatic track. Horrible bloody noise. It made her think of abandoned playgrounds, empty swings swaying. Alix folded her arms tight and glanced down at her watch. Breathed out. Forced herself to relax back into her seat. She wasn’t going to get there any faster for worrying.
From Weapons of Last Resort by James Milton:
Between incidents, Shepherd enjoyed few things more than weaving in the woods at night. At winter’s end, the air smelled of spring’s new life but retained a cool bite. His white weaver’s robe sufficed to keep him warm, yet a breeze rustled leaves and stirred his hair with gentle fingers. Crickets trilled, though Shepherd couldn’t say if they were late for autumn or early for spring. He felt obliged to raise his eyes to the Half-Real Moon, silver in the sky close to zenith, and say, ‘Thank you for this night. It’s truly lovely.’
A deep shudder rattled Shepherd’s loom and reclaimed his attention. He glanced around the lenses, reassured himself that each beamed its thread of focused moonlight into the loom’s belly exactly as it should.