Three Monkeys - Ten Minutes : #12 - June 2005
There is a lot of SF/Fantasy short fiction published in Australia. This came as a bit of a revelation to me when I attended SwanCon this year. It should not have been like that as I was certainly aware of the number of Aussie authors publishing longer works. I was aware of the existence of Aurealis and I have read the Dreaming Down Under collections of short fiction collections which have been published in the not so distant past. What I really did not have any idea about was just how many publications there are across the Tasman which are devoted to getting short genre fiction out to the public.
What really drove this home to me is the case of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. I had not heard of it, yet issue 17 was launched at SwanCon. 17 issues! - that is a major accomplishment for this type of publication especially when you note that this is done on a pretty tight bi-monthly schedule. Do not be mistaken about the amount of effort required to publish this type of volume. It isnít like a fanzine or clubzine. You would be better off to compare it to the professional publications like Asimovs and F&SF. The only thing lacking is the scale of the marketing and distribution operation. There are perhaps 20 people in the ASIM co-op giving their time to create this magazine.
So how good is it? Well I bought issue 17 edited by Sally Beasley (the editorship rotates) to see what it was like. It was quite outstanding. Seven original stories, of which only one was anything less than excellent. The stories are all fairly light hearted - that is part of the mission statement of ASIM. There are also the non fiction and review articles that you expect from the pro-zines. It was a great read for less than eight bucks and in quality terms it does not take a back seat to those pro-zines at all. You can find ASIM at http://andromedaspaceways.com.
If light hearted is not your thing then you might want to have a look at my other magazine purchase. I bought an Aurealis omnibus edition containing issues #33/34/35 edited by Keith Stevenson. Iím not actually sure if omnibus is the right word though as I donít think these editions were ever published separately. Anyway, this good sized volume contains lots of really well done stories of being alone or despair. Well, they are not all like that, but most of them are. Its really the most coherent stylistic theme I have seen in a 'zine format - even among single topic 'zines. I'll put it down to editorial skill rather than the editor's dark depressed nature I think. Certainly there is plenty of skill showing in the quality of the stories chosen. Even the weaker ones were still perfectly satisfactory to read. This was aided by all the stories being very short. It suits the theme and it suits me just fine. Aurealis has new editors for upcoming editions, so I look forward with interest to see where they take this magazine.
There were other magazines which I didnít purchase at the Con but which are on my shopping list. Borderlands describes itself as "a small press magazine publishing Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, and associated non-fiction". It is up to its fifth issue and can be found at http://www.borderlands.com.au. There is also Cat Sparksí Agog. This is more a series of anthologies than a magazine. Information about it can be found online at http://www.catsparks.net/agogpress. There are actually lots of anthologies of Australian speculative fiction out there. Itís a pity more of them donít make it to the bookstores over here.
Thinking about what can be found online, for every printed magazine there seems to be two or three online sites which contain fiction. The obvious one to look at is Antipodean SF (http://www.antisf.com) just because of the title. It is mostly devoted to short short fiction. The one I was more interested in was Ticonderoga Online (http://ticonderogaonline.org) - mainly because the editors were at the Con pushing it. It is certainly worth a look. The two stories in the issue 3 were a good read. I personally find that its best to print the stories off as I still prefer to read off paper than a screen.
A note for local authors. Some of these publications will accept submissions from anywhere, even New Zealand. For example Peter Friend had a story accepted by ASIM. I suggest that if you are looking for places to send your stories that you have a close read of the submission guidelines - these are generally available on the website for the publication.
Its not all short fiction being published over the Tasman either. You are probably familiar with the bigger names publishing such as Sean Williams, Greg Egan, Sean McMullen etc, but there are small presses as well. I bought and read Richard Harlandís The Black Crusade and thoroughly enjoyed that too. It is a genuinely funny gothic, vaguely steampunk pastiche with some of the best footnotes you are likely to come across.
I do not have sufficient knowledge to provide a proper review of all that is available. There is so much more than I have mentioned here that I have only scratched the proverbial surface - for example Orb, Fables & Reflections and Dark Animus all come readily to mind. But if you are interested, where do you go to find out about what is available in the fiction stakes in Australia? The Australian Science Fiction Bullsheet is a good starting place - have a look at http://members.optushome.com.au/aussfbull and check out the "Magazines" and "Anthologies" links. However you do have to look around a bit in other places. Not everything is captured on the Bullsheet - particularly small press publishers. Have a look at the links areas on some of the magazineís web pages they will lead you to more. In the meantime, I am heading to Continuum in Melbourne in July with a view to picking up many more Aussie publications.