Australian SF - 1990 and Beyond

With Christmas winding its way slowly towards us, less and less slowly in this December issue, it seems a good time to pause and take stock of 1990 - A Year of Australian Science Fiction.

The most interesting, and possibly in the long term most important, event in Australian science fiction had to be the entry of Peter McNamara's Aphelion Publications into book publishing. Between April and May Aphelion published the first collections of short fiction from George Turner, Australia's Grand Master, and from Terry Dowling, one of our finest prose stylists. Both A Pursuit of Miracles and Rynosseros were well received internationally and demonstrate the quality of the work Aphelion are presenting. Elsewhere in the small presses of Australia the Harlan Ellison/Terry Dowling edited volume Down Deep, set to be published by Norstrilia Press, will now be published overseas and Dreamstone finally delivered From Sea to Shining Star by A. Bertram Chandler. The Chandler volume, unseen at the time of going to press, will be an interesting test case for the viability of similar projects in the future.

Australian science fiction and fantasy books came out at a reasonable rate during 1990. The year began with the late distribution of Rosaleen Love's The Total Devotion Machine and Other Stories by The Women's Press, a collection of fourteen wryly witty and unusual genre-benders, which was denied the market it deserved by poor distribution. The two Aphelion volumes already mentioned followed shortly after, with Rynosseros achieving wider distribution and better sales than A Pursuit of Miracles. By May/June Lucy Sussex's My Lady Tongue and Other Tales had been published by William Heinemann Australia; an uneven collection of material which was at several points exhilaratingly wonderful, at others less so. The collection was cursed by an attractive cover that failed to communicate to book buyers exactly what it was, and so failed to find a home on the book shelves of Australia. Novels which came out in the last half of 1990 which I have noted but not read include Salt by Gabriel Lord, Circle of Light by Martin Middleton, The Search for The Starblade by Keith Taylor, The Specialist by Wynne Whiteford and The Fortress of Eternity by Andrew Whitmore. Victor Kelleher, noted for his genre-related juvenile fiction, completed an adult novel, Wintering, which was published to great critical acclaim. It is interesting to note that Australia appears to be following the US market lead into sprawling fantasy epic series with the very successful Keith Taylor books and the Middleton (at least) confirmed as a trilogy. What else awaits us? Perhaps Eumenides Jones' stunning sequel to George Turner's classic Beloved Son (yes, I know that Turner has already done the job perfectly well, but that never stopped a book packager. Look at the Clarke/Benford Beyond the Fall of Night!)

1990 also saw the entrance into the Australian SF scene of Mandarin Australia with three reprints of novels by Damien Broderick. Mandarin reprinted The Judas Mandala, Striped Holes and The Black Grail, all widely accepted as among Broderick's finer works. Rumour is that we will see a new Broderick collection by April 1991 and a new novel later in the year.

Short fiction from Australian writers was more visible in 1990. Internationally the year commenced with Sean McMullen's fine story "While the Gate is Open" in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Jack Wodhams' interesting comment on radical environmentalism gone wild, "The Token Pole", in Analog. These were followed by Terry Dowling's first international appearance with "Shatterwrack at Breaklight", also in F&SF, and a reprint of "The Quiet Redemption of Andy the House" in Strange Plasma. With the exception of Leanne Frahm's "Reichelman's Relics" in Amazing Stories the rest of the year has belonged to Greg Egan. Not as well heralded in Australia as in England, this author has published fine, intelligent science fiction tales in Asimov's, Interzone and Pulphouse and appears to be developing into the first likely replacement for A. Bertram Chandler as Australia's most successful science fiction writer on the world market. If his work fails to garner major awards soon, I for one will be very surprised.

At home the short fiction world saw the arrival of two new magazines. It is neither reasonable or appropriate for me to comment on Eidolon as objectivity could be greatly questioned. However, September 1990 did see the publication of Aurealis - The Australian Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. A quarterly digest of around 80 pages, it publishes eight to ten pieces of fiction per issue and has little non-fiction and no interior artwork. Issue 1 of Aurealis contains a group of strong stories by George Turner, Terry Dowling, Geoffrey Maloney and others. The work was inconsistent (as all magazines are) but was well worth reading. It is worth noting that Aurealis is, as far as I am aware, the largest science fiction only publication Australia has ever had. It is distributed to newsagents throughout the country and has a print run of 10,000 copies. Considering that the Editors have limited themselves to Australian-only content there must be some doubt as to whether Aurealis can find sufficient quality material on an ongoing basis to fill its pages and attract readers to ensure it remains financially viable. With the lack of a wide-distribution venue for Australian science fiction, it is to be hoped that this brave venture is successful.

With 1990 largely behind us, some predictions. Generally I would hope that 1991 will be a year of consolidation of the gains made in 1990. Aphelion, who have two new Terry Dowling volumes slated, should go from strength to strength under the guidance of Peter McNamara. Terry Dowling will become the biggest name in Australian SF and begin to establish himself overseas. Greg Egan will become the biggest Australian name in SF worldwide, winning critical acclaim and appearing regularly in all of the major genre publications. The new George Turner novel due from William Morrow and the Damien Broderick collection and novel due during the year will do well, but better overseas than here. Rosaleen Love's new collection should, with the marketing support it deserves, finally attract some muchly deserved attention to this fine writer. It is to be hoped that the presence of Aurealis, and to a lesser extent Eidolon, will encourage the development of more new writers to carry Australian SF on into the future. And finally, one of the sadder pieces of news for 1991 must be the pending cessation of publication of Thyme and Australian Science Fiction Review. Both publications have advised of their intentions to cease publications following issues in early 1991. That Australia should lose both its main newszine and its main critical zine at the same time is very unfortunate. It remains to be seen if anyone will pick up the flag for these two publications. I hope so, but I may be wrong.

On the home front, Eidolon magazine has made several changes since Issue 2. Firstly, we now pay for our fiction. Authors submitting works of fiction to Eidolon which are accepted for publication will receive a payment of $10 to help cover manuscript and mailing costs. We also now able to bromide art, so artwork submitted for publication to Eidolon is no longer restricted to coarse-style black and white line art.

We would like to thank Nick Stathopoulos, Craig Hilton, Gavin O'Keefe, Terry Dowling, Sean McMullen, Rosaleen Love, Greg Egan, Geoffrey Maloney, Steven Paulsen and everyone else who has helped in any capacity with this issue.

"The Turkey City Lexicon", was first presented at the Texas A & M's Cepheid Variable Writer's Workshop in its official, no-copyright form. The Lexicon has been updated by Bruce Sterling and is set to appear in Interzone shortly.

A listing of Australian genre fiction published during 1990 has been included in "In Print" to assist you in nominating and voting for the Australian Science Fiction ("Ditmar") Awards. The Ditmar Awards Committee have decided that voters will be required to nominate five categories for the Ditmar Awards (the sixth category being the William Atheling Jr. Award for criticism or review), and then nominate eligible works or individuals in the final six categories. Suggested categories include Best Australian Long Fiction, Best Australian Short Fiction, Best Australian Publication, Best Australian Artist, and an award for Non-Professional Contribution. Nominations close on 17 January 1991, and final voting closes on 18 March 1991. Results will be announced at Suncon during Easter 1991. Nominations should be forwarded to SunconDitSubCom, PO Box 437, Camberwell 3124. Eidolon will endeavour to assist voting by reproducing final nominations in Issue 4, due out in February 1991, if available.

Originally appeared pp. 5-8, Eidolon 3,December1990.
Copyright © 1990 Eidolon Publications. All rights reserved.