|It's The End of The Year As We Knew It . . .
And We Feel Fine
And so what sort of year was it for Australian science fiction in 1993 after the heralding of a Golden Age? Paradoxically, in some ways not so different from that other Golden Age in the '50s, superficially at least. More writers moved to publication at novel length, single author collections continued to appear, and for the first time in some little while anthologies of Australian science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime fiction were published.
But if it's a Golden Age like that other Golden Age, what of the magazines? Well, first no-one emerged as the Australian answer to John W Campbell and, on the face of it at least, things didn't look too good. The two most obvious sources of Australian science fiction, Eidolon and Aurealis, both produced fewer issues during 1993. While this may appear to suggest that they were failing, nothing could be further from the truth. Aurealis continued from all reports to flourish, publishing good short work by newer and established authors, most notably Sean McMullen, alongside interesting non-fiction. The size and scope of the whole Aurealis project makes it one of the most important markets for science fiction in Australia today, and certainly one of the most significant in the history of Australian SF. The change from a quarterly to a bi-annual schedule was the result of editor Dirk Strasser's return to studying. As for Eidolon, we just went on holidays for four months, abandoning our October and January issues to return for a new year refreshed and reinvigorated. As you will note from "In Print" elsewhere in this issue, other magazines also continued to provide a regular market for genre fiction, including the long-running The Mentor, The Esoteric Order of Dagon, Daarke Worlde, Prohibited Matter, and Shoggoth. Interestingly, literary journal Overland also published short sf pieces this year by Terry Dowling and Lucy Sussex.
The two novels which stood out during 1993 were George Turner's The Destiny Makers and Paul Voermans' The Weird Colonial Boy. Turner's dry, acerbic science fiction continues to be some of the finest produced in this country and Voermans' novel was amongst the most fun published by an Australian genre author in years. 1993 was also the year when Oz publishing giant Pan Macmillan continued its epic fantasy putsch with GM Hague's Ghost Beyond Earth; Martin Middleton's Fortalice; Tony Shillitoe's Dragon Lords (Book 3 of his Andrakis trilogy); and Dirk Strasser's Zenith. It was to the credit of Strasser that his novel managed to be more than the usual cookie-cutter fiction associated with this sub-genre. The small presses produced two of the most curious books of 1993, neither of which have been read by your faithful correspondent. However, from all reports Damien Broderick's The Sea's Furthest End (Aphelion Publications) and Richard Harland's The Vicar of Morbing Vyle (Karl Evans Publishing) deserved more attention than they obviously got. It was also the year when Penny Love, daughter of Rosaleen, published her first novel Castle of Eyes for games publisher Chaosium.
Surprisingly considering recent years, there were only two collections of short fiction published during 1993. Terry Dowling's third volume of tales of Tom Tyson and the sandship Rynosseros, Twilight Beach, was received to much acclaim here and abroad, and began to sketch against the horizon of a prospective final volume the conclusion to which the cycle has so subtly been building. Rosaleen Love also delivered her second collection of tales to The Women's Press. Evolution Annie and Other Stories was exactly what readers familiar with Love's work would expect: intelligent, witty and often bitingly humorous.
And anthologies! Did we have anthologies. There were Cross-town Traffic, Terror Australis and Mortal Fire, the latter pair the first steps into the field by major publisher Hodder & Stoughton. Cross-Town Traffic (reviewed elsewhere in this issue) is another genre-crossing effort from the prolific Stuart Coupe and the Mean Streets Crew, Terror Australis was the first step into the book market by the energetic Leigh Blackmore and Mortal Fire (again reviewed here) was a valiant retrospective by Van Ikin and Terry Dowling. Both original volumes contained work of merit, most noticeably "I Am My Father's Daughter" by Bill Congreve and Terry Dowling's "Fear-Me-Now" from Cross-Town Traffic, and Dowling's "The Daemon Street Ghost-Trap" and Robert Hood's "Openings" from Terror Australis.
The year in short fiction was interesting, to say the least. Major players of recent years, Terry Dowling, Greg Egan and Sean McMullen all assumed slightly different roles during 1993, while other writers like Western Australian Stephen Dedman and Aurealis editor Dirk Strasser became increasingly prominent.
The prolific Greg Egan all but dropped from sight during 1993. Following the publication Quarantine, the only new short work to appear from Egan were two pieces in Interzone (one of which, "Chaff", was a presage of his new novel Permutation City). And if Egan was off slaving in the cause of the novel, so too was Eidolon columnist and contributing editor, Sean McMullen. McMullen published two strong stories during the year "The Way to Greece" in Eidolon and "Charon's Anchor" in Aurealis, but was silent compared with recent years; understandable in the light of the multiple-volume novel deal signed with Aphelion. And Terry Dowling. Dowling published several new Tom Rynosseros stories in Twilight Beach, and then went on to release three excellent stories totally unrelated to either his Wormwood or Rynosseros cycles. The stories further displayed Dowling's admirable skills as a writer, while underlining once again for his critics his flexibility as a fantasist. Perhaps '94 or '95 will see a volume of such work published, or even a novel (we can only wait and hope). Stephen Dedman, whose work originally appeared in Omega Science Digest back in the mid-eighties, published two excellent new stories in F&SF, as well as appearing in Terror Australis, and going on to sell stories to several American anthologies. The strength of the work goes to show that it takes a lot of hard work and talent to become an overnight sensation. Dirk Strasser was a tyro during '93, delivering two novels and three pieces of short fiction. His piece in Borderlands 4 was particularly good. But with the exception of new developments from Dowling, the increased profile of Dedman and Strasser and the improvement of new writers such as Sean Williams, Amos Fairchild and Misha Kumashov, 1993 seemed to be a year of standing still. Perhaps the massive anthology of Australian science fiction due from Aphelion in mid-94 will kick-start the genre again.
As I have not read everything published and discussed this year, there will be no recommended reading list for 1993, but rather an exhortation to continue to support your local writers and publishers, particularly the smaller publishers like Aphelion and Five Islands. There is fine short work in the three anthologies discussed in this summary; the Turner, Broderick and Voermans novels are well worth reading; and both the Dowling and Love collections are musts for any collection of Australian science fiction.
And as to next year . . . what's likely to happen? Nup, sorry, not this time. Certainly, the Aphelion anthology should be a great grab-bag of reading, the Egan novel makes fascinating reading for those following the career of this fine writer, and we can only hope for a new novel from George Turner, hopefully fully recovered from his illness of earlier this year. But other than that? Go buy the books and magazines, read your local authors and see for yourself.
And for those of you awaiting a holiday report . . . sorry again. We had a great time overseas, enjoyed the Worldcon, and are back and ready for more Eidolon, but somehow "what I did on my holidays" just doesn't seem to fit into our format. We would, however, like to thank Keira McKenzie for looking after our correspondence for us while we were gone and to welcome Martin J Livings and Shaun Tan to the Eidolon team. Martin will be editing and co-ordinating our Reviews section while Shaun will be involved in the art direction of the magazine. All in all a good way to start the New Year - cheers!
Originally appeared pp. 4-5, Eidolon 14, April 1994.
Copyright © 1994 Eidolon Publications.