A Good Friend Moves On
And Some Reading Is Recommended

Publishing a magazine is both a far simpler and far more complex exercise than we ever expected setting out to publish Eidolon. What we rapidly learned was that we were dependent upon the kindness of strangers for fiction, artwork, articles, advice on publishing, distribution, design and every other aspect of the magazine. It has been our great good fortune that the people who first helped us establish Eidolon are still with us. We recently published a wonderful story by Terry Dowling; Peter McNamara is interviewed in this issue; Greg Egan was interviewed in the previous issue; Robin Pen appears here regularly; Shaun Tan works with us still; and then there is Sean McMullen. Sean is a fine writer who is rapidly establishing an international reputation as a writer of intriguing, thought provoking science fiction novels and stories. His Voices in the Light and Call to the Edge are excellent examples of the high quality work that he is producing, and which he continues to refine and improve. Reviews in such diverse places as Interzone and Locus only confirm this.

When Sean is not writing fiction, he is fulfilling the role of critic, bibliographer and historian of Australian science fiction. In Issue 3 of Eidolon he began writing "Australian Content". Over the thirteen instalments of the column to date, and in those he has written for Sirius and Aurealis, Sean has effectively documented the history of Australian science fiction and made some salient points to new and established writers. His balanced point of view and meticulously researched material has been a vital part of the fabric of Eidolon since the beginning. It is with great sadness, therefore, that we have to announce that this issue features the last regular instalment of "Australian Content" to be written by Sean. In the opening to this issue's column, Sean asks "did he jump or was he pushed?" As he goes on to explain, there are two reasons for this change: pressures brought on by the success of his fiction and the feeling that others may have something valuable to say in this space. While we cannot pretend to be happy about losing Sean, we are happy about the reasons for it and hope to be able to publish more of his work in the future. This is, after all, not the end of our relationship with him, but merely a sea-change. So what else can we say, but thank you, Sean. Your contributions, large and small, and your support and friendship have been invaluable. Good luck and fare well.

Having gotten the bad news out of the way, to topics more traditional. This issue is, as is always the case, late. I shan't go into the numerous reasons for it, but proffer the usual apologies to all of our contributors for the unconscionable delays combined with our hopes for greater efficiencies in the future. These delays have, however, lead to us missing two issues in 1994 and leaves us with hopes of publishing a full schedule in 1995. This issue does feature our annual summary, effectively, and accurately, described by Van Ikin in the Sydney Morning Herald as pap. Accordingly, we have reduced it to a listing of recommended reading for 1994 only. Listings on books have been prepared by Jonathan Strahan, while recommendations on short fiction come from our reviews editor Martin Livings.

Top 5 Books of 1994

  1. Genetic Soldier — George Turner
  2. Permutation City — Greg Egan
  3. Alien Shores — McNamara & Winch (eds.)
  4. Voices in the Light — Sean McMullen
  5. Deersnake — Lucy Sussex

Preparing these recommendations is, admittedly, something of a cheat. There is a feeling that lists should compare like to like if they are to be valid. The listing of the Top 5 Books of 1994 is based on what was read by our reviewers and editors during 1994, and includes an anthology alongside four fine novels.

Book-length Australian science fiction, the easiest to find in your local bookshop, was of exceptionally high quality. With Genetic Soldier, George Turner delivered his finest and most accomplished novel to date. The book is intelligent, entertaining and thought-provoking without ever lecturing or hectoring. Greg Egan's Permutation City (reviewed earlier), is the second of Egan's moral philosophy novels and is the sort of novel only Egan could write. Perceptive, clearly written and twisting our perceptions more than one step to the right, Egan gives us hard SF for the '90s. It was impossible to exclude Alien Shores from this listing, even allowing for the likelihood that some of the stories contained herein would make the short fiction listing. The biggest, the largest, the most complete: no collection of Australian SF would be complete without this must have book. Eidolon consulting editor Sean McMullen's first published novel, Voices in the Light (reviewed last issue) is a fascinating and enjoyable novel of Australia in the far future. Despite some very superficial similarities to the world of Terry Dowling's Rynosseros, this is a unique and powerfully told tale which will captivate readers from beginning to end. Lucy Sussex's Deerskin is a captivating novel which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue by Sean Williams. Alongside the other books listed, it makes for an ideal sampler of Australian science fiction in 1994 and some great reading.

The Top Six Short Stories - 1994

  1. "Our Lady of Chernobyl" - Greg Egan
  2. "Jinx Ship" - Leanne Frahm
  3. "The Patternmaker" - Dave Luckett
  4. "The Miocene Arrow" - Sean McMullen
  5. "Soul Horizon" - Carole Nomarhas
  6. "On the Road to Tarsus" - Sean Williams

1994 was an unusual year for Australian short SF. With Aurealis coming out biannually instead of quarterly, and Eidolon being its usual sproradic self, the majority of short SF came not from the periodicals but from the many anthologies that the year offered us. In particular, Aphelion's Alien Shores gave us a collection of new stories that could have filled half a dozen magazines in a single massive dose, all of which were of the highest quality. Also, some of our strongest short story writers concentrated on longer works this year, in particular Greg Egan with Permutation City and the upcoming Distress and Sean McMullen with Voices in the Light and Mirrorsun Rising. But even so, 1994 was a strong year for short SF, and culling it down to a short list was no easy task, like a grandmother asked to choose her favourite grandchildren. The six stories listed are my personal highlights of the year, and the only order to the list is alphabetical; if you want to be more of a completist (and you should be), read everything in Eidolon and Aurealis, plus the anthologies Metaworlds, The Lottery, The Patternmaker, and, of course, Alien Shores.

Originally appeared pp. 4 -5, Eidolon 16, February 1995.
Copyright © 1995 Eidolon Publications.