Edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Ben Payne

Twelfth Planet Press (2008)

ISBN: 9780980484106

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

2012 was the first anthology from Perth’s Twelfth Planet Press, and it was first published in 2008. Now that the dreaded year in question has rolled around, I thought it time to give this slender anthology of doomsday stories a try. The ToC contains some very familiar names, virtually a who’s who of Australian specfic writing. In fact, the only author with work collected here whom I hadn’t previously read is David Conyers, and I thought his story was one of the best in the volume. Each of the stories imagines a variation on the apocalypse (some natural disasters, some man made), set in what was then the near future and is now the immediate present: 2012.

Water is, as you’d expect, a precious commodity in many of these stories. Deborah Biancotti’s “Watertight Lies” is a claustrophobic account of an ill-fated descent into a subterranean cave. Gabrielle and Pete are on an important but dangerous mission, but there’s some funny business occurring on the surface, and it seems that the cave may in fact be a safer place to be after all. This is tightly written and well realised, like most of Biancotti’s work.

A story with a completely different feel is Tansy Rayner Roberts’ “Fleshy”. Told in the form of an email, “Fleshy” features “a lump of bio-engineered flesh” (p14) created by Kelly’s boyfriend, Matt. A genetic experiment with potentially limitless possibilities, Fleshy shares rather too many similarities with his inventor for Kelly’s liking, especially given that Matt brings Fleshy home to stay with them. The situation reaches flashpoint when Fleshy takes a liking for Kelly herself, and it’s all downhill from there.

“Soft Viscosity” by David Conyers is the longest story in 2012 and it’s probably my personal favourite. Set in South America, it features Ecuadorian terrorists, an oil war, the machinations of the CIA, and more. Told from multiple points of view, the story weaves together disparate narratives that are all nevertheless infused with dark and gritty violence. ”Soft Viscosity” demonstrates a level of realism greater than in some of the other stories in this volume, and indeed in speculative fiction in general. There’s enough material for a novel in here, and yet Conyers packs it into twenty or so incendiary pages.

Dirk Flinthart’s “The Last Word” is a clever tale which revolves around an ex-couple, Lewis and Jane, who also happen to be involved in sensitive scientific research. Jane is close to a breakthrough in her quest to find a cure for melanoma, but she needs money, and that’s where Lewis comes in. Still smarting from their breakup, Lewis inflicts as much hardship as possible onto his ex in exchange for the funds, and he even hijacks her research for his own nefarious ends.

Kaaron Warren’s “Ghost Jail” is a fabulous story, which I’ve previously covered in my review of Dead Sea Fruit. It’s one of Warren’s most powerful works. Angela Slatter’s “I Love You Like Water” is another water scarcity tale, in which the unfortunate poor or ill are harvested for their precious bodily fluids. Ben Peek’s “David Bowie” is slight but effective, riffing on Bowie’s song ‘Five Years.’ And Sean McMullen’s “Oblivion” contrasts a dying, bankrupt millionaire with his poorer but happier son.

All in all, 2012 is a strong collection, even if it is a little on the short side. None of the futures imagined are very cheery, and some of them seem likelier to occur than others in the coming year. You can purchase this collection from Twelfth Planet Press directly for a mere $10, and at that price it’s more than fair value. 2012 also offers as a good introduction to these writers, all of whom are well established in the Australian spec-fic community. You’ll be glad you did.