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Damien Broderick (ed.)

Angus and Robertson (1988)

ISBN: 0-207157-34-0

Reviewed by Gillian Polack (this review was first published in December 2005)

Matilda at the Speed of Light has a rather large reputation to live up to. When new writers appear, clutching their short stories and turning up to workshops with hope in their eyes, they are told, “These are the special writers: Greg Egan and Terry Dowling, Lucy Sussex and Damien Broderick.” These names and the name of this classic anthology are engraved on our minds because today, we are told, there are so many magazines and so many anthologies that the bar to being published is much lower. Because of all this baggage, I approached a re-reading of Matilda very cautiously. It doesn’t really matter that it is one of the great collections in the minds of a number of people more expert than me. What matters is that I have it in front of me now, and that I am reviewing it. Yes, it is far better than most speculative fiction anthologies Australia has produced, and Broderick’s selection of stories has amply demonstrated his ability to identify talent, but it is still worthwhile revisiting and rethinking and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. Having done this, I would strongly recommend that anyone who enjoys speculative fiction short stories get hold of a copy of this anthology (which is, alas, out of print). It is as close to the gold standard as Australia has gone.

Broderick’s introduction was very odd to read. It has a host of handy insights about what science is as opposed to what science thinks it is. Broderick talks about the failing of the assumption that science is perfect and holds all answers. He describes the parallels between scientific processes and writing. When he points out the uncertain basis on which science may be founded Broderick is, in fact, the small boy commenting on the Emperor’s nudity. He does so with grace and erudition. His main point, however, is less to question the realities created by science than to lead into his discussion of scientists as narrators. I have my opinions on the first, but had not actually considered the procedures and articles and lectures that spatter science with language, as narrative. It was worth re-reading Matilda just for that insight. Read the rest of this entry »

Alison Goodman

Angus and Robertson (2011)

ISBN: 978 0 7322 8494 7

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

At the Melbourne launch of Eona in April, Alison Goodman said she’d struggled with the process of writing her first sequel, the follow-up to The Two Pearls of Wisdom (aka Eon). Safe to say, she has mastered the art, for this is both a stunning read and a striking how-to for writers.

Eona opens with a neat summary chapter, written as a historical document, that quickly sketches in the required facts to ground the story, and then we’re into it, with nary a slackening of the rising tension. Eona, a female Dragoneye who spent much of her life masquerading as a boy, has a very full plate. She must adjust to the cultural restraints of once again living as a woman in a man’s world; she must harness her magic, tied to a pantheon of mythic dragon spirits that are, as one might expect from the quasi Chinese setting, tied into the well-being of the land; and she must navigate the murky, choppy waters that lie between duty, power and love Read the rest of this entry »

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