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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 »

Godplayers

Damien Broderick

Thunder’s Mouth Press (2005)

ISBN: 9781560256700

Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein (this review was first published in October 2006)

I read somewhere recently that science fiction was a struggling genre because so much of previous SF had been realised – the internet, gene sequencing, IVF, cloning, organ transplants and so on. At the time I wondered about the implications of this generalised statement: if SF had nothing left to conquer, did it follow then that so too humanity had nothing left to grapple about the future?

How fortunate then for me to have Damien Broderick’s Godplayers next in my reading queue! Here I found scientific theory at its most cutting-edge and science fiction at its most current. Even with my background in science/engineering and reading several of the current scientific journals, I couldn’t begin to try and explain much of this book, so beyond my own understanding was it.

At the outset I was thrown into a world of chaos and confusion as I followed the main protagonist, August Seebeck into … well, chaos and confusion. It all starts when August goes home to visit his Great Aunt Tansy who informs him that someone has been leaving corpses in her upstairs bathtub on Saturday nights. Not to worry though, they are removed by the morning. And so everything August knows to be true about the world is thrown into disarray: he’s not an only child, his parents may not be dead after all and he is a Player, perhaps The Player, in the Contest of Worlds … whatever that is. Read the rest of this entry »

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