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Edited by Alisa Krasnostein

Twelfth Planet Press (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-9804841-8-2

Syndicated from Guy Salvidge

Sprawl is the latest themed speculative fiction anthology from Twelfth Planet Press, a Perth-based indie publisher that has burst onto the scene in the past two or three years. The writers collected herein are a mixture of some of Australia’s more famous names in speculative fiction and an army of promising up and comers. The resultant anthology is quite spectacular.

I was very impressed by Sprawl, intended as a collection of suburban fantasy stories, on a number of levels. Firstly, the cover design by Amanda Rainey is superb. Based on the coastline and streets of Perth, the sprawling lines are both the names of the writers and lines from their stories. Krasnostein writes in her introduction that she “wanted to produce a strong volume of Australian short stories to take with me to the Worldcon [held in Melbourne in September 2010] and showcase our vibrant local scene.” On these or any terms, Sprawl must be judged a success.

To the stories themselves. I decided only to write about the ones I particularly engaged with, but handily that proviso covers about two thirds of Sprawl‘s contents. After the opening poem (“Parched” by Sean Williams), the first story is “Relentless Adaptations” by Tansy Rayner Roberts, a lighthearted romp set mostly in a book cafe complete with zombies for staff. Our protagonist is too sleep deprived by her infant child to care about the literary vandalism occuring around her (she orders a copy of Sherlock Holmes with lesbians). In the future, it seems, you can not only print novels on demand – you can tailor them to your tastes as well. Ulysses in modern slang, for example. This trend, which may have had its beginning in our own times with a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, reaches its end point when the characters of seminal works of literature appear to redress the balance.

Stephanie Campisi’s “How to Select a Durian at Footscray Market” is a lusciously written tale containing some of the best prose in this volume; it reminded me of the work of Simone Lazaroo in that it is centred around Malays living in Australia. Like the strange fruit of this story’s title, I suspect Campisi’s writing to be an acquired taste, but unlike durians, I’ve acquired the taste for Campisi’s writing after reading this story.

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K A Bedford

Published by Fremantle Press (2009)

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Time Machines Repaired While U Wait is Perth writer K.A. Bedford’s fourth published novel, but it’s the first to have been published in Australia. All four of Bedford’s science fiction novels have previously been released by Edge Publications in Canada, including Time Machines, which won Australia’s Aurealis Award for Best SF Novel in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award in the US in 2009. Presumably this lead to Fremantle Press picking this novel up for domestic publication, which makes Time Machines something of a breakthrough novel for its author.

And it shows. This is an assured performance in a mode that reminds me a little of my great love Philip K Dick (especially in that our protagonist, Al “Spider” Webb, is a repairman) but also of authors like Robert Sheckley. The plot starts out relatively simply, with Spider picking up a dodgy used time-machine that may or may not blow up, potentially consuming the universe. There’s this thing called “the Bat Cave”, which to my mind is probably the coolest gadget in the book — it’s a sort of miniature universe for performing experiments or blowing stuff up. Turns out there’s another time machine hiding inside the first (this reminds me of an old Doctor Who episode where two spaceships get merged into one — kind of) and there’s a dead body inside. And Spider, an ex-cop with a chequered past, is itching to solve the crime.

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Reviewed by Guy Salvidge, Syndicated September 2010

Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary is one of the longest running science fiction fanzines in existence. Issue 80, the 40th anniversary issue, is somewhat overdue – so far overdue in fact that it might more accurately be termed the 41 ½ anniversary edition. Gillespie had so much material that he wanted to published in this anniversary edition that it will spread to three volumes, including SF Commentary 81 and 82, both of which are forthcoming. As if that wasn’t enough, Gillespie has still more material that can’t fit into the three volumes, so he’s released a supplementary edition, 80A, as a digital download only. This, and the rest of Gillespie’s fanzines (including the excellent Steam Engine Time) can be freely downloaded at efanzines.com. Basically, this 40th anniversary edition is the culmination of more than forty years of hard work Gillespie has undertaken for the love of science fiction. As these pages show, Gillespie has had a whole lot of love to give.

In his editorial, Gillespie discusses Damien Broderick’s suggestion that the anniversary edition be “filled entirely by contributors who were featured in No 1, January 1969.” Unfortunately, only Broderick and Gillespie of those contributors remain in the land of the living, so a few latecomers have managed to find their way into these pages. SF Commentary 80 features guest editorials by Stephen Campbell and Damien Broderick. Both Campbell and Broderick reminisce about the great authors that piqued their own interest in the field of science fiction. Campbell has a special place in his heart for Cordwainer Smith (and amen to that), while Broderick charts the history of the New Wave from 1960-1980.

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