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Michael Barry (ed.)

Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild Publishing (2003)

ISBN: 0-9581390-1-6

Reviewed by Kathryn Linge (this review was first published in September 2006)

Published in 2003 and edited by Michael Barry, Elsewhere was the third publication of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG) and published with the assistance of ArtsACT. The CSFG have a history of publishing ‘themed’ anthologies and this one is no exception – as you might be able to tell from the name the anthology deals with ‘other places’. Surprising, huh? Barry is certainly very upbeat in his forward, which documents the development of short Australian speculative fiction since the first CSFG publication in 2001. From his interview in Donna Maree Hanson’s Australian Speculative Fiction: A Genre Overview we learn that Barry wanted an anthology of stories that were more experimental than usually found in Australian speculative fiction. Certainly the interpretation of ‘other places’ in some stories deviated quite widely from a simple description of a fantastical land, and this refreshing outlook is probably the best aspect of the book. Unfortunately some other aspects are not so great. The book itself is solid and printed on good quality paper but the overall impression I get is of a book that has been somewhat hastily put together – see, for example, the incorrect spelling of ‘Australian’ in the third paragraph of the introduction. Nit picky? Possibly, but it does sap confidence somewhat when you’re reading a forward that is promising great things in the ”Autralian market”. The layout is readable but the first (oversized) capital of each story seemed to encroach over other letters in some cases and I’m not sure that Les Petersen’s images have really been given their due, as they are both small and poorly reproduced.

Two stories shone out over others for me – “Orion’s Womb” by Carol Ryles and “State of Oblivion” by Kaaron Warren. In “Orion’s Womb”, a spaceship pilot reflects on her ambition to live amongst the stars. The story is warm and ultimately positive and the writing has a lovely rhythm. “State of Oblivion? is genuinely disturbing. A disparate group of people live on the top of a mountain in the harsh bright light. How did they get there? Nobody can remember and they are satisfied with their oblivion until Neal arrives. The suspense and dread in this piece builds up slowly, although I thought it slightly marred by the very last passage of dialogue, which seemed rushed. It felt like I was being forced to the conclusion before time. Although, despite the rush, the ending was both satisfyingly ambiguous and shocking. Read the rest of this entry »

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