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Sean Williams

Ticonderoga Publications (2008)

ISBN: 9780980353167

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in February 2009)

When I see ‘best of’ anthologies from a writer who is still alive and producing work, I get a bit suspicious. Are they expecting to produce nothing worthwhile over the rest of their life? Does this mark some significant milestone? Is it a chance to clear out stories that have not yet seen the light of day? Is it a money-making ploy?

So far as I can tell, none of these questions would be answered in the affirmative for Magic Dirt (except possibly the last, although I doubt it). It marks fifteen years of Williams’ writing, and one reason I can see for producing it at this juncture is that, at 348 pages, should we wait until Williams is dead (or not writing, which is probably the same thing), it would have to be one mammoth tome – or missing some awesome stories. There are eighteen stories in this collection, and each comes with an introduction or afterword, with a short reflection from Williams on the writing of it. As the introduction from John Harwood indicates, Williams’ stories cover a gamut of genres, with a number that refuse to be typified. (As an aside, don’t read the introduction unless you want some of the stories spoiled.) If, like me, you haven’t had the opportunity to follow Sean Williams’ career over the last fifteen years, this is the easy way of catching up. Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter

Ticonderoga Publications (2012)

ISBN: 978 1 921857 30 0

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

The pedigree of Midnight and Moonshine was promising from the outset, right down to the cover design. Artist Kathleen Jennings was nominated this year for her artwork at the World Fantasy awards. Lisa L Hannett of Adelaide has scored awards and mentions in Australia and her native Canada for her WFA-nominated solo collection of last year, Bluegrass Symphony, also published by Ticonderoga. Co-writer Angela Slatter of Brisbane is hot from a historic British Fantasy short story award win this year and has won acclaim for both of her collections – Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus Press) and The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales (Ticonderoga), both released in 2010 – as well as a slew of other shorts.

Not coincidentally, Hannett and Slatter have combined on Aurealis Award-winning short story “The February Dragon” and, most significantly for this collection, “Prohibition Blues”, both published in Ticonderoga titles.

So we have publisher, artist and writers, and what a winning combination it proves to be.

As in Bluegrass and Sourdough, Midnight and Moonshine is a set of stories sharing a common universe, and as with Sourdough, there is a degree of baton passing from characters throughout. Midnight and Moonshine ramps up this interconnectedness, tracing as it does magical bloodlines from a mythic inception across the 13 stories into the present day. Overshadowing this mosaic is the winged form of goddess Mymnir, whose ambition sets up the journey from self-aggrandising nation building to the ultimate twilight of the gods. And what a fascinating figure she is, both divine and all too human. Read the rest of this entry »

Simon Brown

Ticonderoga Publications (2006)

ISBN: 0-9586856-6-5

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts (this review was first published July 2006)

Let’s start with the basics: Troy is a beautiful book. It has to be the prettiest Australian small press book I’ve ever seen, and what with Donna Hanson’s Australian Speculative Fiction: an Overview and the various classy CSFG and Agog! publications doing the rounds in recent years, it’s up against some pretty stiff competition.

Just from looking at the outside, this is a book that deserves a wider audience than the attendees of a SF convention. It should be in every literary bookshop in the country. And I have to say, it would make a pretty attractive Father’s Day present for all those history buff dads out there, even if they don’t think they like speculative fiction. Ticonderoga Publications are definitely up there with some of the better overseas indie press outfits as far as style, design and all that other shiny stuff goes.

Ahem. On to the contents. For those who aren’t familiar with his work, Simon Brown was one of the few male fantasy authors in the HarperCollins Voyager stable, until he moved to Pan Macmillan a couple of years ago. His latest novel is Daughter of Independence, due out later in 2006. Before Brown became a Big Name Fantasy Author, though, his science fiction short stories were a regular feature in Eidolon and Aurealis, back in the day when they were The Big Two science fiction magazines in Australia.

Throughout the nineties, Brown produced a series of short stories that connected with and utilised some of the characters, iconography and mythology of the Trojan War stories. This collection brings those works together for the first time, along with a single new story, “The Cup of Nestor”, (2006) and a very old story, his first piece of fiction inspired by the Trojan myths, “The Return of Ideomeneus” (1981), which is concealed in an appendix in deference to the author’s own unwillingess to place a 25 year old story alongside his more mature and professional work [1]. Read the rest of this entry »

edited by Russell B Farr and Nick Evans

Ticonderoga Publications (2007)

ISBN 978-0-9586856-7-2

Reviewed by Simon Petrie (this review was first published in October 2007)

First, a caveat: this review is of the pdf version of the book’s uncorrected proof, a document lacking both the final cover and the appended authors’ biographical notes.

The Workers’ Paradise – an unashamedly politically charged title, openly left-leaning, and the brief editorial follows suit. The timeliness of the editorial (written in September 2007, mere weeks before I received the pdf) is a drawback in a sense. There’s scope for much of the editorial’s content, relating to Australia’s current labour laws, to become quickly outdated. At least, one might hope so. But the more important questions arising are, will the stories collected here date as quickly? And do they hang together, or would they be better left to hang separately?

Paradise contains eighteen stories by an assortment of established and emerging Australian specfic writers. (That is to say, I believe them all to be Australian, though in the absence of biographical notes I can’t be completely sure of some of them.) Read the rest of this entry »

Russell B Farr (ed.)

Ticonderoga Publications (2007)

ISBN: 9780958685689 

Reviewed by Alexandra Pierce (this review was first published in April 2007)

Farr begins this anthology by talking about his experiences in Australian SF, and consequently providing me with a reading list as long as my arm. He also tries to define what is meant by “fantastic wonder stories”, saying such a story “has to open the door to a new world, but not just any old world. A world real yet unreal, with an element of the mundane that is quickly replaced by a sense of the extraordinary”. For (most of) the stories in this collection, that’s exactly what happened.

FWS opens with a poem, by Steven Utley, called “The Can-Opener”. It captures the reflections of someone whose job is about “the flawed fabric of spacetime”, thinking about how some other Him, in some other universe, has more intelligent interviewers to deal with. It’s humorous, lightly pathetic (if that makes sense), and – in opening up the idea of multiple realities – is a very good first piece. Read the rest of this entry »

Angela Slatter

Ticonderoga Publications (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-9806288-8-3

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Angela Slatter has written and published a great deal of stories in the “reloaded fairytale” genre in recent years, many of which are collected in this volume from Ticonderoga and also in Sourdough from Tartarus Press. The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales won the Aurealis Award in 2010 for Best Collection, and it’s not hard to see why. Slatter reworks a host of traditional fairytales, many of which will be familiar to all but some which are more obscure, putting a fresh, feminist slant on these already macabre offerings.

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Steven Utley

Ticonderoga Publications (2009)

ISBN: 978-0-9803531-4-3

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

This edition of Ghost Seas is a 2009 reprint of the original 1997 collection by US writer Steven Utley. Utley is a member of a talented crowd of Texans who made names for themselves in the ’70s. Other members of the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop include Lisa Tuttle, Bruce Sterling and Howard Waldrop, the latter of whom is an amazing (and amazingly oddball) writer himself. There are some similarities between Waldrop and Utley in terms of their writing, and they’ve collaborated on at least one major story, “Custer’s Last Jump,” as well as the delightfully whimsical “Willow Beeman” in this collection. Utley’s solo stories are impressive in their construction, but even more so in terms of the range of subjects and genres employed. This writer’s reluctance to produce novels, or to stick to one genre, is part of the reason he remains an “Internationally Unknown Author”, as the Afterword helps to explain.

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Kaaron Warren

Ticonderoga Publications (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-9806288-6-9

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Kaaron Warren’s collection Dead Sea Fruit, which was released by Ticonderoga Publications last year, is quite simply one of the best single author collections I’ve read. In his introduction, Lucius Shepard (no slouch in the art of short story writing himself) claims that Warren is one of the few writers who is both a stylist and a storyteller, and he’s right. Some of these stories are not only technically masterful, but emotionally gruelling, horrific, and just plain awesome.

In the title story, “Dead Sea Fruit”, our protagonist is a dentist tasked with visiting the ward of the Pretty Girls, women so weak from anoxeria that “they don’t have the strength to defecate” (p21). The fabled Ash Mouth Man seems to be the source of the Pretty Girls’ worries, as once he kisses them (and nobody can resist) everything they eat tastes of ashes. Not even our protagonist is immune to the Ash Mouth Man’s charm, despite her expertise in oral hygiene.

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Lewis Shiner

Ticonderoga Publications (2009)

ISBN: 978-0-9803531-0-5

Reviewed by Guy Salvidge

Lewis Shiner is known to me as one of the early cyberpunk authors, but his collection Love In Vain isn’t cyberpunk. It’s not even science fiction for the most part. It is, however, very good. Published by Ticonderoga in 2009, this collection of nearly two dozen stories showcases Shiner’s abilities at lengths ranging from flash fiction to novelette. Personally I found his longer works more interesting, not least the newer, previously uncollected “Perfidia”.

In “Perfidia”, Frank Delacorte, a collector with a penchant for eBay auctions, stumbles on a highly irregular recording of a Glenn Miller song. In his attempt to unravel the mystery, Frank travels to Paris to trace the recording back to its original owner. Meanwhile, Frank’s father, who had been one of the American soldiers that liberated the Dachau concentration camp at the end of World War II, lies dying in a US hospital. Shiner’s depiction of Paris circa 2000 is particularly atmospheric, and the story of Miller’s last tape is original and engaging. My only complaint is that the story ended long before I would like it to, which I guess is a compliment to Shiner’s technique, given that “Perfidia” is around 50 pages in length.

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Lisa L Hannett

Ticonderoga Publications (2011)

ISBN 978-1-921857-01-0

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

Bluegrass Symphony is the debut collection from Lisa Hannett, a purpose-written suite of stories (with one reprint) that is quite extraordinary. “There’s something very strange going on,” writes Weird Tales editor Ann VanderMeer in her foreward, and it’s something of an understatement. The dozen stories are set in a mythical state that is a fractured mirror of the American South, where chickens are fortune-telling chooks and rodeo stars vie for wedded bliss once the minotaurs are sated, where Pegasus analogs share the trails with semi-trailers and sticks and stones can do far more than merely break bones.

Some of the stories bridge the hazy county line between fantasy and magic realism, where the extraordinary is rendered everyday in the eyes of the characters, making it all the more uncanny for the reader. Hannett, a Canadian we happily claim as an Australian, evokes a wonderful sense of place through the patchwork quilt of these stories, as told through the eyes and the vernacular of her characters. She brings a broad palette to the landscape – first person, second person, a mix of tenses – and all firmly anchored in the reality of her characters, so much so the reader risks saying ain’t and yerself for days after.

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