The past month has been fairly eventful for speculative fiction. Not only did we receive 26 new AWW reviews, but the Ditmar Awards and the Australian Shadows Awards were presented with several AWW writers taking home awards.
The Australian Shadows Awards are given out by Australian Horror Writers Association and this year Kaaron Warren took out both the Long Fiction (novella) category with “Sky” and the Collected Work category with Through Splintered Walls, the collection in which “Sky” appeared (reviewed by Sean). Kirstyn McDermott took out the Novel category with her creepy Perfections, about two sisters with an unusual relationship (reviewed by me).
The Ditmar Awards and a few others were given out at Conflux, this year’s National Science Fiction Convention, in Canberra this past weekend. The ever popular Margo Lanagan took home the Best Novel Award and the Norma K Hemming Award (for “excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in the form of science fiction and fantasy or related artwork or media”) for Sea Hearts, reviewed this month by Emma @ My Book Corner and Belinda Hopper. Kaaron Warren again took home the Novella and Collected Work Awards with “Sky” and Through Splintered Walls (also reviewed by me). Thoraiya Dyer, whose new collection Asymmetry, is excellent and was reviewed by Alexandra, took home the Best Short Story award for “The Wisdom of Ants”, which you can read or listen to here. You can read full list of Ditmar Award winners, including art and fan awards, here.
As for the other books AWW participants reviewed this month, I’ll continue with my cycling genre headings, but I want to first mention one book that doesn’t quite fit into only one genre. One Small Step, a new anthology of speculative fiction, edited by Tehani Wessely of FableCroft Publishing, is the first all-female Australian anthology. It’s a great showcase of a broad collection of Australian spec fic authors (my review).
As well as the award winners mentioned above, this month saw the review of two volumes of shorter works. Ishtar, edited by Amanda Pillar and containing three novellas by Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti and Cat Sparks. The collection tells the story of the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love and war, Ishtar, in the past, the present and the future (my review). The other was a collection by Joanne Anderton, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, containing many creepy and macabre stories that deal with death, magic, cats and the meaning of being human (my review).
We had a large haul of reviews in fantasy this month. Ellen Gregory reviewed Lian Hearn’s Across the Nightingale Floor. She writes, “At heart it’s a simple story about revenge, duty, betrayal and forbidden love, exquisitely executed with writing that is both spare and elegant.” Ellen also reviewed Shadow Queen by Deborah Kalin, which she enjoyed a lot, saying:
There’s stuff to think about while reading this book, as Kalin explores the power of psychological manipulation as a key theme — and reader sympathy gets tugged to and fro with Matilde’s. Other themes include trust (and its antithesis), power, friendship, family and self-preservation.
Stephanie Gunn reviewed Prickle Moon, a short story collection by Juliet Marillier. She highly recommends it “if you’re a fan of Marillier in general, if you love fairy tales, if you love myth and truly amazing storytelling.” Mark Webb reviewed The Accidental Sorcerer by K E Mills (a pseudonym of Karen Millar). He writes:
I enjoyed the alternate world aspect, especially examining how society might progress if magic was real and pervasive. The “mother country/colony” dynamic was explored, which has particular resonance for an Australian audience constantly battling with our own cultural cringe. It had that very British sensibility that I always enjoy.
Alexandra reviewed What Night Hides by Kate Smith, a urban fantasy novel she enjoyed reading with “a lot of banter and discussion of shoes in between dealing with vampires, were-creatures, and other, less immediately recognisable, supernatural critters.”
Diamond Eyes is a riveting read although sometimes it’s frighteningly realistic. The science fiction element is Mira’s ability to see through time and Freddie’s ability to hear through time, while the realism comes from Bell’s experience working in a mental health facility and living in a family with experience of vision loss.
They sound like riveting reads and I’m glad I already have them waiting on my shelf. Lauren @ The Australian Bookshelf reviewed The Portal by S E Gilchrist, a science fiction romance, which she enjoyed but found too short, even for a supposed novella. She says “If you’re after a bite-size scifi story with a quick romp, then The Portal may be for you.” Finally, I reviewed the latter two instalments of Andrea K Höst’s Touchstone Trilogy, Lab Rat One and Caszandra, which rounded out a very enjoyable trilogy.
I’m Tsana Dolichva and I’ve been reading and enjoying Australian speculative fiction since I first started reading “grown up” books (back before YA was its own genre). More recently, I’ve been blogging my reviews over at the creatively titled Tsana’s Reads. I irregularly blog about science in science fiction over at the Science Fiction Writers’ Guide to Space. When not reading or writing, I’m probably working towards my PhD in astrophysics.