Subterranean online…

When the good folk at SciFi.com decided to discontinue Ellen Datlow’s extraordinary SciFiction, the field lost it’s best and most important source of top quality new fiction online. There have been a few attempts to launch something to fill that gap, most notably Jim Baen’s Universe, but nothing has really filled the void left by SciFiction. Speaking as someone who reads fairly widely in the field, and who focusses on short fiction these days, you can almost see the whole left by SciFiction, the work simply not being published.

Into that void steps Bill Schafer’s Subterranean Magazine. After publishing a handful of print issues, Shafer is making the magazine a strictly online venture, and promises a lot of interesting top-notch material. If the Winter 2007 issue – with new work by Lucius Shepard, John Scalzi, and Poppy Brite – is anything to go by, then this is going to be something special. It shows every likelihood of becoming a must-see stop on the web, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it getting a lot of attention in coming months.

Best SF and Fantasy Vol. 1 in PW

I’m pretty darn happy right at the moment. Just got news that Publishers Weekly have given The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 1 a starred review (see below). Woot! That’s the third straight PW star for my year’s bests, which makes me feel pretty darn good. I believe it ships next week, which is pretty exciting. My sincerest thanks to everyone involved, especially the guys at Night Shade and all of the contributors.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year #1
Edited by Jonathan Strahan. Night Shade (www.nightshadebooks.com), $19.95 paper (478p) ISBN 978-1-59780-068-6

Australian editor Strahan (Best Short Novels: 2007) gathers 24 stories from a wealth of standard and New Age publications for a provocative anthology that will satisfy readers looking for fresh, contemporary work that stretches both SF and fantasy boundaries. Walter Jon Williams’s bittersweet “Incarnation Day” and Cory Doctorow’s oddly touching “I, Row-Boat” extrapolate current bioengineering and robotics trends into far-flung times and places. Kelly Link’s elegiac “The Wizards of Perfil” and Peter S. Beagle’s perceptive take on siblinghood, “El Regalo,” skew family relationships into bizarre and endearing new shapes. Still others, especially Elizabeth Hand’s exquisite “The Saffron Gatherer” and Margo Lanagan’s terrifying “Under Hell, Over Heaven,” defy categorization, offering flashes of primal recognition of the peaks and valleys of human emotion. Except for a few forays into gory violence (possibly influenced by current video gaming), these stories all refract experience into kaleidoscopic new worlds-strange, dangerous and lovely. (Apr.)


Cricket thoughts…

It’s hard for complaints not to look like sour grapes when, after the summer the Australian cricket team has had, it goes through a form slump and you point out problems. It looks like you can handle success, but not failure. Still, a few thoughts. How essential was a three game series that may have cost the World Cup appearances of Michael Clarke, Brett Lee, and Matthew Hayden? It’s hard to see how it was worth it. Even if we’d won three nil, as opposed to losing three nil, it would have been of marginal value. The most disturbing thought, though, is this one: since December 2005 Australia has failed to defend the four highest one day scores in this history of the game; 436 against South Afrtica, and 346, 336,  and 331 against New Zealand. It must say something that essentially the same bowling attack and fielding side has had this problem, and it’s only made worse by the fact that two of these failures were in the past week.  While there’s still every chance Australia will regroup and head into the World Cup with a competitive team (though frankly, sans Symonds, Lee, and possibly Hayden and Clarke), and it still well may win the competition, it’s going to be a much tougher tournament that we expected, especially if the bowlers and fielders can’t get their acts together.

Terry Dowling, remember him?

It’s easy to get taken for granted. If you’re around for long enough, do good work for long enough, people come to assume that ‘of course it’s good’ when you do something new, and are only waiting for ‘this one’s great’. It’s how anything gets overlooked, and I think it’s what happened to Terry Dowling and the two new stories he did for his collection Basic Black, which was published last year by Cemetery Dance.

Dowling added “La Profonde” and “Cheat Light” to Basic Black, and it garnered great reviews in the US, with Publishers Weekly giving it a prestigious starred review. And yet, somehow, here at home not a whisper. So far, the collection has barely received a whisper of mention, and neither story has ended up on any awards ballots or in any year’s bests. Given that the stories are good, I can only assume that this is because we’re used to having a writer of Terry’s calibre around, and that we sort of taken it for granted that he’ll be good. I don’t know.

Anyway, this makes the news that Terry’s story “La Profonde” will appear in Datlow, Link & Grant’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Twentieth Annual Collection particularly welcome: something that’s only highlighted by his being the lead-off name on the cover. Clearly the book’s editors and publishers know that they’ve got something pretty special, and see it as an advantage in the US. Hopefully we’ll wake up and realise that soon too. Oh, and it’d be nice if someone would reprint Basic Black, which was out of print within several months of publication. Everyone should have a chance to see the book. Dowling was, is, and remains one of our very best.


Note: Because comments don’t appear on the main page, thought I’d add that you can get a galley of Basic Black for as little as $US7.00 and a hardcover for as little as $US29.00. Not too bad.