The World Fantasy Award winning-anthology Dreaming Down-Under manages the impressive feat of being both a definitive Golden Age compilation and a new wave groundbreaker. This is because Australian speculative fiction has entered a golden age at the turn of the millennium, and because the editors of Dreaming Down-Under, Jack Dann and Janeen Webb, asked contemporary authors born or living in Australia to contribute the best speculative fiction they could create. The 30 contributors have lived up to the challenge, producing stories that are uniformly literary, frequently ambitious, and sometimes disturbing. The stories range all across imaginative literature, from revisionist myth to hardboiled cyberpunk, from paranoid horror to imaginary-world fantasy. Dreaming Down-Under may reshape the future of speculative fiction not only in Australia, but around the world.
In addition to its generous 200,000-plus words of original fiction, the anthology contains 20,000 words of interesting and informative nonfiction. The editors introduce Dreaming Down-Under with a discussion of the current antipodean ferment and a short history of Australian science fiction; they also provide each story with an individual introduction. Each author provides an afterword for his or her story. Fittingly, Dreaming Down-Under also has a passionate preface by Harlan Ellison, who edited the legendary Dangerous Visions anthology series (1969-1973) that changed SF forever. --Cynthia Ward
Evoking the Golden Age breakthrough in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction during the 1940s, Harlan Ellison in his preface declares the present-day as the "Golden Age of Australian science fiction." This anthology of contemporary speculative writing from down under--200,000 words of original fiction with an added 20,000 words of introductory notes and author afterwords--attempts to raise the bar to that standard. Previously published by HarperCollins Australia (1998), this mammoth volume won two Australian Science Fiction Achievement Awards (Best Artwork, Best Anthology) and topped that by also winning the World Fantasy Award. Not all the 31 tales take place down in Australia: Isabelle Carmody finds poetry in Prague's Kafkaesque labyrinths as "The Man Who Lost His Shadow" learns "it is we who need our shadows, not they us." In Aaron Stearns's "The Third Rail," NYC subway paranoia erupts into horror. George Turner's 1997 death cut short work on his novella about eternal life, so essays by Bruce Gillespie and Judith Raphael Buckrich explore possible paths of Turner's unfinished work. The stories, already surfacing in other anthologies and novel expansions, are strong throughout. Comparisons with the "New Wave" experiments in Ellison's trendsetting Dangerous Visions (1967) are inevitable, and Ellison sees this book as a similar groundbreaker, a "huge testament to the new order of things literary in this genre." This is a potent package, and even readers skeptical of all the hype won't be disappointed. (Feb. 23)Forecast: Word of mouth, previous glowing reviews and a shelf of impressive awards all bode well, while the timing couldn't be better, as CBS's Survivor: The Australian Outback, kicks off right after the Super Bowl. Expect significant interest.
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