Collection of Australian speculative fiction short stories
Last year I attended my first ever Conflux, the annual Canberra speculative fiction conference. I was thrilled to present on three panels: From Paper to Screen, Sentient Flora and Fauna and Write What You Know. It was a great event and I got to see some incredible speakers including Shelley Parker-Chan. There was also a market which included a lot of secondhand books available, and this is one I picked up. I was looking for my next book in my Short Stack Reading Challenge and this was it.
“Encounters: an Anthology of Australian Speculative Fiction” edited by Maxine McArthur and Donna Maree Hanson is a collection of 22 short stories ranging across science fiction, fantasy, horror and everything in between.
While overall the stories were pretty good, there were some standouts. Although I don’t often go for vampire stories, there was something about The Flatmate from Hell by Dirk Flintheart that was very enjoyable. Una, the One by Frankie Seymour was an interesting take on the question about whether or not it is ever possible to have environmental harmony with humans. Sleeping With Monsters by Michael Barry had quickfire twist after quickfire twist, challenging our assumptions at every turn. I also really liked Guarding the Mound by Kaaron Warren, which dealt with questions of legacy and the connection between past and future. Finally, I really liked Happy Faces for Happy Families by Gillian Polack which used time travel to unpack complex issues about childhood illness.
While there were quite a few stories I enjoyed, like any anthology, there are often going to be some that don’t resonate. I think that perhaps a clear theme might have made the anthology feel a bit more united. Also, there were a few moments where I had to remember that the book published in 2004, because some of the language, including around race, is a bit out of date.
An interesting and diverse collection of short stories.