Australis Imaginarium edited by Tehani Wessely

This book is full of stories authored by Australian mastercraftspeople. They get their ideas from vastly differing places and take them to different ends but each one is perfectly crafted. Many of them seamlessly meld western stories with dream time stories to make a wonderful new story idea and a lot of them could be expanded to novel format. They are speculative fiction at their finest and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Wessely says it for me in her introduction “All the stories contained in the pages that follow…gave me a reading experience that lingered and kept my thoughts returning to it.”

To review the book properly I should actually say a few words about each story, take a deep breath and …here goes.

Once a Month, on a Sunday by Ian McHugh
This story is a delightful little tale which sets the tone of the whole book. It is told by a little girl who has a younger sibling, a mother and somewhere, probably on his way home, a father. On a Sunday, once a month the family get ready for church. Olivia, the litle girl has to interact with the Bunyip before they leave and she discovers a different method of doing this rather than the traditional one she normally uses. They travel a dangerous path and when they get to Church the mother is given some news, after Church they travel home again along the same dangerous path. Now, I know that sounds boring, but I’ve left out all the important things so as not to give spoilers. It is anything but boring and it leaves just enough to the imagination while informing the reader of exactly the things they need to understand about the dangers and to understand what Olivia has done that is so important.

Night Heron’s Curse by Thorayia Dyer
This could almost be a Dream Time story, I read it in ASIM a while ago and thought so then. It is the story of the two sisters Night Heron and Swamphen. Night Heron is really beautiful and is slated to marry Crooked Spear to cure his curse. Night Heron doesn’t want to marry him because of his curse, but Swamphen does. Night Heron runs away and is taken by her own curse, Swamphen who goes with her spends several seasons working to overcome Night Heron’s curse. I was positive this was a real Dream Time story as it feels so much like one.

Hunter of Darkness, Hunter of Light by Michael Pryor
It starts off as many stories do with a boy of five having nightmares, then it grows and the reader is finally lead to understand how important this beginning really is. Paul Walker is Aboriginal and has been having nightmares for a very long time, he finally harnesses those nightmares into a psychological method of helping people through their problems. He is the best and has an intstitute to help him and to train others in this method. Little does he know what will happen when he tries to help an Aboriginal girl.

A Pig’s Whisper by Margo Lanagan
This is the age old story of two babes lost in the woods, actually, in this case it’s the bush. This story is just beautiful, you know the ending fairly early on it’s what Lanagan does in the middle that’s different, how she engages other ideas into her work that is just gorgeous and reminds me of my childhood. Brilliant.

Stealing Free by Deborah Biancotti
I love this story, really love it. It’s the story of Salamander and how he steals his freedom. I love his wit, his style and the fact that he repays his debts so nicely. If I’d been on the ball I might have had some idea of the denouement but it wouldn’t have spoilt it at all. Just lovely. I also haven’t read many stories set with the denizens of the water.

Suffer the Little Children by Rowena Cory Daniells
The Dream Time stories use mankind doing something and then being turned into animals, birds, the sky or other things to explain creation, what happens when mankind goes back to being animals? This story shows us the beginning and how children might go wild. Actually reminds me a little of Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Virgin Jackson by Marianne de Pierres
This one is so topical. It shows what might happen if aliens landed on Earth and if global warming really took off. This is one story I feel could be expanded into a novel, or even a series but maybe that’s just me being selfish and wanting more. I really liked Virgin Jackson, she’s a wonderfully feisty woman who doesn’t care what other people think of her she just intends to get the job done even though she doesn’t want her job.

The Claws of Native Ghosts by Lee Battersby
This is another example of people going wild but it is so different it could be a different idea entirely. George Dawson is in the 21st Regiment of the Royal North British Fusiliers, stationed in the town of Mandurah on the estate of Thomas Peel. He falls in love with Captain Ellis’s daughter and does everything he can to make her love him but it all backfires. This story seamlessly merges Western life with Dream Time.

The Jacaranda Wife by Angela Slatter
This is the age old story of the Selkie wives but with a much different flavour and a different pitch. It is just so delightful. In this story the Selkie wife is from a Jacaranda tree.

The Dark Under the Skin by Dirk Strasser
This story is just fantastic. I wish I could learn other languages in this manner it’s so fabulous and so quick.

Red Ochre by Lucy Sussex
This is yet another story of mankind going native, I don’t say wild because they’re not, yet they are. It’s one of those stories you really have to read to understand what I’m saying. In it is a circus with the only animals in that area and it’s a very big area. One day the animals are let loose and Ian tries to catch them only to be bitten. He’s put into hospital while the circus continues on it’s rounds. It’s only when the circus comes back that we find out what’s really happening in the land.

Passing the Bone by Sean Williams
If I have a favourite story in this book it has to be this one. Not at all because it’s the last one and bookends the book superbly but because of the ideas in it. Billy lives in a strange family. Men die young due to some violent means and then they don’t die. Billy is no exception to this and it’s dealt with in a fabulous manner. I’m not sure whether it’s horror or comedy but it has elements of both and the ending left me quite amused. Love the writing, love the characterisation, I’m hoping he got his medical stuff right because it was just so good.

You might have noticed I said less about some stories than others, that’s because I didn’t want to repeat myself. Every single story in this volume is top notch and I have no hesitation in recommending it to any adult and teenager.
This was published by Fablecroft Publishing this year, if you love spec fic then you absolutely need a copy of it.