Dreaming again ed. by Jack Dann

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Harper Voyager, 2008. ISBN 978073228625 5
This collection of 35 new short stories celebrates Australian fantasy and science fiction authors. There are some wonderful authors to read: Garth Nix, Sara Douglas, Isobelle Carmody and Terry Dowling, to name a few. Not every story will be interesting to all readers because this collection touches on all aspects of the genre, but there are stories to satisfy every reader of the genre.

I particularly enjoy those tales that are set in the present day reality but with a twist. Many of those in this edition seem to involve the undead. I appreciated the afterword from the authors who were able to give an insight into their stories' origins and evolution.

Kim Westwood's Nightship gives a view of a possible future, one that I can relate to because it isn't a high tech future, but a future returning to a more violent and almost feudal past, with an environmental twist. Terry Dowling's Fooly has an interesting twist as a ghost story, while Angela Slatter's The Jacaranda Wife is a story that combines Aboriginal myth with the surreal. It mirrors the ambitions of humanity for beauty, perfection and greed and shows the impossibility of ever succeeding in gaining it.

The constant past by Sean McMillan is one of those unsettling tales of a misplaced person who is seeking to right a perceived wrong of the past. Kim Wilkins has given the Hansel and Gretel story a tweak, but has kept the essentials the same - selfishness, poverty and inhumanity. Sara Douglass' The way to the exit, ropes you in and is able to use the development of the Underground in London as the basis for her fantasy. What a great way to use information that is there and give it a twist. I really enjoyed this one.

Others that caught my attention were Simon Brown's The Empire, Jenny Blackford's Troll's night out (an unexpected gem) as was Smoking, waiting for the dawn by Jason Nahrung (a very Aussie zombie story) Jason Fischer's Undead camels ate their flesh could be read in conjunction with Jason's because of its Australian flavour and wonderful sense of humour. The lost property room by Trudi Canavan is a classic of its type, a wonderfully ordinary story that takes you in an unexpected direction. Paradise Designed by Janeen Webb was a glorious reconstruction of the biblical Adam and Eve story and a lovely satire on Intelligent Design.

I've only skimmed the surface of this treasury of incredible fantasy, but I've been very satisfied with the wonderful variety and quality of writing. What a treat.
Mark Knight