The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror is an anthology edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene – the first annual collection with another already in the works. It is comprised of 33 carefully selected short stories of fantasy, dark fantasy, horror and paranormal romance – a very cool 150,000 words of the best Australia had to offer in 2010.
It also features interesting and in-depth extras – there is the usual section about the contributors, but then there is also an account of the year that detail things from Aussiecon 4 (Worldcon) held in Melbourne, to theatre works, to obituaries of writers since lost. It also has a recommended reading list, acknowledgements and lists of significant works, events and results of major awards won during the year.
This alone makes this book a valuable reference guide, if nothing else.
Yet of course, it is so much more than that. These 33 short stories are truly the best out there – generally in anthologies a reader may skip one or two (or more!) of the stories within that just don’t catch their interest. For once, I didn’t skip any of them, finding each story just as captivating and making me wish there was more to read than the last.
In particular, Slow Cookin’ by Angela Rega still sticks in my mind. Two young girls are training to be clairvoyants – or at least, they should be. Instead, they are too distracted by the usual teenage things and eating KFC and pizza to do any work… something they eventually regret as they get into the kind of trouble only their gifts would be able to save them from.
Lisa L Hannett’s Soil from my Fingers is also one I can’t stop thinking about – it’s so sad (include animals in anything and I’ll get emotional). A tale we’ve heard before, yet done in a new and beautiful way – a couple who struggle to have children, yet when they do, things aren’t as they had hoped.
Johnny & Babushka by R J Astruc was fitting, given the season. A tale of a thug and a fairy who deliver presents found on an old woman struck down on the road – the characterisation in this was perfect, even if you don’t know anyone like them, you feel like you do after reading this.
Something must be said about the presentation of this book. The cover alone has a nice feel to it, a soft matte finish that I haven’t felt often before on a book. The layout and typeface are noticeably elegant, and the 500 pages feel decent yet not oversized or too heavy.
The cover is beautiful.
This book was published by Ticonderoga Publications and can be found in many places –
Online in Australia: indiebooksonline.com
Online overseas (with free shipping): bookdepository.com
Your nearest bookstore should also stock it, or will be able to order it in for you, at your request.
Katharine is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of Katharine herself, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 27th December 2011.