Sunday 28 April 2013

One Small Step edited by Tehani Wessely

One Small Step: an anthology of discoveries is edited by Tehani Wessely and has just been launched by FableCroft at Conflux, this year's National SF Convention. The blurb:

Sixteen stories of discovery from Australia’s best writers. Each story in some way addresses the idea of discoveries, new beginnings, or literal or figurative “small steps”, but each story takes you to places you far beyond the one small step you imagine… Journey through worlds and explore the reaches of the universe with this collection.

The theme of One Small Step is addressed quite diversely between the stories. My personal favourites (in a very subjective way) were the ones that dealt with discovery in a more literal kind of way.  "Always Greener" by Michelle Marquardt opened the anthology strongly with human colonists on another planet and I felt it set the tone of expectation for what followed. The idea of deadly grass also stuck with me. "Firefly Epilogue" by Jodi Cleghorn about scientific discovery also struck me. "The Ships of Culwinna" by Thoraiya Dyer is another story that really stuck with me. Very well done, it's a story about old discoveries but, I thought, freshly told. "Morning Star"by DK Mok was another space-based journey of discovery and quite an emotional note to end the anthology on. Although they were quite different stories, there was some symmetry between the opening and closing; a search for safety in a hostile universe.

I also quite enjoyed the stories by Deborah Biancotti and Rowena Cory Daniells for their ties to other stories of theirs I've read as much as the great writing. And Tansy Rayner Roberts's story made me smile for certain references sprinkled throughout. "Sand and Seawater" by Joanne Anderton and Rabia Gale was also one of my favourites, with its richly painted setting. (I fully acknowledge that this paragraph is quite biased of me, since they're all authors I was a fan of a priori.)

Because I can't mention every story, I've included some brief comments/notes below that I made as I finished reading each of them. And author name links go to my other reviews of their works.

One Small Step is a showcase of some really great Aussie spec fic. (And, as I just learnt, it's the first all-female Aussie spec fic anthology.) I highly recommend it to fans of the genre or to anyone looking to sample a variety of spec fic authors.


"Always Greener" by Michelle Marquardt — colonists on a difficult frontier world. There are aliens and hardship, but at least the grass is greener.

"By Blood and Incantation" by Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter — Loosely speaking a story about motherhood and magic and things going horribly wrong.

"Indigo Gold" by Deborah Biancotti — A journalist in the same universe as Bad Power. Over much too soon. Would love to see a novel in this world.

"Firefly Epilogue" by Jodi Cleghorn — a surprisingly sweet story about fireflies in Malaysia and brain waves.

"Daughters of Battendown" by Cat Sparks — a post-apocalyptic story set in a well realised world. A story of hardship and hope.

"Baby Steps" by Barbara Robson — grabbed me from the start. A fairytale told though emails.

"Number 73 Glad Avenue" by Suzanne J Willis — A story of time travel and the twenties. Like if the Doctor was a woman and also threw parties (so quite dissimilar to Doctor Who).

"Shadows" by Kate Gordon — Quite readable. About a girl who sees shadows. Thought it ended a bit abruptly.

"Original" by Penelope Love — Post-human people, spread throughout the the galaxy, come face to face with an original human.

"The Ships of Culwinna" by Thoraiya Dyer — People of a primitive culture encountering other cultures less and more technologically advanced.

"Cold White Daughter" by Tansy Rayner Roberts — A tale of the Frost Queen's daughter, carved of ice. Inspired by Narnia, I suspect.

"The Ways of the Wyrding Women" by Rowena Cory Daniells — One of the longer stories. A tale of power, loyalty and plots. Set, I believe in future world of the Outcast Chronicles.

"Winter's Heart" by Faith Mudge — A woman goes in search of a sorcerer for help. Interesting shift of perspective towards the end.

"Sand and Seawater" by Joanne Anderton and Rabia Gale — Creepy sentient dolls (kind of cute, I thought, when not being creepy), protection magic and a volcano island.

"Ella and the Flame" by Kathleen Jennings — Sisters and villagers with burning torches. I liked the story within a story.

"Morning Star"by DK Mok — When most of the human population of Earth suddenly dies, an android, a sentient ship and a peculiarly immune boy set out to look for survivors among the stars. A lovely and at times sad tale. The longest in the anthology.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: April 2013, FableCroft
Series: no
Format read: eARC
Source: review copy courtesy of the publisher/editor (but you can get a copy here)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

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