Review: Focus 2012 compiled by Tehani Wessely

Focus2012Published by: FableCroft Publishing
ISBN 13: 9780992284428
Published: October 2013
Pages: 252
Format reviewed: Kindle version
Publisher Site: Publisher Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

Focus 2012 promises to be the first of an annual series, taking a selection of pieces that have been shortlisted for Awards either within Australia or from International speculative fiction awards.

Interspersed by lovely artwork from Kathleen Jennings, and priced at just under $5 Australian, this is a short and sweet anthology that shouldn’t be missed.

The Wisdom of Ants” by Thoraiya Dyer

Such an Australian piece, which is an excellent way to start an anthology that’s all about highlighting Australian short fiction. Here be dilly bags, mangroves and crocs – so I feel right at home. Here we have traditional women who are taking the land back, as alien ants have been devouring manmade things, so to hell with civilisation. The writing in this is full of imagery and awesome:

Ants ate the wiremind shelters, their vehicles, exoskeletons and communications devices. They ate their wristwatches. Their boot buckles. When the soldiers lay down to sleep, they were woken by ants trying to bore through their skulls to get at the metal implants inside.

This was easily one of my favourite pieces in the anthology.

First published in Clarkesworld (12/12).

The Mornington Ride” by Jason Nahrung 

A great start that’s sure to engage the reader, by stating how the main character has travelled the time it takes for the moon to go full to new and almost full again, yet the bullet never comes.

Here we have men who travel by horse, talk rough and threatening, but there’s the sense of chivalry there also – the tipping of a hat, and how some places just aren’t the proper place for a fight.

This is a slow building piece,and the ending is perfectly satisfying, making you smile just a little at what the faithful main character, and hence the reader, has achieved.

First published in ‘Epilogue’, an anthology published by FableCroft Publishing.

“Significant Dust” by Margo Lanagan

A UFO story! One that’s based on fact, it seems. Lanagan also captures the characters and their voices perfectly, having the writing talent to get away with writing their accent into the dialogue, using words such as ‘ken’ instead of ‘can’, and ‘munss’ instead of ‘months’. It flows effortlessly, pulling you gently in an odd realisation of how things aren’t exactly what they seem.

One always runs the risk with stories where a character doesn’t know what day/month/year it is, to go a bit over-the-top. Not Lanagan. This keeps you reading eagerly through to the very end, and thankfully we’re not disappointed with the crescendo.

First published in ‘Cracklescape’, a Margo Lanagan collection published by Twelfth Planet Press.

“Birthday Suit” by Martin Livings

An interesting and creepy take on the idea of the birthday suit, and what else it could mean or be. Descriptive in a creepy sense, we’re told of a pink fleshy limp suit the birthday boy sees on his seventh birthday, and then it continues on to the general celebration. We’re told of how the boy hopes to stay awake to catch a glimpse of the tailer one birthday, but as a kid, a year feels like a lifetime.

And what an ending! Slightly morose, but more thoughtful and probing, we have a dedicated piece that also lasts with you.

First published in ‘Living with the Dead’, a Martin Livings collection published by Dark Prints Press.

“Sanaa’s Army” by Joanne Anderton

Seemingly obsessed with death, this piece starts and then continues in a lightly morbid fashion, giving it depth in its casual treatment of the subject. You get such a sense of movement from Anderton’s writing, a lazy sprawling elegance to how the characters get up and walk and interact.

This is such an innocently creepy piece! Anderton lulls you in with a false sense of security, thinking that it’ll remain light and interesting and darkly quirky, only dropping you to realise that no, this is quite messed up, and that’s all there is to it. She’s an excellently strong writer, and this works perfectly as proof.

First published in ‘Bloodstones’ anthology, published by Ticonderoga Publications

“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood

A piece that gets creepier as it goes on, in true Robert Hood short fashion. A photographer who unfortunately learns to see more in his photos than he once did.

This is an effective piece as one always wonders what could also exist in the shadows or expanses one doesn’t always pay attention to. How can we ever truly know what isn’t there? This one ends in an eerie, open way, which lasts with you.

First published in ‘Exotic Gothic 4’ anthology, published by PS Publishing.

“Sky” by Kaaron Warren

One of the best starts to a short story I’ve come across so far:

My wife has very strong teeth. 

It really captures the sense of foreboding, and then it abruptly changes to short pieces that focus on new characters, some barely a page long and others just a few pages longer, and it slowly ties together. This is Warren at her best, and it certainly ends with a crack.

First published in ‘Through Splintered Worlds’, a Kaaron Warren collection published by Twelfth Planet Press.

~

Overall this is a strong anthology, and I do appreciate how each piece starts with where it was first published and what awards it was shortlisted for and/or managed to win. This is an excellent collection of pieces by strong Australian voices, and I look forward to reading the next anthologies in the series!

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