Australian Dark Fantasy + Horror - Volume Three (2009)

Editor Angela Challis
Publisher Brimstone Press
Length 290 pages
Genre Anthology
Blurb The Year's Best Short Stories

Talk us through it

Brimstone Press present their by now regular yearly update on the best the dark genre had to offer Down Under in 2007. Well okay there's the odd dark fantasy outing between the covers as well but lets not get too pedantic about things. The collection hits out with fifteen original stories by various Aussie authors and should pretty much have something to offer every reader. Clearly those bending toward darker musings are going to be better catered for than your average comedy or romance reader, though the collection does contain some comedy and if we draw a long bow some romance.

In addition to an excellent line-up of tales the book contains a statement on where horror was coming from through 2007, and ends with a rundown on contributing Authors, resources available Down Under, and even the various awards available to genre writers in this part of the world. So whether you simply read, are a published dark fiction writer, or a budding Stephen King there's enough between the covers to keep you entertained.

Let's go breakdown the best of 2007 and see if Angela Challis got it right.


"You're not gunna tell me you're scared of ghosts as well as snakes?" - Rudy

With any collection I like to first have a glance at the table of contents to check out if I know any of the Author names and whether or not there are any "must reads" that I simply have to get to before sitting down to read the book from first page to back cover. The names Marty Young, Gary Kemble, Martin Livings, and Shane Cummings immediately had me satisfied that I was in good hands here. A few Authors missing but guess we can't have everything and Ms Challis may just have a different outlook on writing than my own.

Having satisfied myself that there were going to be at least a few Authors I could depend on it was time to kick off and get into the collection chronologically. One of the pleasures of reading an anthology is of course discovering new Authors you may not have read before and jotting down their names for future reference. I've added a few additional Authors to my must read list courtesy of Angela Challis and look forward to discovering what they might have in store for me in the future and of course what I can order from their back catalogue.

You can't fault the story selection considering the number of prize winning tales that are between the covers of Australian Dark Fantasy + Horror, but naturally some stories will appeal more to your own personal taste than others. Marty Young hit outback sacrifice in The Wildflowers and really managed to conjure up the heat and dust for me as his tale took off in an unexpected direction. I'm always up for a good zombie happening and Gary Kemble had me smiling with his tongue in cheek yarn Dead Air, apparently there's a sequel to the story coming I'm there quicker than a Zack Snyder living dead person. Martin Livings offered a sort of postscript to John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids that reads like a fantasy till it really hit the horror sizzle in the final paragraphs. I've still got a chill going down my spine over that one. And finally David Conyers went all post apocalyptic with the alien flora story Subtle Invasion.

A couple of authors I hadn't read before struck me as well worth keeping an eye on. Stephanie Campisi with The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank hit one of the best serial killer stories I've come across in quite sometime. There's a sort of profoundly disturbing undertow to this one that will resonant with you. One of the more twisted yarns in the collection was Miranda Siemienowicz's Lion's Breath that just kept coming at me with it's central concept. Actually I was thinking this one was headed for a particularly nasty discovery over and above the major item on the menu but the Author went in another direction.

Special mention of an Author I've read before but not in the short story format. I was aware of Shane Jiraiya Cummings from his excellent article The End of the Line on the demise of Lothian Books in Black magazine issue three, and also the outstanding flash collection Shards due shortly from Brimstone Press. Cumming didn't disappoint with the mortuary tale The Cutting Room proving to be precise in it's lines and harbouring another twisted concept. Cummings is really getting down to where the metal meets the flesh with this story.

Naturally there were a few stories in the collection that I was less enthused about. There's a sort of over engineering in places that lessens the impact of the horror themes being explored and that seems slightly out of date to be honest. As I keep stating in my reviews of anthologies however what appeals is very much subjective, I know what I like but it doesn't imply every reader will share the same opinion. Clearly for some readers the more traditional approach to telling a horror yarn is going to appeal much than it does to me. I know of at least one of our readers who is really going to dig some of the tales in the collection I haven't mentioned in this review, dude consider it under your Christmas tree.

Editor Angela Challis not content with her offering of fifteen excellent short stories also adds some bonus features that certainly had me taking notice. There's an essay at the start of the collection titled The Aussie Dark Age In Review> that indicates the state of play of the genre in 2007 and where local Authors were being published, both Down Under and Overseas. For horror historians Australian Dark Fantasy + Horror - Volume Three is well worth an investment for this essay alone.

Rounding out the collection are three appendices that will appeal to different readers for different reasons. "Appendix 1 : Contributors" offers brief bibliographies of each of the writers featured in the collection and also Editor Challis. Where possible web addresses are included for those wanting additional information. I'm hitting some of those sites as soon as I finish publishing this review. "Appendix 2 : Dark fiction resources" lists current Australia and some American horror resource sites for fans and writers alike. I can highly recommended the AHWA sites and Tabula Rasa who make us look like rank amateurs. Finally, and if you haven't work out by now that Angela Challis is really spoiling us then you are way too demanding, "Appendix 3 : Australian genre awards" lists the winners and honourable mentions in 2008 from the three major organisations offering horror recognition. The prestigious Aurealis Awards, the new AHWA Australian Shadows Awards, and my personal favourite the Ditmar Awards that is pretty much genre fan driven and the closest thing we have to the Oscars. All three appendices are an invaluable resource for those exploring the dark genre Down Under.

I had a high old time in Australian Dark Fantasy + Horror - Volume Three reading the various stories, thinking over the essay at the beginning of the collection, and checking through the Appendices. The collection offers something for everyone, regardless if you are a reader or writer, and should be an automatic purchase for anyone involved in or a fan of the dark genre Down Under. As a statement of where the genre was at in 2007 the word "definitive" comes to mind. It's going to be a long wait for volume four.

Australian Dark Fantasy + Horror - Volume Three is available from Western Australia's Brimstone Press and all decent genre outlets. If ordering from Brimstone then why not add in the first two volumnes as well.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

A very solid Anthology folks, go pick up a copy today!