Tara Calaby

writer, editor & phd candidate

Tag: science fiction (page 1 of 2)

The Best of Luna Station Quarterly: The First Five Years

Usually when I talk about Luna Station Quarterly, it’s while wearing my assistant editor hat. Today, however, I’m wearing my writer hat to announce the launch of The Best of Luna Station Quarterly: The First Five Years, a collection of fifty stories from the (you guessed it) first five years of the quarterly.

In amongst those fifty stories is a little (and I do mean little) piece of my own–a science fiction piece called ‘Air’.

In total, the book runs to a massive 550 pages, so there’s plenty of other reading in there as well. You can buy it at Amazon, but if you buy directly through Luna, you’ll receive 10% off if you use the coupon provided. It’s paperback only, because this kind of celebration deserves to be held in your hand.



shadowsMy play Shadows will be performed on five dates during the Monash University Container Festival 2014.

Directed by Ephiny Gale and starring Maria Roitman, Victoria Brown and Lauren O’Dwyer, Shadows was written to exploit the enclosed theatre spaces involved in the Container Festival. It examines the choices made by three women separated by time but linked by the eternal forces of love and death.

Performance Dates:

Wednesday 6th of August – 8:30pm
Friday 8th of August – 9:15pm
Monday 11th of August – 8:35pm
Tuesday 12th of August – 7:45pm
Friday 15th of August – 7:10pm

Due to the nature of the performance space, seating is limited, so pre-booking is encouraged. Details of how to do so can be found on the Facebook event page.


aurealisAurealis 68 is officially out and available from Smashwords and Scribd. My piece, ‘Icarus’, is the first of two short stories, and there’s also an interview with Raymond E Feist. It’s nice to share publication space with one of the greats 🙂

Born To It & Icarus

suddenlyA couple of pieces of news today.

Firstly, Suddenly Lost in Words 4 is now available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. It contains my piece “Born To It”, along with eight other short stories for young adults – and older adults as well! “Born To It” is a short fantasy piece about a girl who possesses the ability to see into the future, and the reactions of her peers to her strange talent.

I’ve not yet read any of the other pieces in the anthology, but am looking forward to doing so.

In addition, it looks like my science fiction story “Icarus” will be published in the March issue of Aurealis, so I’m looking forward to that. “Icarus” is one of my favourite pieces, so I’m glad it’s found a good home.

Writing Update – August

I’ve had some health stuff going on this past month, so there hasn’t been a lot of writing happening. I did, however, manage to finish a Australian ghost story, of around 2.5k words, so I was pleased about that, given everything that’s been happening.

My short story and play for my M.Litt are currently with my supervisor, so here’s hoping he’ll like them and I’ll be able to focus on the critical essays about them, instead of lots of re-drafting!

The biggest news this month is that my short story ‘Icarus’ was accepted for publication in Aurealis. I’ll update with an expected publication date once one is available.

Review: The Ooze – Stephen Roos

The Ooze book coverLike all of the Ghosts of Fear Street books, The Ooze is fairly basically written, with no real flair of style, but it stands out a little from the pack due to the very fun idea at the centre of its plot. Al and his friend accidentally create an ooze that makes anyone that it touches stupid – even animals. Of course, Al himself is dumbified by the ooze, along with several of his classmates, which leads to a fun scene involving a poorly-contested Science Bowl at his school. Young readers are sure to enjoy the premise and the effect the ooze has on its victims, along with the secret to its defeat.

Less enjoyable, however, was Roos’s portrayal of Al’s parents. They are completely focussed upon ensuring he lives up to his sister’s academic example, to the point of ignoring his needs. A lot of times, such characterisation in books is offset by the eventual revelation that the parents are being seen through the child’s biased eyes, but here the parents are truly awful and, I think, the true villains in The Ooze. Not fun to read about at all.

Overall, though, this is definitely one of the better Fear Street books. The plot is original and enjoyable and there is a lot of humour to be found in Al’s struggles with his loss of intelligence. One that young readers that should enjoy.

Review: Cinder – Marissa Meyer

Cinder book coverFive Things I Loved About Cinder

1. It is set in a well-constructed and interesting future universe. Marissa Meyer has given thought to the history of her world and to how this history influences the present time and the fears and actions of those who inhabit it.

2. It uses the Cinderella fairytale as inspiration, not as a blueprint. Often, retellings are just that, with no real creativity or innovation involved. Here, you can see the elements of the original story, but they’re used in a way that feels authentic within the setting.

3. It has a strong female lead. Cinder has plenty of insecurities, but she just gets on with her life despite these and despite her less-than-wonderful living situation. She’s a talented mechanic, devoted to the people she cares about and selfless when it matters, rather than as her standard.

4. It’s entertaining and well-plotted. The pacing is good and there is a strong mix of characters who do not feel like unaltered archetypes. Better still, the romantic lead has a lot more going for him than his looks – and he treats Cinder with respect.

5. It’s about a CYBORG OMG. Cyborgs are essentially my science fiction thing.

Two Things I Didn’t Love About Cinder

1. It contains a “twist” that is readily apparent almost from the very beginning of the book. Regardless of whether Meyer wanted her readers to be aware of this before Cinder, I always feel a bit duped when the big reveal is something I’ve known all along.

2. It is not a fully-contained novel, but rather the first quarter of a complete story. This is my biggest gripe with Cinder. I know series are the big thing right now, but every novel within a series should be able to be read and enjoyed as a book in its own right. I didn’t feel that with Cinder. It’s good enough that I will read Scarlett anyway, but the lack of any closure is annoying nonetheless.

Review: The Duplicate – Helen Fitzgerald

The Duplicate book coverThe Duplicate was introduced to me as a story that had been inspired by Carrie and Frankenstein. With that first impression, I just had to read it! The author, Helen Fitzgerald, refers to it as her “short, dark, weird one” and I was pleased to find that both the literary references and the promise of weirdness were supported.

Although written for the young adult market, The Duplicate should prove equally pleasing to adult readers. What teenagers will consider an entertaining read, will likely provoke greater thought in an older audience. There are many ethical and philosophical questions raised here, albeit in a black and quirky manner, and the things that are left unsaid nonetheless stick with the reader for a while.

My introduction to Fitzgerald’s work was Amelia O’Donohue is So Not a Virgin, which wowed me with its understated style and ability to convey character and plot without shoving them in the reader’s face. The Duplicate goes even further, with much of the story being implied, rather than outwardly told, especially in the sections told from the perspective of Barbara. It’s a stylistic choice that I’m always a big fan of, and it works particularly well with the science fiction edge to the novel.

I think the key similarity to King’s Carrie lies, not in the depiction of an unpopular girl who is tormented by the popular crowd at school (because, let’s face it, that’s a common theme in YA and real life), but rather in Barbara herself. It’s easy to feel sympathy for her as a character, but also easy to dislike her. It’s not that she’s weird: that’s actually a mark in her favour. Rather, it’s her overwhelming determination to buy the favours of the very people who make her life hell, changing her appearance and losing her dignity in the process.

In comparison, Rowena is likeable, surprisingly well-adjusted and, well, normal. The build-up of tension during her section of The Duplicate is very cleverly done, to the point of me being on the edge of my seat expecting a ghastly murder to eventuate at any moment! Sometimes I find dual protagonists unnecessary and a little irritating, but here they are used authentically, and I think Rowena’s voice forms a positive contrast to that of Barbara. I don’t think the book would have been nearly as effective if it had been told solely from the latter’s perspective.

The Duplicate is a clever, engrossing story, with a concept that I loved. The ending is fantastic, and my imagination is still running wild, thinking about what happened after the final page. A quick read, but an enjoyable one.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: A Long, Long Sleep – Anna Sheehan

When Rose wakes after spending 62 years in stasis, her body is wasted and her organs damaged. Much worse, however, is the knowledge that her parents and Xavier, her best friend and first love, are long dead. As she learns to adapt to a world that has changed greatly after the Dark Times that occurred while she was asleep, she discovers a deadly threat to her safely – and some life changing truths about her own past.

After finishing A Long, Long Sleep, I jumped online to see whether Anna Sheehan had written anything else and was amazed to discover that this had been a NaNoWriMo project for her several years ago. Having participated in NaNo myself and making the word count target but otherwise ending up with an unfinished mess of writing, I’m amazed and impressed that such a great book was the product of her own NaNo efforts.

Because A Long, Long Sleep really is a fantastic book. I made it through right to the end of December thinking that Divergent was going to be the best YA book I’d read in 2011, and then I finished A Long, Long Sleep and felt like it just squeezed Divergent into second place. This isn’t as action-filled a novel, and the action scenes that are here aren’t quite as gripping, but I loved the way that the truth of Rose’s former life was revealed, layer by layer, eventually revealing a darkness that I would never have expected at the beginning of the novel.

It’s hard to name a definitive genre for A Long, Long Sleep. It’s futuristic science fiction, complete with all the tech, off-planet colonies and aliens that you would expect from that genre, but its heart isn’t in these elements as much as it is in the exploration of Rose’s character and the ways in which humans treat – and fail – each other. The tech is intrinsic to the storyline, but the characters can be recognised just as easily in the present era as in a future setting.

Rose is not a simple protagonist. The holes that Otto sees in her mind distance her a little from the reader at first. Although the novel is told in first person, we learn more from flash backs than from Rose’s own accounts of her feelings and personality. While this means that she is not immediately likeable, it also means that we discover who she is as we discover why she is. As the book progresses, she becomes more and more sympathetic and more and more impressive as the novel’s lead.

Xavier is seen mostly in flashbacks, and entirely through Rose’s eyes, which makes him something of an enigma, even by the end of the book. I felt very much that his value was in who he was to Rose and what he represented in her life, rather than in his own personality and actions. In contrast, I adored Otto. I thought he was the perfect foil to Rose and, while I was a little doubtful about the text-based conversations between the two at first, I do understand the benefit of this technique with regard to the progression of two characters who are closed to their peers in very different ways. I thought Otto was good for Rose and very important for Rose and I feel that his story serves to temper her own in a way.

I picked up A Long, Long Sleep because it looked mildly interesting and I thought it might be something that my partner would enjoy. I’m glad I did so, because it was clever and thoughtful and dark and hopeful – all the things that I love to see in a book. A fantastic debut by Anna Sheehan. I hope to see more from her very soon.

Review: Across the Universe – Beth Revis

When Amy agrees to accompany her parents to a new life on a new planet, she expects to wake up there in three hundred years’ time. But then, fifty years before their planned arrival, she is woken from her cryogenic slumber and almost killed in the process. With her parents still frozen, she feels overwhelmingly alone. Can she trust Elder, the ship’s leader-elect – and can Elder trust everything he’s ever known?

Across the Universe combines two things I love – science fiction and a dystopian society – so I was pretty much fated to enjoy it. I’m a sucker for books that are set in space, and this first novel in a trilogy combines the spaceship location with an intriguing mystery that kept me reading with interest right through to the end of the book.

The narrative of Across the Universe is split between the perspectives of Amy, who grew up on Earth, and Elder, who was born and raised on Godspeed and is destined to be the ship’s next leader. Amy feels very real for a teenager who has been thrust into circumstances she didn’t choose, without the support of her family or the friends and boyfriend she left behind on Earth. Her feelings of displacement and loss are well-portrayed and her determination to understand her new world helps her to be a likeable character. At times, I wished for a deeper insight into her personality and past, but it is likely this will eventuate later in the trilogy.

While Amy is easy for the reader to identify with, Elder is less familiar a character. Despite this, it was he whom I found the more interesting and enjoyable of Beth Revis’s two protagonists. The development of Elder over the duration of the novel is very well done, and his struggle with the conflict between the truth that he’s always known and the protests of his conscience is cleverly described.

The book’s supporting characters were generally enjoyable as well. Eldest is overbearing and rather sinister from the beginning, while I never entirely knew how to feel about Doc. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of Harley, because I liked what we did get to see, but didn’t learn quite enough to truly feel for him.

One thing I really enjoyed about Across the Universe was the lack of romance. I love YA romance, but sometimes it’s nice to have a book from a non-romance genre that doesn’t feel the need to make love a focus. While I realise that this won’t be the case for the whole trilogy, for this book I enjoyed being able to concentrate on the science fiction, dystopian and mystery elements of Revis’s world without having to dodge a love triangle to do so!

My main issue with Across the Universe was the fact that I found the chapters dealing with Amy’s dreams and thoughts while frozen dull and repetitive. It reached the point where I was just skimming them, and I feel like one short chapter could have given the same impression without detracting so much from the more interesting Elder chapters in between the Amy ones.

Although Across the Universe is the first book in an intended trilogy, it stands apart from other recent books in that, while there are some questions left unanswered, it nonetheless feels like a complete novel without the need to read the next two books. The main plotlines are all resolved and it is the universe that entices the reader to continue with the trilogy, not one of the oh-so-fashionable cliff-hangers that always leave me feeling like I’ve paid for a product that isn’t complete.

Across the Universe is a solid sci-fi addition to the young adult market.

Warning: Contains an attempted rape scene.

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