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December 27th, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers (No, Seriously)

Yesterday, early in the morning (you know, about ten), there's a knock at the door. So, stumbling out of bed, I go answer it, and find this fifty-odd year old guy I've never seen before. He's a solid looking guy, all silver haired and wrinkled sun browned skin, complete with a fairly solid beer gut to round off his look. In addition to this, he is quite nicely dressed, so when I open the door and he says, "Is Ben Peek here?" I've got no idea what to expect.

"Yeah," I reply, and my yeah has that whole yeah-but-if-it's-bad-I'm-not-him-and-shit-I-should've-put-pants-on tone to it.

"I got a package for you," he tells me, holding up this ugly brown envelope. "It was delivered to my neighbour's house on Friday, but they're away for Christmas... Anyway, I figured this might be something for Christmas, y'know? I couldn't bring it down, but yeah--"

Clearly, he's bothered by the fact that I'm not wearing pants, too.

At any rate, he gave me the package and took off, and I was most thankful, well, as thankful as was dignified, because he lived on the other side of the suburb that I do, and had, in fact, driven down to drop off this package, which I thought was pretty kind. Personally, I don't know if I would be that kind--I might be tempted to open packages that arrive on my absent neighbours doorsteps by strangers, though I should point out that if this happens, I will in fact get in my car and drive to this person's place, now. Wearing pants, because the world did me a favour and I will return it.

At any rate, in the package was the remaining Aurealis Award nominated fiction for the science fiction, fantasy, and horror selections. Lea Greenaway did the kind thing and sent them down, but sadly, spelt the street name wrong (just reversed a letter) and it ended up on a street whose only spelling similarity to mine was that it started with the same first letter. But that means, in fact, that I have the new Aurealis before it has been released to the public. I know, I know, it's kind of ridiculous that a magazine not yet released can have stories nominated for a 2005 award. I know.

Aurealis #36, however, marks the arrival of the new editorial team of Ben Payne benpayne and Robert Hoge, and it looks, upon reading half of the magazine, as if the pair have made a solid debut. If you didn't like Aurealis before this, chances are you still won't like it, but if you've been waiting for the magazine to have a stronger selection of fiction than it has for a while now, then you'll be pleased. The issue opens with a new piece featuring Lee Battersby's occultist priest in 'Father Muerte and the Flesh'. The structure of the story isn't right: there is no setup in the opening of the story to give a payoff in the climax when the Father and his dead wife confront at the end, so the story is, ultimately, a collection of related scenes involving lumps of flesh, ghosts, and dead children. Those scenes are nicely effective, however, so it's not a total loss. My favourite of these scenes was the one where Sir William Gull, ex-physician to Queen Victoria, and one of the possible suspects for Jack the Ripper, stands in his tiny office with a portrait of the Queen, and talks about the Whitechapel murders while staring at a portrait of Queen Victoria. While there, the Father wonders about what they talked about when when, in the evenings, she climbed down from the frame for him.

Neat.