________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2000

cover Aurora Awards: An Anthology of Prize-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Edo van Belkom (Ed.)
Kingston, ON; Quarry Press, 1999.
220 pp., pbk., $21.95.
ISBN 1-55082-264-0.

Subject Headings:
Science fiction, Canadian (English).
Fantasy fiction, Canadian (English).
Short stories, Canadian (English).

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**** /4

The Aurora is Canada's "people's choice" award. Ballots are distributed through Canadian SF specialty bookstores, periodicals, and conventions. Auroras are also given to works in French.

Although the Aurora is presented in 10 categories, this anthology is limited to the winners of the "Best Short-Form Work in English (Short Story)" over the period from 1989 to 1997. As 1992 had co-winners, the collection actually numbers 11 stories. Edo van Belkom's four page "Introduction" effectively introduces Canadian Science Fiction/Fantasy and the history of the Aurora award. At the book's conclusion, Robert J. Sawyer provides a listing of Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy stories and books which have won nation and/or international awards. Sawyer's contribution could be considered as a buying guide for those new to the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Some readers may be surprised to learn that the Arthur Ellis Award, which is presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, has twice gone to SF/mystery crossover works. The book's final pages provide brief biographical information about the stories' authors.

Naturally, the bulk of the book is made up of the 11 award-winning stories which range in length from 7 to 31 pages. At the end of each story, van Belkom provides the names of the year's other nominees and indicates where they were published, thereby extending the book's contents for those who want more reading after finishing the anthology's last page. For individuals who like to categorize their reading, all but two of the 11 stories would likely be classified as science fiction rather than fantasy. As is expected of these two genres, the stories are strong in theme, and some, such as James Alan Gardner's "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" and Robert Charles Wilson's "The Perseids," display some interesting stylistic devices. Subject matter includes alien contact in the aforementioned "The Perseids" and "The Fragrance of Orchids" by Sally McBride. Readers get a new look at Santa Claus and Christmas in "The Toy Mill" by David Nickle and Karl Schroeder while the origin of vampires is reconsidered in Robert J. Sawyer's "Peking Man." Capital punishment takes on time travel dimensions in Robert J. Sawyer's "Just Like Old Times," and the world finds a new beginning in James Alan Gardner's "Muffin Explains Teleology to the World at Large." New beginnings of another kind are found in Eileen Kernaghan's "Carpe Diem." Mars is the location of Michael Skeet's "Breaking Ball," the moon in Candace Jane Dorsey's "Sleeping in a Box," and the ocean floor in Peter Watt's "A Niche." The stories are all good reads, and many have delightful surprise endings.

While Aurora Awards merits a place on school and public library shelves just as a free reading option, creative teachers could use many of the various themes explored by the stories as springboards into curricular areas. For example, the issue of the relationship of science to politics and religion which is dramatically raised in Gardner's "Three Hearings of the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" could easily knit together the content of English, science and history classes.

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364