Genre: Speculative Fiction, Commercial Fiction
NBWG Publishing: 9780994487377
Format: Paperback & Ebook
Who is the master and who the machine?
This collection of twenty stories by the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group explores this question with horror, humour, pathos and philosophy.
Whether it be in our own place and time, far in the future, the past, or in a universe of their own making, our authors grapple with the interface between humanity and its machines.
Are the things we make ours to command? Will they always be?
And who, exactly, is making whom?
“Our relationship with technology has never been as close or as complex as it is today. Our gentle, stately progress has become, in the last two centuries, a speeding juggernaut of change – a fearsome engine, bearing us at breakneck speed we know not where.” Chris Lake
“A Fearsome Engine” is an anthology, a collection of short stories by a writers’ group in the Northern Beaches in Australia. As such, it’s published as much for the authors as the readers, or so you’d think. But I started reading at the beginning, out of curiosity, because I knew some of the writers, and found myself half way through before I realised what the time was. The central idea — humanity’s relationship with technology — is approached from many different angles, and in many different styles — horror to romance to mystery to humour, you name it. The writing is consistently impressive and, all in all, it makes for an exciting, page-turning read. All power to writers’ groups! This one’s a keeper.
Women’s Ink, July 2017
By Valerie Pybus
The introduction says that A Fearsome Engine ‘explores man’s relationship with technology’ but it is a sign of progress that many of the authors and protagonists are female and that the group leader is award-winning author Zena Shapter. An intriguing cover sets the scene for a cornucopia of ideas and stories and this is certainly an eclectic group of stories. I particularly liked ‘Shangri La’ by Chris Lake, where the protagonist was a sad victim and by contrast, ‘Aiko and the Tiger’ by Kylie Pfeiffer, where the protagonist, by contrast, left a defiant legacy. A tongue-in-cheek tale by J.E. Gaulton, ‘The Instructions’, was a definite what if? Who would be controlling whom? And how could anyone reading ‘Fellow Travellers To The End’ by Judith O’Connor, turn the last page and not feel a tightening of the throat with compassion? The terrifying realism of ‘What Is A Disease?’ by Gill Schierhout, focused sharply on our present day inability to halt the overwhelming human pollution of our planet. Thanks also to Susan Steggall for ‘A Poetical Science’, bringing our attention to the wonderful Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, and her achievements. Susan has such a capacity to combine cleverly poetry and arts, interweaving them with science into unforgettable mosaics. Unfortunately there is not space enough to do justice to all the authors individually, only to congratulate them on a very positive kaleidoscope of achievements.
Zena Shapter (Author, Editor, Editor-in-Chief, Layout, Cover Design), Chris Lake (Author, Editor, Editor-in-Chief, Development), Harriet Cunningham (Author, Editor), Tony McFadden (Author, Editor), Kylie Pfeiffer (Author, Editor), Susan Steggall (Author, Editor), Mijmark (Author, Cover Design), Zoya Nojin (Editor), Amy Spurling (Editor), Bronwen Bowden (Author), Alexandra Cain (Author), Chris Foster (Author), J E Gaulton (Author), Suzi Green (Author), Carl Holm (Author), Rodney Jensen (Author), A R Kelly (Author), P J Keuning (Author), Andrew Mills (Author), Judith O’Connor (Author), Gill Schierhout (Author), and Sonia Zadro (Author).
Table of Contents:
Water Torture – Carl Holm – A young man is sent to a remote outback station on a simple mission: look over the property and make any repairs necessary. But why has no human set foot in the place for nearly twenty-five years?
Hit The Road – Tony McFadden – In the not too distant future, Lalit and his recently restored 2016 Mustang face off against a new technology that threatens humanity’s very existence. The streets of Los Angeles have become an automotive battleground.
Like The Web Of A Swamp Spider – Zena Shapter – Friendship is about forgiving each others’ mistakes, and accepting others for who they are… only in some conditions that’s easier said than done. On a distant planet, with limited technology, her hillstead surrounded by swamp – Salee must face her worst fears.
Aiko And The Tiger – Kylie Pfeiffer – Aiko creates a tiger to combat her isolation and despair. It gives her the strength to contemplate the abomination growing inside her: destroy it or let it kill? She finds only one answer…
The Instructions – J E Gaulton – WARNING: Instructions must be followed carefully to avoid serious bodily injury! Do you read them carefully? Jo didn’t…
Don’t Wanna Play No More – Andrew Mills – Racing home to propose to his girlfriend, Anton discovers his best friend Mark on his knees vomiting. Mark was supposed to collect the engagement ring from the jewellers for Anton. Now both of them are stunned to silence…
Shangri La – Chris Lake – New body, new life, new world – in fact, any body, life or world you could possibly want. What would we pay for a chance like that? How far would we go to live out our perfect, customised fantasy?
Chez Antoine’s – A R Kelly – More than anything, Angela wants to relive her most precious memories one last time. But is she prepared to face the truth that lies buried within them?
The Final Journey – Rodney Jensen – Anil, a scavenger, who lives beside Mumbai’s huge waste tip in 2135, comes across a classified report from Planet Pironus b, authored by a deranged Android in charge of a space mission. Anil must confront or ignore the debacle reported.
Drone – P J Keuning – Stan is happy. The sun is shining and he is relaxing in his favourite lounge chair with a cup of hot brew by his side. ‘What!’ The brew is cold. Something must be wrong with his drones…
Oscar – Sonia Zadro – Frozen by grief and loss, Agneta faces her pain and decides on a way to move forward. However, in moving forward she discovers something so unexpected she might never be the same again.
111-000-111 – Mijmark – Einstein proved time is relative; one man’s instant is another man’s eternity.
Fellow Travellers To The End – Judith O’Connor – Looking down the barrel of a monster piece of technology brings up mixed feelings. Memories, flashbacks, jokes and new friends emerge. A walk down an unexpected path leads to an unforgettable life experience.
Esperance – Bronwen Bowden – As a mother wills her son to live, she realises how much medical technology has complicated the act of dying, there’s more than one way to lose a son and there are choices only the next of kin can make.
Found Out On Facebook – Alexandra Cain – John dies all alone: no friends, no phone, no internet. His family, who are rarely in contact, learn of his death through social media. However, despite having all the technology in the world to help them, they struggle to reconnect…
Fishing – Chris Foster – Harold takes his son fishing in an effort to heal the wounds between them. But what should be a leisurely bonding afternoon instead turns into a storm that forces them to confront the ugly truths from which they’ve been hiding.
Generational Breakdown – Suzi Green – Stranded in the middle of nowhere, an hour from home, everyone and everything in Bec’s life seems to be falling apart. What kind of technological rabbit-out-of-a-hat solution can she pull to get them out of this one?
Work Out – Harriet Cunningham – What do you do when your wife gives you a fitness tracker for your 50th birthday? Do you take the hint and go to the gym? Or do you take the hint and go elsewhere? Trust technology to work it out…
What Is A Disease – Gill Schierhout – “Eventually had a chance to speak properly to Mom, today. She’s having a lung biopsy on Friday…” and so begins one woman’s journey to discovering why we think the way we do about this thing called ‘a disease’… and is there an alternative?
A Poetical Science – Susan Steggall – Through her understanding of mathematics as a ‘poetical science’ Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), devised the first algorithm to program machines – a pioneering moment in technology that would lead to the information age of the late twentieth century.
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