We are certainly in global strange times so it seems perfect timing for this collection of the weird, the odd and the bizarre by creative Australian writers in the anthology Strangely Enough: Short Stories for Strange Times (Midnight Sun 2023), edited by Gillian Hagenus. Midnight Sun is known for publishing slightly offbeat writing that tests the parameters of reality, or plonks us directly into a world that is slightly ‘off’ (or sometimes massively so) and this collection is for those (like me) who really enjoy writers who push the boundaries and shift the kaleidoscopic lens so that what we see is either not what we think we see, or not what we expect.
The content is wide and varied: a family farming fingers, a baby in a witch’s cauldron, an Egyptian God in the suburban sewers, but the themes are constant: surrealism, grit, wit, grief, ghostly presence, fear, change and ultimately, human connection.
The book opens with the omnipotent, experimental story The Builder/Dreamer by Victoria Griffin and ends with the weird Cat/Lady by Deborah Frenkel. In between, some of my favourites are the haunting The Twelve by Rowan Heath, the fascinating Atrophy by Az Cosgrove, the mysterious powers of the forest in Behind the Rowan Trees by Xandra Fowler, the futuristic Shut Your Mouth, Block Your Ears by Amber K. Tilley, the creepy Marrying the Ropemaker’s Daughter by Mikaela Castledine, the chilling Every Beast, Every Creeping Thing by Sam Mayne and of course, the wondrously weird Fingers in the Dirt by Leo Alder (why not eat fingers if they’re growing and potatoes are not?!) But you will have your own favourites. There is guaranteed to be something to delight, surprise, frighten or amaze you.
Australian short fiction is flourishing and I love nothing more than dipping into a collection compiled of many authors I don’t know, some emerging and some more established, wondering what I will find. There is always treasure.