Plato having defined man to be a two-legged, animal without feathers, Diogenes plucked a cock and brought it into the Academy, and said, ‘This is Plato’s man.’ On which account this addition was made to the definition: ‘With broad flat nails.’ — Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers
A Book of Endings
[...] quintessential Biancotti: elusive, evocative, discomfiting, and elegant. The emphasis on experience and hope, but the clear-eyed vision of the evil and despair in the world, is ever-present; so, too, is the stubborn refusal of both the real and any fantasy world to grant escape or moral absolution. A Book of Endings is about the liminal places where consensus reality breaks down, and about people who wake up to that fact; but crucially it is about many different such places, and many different such consensus realities—and it depicts all of those storied worlds as having space in them for failure. Intellectually, then, this is a sharp collection; stylistically, it is gentle but complex, offering deeply readable prose which feels more often than not pitch perfect—lean but pregnant, full of memorable and arresting moments and images.
– Dan Hartland, Strange Horizons, Feb-10
These are unnerving and elliptical, in the main, and tread a fine line between the everyday mundaneity that never is and overblown literary style that can be tiresome when too self-conscious. Mostly they stay on the right side of the line and intrigue more than irritate. Biancotti is further proof of why readers enjoy the short story, even though publishers prefer to pretend we don’t.
– Sydney Alumni Magazine, Dec-09
A Book of Endings is quite simply a brilliant collection. I greatly look forward to seeing more fiction, of any length, from this great Australian author.
– Chuck McKenzie, Oz HorrorScope, Dec-09
The busiest short-story writers in Australia are working in speculative fiction, a mixture of dark fantasy, science and other unsettling stuff. They are also some of the best, although largely ignored by the major local publishers. Biancotti has won various awards and been commended in international listings. She is working in the Zeitgeist of The Road and Steven Amsterdam – the apocalypse and afterwards – but at much shorter length. There are 21 short stories here. Most have the germ of a novel within them. A robot dog rusts in a decaying royal palace, but sticks to his duty. A girl slips into the interstices of Sydney. Thugs tussle over black market electricity. What Biancotti will do with more space, and a novel framework, remains to be seen. But the stories are succinct and powerful. Best ordered online, as the publisher is a micropress.
– The Age, Oct-09
The Tailor of Time
Clockwork Phoenix, Norilana Books, July 2008
Deborah Biancotti explores the true nature of the universe in “The Tailor of Time,” where that selfsame individual, responsible for sewing together bits and pieces of time to create the ever-changing days and nights, is visited by a man who asks for a small, simple favor. Sadly, this favor, for all that it’s proposed in the best of intentions, is near-impossible to grant, but the Tailor, just this once, will try. What happens then is a mystery, one not even the great Engineer who designed the progress of time itself, can explain. Beautifully told, it’s filled with rich imagery and interesting concepts.
– Michael M Jones, SF Site, Mar-09
Deborah Biancotti’s story “The Tailor of Time” is one of the better stories in the collection. The narrative is straightforward, the prose well-written, and it resolves as a delightful fairy tale with emotionally affecting depths. Here there be ruminations on the quality of time, the nature of creation, and the meaning of death.
– Deborah J. Brannon, Green Man Review, Feb-09
Finally, Deborah Biancotti spellbinds the reader with the marvelous “The Tailor Of Time,” a fantastic fairy tale portraying a man whose daughter is dying and who seeks additional time for her from the mysterious Tailor who, appointed by an even more elusive Engineer, stitches days and nights by means of his sewing machine.
Did you know that the days and nights are stitched from bolts of unearthly cloth, joined by the sewing machine of the Tailor of Time? And, if the Tailor creates the passage of time, then one can arrest him and gain just an extra moment, right? Avery, whose daughter is dying, seeks more time for her from the Tailor. When he grants this desire, the Tailor affects the world all the way down to a dying girl and all the way up to the Engineer of all. In “The Tailor of Time,” Deborah Biancotti spins out her conceit with a light and fluid intelligence. She resists the treacle of simple wish fulfillment, choosing instead to study the characters of Avery, the Tailor, and the Engineer.
– Elizabeth A. Allen, Jul-8, The Fix
Now to the books. Norilana, established by the fantasy writer Vera Nazarian, is showing commendable dedication to publishing original anthologies, with a commitment to several new series of these: first Lace and Blade, and now, with a very strong first volume, Clockwork Phoenix, edited by Mike Allen. Established writers and new names all are in good form here…
– Nick Gevers, Jul-08, Locus
Author and editor Allen (Mythic) has compiled a neatly packaged set of short stories that flow cleverly and seamlessly from one inspiration to another…. Lush descriptions and exotic imagery startle, engross, chill and electrify the reader, and all 19 stories have a strong and delicious taste of weird.
– Publishers Weekly 12 May 2008
Eighteen stories all in all and one element I found in common among all the stories is that they were comfortable to read, usually going for an elegant and minimalist writing style rather than verbose, choking paragraphs. A recurring theme of this anthology is that it attempts to evoke the reader’s sense of wonder.
If you’re into fantasy or science fiction, Clockwork Phoenix is a decent anthology that’s not too heavy and instead striking a balance between compelling fiction and accessibility. The selection of stories is actually quite consistent and even if you’re not into the genre, this is a welcome read that’ll hopefully strike an emotional chord in you.
– Review by Charles Tan, blogspot
For beach readers who want stories that are thoroughly engrossing but can be finished before it’s time to reapply yet another coating of sunscreen, this anthology definitely delivers.
– Bucks County Courier Times (Levittown, PA), June 26, 2008
2012 anthology, Twelfth Planet Press, March 2008
The anthology kicks off with a great piece by Deborah Biancotti, “Watertight Lies”, a further example of the excellent character-driven storyteller she has become. When water becomes a precious resource, Biancotti ponders to what lengths people will go to protect what they have.
– Review by Russell B. Farr, Jan-09, Ticonderoga Online
Deborah Biancotti’s “Watertight Lies” is one of the stories that seems frighteningly plausible. I really had no idea where the story was going in the first few pages, with two cave explorers bandying jokes around – but it dragged me along quite easily, until it surfaced into a world where water is an even more precious resource than today, in 2008. This is one of the less overtly science fictional of the stories in the collection, and perhaps seems more credible for that very reason.
– Review by Alexandra Pierce, Apr-08, ASiF
Picking the stand-out stories in this anthology was an impossible task, as every single piece included was outstanding. Thus, I’ll confine myself to making special mention of my personal favourites: ‘Watertight Lies’ by Deborah Biancotti; probably the least ‘speculative’ of the lot, and unpleasantly realistic for it. Biancotti has a way with dialogue that paints a perfect picture of her protagonists, giving the reader an emotional investment in their fate.
– Review by Chuck McKenzie, Apr-08, HorrorScope
The standouts for me:
“Watertight Lies”, by Deborah Biancotti. Tense, frightening and gripping stuff. A knockout punch with which to start and effectively written.
– angriest, Apr-08, livejournal
I think it’s a terrific book; you read these stories back to back, and you get these wonderful shards of paranoia and concern and honest-to-Gpd passion for our planet. [snip] Deborah Biancotti is a smashing writer. Her handling of the dialogue in the first half of “Watertight Lies” is so dizzyingly skilful I went back to reread it several times; it’s revealing, and funny, and does so much to make us feel sympathy for those two characters grasping on to normality against the rising panic. It’s all the more upsetting when the violence breaks in. It does what few short stories have the space to do – it makes you care without forcing you to do so. Actually, it’s probably the only one in the book which does that so subtly and so cleverly. It’s intriguing and perfectly paced. I want to read that full collection by Deborah now. It’s a great start to the book.
– Rob Shearman, Mar-08, livejournal
A Scar for Leida
Fantastic Wonder Stories, Ticonderoga Publications, March 2007
A Scar for Leida by Deborah Biancotti is beautifully written, moving and darkly imaginative. This is a sits-in-the-back-of-your-mind kind of story that doesn’t want to leave. The complexities of love, deceit, revenge and the consequences are laid out for the reader.
– Judges Report, AAs 2007, Angela Slatter (convenor), Alex Adsett, Dianne de Bellis, Karen Miller, Gillian Polack
Magic doesn’t often seem to have real repercussions for its practitioners. Enter Deborah Biancotti, with “A Scar for Leida”. Here, every time Katya practises magic, she gets a new scar – and this is basically her advertising too. With Leida, though, Katya has made a mistake: Leida has imagined her relationship with Tarakh, and therefore his betrayal. It takes a quite unexpected tack towards the end, but it works.
– Review by Alexandra Pierce, ASiF
The Dying Light
Eidolon 1, August 2006
Deborah Biancotti’s “The Dying Light” takes the reader into a world where tribal life revolves around the individuals’ premonitory visions of their death. The relationship this population has with life forms a unique foundation for a melancholy, character-centred tale.
– Review by Miranda Siemienowicz, OzHorrorScope
Agog! Ripping Reads, June 2006
And then there is “Stealing Free” by Deborah Biancotti, involving a hero, a sorceress and a queen who happen to be a salamander, an octopus and a spotted gudgeon. There are some pelicans as well, and gorgeous writing.
– Review by Kyla Ward, ASiF
Deborah Biancotti’s “Stealing Free” is an almost pseudo-mythological story of a salamander seeking to find freedom from its bargain with a terrible queen. Biancotti avoids the humourless pomposity too often evident in mock-mythological tales, instead delivering perhaps her most readable and wryly amusing story to date. Typically, for Biancotti, though, the story is also full of philosophical and psychological depth, and while it can be read as quite a satisfying story at a surface level, readers looking for more will find plenty to ponder over later on.
– Review by Ben Payne, ASiF
Surrender 1: Rope Artist
Shadowed Realms #9: Redback Special Edition, January 2006
Beautiful, deadly, precise – Surrender 1: Rope Artist by Deborah Biancotti has a sparsity and economy of words that is just amazing. As in the best tradition of Great Eastern Writings so much is said by what is not said. Yeah, all very Zen, I know, but true. Oh, and don’t miss the rollover notes scattered throughout the story. They add a whole extra layer to the tale and you’ll miss out on the full ‘ending’ if you skip them.
– Review by Andrew McKiernan, Oz HorrorScope
Summa Seltzer Missive
Ticonderoga Online #6, December 2005
Biancotti’s “Summa Seltza Missive” was infinitely more entertaining and wonderfully humorous, a tale for the mailroom worker in us all. It is every now and again that one comes across a story that is written with such simplicity yet that resonates long afterward and it is here that Biancotti succeeds with aplomb.
– Review by Mark Deniz, ASiF, July 2006
Deborah Biancotti delights with her story ‘Summa Seltzer Missive’, about a lonely mail worker who gets the chance meeting of a lifetime. Polly works in the mail room; she’s bored with her life and longs to shed the stagnant image of the ‘overlooked’ woman. So one day she heads out and gets a new dress and a fancy pair of shoes, at a party she gets to present her ‘new look’. It is here, at this party, she gets the chance to believe in magic again, when she meets a man who claims to be Santa, who knows all about her and wants her to know all about him. This was quite a fantastical story that resonates a sense of fantasy and euphoria.
Ticonderoga offers their readers a treat from both sides of the moral borders, the horror of “The Grail” and the uplifting nature of “Summer Seltzer Missive”. I for one can’t wait for next month’s issue.
– Review by Ad_John, Oz HorrorScope
Orb #6 is a massive 216 pages of Aussie speculative fiction, articles and reviews. Favourites were Deborah Biancotti’s offbeat urban fantasy about the Sandman, Andrew Macrae’s SF tale about sentient buildings, and Geoffrey Maloney’s thought-provoking story about a society where people have extended lifespans and are addicted to youth.
– Review by James Cain, Aurealis Express
Number 3 Raw Place
Agog! Smashing Stories, 2004
The Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy, One, 2005
Deborah Biancotti’s ‘Number 3 Raw Place’ is edgy and uncomfortable. It explores the links between houses and people and the needs of people. To say more is to spoil it. Half the joy of this story is its uncertainty: not quite knowing where it will lead you.
– Review by Gillian Polack, ASiF (Review : The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy #1)
‘Number 3 Raw Place’ by Deborah Biancotti is another step upwards, more slipstream than MR: understated, elegantly strange and I’m not altogether sure what happened in the end, but it worked. If it made marginally less sense (and featured a backwards-talking dwarf and a giant), David Lynch would buy the movie rights.
– Review by Ian McHugh, Strange Horizons, 12 December 2005
As always, the anthology offers the perfect introductory course to the geographically locked-in, with familar names, such as Deborah Biancotti, Sean McMullen, and Simon Brown, and “new” authors …. To put it simply: bad work does not make it into Sparks’ books. That’s not to say, however, that some stories don’t shine even more brightly than the rest. There is the haunting imagery of a world lost in Trent Jamieson’s mournful “Endure.” The echoes of loss and fear in “Water Babies,” a murder mystery lyrically unwound by Simon Brown, in his own blend of grit and fantasy that never fails to snare the reader. And Biancotti does not disappoint, either, with her perplexing and pain-filled story of hope and the loss of hope, in “Number 3 Raw Place.” Each work carries it’s own, distinctive resonance that lifts it to another level against some stiff competition.
– Review by Lisa DuMond, SF Site & MEviews
While there isn’t a story in here I didn’t enjoy, the best for me were the ones which gave … pessimism and dislocation the sharpest focus, either through tight, well-characterised relationship studies — as in Deborah Biancotti’s haunting evocation of conflicting expectations and desires in “Number 3 Raw Place”, …
– Review by Ben Payne, Orb #6
All in all, this is a must for lovers of short SF/F and those who can look beyond the boundaries of Oz. I can’t mention all those I liked, but of note are Deborah Biancotti’s ‘Number 3 Raw Place’, Justine Larbalestier’s ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’, and of course Sean McMullen’s ‘The Cascade’. I see a number of these stories making shortlists for awards in many places. Get a copy today from www.bookworm.com – a bloody good read!
– Review by Robert N Stephenson, Aurealis Express
In a world where nearly a dozen international best-of volumes attempt to show what the year’s SF, fantasy and horror field has to offer in the short-fiction stakes, it’s heartening to have the Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy (MirrorDanse Books, 255pp, $19.95) do the same for the local scene. Editors Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt present their 12 choices from last year’s crop, together with a list of recommended works and a handy appendix of local publications. Heading the line-up is Margo Lanagan’s moving, horrific and unforgettable Singing My Sister Down, but there’s also a zany medieval romp from Brendan Duffy and fine work from Geoffrey Maloney and Deborah Biancotti among others, making this diverse and pleasing first instalment a useful benchmark volume and worthy addition to any library.
– Review by Terry Dowling, Weekend Australian, October 1-2, 2005
Stone by Stone
Southern Blood, 2003
Good horror stories are thin on the ground … this is a wild mix of different voices, demonstrating a wide spectrum of approaches available to the genre. Southern Blood packs sixteen tales between its covers, each one an absolute pearl … the macabre murder suicide with a delicious twist of Deborah Biancotti’s ‘Stone by Stone’
– Review by Keith Stevenson, Aurealis #32
…Deborah Biancotti’s story “Stone By Stone”, a descendent of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” with a delicious twist. [snip] “Stone By Stone” and Kaaron’s “The Glass Woman” and “The Sameness of Birthdays” share an essential characteristic. They are all the first person reflections of a single character, in each case a tortured woman.
– Review by Tabula Rasa of the 2009 shades Theatre production, Shadowmuse.
The Singular Life of Eddy Dovewater
Agog! Terrific Tales, 2003
Deborah Biancotti, who’s won several Australian awards for her short fiction, delivers a strange surreal piece of science fiction in “The Singular Life of Eddie Dovewater” which relates the story of somebody who is running from the moment he leaves the womb until the moment he leaves human ken altogether.
– Review by Jonathan Strahan, Locus #509
The Razor Salesman
Ideomancer Unbound, 2002
“The Razor Salesman” by Deborah Biancotti is a horror-tinged, very British-feeling SF/fantasy story. Strange, repressed mother Ellen struggles to feed her sons while resenting the neighbor boy, Andy, who’s always wanting to stay for dinner. Biancotti misdirects the reader during the course of the story; the razor salesman’s wares don’t turn out to have the purpose that the reader originally believes. “The Razor Salesman’s” world is an odd, disturbing one that exists outside of any “real” time, with elements of past, present and future combined, creepy, weird and “grey” in the tradition of a great number of British stories of loss of identity and social malaise.
– Review by Amy Sterling Casil, SF Reader
King of All and the Metal Sentinel
Agog! Fantastic Fiction, 2002
With so little room to discuss Agog! though, let me concentrate on the touches of brilliance. Starting with Deborah Biancotti’s “King of All and the Metal Sentinel.” There is something unbearably tragic about machines who outlive their owners and lose their purpose.
– Review by Lisa DuMond, SF Site, MEviews
I wish I had the space to synopsize and comment on all the fine stories in Agog! Fantastic Fiction, but, alas, such is not the case. Let me nonetheless try to convey the merits of this important showcase from Down Under, compiled by editor Cat Sparks. Nearly thirty Australian writers–including such well-known names as Stephen Dedman, Damien Broderick, and Terry Dowling–contribute original stories in nearly every conceivable genre mode and style, proving that our austral neighbors understand and practice SF as wholeheartedly and inventively as we do here. There’s not a loser in the lot, and it’s unfair to cite just a few, but I’ll do so anyway. Claire McKenna’s “Stealing Alice” is a blend of Greg Egan and Cordwainer Smith. Deborah Biancotti’s “King of All and the Metal Sentinel” conjures up memories of Brian Aldiss’s “But Who Can Replace a Man?”, Kate Orman’s “Ticket to Backwards” dramatizes inadvertant time-travel in the manner of Michael Bishop’s “The Quickening.” And Geoffrey Maloney’s “The Imperfect Instantaneous People Mover” is a PKD-Sheckleyan romp. Send away for this collection and feel a new kinship with our Australian peers.
– Review by Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s
Redsine 7, 2002
There were many talented authors lining up for this award and amongst those that deserve Honourable Mentions are Deborah Biancotti, who continues to impress with ‘Silicon Cast’ (Redsine 7) and ‘Life’s Work’ (Passing Strange),…
– 2002 Aurealis Awards: Judges’ Report
Editors Trent Jamieson and Garry Nurrish have wisely chosen a broad array of material to fill the coveted slots in the fiction section. As in the best stories, some of these selections leave the reader unsure whether to laugh, shudder, or vomit. Cases in point: “Silicon Cast” by Deborah Biancotti and “Mesh of Veins” by Brendan Connell, both tales of vanity taken to the ultimate extreme. Perhaps the proper reaction to these stories would be a shudder of revulsion, but that’s your call, really.
– Review by Lisa DuMond, SF Site
Two stories that build upon present day trends in vanity — though from decidedly different perspectives — are “Mesh of Veins” by Brendan Connell and Biancotti’s “Silicon Cast”. The former notes how such body ‘alterations’ as tattooing and piercing lead to a perhaps unexpected personal transformation, while in the latter the price to be paid for perpetual beauty may be even higher for those who support the façade.
– Review by David Soyka, SF Site