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2007 Australian Shadows Awards: The Winner

"Toother" by Terry Dowling

(Published in Eclipse 1, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books)

A specialist in the short form, Terry Dowling has had more than 100 short stories published. He is the author of the collections Basic Black: Tales of Appropriate Fear, Blackwater Days, An Intimate Knowledge of the Night, Antique Futures, Rynosseros, and Rynemonn. Dowling has also written several computer games and edited anthologies. His Australian Shadows Award win adds to an impressive awards resume, including wins in the International Horror Guild Awards, Ditmar Awards, and Aurealis Awards.

Visit the official Terry Dowling website!

 

Guest Judge Richard Harland's Comments:

On the evidence of this shortlist, Australian horror is alive and well and showing its teeth!

“The Dark and What It Said” is a classic ghost story of atmosphere and suspense. It’s not so much outright novelty as the perfect handling of timing and details that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Nobody, but nobody, does this sort of thing better than Rick Kennett.

David Conyers' “Subtle Invasion” is an old-style alien invasion story, cleverly capturing the flavour of those glorious old B-grade movies of the 50s.

Martin Livings’ “There Was Darkness” is set in a fantasy-like future world, and propels us forward with intimations of something deeply, darkly wrong. The shock, when it comes, lies not in any particular deed or monstrosity, but in the overall condition of an entire society.

Another beautifully measured, slow-release story is “Between the Memories” by Matthew Chrulew. What I most liked here was the depiction of the relationship between the main characters, with their creepy anatomical obsession. The final revelation arrives from a different quarter, yet the relationship has somehow created the ideal context for it.

The only novel on the shortlist was Jason Nahrung’s The Darkness Within. It’s a fun, rollicking tale that takes in a grimoire, a sexy vampire, an evil cabal, a demon, witchery, everything! Highly readable and highly recommended.

There can only be one winner, though, and my choice for the award goes to “Toother”. Terry Dowling’s story is a conscious extension of Poe’s “Berenice” (what is it about teeth? that Poe story always gave me an inexplicable shudder!), whilst also drawing on some fascinating research into a very murky corner of history. The psychic angle of the investigation is far more real and plausible than the standard psychic investigations of TV series. As for the central idea, it becomes all the more disturbing because of a coolly indirect method of presentation through conversations and transcripts. The final scene moves into dramatic action, yet still avoids melodrama and neat closure. This is a story that does everything right — a worthy award-winner.