You know what it is to keep a promise to the dead.
March 17, 2011 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Aboriginal Science Fiction was started in 1987 to rethink the look and feel of SF magazines; Charles Ryan published it in full sized magazine format, on glossy paper, with four-color interior illustrations and it sold well. Aboriginal kept up a full schedule through 1991, when a personal financial crisis nearly shut him down. He kept putting out the occasional issue until 2001, but the irregularity made it hard to find.

Aboriginal courted new writers, one of whom was Robert A. Metzger, an electrical engineer and laser specialist who wrote quirky, fun hard SF stories. After Aboriginal mostly folded and he got shafted on his first book deal, he mostly walked away from writing. He's drifted back in a bit since 2001, but fortunately at some point along the way he decided to put some of his boomerang era pieces online. And that's how it's possible for you to read one of the most haunting, breathtaking short stories I've ever read:

In the Shadow of Bones
posted by localroger (17 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Then we thought of "Aboriginal", and came up with this whole story about an alien anthropologist who'd been sent to Earth to study the indigenous population -- the Aboriginals -- and got so intrigued by science fiction that he started to beam it back as part of his reports to his home world.

It's a reverse Tharg the Mighty!
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on March 17, 2011

Re: Tharg actually it wasn't even that "reverse." For the first year or two the alien publisher had an every-issue column (no doubt ghost written by Ryan). I don't think any of that material is online but it was darkly hilarious. I remember in one column the publisher commended us on our "species simplification programme" which was sure to go swimmingly, as on his world they now only had seven species and it made things much easier to deal with.
posted by localroger at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2011

Aboriginal was amazing.
posted by feckless at 4:43 PM on March 17, 2011

Wow. So is In The Shadow of Bones. Time well spent. Thanks, localroger
posted by Redhush at 4:49 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Ab origine" is Latin, and means "from the beginning".
I am not aborigine because my ancestors didn't come from the beginning.
It hurts my brain to contemplate where the hell they came from.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:26 PM on March 17, 2011

My ancestors did come from the beginning. I'm alive today because there is an unbroken chain of ancestors going back to the earliest bacteria. And before!!

That doesn't change the fact that I'm a white urbanite, however.
posted by sneebler at 5:30 PM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I got some very nice rejection letters from Charles Ryan back in the late 80s.
posted by maurice at 5:36 PM on March 17, 2011

Fun fact -- for the first year or so Aboriginal ended all of its articles with the bolded end-tag ABO. Then they got complaints from people in the Australian aboriginal community complaining that this was a derogatory racial slur. There was some dithering about what to do, but in the end IIRC they came up with a little boomerang logo.
posted by localroger at 5:38 PM on March 17, 2011

That was a moving and beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it Roger.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:03 PM on March 17, 2011

Wow, that was a great story. Thanks.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:05 PM on March 17, 2011

Ditto. That is an excellent story. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Inkoate at 6:25 PM on March 17, 2011

Man, now I have to figure out what I did with my box of Aboriginals.

I think I was bright enough to start my subscription in 1991...
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 7:07 PM on March 17, 2011

I think I was a charter subscriber of Aboriginal. There was some pretty good stuff in there.

And lately I've been feeling like we'll be seeing those aliens soon.
posted by egypturnash at 10:27 PM on March 17, 2011

"Ab origine" is Latin, and means "from the beginning".

Yeah it's some word white people made up.
posted by mek at 4:27 AM on March 18, 2011

That was a very moving story. Thanks!
posted by xenophile at 8:48 AM on March 18, 2011

That was actually the story that came to mind when I saw Aboriginal mentioned in a next-thread title; seems to be the most memorable for a lot of other people too.
posted by tavella at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2011

A friend and classmate of mine used to get published in this magazine.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:51 PM on March 30, 2011

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