Aurealis #140, May 2021

Aurealis #140, May 2021

“Stories My Mum Told Me” by Erin A. Sayers

“Door Thirteen” by Caylee Tierney

“The Last Memory” by Azure Arther

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Three new short stories by women appear in the latest issue of this Australian magazine.

“Stories My Mum Told Me” by Erin A. Sayers takes place in the late twenty-first century, when an endless, devastating drought makes rain and snow only vague memories. The narrator reminisces about the lives of her mother and grandmother, while looking forward to a brighter tomorrow.

This brief tale creates a believable portrait of a world struggling to survive extreme environmental degradation. Unlike other works of so-called cli-fi, it offers a vision of humanity rising up to the challenge, making use of advanced technology. The imagined future is full of plausible details. The setting will have a special meaning for Australian readers.

“Door Thirteen” by Caylee Tierney is set in a fantasy version of the modern world where people can enter rooms that take them on imaginary quests. The protagonist works as a receptionist at a business that offers these simulated adventures. A strange customer forces him to enter the most frightening of these rooms, where he must face his greatest fears, and his guilt over an act committed in the past.

The premise is interesting, and the theme of having to confront the darkest part of one’s self is a powerful one. It seems odd that the rooms are said to be magical, as the plot could easily involve virtual reality technology rather than the supernatural. The hidden motivation of the mysterious customer strains credibility.

The narrator of “The Last Memory” by Azure Arther is a shapeshifting alien, aboard a starship with others of its kind. It delves into the memories of the multiple past lives of the great prophet of its kind, eventually learning the truth about its species and their secret past.

This brief synopsis barely scratches the surface of a story that features a complicated plot set against an equally complex background. One cannot fault the author’s imagination, and ability to create an exotic setting in a few words. The other side of this two-edged sword is that the story is often confusing, with so many strange elements that it is difficult to keep them straight.

Victoria Silverwolf got a free meal at work tonight.