Aurealis #142, July 2021
“The Martian Diary” by Stuart Bullock
“Access Denied” by Baden M Chant
“The Gene Witch and the Orchard” by Phil Dyer
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
Original works set in space, a future Earth, and a world that never existed appear in this issue.
“The Martian Diary” by Stuart Bullock takes the form of a series of messages written by a teenage girl aboard a space station orbiting Mars. These are addressed to one of many passengers in suspended animation, who will occupy the red planet after the long and difficult process of terraforming ends. An accident changes the girl’s status aboard the station.
The author provides a convincing adolescent narrative voice. Other aspects of the plot are less plausible. One must accept, for example, that the girl is taught how to read, but must learn how to write on her own.
“Access Denied” by Baden M Chant takes place after a disaster forces many inhabitants of Japan to seek refuge in Australia. The protagonist is one such refugee, restricted to living among others of the same kind. While illegally visiting a beach limited to the wealthy, he meets a young woman of the upper class. They make use of clandestine technology to continue their romance, but the difference in their social standing inevitably leads to separation.
This synopsis offers only a hint of the rich, complex background of the story. The author manages to create a future world very different from our own without confusing the reader. The characters are fully developed, and their relationships are more realistic than those often seen in science fiction. The story’s downbeat conclusion avoids melodrama and is entirely believable.
“The Gene Witch and the Orchard” by Phil Dyer is set in a fantasy world in which the title character has the magical ability to make changes in the genetics of living organisms. A series of alterations made by a rival leads to a final confrontation between the protagonist and the strange orchard that determines her fate.
The use of genetic engineering in a fantasy story is interesting and unusual, and leads to many striking images. The meeting between the protagonist and her rival is surprising, if somewhat anticlimactic. The story’s open-ended conclusion may leaves some readers wanting more.
Victoria Silverwolf believes one of these tales is either a very long short story or a very short novelette.