Aurealis SF #136, November 2020

Aurealis #136, November 2020

“How We Felt” by Helena O’Connor

“Fresh Air” by Seth Robinson

“Not Fade Away” by Eneasz Brodski

Reviewed by Robert L Turner III

“How We Felt” by Helena O’Connor is an interesting if incomplete meditation on control, emotion and family bonds. In the story, the narrator, twenty-one, is set to hunt unauthorized emotions on the lunar inter-dome tram. As she approaches her newest target, she is given the chance to be free. The story relies on the conceit that the narrator can smell emotions and the big reveal is that she is a modified clone of the woman who frees her. The conclusion is pessimistic and fails to tie the disparate pieces of the story together very well. For a space-future, emotion feeding clone, quasi-werewolf story, this isn’t bad, but it doesn’t go beyond that.

Set in a post-environmental apocalypse Australia, “Fresh Air” by Seth Robinson tells of Corrie, a refugee from the cities and the authoritarian New Nation. The story is a thin copy of Fahrenheit 451, with the expected “resist!” tropes. Other than being set in Australia there is nothing at all original or interesting in the text.

“Not Fade Away” by Eneasz Brodski is set in a world where magic comes from memories and Mikhal, a 70-year-old grandfather, has to learn to wield magic now that he has reached the “age of service.” Without the magic provided, unnatural storms will descend on the kingdom and bring chaos. However important the duty, Mikhal dreads the cost. The author’s afterward links the story explicitly with Alzheimer’s, but the story raises larger issues. In this world, elders can sacrifice memory for a concrete benefit. This points the reader to the fact that in many cases our elders lose themselves to no-ones gain and at a great cost in emotional and financial terms. It serves as a bleak reminder of a question no one wants to answer. How much is a life worth and how do we decide who will pay?

Robert L Turner III is a professor and long-term SF fan. He regularly teaches an honors course on Science Fiction.