Aurealis #102, July 2017

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

Aurealis #102, July 2017

“The Great House Thrippet, Season 246, Episode 12” by Marlee Jane Ward

“The Planck Harvest” by James Rowland
“Pretty Little Ones” by Leigh Harlen

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The latest issue of this Australian magazine offers a balance of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Reality television has gone to extremes in “The Great House Thrippet, Season 246, Episode 12” by Marlee Jane Ward. In this vision of a media-obsessed future, generations of families have their entire lives planned for the enjoyment of billions of viewers. Their bodies are surgically adjusted for maximum appeal. The clothes and cosmetics they wear are designed to create profitable fashion trends. One young woman seeks to escape the marriage arranged for her. This proves to be a very difficult challenge when she is bound by iron-clad contracts made before her birth. This is an enjoyable satire on celebrity and consumerism. One minor quibble is that the heroine tends to end her sentences, even when they are simple statements of fact, with question marks. This indicates her tone of voice, which becomes a little annoying after a while.

A mysterious world of subtle magic is created in “The Planck Harvest” by James Rowland. The narrator seems at first to be an ordinary man tending a farm. When he casually remarks to his wife that he thinks it is time for harvest, the reader presumes he refers to the reaping of crops. Slowly we learn that this is a strange sort of farm, where trees are milked and honey has the effect of a drug. Eventually the harvest takes place, in a very unexpected way. This is an intriguing story, although the author is fond of metaphors which sometimes come at the expense of clarity.

A sinister children’s rhyme begins “Pretty Little Ones” by Leigh Harlen. The uneasy mood conveyed by this verse continues as the protagonist, born an ugly and unloved child, lures happy, beautiful children into the woods, then replaces them with unattractive, miserable duplicates which grow from her body. A sense of hopelessness fills the story, which can be read as an allegory of being a rejected outsider.

Victoria Silverwolf has never been to Australia.