Aeon, #6

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“Midnight Folk” by Lavie Tidhar
“Another Kind of Glamour” by Richard Parks
“The Brotherhood of Trees” by Michael Jasper
“East of Eden and Just a Bit South” by Ken Scholes
“Things We Sell to Tourists” by Marissa K. Lingen
“Virulence” by D.J. Cockburn
Issue #6 of Aeon ranges from the good to the indifferent.  A few tales crept into this edition that are significantly below par, fortunately these are balanced out by the really good stories.  The artwork is of a good quality, and there are some interesting and well-considered editorials and thinkpieces interspersed between the stories and some take-it-or-leave-it SFnal poetry.
“Midnight Folk” by Lavie Tidhar has a strange approach: we are presented with a pastiche of the classic detective tale with a clichéd Sam Spade protagonist going through the motions.  This is turned upon its head at an arbitrary point, propelling the character, and indeed the entire setting, into the pointlessly surreal.  The narrative devolves into an exercise in name-dropping, where the protagonist rubs shoulders with a pseudo-beat generation in a pseudo-London.

Tidhar fails to paint a convincing picture of the English city.  Yes, it isn’t the actual London (without spoiling this story too much for those who wish to read it), but the act of dropping in a few name places and tourism destinations doesn’t make this setting convincing.  This story really could have worked had the Sam Spade routine been wound back a little, and the setting could have been anywhere as it wasn’t integral to the plot.  To Tidhar’s credit, he has hatched the seed of an interesting idea, but then buried it in irrelevant dross, which is a shame. 

“Another Kind of Glamour” by Richard Parks, a.k.a. “The Obligatory Tale from the Kingdom of Faery,” is not bad as far as the usual serving of this fare goes, but it brings nothing groundbreaking to the fantasy sub-genre.  Parks does provide a thoroughly well-researched tale, so if you are a fan of the fey, you should enjoy this.  If you are after something fresh and unusual, you might be better served skipping to the next story.  One last nit-picky point regarding the colloquialisms spouted by the characters; they seemed largely out of character and anachronistic. 

This issue of Aeon really picks up with “The Brotherhood of Trees” by Michael Jasper.  This is a smoothly-flowing piece, with an excellent feel and some great descriptive prose.  An aging man finds a naked boy in the woods, a silent spectre that seems to do nothing but listen.  Where is this androgynous creature from, and why are his fingers singed?  The protagonist and his partner are depicted with compassion and pathos, and not the over-the-top camp behavior many other authors use to depict gay characters.  This, coupled with the neat backstory and polished prose, makes this a tale worth reading.

“East of Eden and a Little Bit South” by Ken Scholes steers into the treacherous waters of speculative biblical humor, but to Scholes’s credit, he carries this off—just.  The original biblical family is repainted as trailer-trash: beer-swilling, rock-throwing cretins.  God drops in for a beer and some cheap-and-nasty food, wherein they discuss the logistics of populating the world from one family.  Bring on the duelling banjos and an ill-fated canoe trip, methinks.  This is a witty retelling of Genesis, and even the hardcore fundamentalist Christian should be able to read this and smile at least once.  It’s all about context, and this is clever without being too cute or offensive.


“Things We Sell to Tourists” by Marissa K. Lingen is an interesting yet perplexing offering, a quintet of disconnected tales that do not segue at all, except perhaps in theme.  Each of them contains a gaudy tourist’s trinket of some sort, and the tales range from an awkward visit to a 20th Century Museum to robot tourists on a Turing pilgrimage to a hidden secret from the depths of a family’s past.  Despite this disconnectivity, Lingen has written a real page-turner (or should that be mouse-clicker?), employing an engaging series of sympathetic characters to great effect.  With a convincing focus on the urbane in a distant future, “Things We Sell to Tourists” is a must-read.

“Virulence” by D.J. Cockburn is an absolutely brilliant tale and the stand-out best story of this issue.  A virologist in the Philippines battles a mysterious virus and discovers a sinister truth about human sociology, with evidence pointing back to what caused the brutalities of the SS, Stalin’s regime, and the Cultural Revolution in China.  Where does rage come from?  What drives modern man to mass murder?  Cockburn raises an interesting and plausible hypothesis regarding the nature of viruses and presents it in an entertaining fashion.  Simply superb. Read this tale!