Eidolon: The Journal of Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy
This issue of Eidolon has three good short pieces, and one superlative effort by Leanne Frahm.
Naomi Hatchman's "Early Years" is about Claudia Franklin, a 36-year-old scientist trapped in the body of a four-year-old girl named Josephine Barclay. To explain here how and why Franklin is trapped in Barclay's body would give away too much of the story, but Hatchman delivers a clever idea with an ending that is eminently satisfying and that, while predictable, successfully engages our sympathy. It also neatly plays on the common fantasy most of us occasionally indulge in of what it would be like to start over again as a child knowing what we know now as adults. Hatchman's answer is not at all comforting.
And without trying to read too much into "Early Years", I wonder if Hatchman's inspiration for Claudia Franklin was Rosalind Franklin, the still largely unrecognised fourth player in the discovery of DNA and its role in reproduction, who tragically died from cancer at the age of 36.
L. J. Petersen's "New Growth" is a spooky tale about love and sacrifice. And gardening - umm - of a sort. With few words, a barely delineated background and characters cleverly defined by actions rather than dialogue, Petersen has written a lovely short, one you'll remember for some time.
Brent Lillie achieves much the same effect with "Split". Instead of employing an unusual science fictional premise to create its impression, as Petersen does, Lillie uses the emotions of grief and loss and bewilderment as he tells us about a boy looking for his family; but which is lost? A short chilling tale, surgically crafted.
Leanne Frahm, one of this country's best SF writers, has excelled herself with "Rain Season". While Brisbane succumbs to rain and flood, Garth Lorgan succumbs to greed and ambition. Obsessed with securing a lucrative account for his small advertising company, he is oblivious to civilization crumbling down around his ears and the growing alienation between him and his family. Indeed, Lorgan's own compulsive behaviour makes a powerful analogy for our own culture's fixation with material success and achievement while those things essential to our very survival - so long taken for granted - fall by the way side.
Frahm is too good a writer to make this analogy the story's structural wall. What gives "Rain Season" its strength are finely crafted characters - deftly described - and a threatening environment which starts out as nothing more than a few annoying rainy days but slowly develops into an all out assault by nature on human society. As the terrifying rain continues to fall, Lorgan's own sanity starts to disintegrate, and like expanding ripples in a pond everything around him starts to disintegrate as well.
"Rain Season" is a wonderful and compelling story.
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©1998 Simon Brown.