Money is the Anthem of Success
By Lee Killough
1981’s Aventine is Lee Killough’s sole short-story collection to date. The stories share a common setting: Aventine, an artists community on a distant world. At least, that is how the inhabitants like to see themselves. The truth is darker.
Introduction • essay
One of a very few essays I have encountered from this author; it explains the genesis of the Aventine stories.
“The Siren Garden” • (1974) • short story
For most Aventines, the songs of the native silicon life-forms are mere entertainment. For Timon, they are art. For his client, Mrs. Dalriadian, the Silicavitae are the solution to a vexing problem: Mr. Dalriadian.
Timon’s business partner Lee declares his total lack of interest in women. At first it seems that he might be asexual … then it becomes clear he’s gay. It’s also clear that open homophobia is socially acceptable in Aventine; both Timon and Mr. Dalriadian take spiteful potshots at Lee. It’s also clear that coldly spiteful Lee is the only one who realizes there’s something about Lorna Dalriadian that she’s hiding from the world.
“Tropic of Eden” • (1977) • short story
Eden Lyle’s daughter Hebe is not just Eden’s daughter — she’s her clone. Why go to the expense of cloning oneself? Drummond Caspar thinks he knows the answer: a particularly dark form of vanity …
It’s not clear whether or not Caspar’s suspicions are correct, but it is suggestive that Hebe accepts them as true as soon as she hears them and takes immediate steps to foil her mother’s plans.
There are parallels between this and one of John Varley’s stories. However, since I cannot for the life of me remember the title of the Varley, I cannot compare publication dates. My suspicion is they were virtually simultaneous; yet another example of two authors using the same basic idea independently of each other.
“A House Divided” • (1978) • short story
Amanda thinks Selene is a deplorable slut. Selene thinks Amanda is an insufferable prig. What a shame they can never be free of one another, since they share the same body.…
There really is no psychological issue a well-meaning friend cannot make much worse. It probably should have been clear to Matthew that trying to be Amanda’s one true friend while carrying on a secret torrid affair with Selene was going to end badly, but for some reason it wasn’t. That reason may be “Matthew is a horny idiot.”
“Broken Stairways, Walls of Time” • (1979) • short story
Intrigued by his friend’s odd behaviour, Simon sets out to find out why she is insistent on hiding behind holograms.
Simon never wonders if it is right to invade his friend’s privacy. This is because Simon, like a lot of the men in these stories, is kind of an idiot.
Shadow Dance • novelette
Genea’s affair with David offers escape from her domineering mother, a development Genea and David’s friends are only too happy to facilitate. Alas for David, he is not Genea’s One True Love but simply a means to an end, a tool to be discarded when no longer needed.
Taken as a whole, these stories make a good case for celibacy.
“Ménage Outré” • (1981) • short story
Jason has always cared for his incurably plain sister Dee. Why on Earth would she abandon the shelter he graciously provides to live with freaks who inexplicably treat her like an actual person?
Bête et Noir • (1980) • novelette
Fear method acting when it is weaponized by a highly motivated director.
This is an example of a book I would have reviewed as a Because My Tears Are Delicious To You book, if only it had been published a few months earlier. I suppose I could have claimed that since most of the contents saw magazine printings before I turned twenty, they were fodder for my Tears series. Alas, I didn’t see any of them until this collection was published, so that would have been cheating. If I’ve learned anything from books like this, it is that telling seemingly trivial fibs invariably ends with someone face down in a swimming pool.
I really should come up with a theme to cover the early 1980s, though, because there are a lot of books important to me just a bit too late for the Tears reviews.
[Editor’s note: Revenge of the Suck Fairy?]
I don’t know how far in the future this collection is set. There are world-to-world teleportation gates and interstellar colonies, but familiar nation-states still exist back on Earth. Technology has moved on but the culture seems familiar.
Killough cites Vermilion Sands as the inspiration for these stories . I think there’s a healthy scoop of old-time noir in here as well. Most of the men are as gullible as Miles Archer and almost all of the femmes are very fatale. Aventine likes to think of itself as devoted to the arts. In reality, it’s a resort for the hyper-rich and the people who cater to them: that is, people who are used to getting what they want when they want it and people who are used to supplying it.
Aventine has been out of print for decades, as far as I can tell. Used bookstores are your friend.
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Please send corrections to jdnicoll at panix dot com
1: I really need to review Edward Bryant’s Cinnabar one of these days.