Interzone 234 Reviewed

An all-regular cast of contributors this issue; Jon Ingold, Lavie Tidhar and Suzanne Palmer start the fiction rolling, and then multiple poll winner Jason Sanford, and Hugo-winner Will McIntosh.

Fiction

Jon Ingold’s “Sleepers” opens the proceedings with echoes of the Apollo space programme, only this time the world is in the aftermath of the first interstellar expedition to Centauri; did humanity retreat in the face of adverse local conditions, or are the mythical Centaurons real? Ingold leaves it to the reader to decide and instead concentrates on the relationship between the narrator, a priest, and the aged Jean-Luc.

I smiled the same steady smile I’d been wearing since I first took the chair across from his. My hands were folded around my beads: I usually found them to be a great comfort in the face of such decrepitude, but with Jean-Luc I pushed them around more for patience.

Recommended.

If the Ingold is elegaic, then “In the Season of the Mango Rains” by Lavie Tidhar is positively bleak. But it also harks back to an earlier age of SF, as the narrator’s lover –unable to cope with her own mortality- retreats to what the Christians call Limbo…Frozen, perfect, you’ve beaten the river…Waking, you’ll open eyes on a dying red sun, look around you at a dying Earth. SF commonly reflects humanity’s insignificance within the universe, but it’s rare to so feature our own individual mortality. Short of Effinger’s “One” it’s as unrelenting a story as I’ve read; there’s none of the usual plot comfort to be drawn from genre, but as those quotes imply, there’s a harsh beauty to be found in Tidhar’s prose as consolation. Recommended.

Suzanne Palmer

It was eight days this time, eight days pacing my cubbyhome listening to my neighbor bang around in his, like rats in bottles, waiting for the next job. When it came it was like someone had jabbed me with a knife; I jumped up and was out the door, readypack over my shoulder and flashing assignment pad in hand, before the job could pass on to someone else. If I was lucky, it’d be a multi-week assignment and I could afford to get some real food before returning home.

“The Ceiling is Sky” by Suzanne Palmer extrapolates the uncertainty of our current workplaces almost ad absurdam, as characters lie, scheme and cheat to land a contract. Nonetheless, despite the one-dimensional milieu and the crudity of villainess Tala’s depiction, the story works well, and the settings are satisfyingly otherworldly.

 Jason Sanford

Jason Sanford’s latest appearance, “Her Scientifiction, Far Future, Medieval Fantasy” appears in the same issue as it’s announced that he’s topped the Reader’s Poll for a third consecutive year, and it’s easy to see why. Sanford skillfully blends disparate genres and concepts alike as the heroine of a fantasy world within an AI must overcome her limitations without alienating the audience who get to participate in setting her quest.

From Krisja’s viewpoint, it looked like her father’s knights fought valiantly against the invaders from, well, from somewhere outside the kingdom. Where exactly, Kris couldn’t say. But then so few invaders announced their origins. It simply killed the romance, claiming to be a Sir Lancelot hero when you really hailed from a Scranton or Sheboygan nowhere.

It’s a timely exploration of audience participation, given this recent article, but much more than that, it’s a terrific cross-genre story. Highly Recommended.

Will McIntosh

Few writers do Quirky Charm with one-word titles quite as well as Will McIntosh: “Bridesicle” deservedly won last year’s Short Story Hugo, but even better was “Unlikely,” which passed by almost unnoticed beneath the radar. In his latest, “Incompatible” — Leia says to Byron, whom she’s just met;

“Imagine the most terrifying thing you can. The thing that crawls in your worst nightmares, that leaves children screaming in the night because their too-open minds haven’t learned to block it out yet, and they can’t even describe it to their parents sitting at the edge of their bed, because there are no words for it, it just is.”  

What precisely are the black dots that Leia sees whenever she strays too far from Power Places? The answer is unexpected, not least because McIntosh lays a number of red herrings: Outstanding.

 McIntosh provides a great end to an above average issue of an above average magazine, while cover artist Richard Wagner wraps it all up in “Relics,” a suitably cross-genre cover that’s absolutely wonderful.

• June 3rd, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0

Interzone 232 Reviewed

Interzone 232 Reviewed

Four of this issue’s five contributors make their Interzone debut, including the 2010 James White Award winner, but if the fiction comes from new sources, the non-fictional surround comes from the regular suspects; news and commentary from David Langford’s Ansible Link, Film reviews from Nick Lowe, DVD and Blu-Ray releases reviewed by Tony Lee, and Jim Steel’s Bookzone crew reviewing new titles.

Douglas Lain 

Interzone opens its 2011 fiction inventory with ‘Noam Chomsky and the Time Box’ by Douglas Lain, a short story that focuses almost microscopically on the detail of an SF-nal trope –a trans-temporal jump—rather than the macro-effects, such as the history-altering consequences toward which IZ and other magazine stories usually gravitate.

If anyone needed more proof that the gadget driven marketing scam that was the American Empire is now completely dead, the utter failure to adequately create demand for the world’s first personal time machine should suffice as proof….The public seems content to leave history to the necrophiliacs and Civil War Buffs.

 Using entries from December 2013 to February 2014 on Crawdaddy Online (with the original Crawdaddy now online, is Lain offering the title as an ironic hint toward an alternate future?) blogger Jeff Morris attempts to override his time machine’s failsafes and alter history, with less than total success. Lain has appeared before in Strange Horizons and several other online magazines, and it’s easy to see why the ‘slipstream’ label has been applied to his work, judging by that micro-focus, together with his oblique, elliptical prose and the downbeat nature of the ending. Illustrated by cover artist Richard Wagner, it will probably delight and annoy readers in equal measure, depending on their tastes.

Michael R. Fletcher

Dhaka…capital of Gano Projatontri Bangladesh…the city was a madhouse. Buses and plastic Tata Kei Cars spewed thick smoke from their struggling two cylinder aluminum engines. The heat and pollution were stifling and the cacophony of car horns relentless….It was dirty. It was overcrowded. It was dangerous.

I loved it.

In ‘Intellectual Property,’ Michael R. Fletcher’s debut sale takes the reader on a journey into another near-future, this one a post-cyberpunk (biopunk?) tale of identity crisis inside sterile malls and offices amidst the incredible pollution quoted above. It offers interesting thoughts on corporate politics and is an effective debut. Highly Recommended.

Sarah L. Edwards

Monticello Dabney skimmed the beauty from beautiful things and fed it to those that had none. It was no honored profession; the animatists and the masquers nearer the center of the dark quarter took pleasure in spurning him whenever opportunity offered. They were the artists and he a mere artisan. 

Two years after her ‘Lady of the White Spired City’ appeared –and was selected for Hartwell’s Year’s Best SF 15– Sarah Edwards returns with ‘By Plucking Her Petals,’ a fantasy in which a beautiful young woman sells some of her beauty to alchemist Dabney. She succeeds, but she isn’t the only one changed by the experience – Dabney comes to view his profession with less satisfaction than before.

 Both the Edwards’ and the Fletcher stories are illustrated by Mark Pexton.

Sue Burke
Illustrated by Ben Baldwin
When Letitia Serrano synched her phone to Brianna’s, I defeated its firewall and entered. I’m a benign program and would only observe through its microphone and camera, so I saw no ethical problems.

 Sue Burke’s ‘Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise’ takes the reader to near-future Spain where young American student Brianna and her AI are on a ‘study abroad programme.’ Except that when the AI hacks into her hosts’ phone, it discovers that the Spaniards have an agenda of their own, one not designed to help Brianna. What is an AI precluded from helping its owner to do in such circumstances? Burke is an American living in Madrid, which lends the story local colour, and her portrayal of the AI is among the best: Highly Recommended.  

James White Award

The James White Award is a short story competition open to nonprofessional writers and is decided by an international panel of judges made up of professional authors and editors, including Lois McMaster Bujold and Mike Resnick, and for 2010 Martin McGrath and Ian Whates. 

Sadly, the awards administrators seem a little shy, since the site hasn’t been updated since October 2010, so it’s difficult to find out more. Nonetheless, the winning story each year is published in Interzone, and the latest winner is ‘Flock, Shoal, Herd’ by James Bloomer, a fine piece of writing in which Rocco searches for Elaine; either of them is capable of hiding anywhere, be it amongst a flock of pigeons or a herd of wildebeest. Recommended.

It’s a good note on which to end the beginning of another year for this excellent magazine.

• March 11th, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0

Back In Harness

We got back from holiday yesterday, and I’ve gradually eased back into work, clearing e-mails and reviewing the latest Interzone here, while watching the Grand Prix.  It looks, sadly, as if Hamilton’s challenge is done for this year.  Whereas mine is just beginning…meanwhile, here’s a nice picture of the latest Interzone cover by Warwick Fraser-Coombe

• September 26th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Longevity

One of the great things about the internet is that you can change your mind from one day to the next, and put it down to the fast-moving dynamic environment.  

So yesterday my Interzone piece was a blog post, today it’s an article. What changed? After I’d posted the first half I realized that there was more to say — much more. Since it’s now almost 900 words and has shedloads of stats, by my mind that’s an article. Blame that fast-moving, dynamic environment….

Regardless of whether it’s a blog or an article, what started it all off was a couple of conversations in which I voiced my frustration at the number of small presses and magazines and anthologies that spring up, take their subscriber’s money, and then never produce a second issue, or make it past the first subscription renewal.

Bob Nielson (one of the Albedo One team who have –to my surprise– produced the 13th longest running magazine* in SF history, and the next oldest magazine to Interzone) made the comment that it’s hard to find the time, the money and the enthusiasm to keep producing a magazine at all, let alone year after year. It seemed to me at the time that maybe we ought to acknowledge that effort.

And next September Strange Horizons is ten years old. It’s a damned fine achievement, but celebrated in total contrast to the way that IZ sneaked past its own tenth anniversary, and pretty much every other anniversary ever since.  We Brits don’t like to blow our own trumpets, so I thought I’d toot the TTA team’s horn for them….

* I’m counting magazines as those periodicals that pay to publish, as distinct from fanzines. No disrespect toward the latter, but it’s not in my purview.

• July 19th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Sunday Minutae

What’s that bright light poking through the clouds? Why, I do believe it may be the sun…

Perfect timing — I’ve written my daily ration of words, answered some e-mails, and I’ve posted the first of a two part piece on Interzone over at Suite101.  More on that subject tomorrow.

But now I’m going to take myself off to the garden, and read some of this year’s Hugo nominees…

• July 18th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Interzone 229 Reviewed at Suite101

We who form the male half of the human race are often criticized for being unable to multi-task. However, we can focus. Boy can we focus, as I have demonstrated this morning. Despite the incessant sound of the house alarm across the road (now 2 hours and counting), I’ve finished this week’s Suite101 review, and have laid out Interzone 229  for your examination.

I think I may now go out, as the noise is starting to seriously hurt my ears, now that I have nothing to focus on.

And tomorrow -or the day after- if I get distracted by something shiny going past….

…sorry, where was I? Yes, tomorrow or the day after, I should have some more book news.

• July 16th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

2010 Older Writers Grant

As I noted over at Suite 101, The Speculative Literature Foundation has announced that its seventh annual Older Writers Grant is to be awarded to Mario Milosevic, for his ‘Untied States of America’ which appeared in Interzone 228. It’s particularly interesting for three reasons:

First, this is the first time since 2007 that I’m familiar with the winning entry, and for all my reservations, it’s a worthy winner.

Secondly, I judge the awards myself in 2007, and it was a tough call then to pick just one winner, so I understand perfectly Malon Edwards comments of  “Honorable Mentions for the Older Writers Grant go to Michele Cashmore, April Grey, Lynne MacLean, Ada Milenkovic Brown, and J.A. Huets for their entertaining submissions, which made the selection of the winner a difficult but enjoyable process.”

Yep, not much has changed there, then.  Come the deadline, there’s usually much tearing of hair. :)

Lastly, and most selfishly, in five months time I’ll be eligible for the award myself. Not that I think that I have a prayer of winning it, but I have to have a go…it’s nice to see what benchmark’s been set.

• June 29th, 2010 • Posted in Awards, General, Reviews, Writing • Comments: 0

New Review: IZ228

The only downside to weather like this is that I’d rather be out dozing in a sunny garden than stuck indoors. Nonetheless, such is my dedication to The Cause that while you lot have been out sunning yourselves, I’ve been working — yes, working! At least on the plus side, I’ve been able to read one story at a time outside, then nipped in and written it up.

Right, now for a doze…

• May 23rd, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Interzone Poll Result

I’m delighted to report that my short story ‘The Killing Streets’ finished a respectable joint 9th in the Interzone poll, out of  32 stories.

Cogratulations to Jason Sanford, whose ‘Sublimation Angels’ narrowly beat Eugie Foster’s ‘Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, etc.’

And thanks to everyone who voted for me.

• May 9th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Interzone 227 Reviewed

This week’s regular –ie, SF– review is up at Suite101.

• March 21st, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0