Interzone #251 – A Review

interzone #251I’m sure somebody will disagree with me here, but I don’t know of any fiction magazine as consistently striking as Interzone.

Obviously a book, or magazine, shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but presentation is important, and the new(ish) design of the Interzone cover supplemented with a succession of frankly fantastic artwork, only makes the interior more enticing.

Interzone‘s in the wild are a fairly rare occasion — the shelves of W.H. Smith being stocked mainly with nonsense — which is a shame really. Actually, I think this would stand out a mile off on a newsagent’s shelf.

And if I saw it there, hell I’d pick it up! Wouldn’t you?

I’m not sure what the point of this little pre-review rant is, just that some of the best genre material is something of a secret by the simple fact of a lack of exposure. There is no reason at all that magazines like Interzone should be just for established fans.

  • The opening story, “Ghost Story” by John Grant, is a sort of story that crops up every so often within SF, wherein there are worlds next to each other, and sometimes the barriers are porous. Grant’s take mixes up the idea of multiple yous (a word which I can’t help but say in a Scouse accent) with the idea of different lives intersecting and living with the consequences — or maybe just confusion and false memory. Slow and mysterious, it’s a story which lingers.
  • Karl Bunker’s “Ashes” is a story about death, with an oddly hopeful yet tragic tinge. Set in a world where artificial intelligences have gifted the world with wonderful and terrible advances, but always end up thinking too much, going to fast and “winking out”. As the main character goes on a journey to scatter his one-time lover’s ashes, it provides a hinted side-contemplation, at the same time as pondering a truly fascinating aspect of artificial intelligence. The final scene is inevitable, but moving nonetheless.
  • I have to admit, I think “Old Bones” by Greg Kurzawa went over my head really. An old man in an occupied city is offered a way out by a surgeon. The surgeon excises something from the old man, but despite this he goes back to his reclusive former self. It is creepy, and chilling, but for me at least it was more than a little perplexing. Perhaps there’s a metaphor about people not really changing in here, but if so it’s far off in the fog, visible in silhouette only.
  • Thankfully, Suzanne Palmer’s “Fly Away Home” wasn’t nearly as veiled. In fact, I think it was my favourite story of the issue. A woman works in a man’s mining world, overseen by a patriarchal religion and a concept of indentured slavery. When selected for “breeding” with a worker who previously assaulted her, it is clearly not going to end well. A darkly dystopian story, with more a howl of resistance than a tone of hope, but beautifully and passionately written.
  • In “A Doll is not a Dumpling” Tracie Welser manages to do two particularly impressive things; she creates a chilling analogy, and a vibrant world. The world is expressed through the characters, the human-hybrid characters such as “dogboy” Blue, and the sense of their second-class citizenship. But the analogy of a service robot being reprogrammed into a fundamentalist suicide bomber doesn’t need much explanation at all. Terrifying.
  • Closing up the issue, Gareth L. Powell’s “This is How You Die” is a short piece, essentially telling the story of the end of the world in 11 numbered steps. It sounds basic, but Powell is a very accomplished writer, knows his genre and his subject, and executes it with aplomb. The second person tense is tricky, and rarely well used. But when predicting a persons death, it adds an extra level of immersion boosted by simplicity.

The usual reviews are present, including my own crack at Tim Lees’ short story collection “News From Unknown Countries” (spoiler: I like it), and an interview with Simon Ings — who I confess I hadn’t heard of until now. What this, as every, issue of Interzone provides is a window on the genre, and a gateway drug to other forms of SF.

This is your brain. This is your brain on science-fiction.


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