Anyone who thinks politics and art aren’t connected is wrong. That has always been my philosophy — my politics heavily informs my view of the world and thus my writing. It may not always be the “safe” option, but if you really believe in something then you can’t escape that.
So serious praise is due to Andy Cox and co at Interzone. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to ignore the current controversies emerging within science-fiction. They could have breathed not a world, and not run the risk of upsetting some of their readers. It would have been easy.
But it would not have been right. So well done, as I said, for using the editorial to stand up to the forces of hatred and bigotry within our genre. Well done for believing something. I strongly urge you to read it, if not in the magazine then at least here on their website.
It does, however, present rather the challenge for the fiction to rise to.
- The opening story is “The Posset Pot” by Neil Williamson. A tale post-apocalyptic of a world scarred by the appearance of strange orb-like bubbles, which disappear along with pieces of our world. Set in a deserted Glasgow, the story follows a survivor scavenging for food and supplies in what’s left of the city for himself and an agoraphobic friend. As with all the best post-apocalyptic fiction, it melds tension with a poignant sense of loss, particularly as the protagonist clings on to a fading hope that the bubbles might return a lost loved one.
- The longest story of this issue Katherine E.K. Duckett’s “The Mortuaries” is similar in a number of ways; particular in that it depicts a broken world. In what seems to be a future, overcrowded world, the dead are interred in one of two towers — the high-class Brixton’s and the less prestigious Morton’s. A young boy is captivated by the mortuaries, finding a fascination in the remembrance of the dead, as the world finally tips over into chaos and a wave of refugees from a fallen city sweep towards the town.
- “Diving into the Wreck” by Val Nolan is another future-set tale, though rather a bit less dystopian. A pair of friends, both obsessed with the original astronauts, embark on a hunt for the lost ascent stage of the Apollo 11 Eagle lander. Space race mythos is mixed up with a romantic story of loss and different views on life. And sometimes, the value in some mysteries is the inspiration they provide, and should thus remain mysterious.
- Innovating on the short story format is the holy grail of writers; but it’s a hard thing to get right. All praise then to Oliver Buckram, a writer I haven’t encountered before, for his excellent “Two Truths and a Lie”. This tale of a doomed romance with an alien is probably my favourite of the issue, taking the titular game and making it into a wonderfully heartfelt way of telling-without-telling a story. Added to that, the writing itself is beautiful; simple and sincere. Bravo indeed.
- “A Brief Light” by Clare Humphrey is, I think, towards the softer and subtler side of SF. It could as easily have fitted into Black Static. The main character’s intended affair is interrupted before it can begin as her mother-in-law arrives, driven out of her home by the appearance of the ghost of her son. It’s a strange thought, the idea of ghosts becoming an everyday occurrence, and the meaning which the dead can give to the living is where the power of this story resides.
- Closing the fiction is another story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam — reigning champion in the that-can’t-be-her-real-name contest, and writer of issue #250’s “The Damaged” — with “Sleepers”. As with “A Brief Light”, odd creatures called ‘sleepers’ have started to appear, somewhat like white horses. The main character waits by her comatose father, searching for meaning in the strange appearances, as we try to read omens into everyday things. This is a story of letting go, and coming to terms with bereavement and life, a potential triumph over anxiety.
Thus closes another issue of Interzone, and I think that the fiction rose to the challenge that the editorial set. These are stories of worlds which could or could never be, but not a one is without that vital spark of hope. These stories look forwards to worlds which, whilst they are not perfect, have that strain of redemption.
That is what science-fiction should be. Inclusive, tolerant, accepting, and with the hopeful power to strive for better. And it is important to remember that — science-fiction is universal, and for everyone.