Interzone #210 June 2007

Interzone continues to celebrates its 25th year, in an issue notable for every illustration coming from Douglas A. Sirois. This review has been languishing on my hard disk for some weeks now, and I’ve dusted it off and popped it online just as the next issue is due to hit the shelves.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke. The Final Voyage of La Riaza.

Unfortunately for my enjoyment of this story, I read this story straight after sitting through an interminable 3hours watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3. (Tedium not even relieved by a lech after Kiera Knightley, as my wife invariably points out that she’s young enough to be my daughter). As such, any story featuring aero/piratical nautical doings was going to have a tough time tickling my jaded palate me hearties.

Having said that, I don’t think that even at the best of times Blaschke’s story would have done much for me. It features wooden sailing ships equipped to travel between the planets and moons, crewed by essential 18th C buccaneer types, and when a ship is attacked by pirates after their cargo, there is airborne fighting and destruction, insurrection and so forth. It didn’t really have the kind of depth to lift the story as high as the ships.

For me, I kept on thinking back to Ian Watson’s excellent ‘A Speaker for the Wooden Sea’ from Asimovs, March 2003 ( review ). Obviously it’s a big ask for a younger writer to be compared to someone 30 or more years into his career, but if you don’t set big asks then you don’t get big answers. There’s some intriguing planetary/lunar things going on, but the central dirigible/boat conceit, and the swashbuckling storyline rather got in the way. And the PoTC3 flashbacks…

Rachel Swirsky. Heartstrung.

A short piece in which young girls, when they attain a certain age, begin to wear their hearts on their sleeves – quite literally (and somewhat unfeasibly for this literally minded old curmudgeon). A young girl is having her heart sewn onto her sleeve by her mother, and a number of issues are raised, which look at the society in which the story is set.

Steven Francis Murphy. Tearing Down Tuesday.

Tuesday being an agricultural robot who is nearing the end of his useful life, much to the horror of Kyle, who saves up his pocket money to buy the robot of its owner, a pipe smoking lesbian farmer. Kyle scouts around to see what services he can provide to save up the money, and the local Reverend is keen for Kyle to give him a .. helping hand.

Kyle gives him much more than that, but finds that he is too late, and the now broke robot is a symbol of his leaving his childhood behind as he heads for adulthood and new pastures.

It’s some 30 years since I devoured Asimov’s robot stories in my midteens, so a robot story has to be something a bit special to really grab me, but for those of you unfamiliar with those stories, this will doubtless be welcome.

David Ira Cleary. Dr Abernathy’s Dream Theater.

A sort of steampunky setting, in which one Professor Stavan resorts to taking drugs to get him through an interminable dinner party. However, a strange young couple intrigue him, and he heads off to Dr Abernathy’s Dream Theater, and watches as a sleeping volunteer has his dreams transcribed and re-enacted by performance artistes, although in his own drug-enlightened state he sees that their perception of the content of the dream is far from right.

He himself takes the stage, but his kuuf-enhanced dreams lead to a dramatic finale.

Tim Lees. Preachers.

A young boy and his semi-itinerant father drift through the countryside, his father using his skills as a mechanic on the few remaining pieces of equipment in a world recently changed. A visiting group of ‘preachers’ challenge the status quo on the farm they are currently working.

Tim Akers. Toke.

Some young kids pick on one of the strange scarecrow creatures in their town, in the belief that smoking the grass from which they are made will bring a particulary potent high.

In fact they OD, and we watch as their role in bringing about the next generation of scarecrows is shown.

Non fiction:

  • David Langford’s Ansible Link
  • 25IZ : kind words from authors
  • 25Film : Nick Lowe’s Top Ten SF Films, of which I’ve seen 5 (better than the 2 of 10 TV shows from last month!)
  • Steph Swainston interviewed by Dave Martin
  • short piece on Douglas A. Sirois
  • Harlan Ellison reflects on his times with Theodore Sturgeon
  • Paul S. Jenkins looks at SF podcasts
  • Nick Lowe reviews Sunshine (which was out our cinema for like, 1 week only, what’s that about??), The Last Mimzy, Inland Empire, The Science of Sleep, TMNT
  • John Clute reviews Lucius Shepard’s ‘Softspoken’ and Brian W Aldiss’ ‘Harm’
  • Paul Raven reviews Ben Bova’s Sam Gunn Omnibus and, like me, rather misses the point of these stories (for me I’d be happy for the Omnibus to run over the obnoxious Gunn)
  • John Howard reviews Stephen Baxter’s ‘Conqueror’ and interviews him briefly (only briefly presumably because the prodigious output from Baxter must be the result from being glued to his word processor)
  • Paul F Cockburn reviews Nick Griffiths’ ‘Dalek I Love You’
  • Maureen Kincaid Speller reviews ‘Ursula K Le Guin : A Critical Companion’ by Susan M Bernardo & Graham J Murphy
  • Alexander Glass reviews Albert Sanchez Pinol’s ‘Cold Skin’
  • Steve Jeffrey reviews Steve Aylett’s ‘And YOur Point Is? Scorn and Meaning in Jeff Lint’s Fiction’
  • Stephanie Burgess reviews Guy Gavriel Kay’s ‘Ysabel’
  • Jim Steel reviews Mat Coward’s ‘So Far, So Near’
  • Peter Loftus reviews Stephen Hunt’s ‘The Court of the Air’

Conclusion.

Nothing in the fiction this issue really grabbed me this issue, to be honest, and there wasn’t anything in them that felt like it hadn’t been done before several times, and often better. The longer stories felt a little too long, and the shorter stories felt that they could have been longer, but that’s probably me just being awkward.

Praise to editor Cox for trying an issue illustrated by a single-artist, but for me Sirois style of artwork in the interior doesn’t quite do it for me (although the cover image is a doozy.) But the style of artwork inside contributes to an overall slightly samey feel, this also due to there being a number of stories featuring children/young people, which (despite some adult themes) made the issue feel almost like a juvenile sf issue, if you get my drift.

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