Interzone #217 August 2008

Karen Fishler. Africa.

Earth has returned to a land of beauty and peace, long since devoid of humans. There in an encircling presence, Guardians who will use the utmost force to repel those who have been Expelled but whom seek to return to the planet. Tomeer and his elderly father are the last two Guardians on their huge vessel, and with his father close to death, Tomeer has an opportunity when a small ship, which includes an attractive female human, appraoches. Tomeer and his father are in conflict, the old man wishing to continue the policy of instant death for those who approach, his son willing to listen to them.

In the end, Tomeer has to choose between upholding the ancient ways and living out his own life alone on his ship, or succumbing to the opportunities that the Earth and this young woman offer.

His choice is not the one that you would normally get, which is good, although the final scene of the young woman romping and playing catch-ball with the young man’s pincer-clad pet, is somewhat bizarre.

Paul. G. Tremblay. The Two-Headed Girl.

A strange, strange story. Rather than having imaginary friends, a young girl has a second head to keep her company, which regularly changes between historical figures and others. On the garden swing, generating power for the house, she is keen to find our more about the absent father who built the swing, and when her second head changes into that of her mom, only a younger iteration, she is able to find out just exactly where he is – and not only is he closer, much closer, but she realises she very much takes after him.

Jason Sanford. The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain.

As inventive a piece of world-building as you generally see in short SF. Not all is fully explained, but the small community featured has an economy based on the minerals and other effluvia deposited from spaceships in the high stratosphere above them. As this crud rains down on them, over generations, the city grows higher and higher, with buildings losing lower floors to the ever-increasing soil and having to build ever upward. A weather-watcher is charged with warning the village of potentially damaging inundations, and after one colossal storm, she follows a hole which has opened up in her cellar, and is able to pass through rooms she remembers as a child, to find,nestling several floors below, a newly minted ship, ready to reach for the skies and to offer someone a life quite different.

It’s passing strange, a David Lynch kind of story : a mashup of ‘Eraserhead’, ‘Dune’, ‘Twin Peaks’, and the story benefits from being chonged. It appears that Sanford has a story due in Analog, which I’ll keep an eye open for, as this is the most un-Analoggy kind of story.

Suzanne Palmer. Concession Girl.

Co-incidentally, this is in fact a most Analoggy kind of story. A young woman has a burger stand on a space station, and is under pressure from the health inspectors and neighbouring stall holders. When some passing alien dignitaries take a yen for her burgers, she is pleased to get the business, but an attempt to poison her burgers and ergo the aliens, and her finding out about a bomb plot against said dignitaries, ends up with her avoiding the finger of blame.

Paul McAuley. Little Lost Robot.

McAuley provides a story much more Asimovy in style, and one that I would reckon on having a chance to be Dozoised next year. He succeeds in his aim of telling a story about implacable AI-controlled vessels determined to wipe out of existence anything biological and sentient, but from their point of view. When one of these previously unstoppable vessels finds itself suprised to come across a sign of life that it should have spotted long ago, the cold menace of its intellect and its weapons system target the source of the signal, but it finds itself compromised, and up against a much more cunning enemy.

M.K. Hobson. Comus of Central Park.

Having served up two top-notch SF stories, we have an urban fairly tale of a young woman who finds a faun in Central Park, and finds that the libidinous creature is truly able to bring her what she desires – although finding out what it is she truly desires is in fact a pretty big surprise. The characters are all detailed perfectly – from the timid protagonist, to the woman at the centre of the social web whom the protagonist wants to get one over on (ahem), and the arrogant, self-centred son.

Other stuff:

  • David Langford’s ‘Ansible Link’
  • Tony Lee looks at DVDs : Yesterday, Sliders, Chrysalis, Torchwood, Painkiller Jane, Bionic Woman, Species Collection, Species IV: The Awakening, The Andromeda Strain, Colossus : the Forbin Project, Appleseed Ex Machina, X-Files Essentials. In my teens in the 70s I used to despair at how little SF there was on at the cinema or on TV, now I despair how much crap SF there is on at the cinema and TV – why watch crap like this because its SF, when there are programmes like The Wire to watch? I mean, Torchwood may be SF (it’s got aliens in it, which I spose makes it SF), but it’s badly acted and it’s compelte bollocks!
  • Nick Lowe reviews The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Vexille, Doomsday, Chemical Wedding, Captain Eager and the Mark of Voth, The Happening, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Superhero Movie
  • Paul Cockburn reviews Stephen Baxter’s ‘The Flood’
  • Maureen Kincaid Speller reviews Richard Morgan’s ‘The Steel Remains’
  • Juliet McKenna reviews Tales Before Narnia (ed Douglas A Anderson)
  • Andrew J Wilson reviews Paul Kincaid’s ‘What It Is We Do When We Read SF’
  • David Matthew reviews AE Van Vogt’s ‘The Voyage of the Space Beagle’
  • Paul Kincaid reviews Cory Doctorow’s ‘Little Brother’
  • John Howard reviews Ramsey Cambpell’s ‘The Grin of the Dark’
  • Jim Steel reviews Greg Egan’s ‘Incandescence’

Conclusion.

Sanford and McAuley provide top-notch SF.

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