Interzone #221 March/April 2009

Will McIntosh. A Clown Escapes From Circus Town.

When Beaners the Clown escapes the hell that is Circus Town, he finds a world made of other theme towns, each populated by characters similarly constrained by their environment.

Forming an unlikely alliance with The Green Arrow, Beaners finds a humanity buried beneath his carnival costume, and is able to find an answer to the world in which they live – albeit, it beign an answer perhaps best not known.

An intriguing, nightmarish setting.

Al Roberton. Fishermen.

A young artist is captured by pirates whilst at sea, and is held by them in their remote, protected village. There he gets to know the pirates, their families and their way of life. He eventually uses his artistic skills in the local church, the illustrations of the apostles being inspired by those who he has lived amongst.

Nicely written, though as lacking in the fantastical, it is more of a historical story than SFF.

Matthew Kressel. Saving Diego.

A young man travels a vast distance to be reunited with an old friend, one he left to the mercy of the police in a drug bust years before. He can recompense for that act by helping his friend to escape the desperate clutches of the local drug.

However, whilst having the strength to save his friend he hasn’t got the strength to resist the temptation of the drug, and simply takes the place of his friend.

Alaya Dawn Johnson. Far & Deep.

In a coastal town, a young woman finds her mother dreadfully murdered. Her mother has been railing against the local customs, and the local elders, and the daughter finds herself following in those footsteps as she attempts to understand what has happened.

Having had a burial for her mother refused by the elders, the daughter has to face up to those who opposed her mother.

The story moves quickly along – too quickly in fact, as everything happens quite neatly to progress things, and the ending is enacting in a few paragraphs in which the real murderer is revealed, a proposal of marriage accepted, and the happy couple share a happy joke together in the closing paragraphs, which is rather at odds with the preceding tone.

Paul M. Berger. Home Again.

Short piece in which a pilot returns from space, his safe return due to his being able to hold in his mind that which awaits him. His family have an important role to play in ensuring that he has all the details right, because if he doesn’t have all the right details, then perhaps he will not come back to the right place.

However, his daughter is now entering her teen years, years in which secrets are kept…

Bruce Sterling. Black Swan.

Classy story from Sterling which blends contemporary politics with hi-tech (zero point energy MEMS chips seeing as how you ask) and quantum Earths, in a slightly out of the usual setting : an Italian restaurant.

An Italian tech journalist is meeting with one of his regular sources, a shadowy figure, who this time provides some extremely mind-bogglingly out there tech specs on him. This is clearly out of the usual realm of tech espionage, and indeed is from an entirely different realm. The journalist finds out about the other Earths, and the other Italy’s, and the other versions of himself. President Sarkozy and Carla Bruni are key players in both this world, and the one that he follows the journalist to.

Possibly frustratingly for editor Andy Cox, who has been featuring newer writers for the most part, this story from a very well-established writer is likely to be the one that gets Interzone into the Year’s Bests anthologies.

Other stuff:

  • David Langford’s ‘Ansible Link’
  • Bruce Sterling is interviewed by Ian Sales, and his book The ‘Caryatids’ is reviewed
  • Paul Kincaid reviews Toby Litt’s ‘Journey into Space’, and Tor’s ‘The Very Best of Gene Wolfe’
  • Paul F. Cockburn reviews two books entitled ‘Escape from Hell’, the one by Hal Duncan and published by Monkey Brain Books, and the other by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, published by Tor
  • Kevin Stone reviews Adam Roberts’ ‘Yellow Blue Tibia’
  • John Howard reviews William R. Forsctchen’s ‘One Second After’
  • Peter Loftus reviews Michael Cobley’s ‘Seeds of Earth’
  • Rick Kleffel reviews Xiaolu Guo’s ‘UFO in Her Eyes’
  • Jim Steel reviews James Conroy’s ‘1942’
  • Tony Lee reviews a variety of DVDs : Tarsem Singh’s ‘The Fall’; Kensaku Sawada’s ‘Monkey Magic’; ‘Futurama : Into The Wild Green Yonder’; ‘Repo! The Genetic Opera’; ‘Famous Monster: Forrest J Ackerman’; ‘Eagle Eye’
  • Nick Lowe reviews ‘Twilight’; ‘Underworld : Rise of the Lycans’; ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’; ‘Bedtime Stories’; ‘Inkheart’; ‘The Secret of Moonacre’; ‘The Tale of Desperaux’; ‘The Spirit’; the IMAX scale-up of the 1951 ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’; ‘Dean Spanley’


McIntosh and Sterling start and finish the fiction strongly, with the other stories not quite up to their standard.

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