Jason Sanford. Here We Are, Falling Through Shadows.
I’ve been remiss in hunting down Interzone of late, not helped by Fictionwise not flagging it up as clearly as it might do. So what of the first story in this issue, read on my iTouch?
Sanford is now an Interzone regular, with a couple of his stories being of the highest standard – ‘The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain’ being the standout, followed by ‘When Thorns Are The Tips of Trees’ spring to mind. The story in hand is similar to the latter, in theme and setting, with humanity battling against dark forces. Here he postulates very alien creatures, threatening us from our shadows, through which they are able to reach our world, and take humans back with them. The process of going through the dark, narrow slashes in our reality, through which glimpses of their very strange world can be seen, is a harrowing one to witness.
A firefighter who has lost his wife to the aliens is horrified to find his daughter following a fashion amongst some, to be attracted to the aliens. Worse still, it appears that his wife has returned in her new guise, and is tempting their daughter to join her on the other side of the shadow.
In rescuing people from a fire, he himself is pulled into the shadows, and is fully able to understand the total alieness of those on the other side, the subjugation of self necessary to join them – to become one with them – and it is a future that he is not able to embrace, even with both his wife and his daughter on the other side. Another good story from Sandford, to add to his growing IZ ouvre.
Rebecca J. Payne. Starlight.
First story published in the UK for Payne, a fantasy story set on Earth in the future. Or, rather, set in the skies of Earth in the future, as we follow a lightship crewed by a couple, living slightly apart from their kind following their elopement. We learn of the life in the strange semi-organic ship they live in, steering by the stars, powered by the light of the moon (I think). There are pirates to be avoided, and the people living on the ground are also best left alone, as we find out a bit of backstory about the couple.
Fine as far as it goes. I’d have liked to have seen an offworld story, with a fuller rein given by Payne to her imagination, to do a bit of proper world-building unconstrained by an Earthly setting, but for a first published story, a promising debut.
Colin Harvey. The Killing Streets.
Dark, bleak horror. Set in Bristol, with society gradually falling apart. Animal rights activists have unwittingly let loose a burrowing monstrosity that is now reproducing in huge numbers, bursting out through pavements and roads to devour unwitting humans. Unemployment is on the rist, and getting even a routine clerical job requires a First Class Honours Degree. Thom didn’t excel at university, and is subsisting, just, support by the clerk’s salary his girlfriend brings in.
He’s fallen out of love with her, and into love with a woman with young children. He’s also got to look after his bedridden aunt who brought him up as a child, who is suffering from dementia.
And to make matters worse, there are viral outbreaks, including the fatal Blacktongue, which has been helped to cross over from its bovine hosts to humans.
And to make matters even worse, Thom’s girlfriend has found out about his philandering, and he has found out that in fact she is working for the security services who are increasingly monitoring society.
It doesn’t have a happy ending!
It’s a grim read, with some unsympathetic characters, and a mashup vision of a Broken Britain from right-wing tabloids, and of state-oppression from the libertarians. There are scientific elements to the story, and its speculating about where British society could go, but not enought sfnal elements for it to grab me. Mind you, not as horrible as having a Labour Party Chancellor of the Exchequer today being willing to boast that public sector cuts they would implement post-election would be greater than those of Margaret Thatcher in the 80s. It’s going to be grim enough dealing with the long-term financial consequences of the free money market – shark-like monsters attacking your from underneath the pavements might be an easier option!
Lavie Tidhar. Funny Pages.
Tongue-in-cheek superhero fun in Tel Aviv. A motley crew of ex-military types, with a range of almost arbitrary powers bestowed upon them following combat and nuclear fallout, are divided into two camps. One is in the employ of a cardboard cutout evil baddie (bwahahaha) and the others are on the side of law and order.
Although it’s not as simple as this, as the evil dude in fact plans to use the threat of sea inundation to deliver peace to the region (pure unadulterated fantasy there!), and a couple of erstwhile opponents find opportunities for partnership going foward.
Shannon Page and Jay Lake. Bone Island.
Bone Island is remote, hosting a small community who have their ways, and their traditions. There’s a quiet sort of magic supporting them, that goes back generation upon generation. But there is a threat from the outside world when an old woman, the Bone Island Witch, dies, and her cottage is claimed by an incomer. Or rather, by someone returning to the island. We follow the story, and get the backstory, through a young man, who himself is part of a long lineage, and who is enamoured/entrapped by a fellow islander. The story quietly builds up to a climax in the old witch’s house, as the young man has to fulfil his role to separate the incomer and his lover, who themselves share a close bond. The quality of writing is high, and subtly poetic, creating a believable community and a believable setting, both of who are solidy set against a long, substantial history, that gives the impression that you’re watching one part of a long, long story – rather than reading about a few characters thrown together to create a story.
A strong issue.