Paul Evanby. Mannikin.
Macabre historico-scientific horror set in the Dutch West Indies in the 16th century.
Against an interesting social, political and economic background of the Dutch West Indies, a young scientist who finds himself working in this far-flung part of the empire is able to experiment with the creation of life, somewhat against the natural order of things. In the barrels in his laboratory he is able to create life from an individual spermatozoon, and to nurture it to maturity in a barrel in a period of three hundred days by dint of recreating conditions in utero, but at greatly accelerated schedule.
In a society based on slavery, there are no qualms to making use of the mannikins he creates, and he is required to improve his production methods as conflict nears. He is forced to confront the moral issues over his work following a quite extraordinary pitched battle-cum-orgy between his mannikins and female versions created by the enemy.
Antony Mann. Candy Moments.
A story that doesn’t quite fulfil its potential. A recently bereaved widower has hit the bottle after the car crash in which his wife died (with him behind the wheel).
As his life skids out of control, a chance encounter in a bar with a young woman appears to give him a chance to get back to normality – if he can dry himself out.
The sfnal element is The Hub Station, a huge construct in the city which offers people the chance to relive, then expunge, painful memories. His new girlfriend is strongly opposed to him making us of their services – her sister is one of many addicted to The Hub Station, who is gradually losing all her memory and personality.
Finally succumbing to the lure of ridding himself of the painful memories of his wife’s death, the man finds out more about The Hub Station once he is strapped in the chair.
For me the story misses through its trying to address too many issues at the end – the protagonist’s dilemma and its resolution, who is behind The Hub Station, and what exactly happens once you’re in there – all of which have to be dealt with quite briefly.
Toby Litt. The Melancholy.
Originally broadcast on BCC Radio 4, the story is in the form of an audio report. The person making the report is addressing his concerns with the behaviour of an AI, now lost to his research agency.
The AI has spent many, many years on on Europa, embedded in a deep-sea exploration vessel. Periodically the AI is returned to base – beamed back to Earth – and incorporated back into its mechanised housing for debriefing and analysis.
The senior engineer reporting his suspicions of the loss has insight due to his own personal situation – but will he be seen as projecting his issues, inappropriately, and unscientifically, onto the AI. He has suffered loss and pain over the years, and he believes that the AI is suffering from its mechanised housing back on Earth having been modified between tours of duty to something not recognisable as home.
It’s a short story, a simple conceit, and works well.
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life.
Interzone continues to publish stories by new writers and writers from across the globe, and this is from a Filipinan now living in the Netherlands.
The expat in her story is somewhat different – as we find from a story that starts off comfortably in a Wisteria and English-rose clad pergola in a garden. AG is in fact a created construct, and her domestic bliss is a life she now has, which is in start contrast to her early days when following her creation, the father-figure scientist responsible for her, lets her into the secrets of the society they live in. The oppressive regime in Metal Town, with Mechanic’s men harvesting those who are no longer productive and taking them to the Rememberance Monument, is one from which she needs to escape.
The story and the theme don’t quite match, feeling a bit forced together – the theme of expatriation and alienation and not belonging, the story about the created woman and the setting and having to lose the father-figure who is surplus once she is created. As a result we don’t get enough about the alienation of the expat, nor about Metal Town, the Mechanics, and the Rememberance Monument. From this story, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz could clearly do both.
Jim Hawkins. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Matter.
One of the strongest stories in IZ over recent issues, and one I can see being atop the Readers’ Poll for 2010.
An interstellar spaceship has an orchestra on board, who entertain the locals on planetfall. However, these musicians are genmod undercover government agents, doing the work of their bosses to achieve regime change, and interfering subtly, or not so subtly, in local politics.
The story is told from two perspectives, both members of the orchestra, and both vibrant characters full of vim and vigour and a taste for the opposite sex. There’s some wry humour which non-Brits will miss (not sure how well OMD are known outside of the UK!), some VR, some sex, swearing, action and drama. A good story, sez I.
A good collection of stories, Evans and Hawkins starting and closing the fiction strongly.