A Jason Sanford special issue, with three stories by him, one by Matthew Cook and one by Aliette de Bodard.
Matthew Cook. The Shoe Factory.
Having just read a fairly average Jan 2011 issue of Asimovs, this issue of Interzone starts out with a much stronger story than any in its august companion, from an author new to me.
Cook vividly, sensually, portrays a relationship between a young Chinese man and his girlfriend, ekeing out a scavenging existence in a Chinese city. Things have got bad recently, with jobs moving on to cheaper places – Somalia, Haiti, Mississippi (a nice touch!). But something strange is amiss, as he is shifting between the abandoned shoe factory to other places – to finding himself in space, to a childhood accident in water – and he knows what is about to happen. The story kicks in half way through when we begin to realise what is happening, and it’s a strong sfnal premise : his spaceship is going to explode, taking him with it, and his only chance to survive, in any shape or form, is to beam his stored memories out into space. And what we have been following have been those non-linear memories as those that have received his beamed message are working on restoring him.
It’s a touching story, the relationship with his now-dead lover having emotional resonance, and with some stylistish touches, such as the scary force behind his lover’s avatar – ‘Darkness moves with her, flapping and churning like a windblown cloak’.
Aliette de Bodard. The Shipmaker.
Set in AdeB’s ‘Xuya’ continuity, here she takes a look at the uploaded spaceship-mind trope with her Eastern/Aztec worldview.
A ship is being created in space, and rather than being a thing of plans, mechanics and metals, the creation is very much in the ancient mode of jade carving, with painstaking attention to details, to the flows of the elements, and so forth. To complicate matters, the shipmaker has made choices in her life that have disconnected from her family and potentially from her ancesteors; and, worse still, the ship mind is due to arrive very much ahead of schedule, leaving her with the challenge of creating the ship in a race against the clock.
It’s far more than a ‘can she do it in time’ story, with a welcoming non-western/eurocentric, non-male perspective.
Jason Sanford. Peacemaker, Peacemaker, Little Bo Peep.
Strange forces are at work, causing the general population to react violently to those who use violence – whatever side of the law those people are on.
Hauled in front of a baying crowd of neighbours, a policewoman, handcuffed to a murderous rapist in her charge, finds that she has to make some difficult decisions, and to side with him, in order to survive. The sting in the tail is the cause of these events, and what is likely to happen now that most of the people willing and able to commit violence have been removed from society.
The story uses a fairly extreme conceit to set up the conflict, and the murderous rapist is also a really, really nasty serial murdering rapists, just to make the contrast and the moral dilemma as stark as possible, when perhaps a little more subtlety might have been employed.
Jason Sanford. Memoria.
Psychological horror in space, with an intriguing premise.
Our Earth is one of many, but the only where the ghosts of its inhabitants encircle it, keen to leap into the minds of those who leave the Earth, and in doing so push out some memories of the host. The protagonist is a volunteer, who is shield for those who travel off Earth, willing to have their memories overwritten to make space for the ghosts who they absorb to protect the crew. He has a reason for doing so – obliterating memories he no longer wishes to have.
There’s a clever layer to the story in terms of just who his mind is co-habiting with, and the crux of the story is in their finding yet another Earth, but one which is harboring something quite dangerous. The relationship between two of the crewmembers gives another dimension to the story, which is a tense one which grips.
Jason Sanford. Millisent Ka Plays in Realtime.
There’s a new global economic system – money has been replaced by time-debt, with seconds of people’s lives being the currency being exchanged.
There’s still rich and poor, master and slave, employer and employee, and Millisent is born into a life of servitude to the Lord and Lady, in a fiefdom where music is all important. There’s more than a hint of the Hans Christian Anderson, a modern fairly tale where the young child, at birth, is tipped for great things by the Lady, and, growing up, Millisent decides that her life is worth being forfeit to challenge the system.
It’s a story well told by Sanford, at one remove through the detached observer.
A strong collection of stories.