Interzone #251 (Mar-Apr 2014)

interzone251Cover by Wayne Haag.

John Grant. Ghost Story.

As the title tips you off, this is more of a ghost story than SF or F. But it’s not a ghost of the Xmas Past/Present/Future, but more a ghost of Xmas Alternate.

Nicely told by Grant, with some believable characters, only the use of ‘vacation’ rather ‘holiday’ jarring slightly (unless the younger generation of Brits have taken to using the American word), but I do like a bit more SF (or F, if pressed).

And in term of youngsters, can I just go on record that having read Interzone for 12yrs, it’s quite depressing to see the obituaries at the front of the magazine increasingly include people with birthdates more recent than mine. Mind you, on the upside of getting older, next year I will become eligible for Over 55s Lunchtime Specials at nearby hostelries, and I’ll also be moved up to the 55-64 age group on Strava and won’t have to compete with people almost ten years younger.

Karl Bunker. Ashes.

After a ghost story to open the issue, a strong SF story.

It’s a bit downbeat – humanity is huddling in enclaves, following the ‘Dust Wars’, and with AIs getting to a level where they evidently choose to ‘wink out’ – some form of AI singularity perhaps. As the story is relatively short, a lot of this explained (not quite info-dumped) but there’s a strong core of humanity in the story as a young man has to dispose of the ashes of his lover. There’s a palpable sense of loss, and a neat Jim Burns illustration to the story.

Greg Kurzawa. Old Bones.

This issue opened with a ghost story, followed by an SF story, and this third story in the issue is, as was Kurzawa’s last but one story for Interzone (Dark Gardens) is a horror story.

I could understand sneaking in the odd horror story, except for the fact that Interzone’s sister magazine is ‘Dark Static’, a horror magazine. Does that horror magazine include SF stories I ask myself?

The story is atmospheric, painting a grim picture of a man holed up in a garret, staring out of the building in which he is sheltering. There’s been a conflict, and he’s one of the remaining humans. Someone comes a-knocking at his door and he reluctantly takes up the offer to help, and it’s the nature of that help that the story illustrating chillingly shows (spoiler : the person who helps him is a surgeon, who kills him, slits him from chin to pube and pulls out a lot of him, leaving it in the bathtub, then revivifies him and they head off. But what follow’s is a bit like classic horror story The Monkey’s Paw, except it’ The Dead Man’s Innards that come a-shambling after the The Dead Man. bleagh)

Suzanne Palmer. Fly Away Home.

Excellent SF from Palmer – if SF which includes spacesuits, colonies, evil corporations, religion, gender issues, and drama is the kind of thing that you like. Like what I do.

Film-makers wanting to jump on the ‘Gravity’ bandwagon, who have a female actor (or ‘actress’ as they were called back in the day) and are looking for a strong character to play, should look no further.

Fari is a woman in a man’s job – and she’s the best miner on her crew, which tends to piss off many of the men, in a universe with what sounds like an ever stricter version of Sharia Law. Fari is an indentured worker, try to earn her freedom. A freedom taken away from her when she was taken away from her mother for simply being out in space with her, without a male escort.

There’s corporate politics, rapacious colleagues and more for her to overcome, and suffice to say, whereas ‘Gravity’ ends with a Hollywood ending, this one don’t, but the final page has some revelations and actions that are a surprise, and are impactful – to the extent I’m going to flag this up as a contender in the Best SF Short Story Award 2014.

Tracie Welser. A Doll is not a Dumpling.

Yopu is a small robot who spends his time quite happily selling dumplings on the streets of the city. When his limited AI and horizons are broadened by people with an agenda, he has a different outlook on his role in life.

The story gives a flavour of the background against which the story is set, but with perhaps not quite enough depth t it, or the two characters he meets, or those at the end of the story who see how much more he can do now compared to serving dumplings, for the reader to get any real attachment to any of the characters to engage enough with any of them to garner an emotional response to the ending (unlike, for example, the previous story in the issue).

Gareth L. Powell. This Is How You Die.

A short two-pager, twelve paragraphs outlining a personal descent amongst a societal collapse.

And, erm, that’s about it.

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