Interzone #253 (Jul-Aug 2014)

interzone253Cover by Wayne Haag. Stories by James van Pelt, E. Catherine Tobler, Andrew Hook, Neil Williamson, Caren Gussoff. Reviews underway.

James van Pelt. My Father and the Martian Moon Maids.

Heartwarming story from van Pelt, in which a son looks back on his relationship with his now dementia-suffering father through the lens of SF and a fascination with UFOs.

Andrew Hook. Flytrap.

Short story with three perspectives, which of course gives each about 1/3rd the space in which to develop a character and to create empathy compared to a single perspective story. And as a result the three characters aren’t really characters as such, just three people through whom the narrative progresses.

One is a young man obsessed with his Venus flytrap and with the stars – he eschews the astrology books his parents have, wishing for personal experiences. (Hang on a sec, shouldn’t that be astronomy books??). A second is a young woman obsessed with the novel ‘The Body Snatchers’ and whether humanity has yet been taken over. And the third a middle aged man detached from everything, including his wife and children (and dog) who yearns for the stars.

And through two little descriptive sequences from each character, the linkages are revealed.

Neil Williamson. The Golden Nose.

Felix Kapel is an olfactory specialist, his nose for fragrances having built him a reputation and career, but for whom technology is a threat.

He yearns for gold, and indeed an antique golden nose offers him the ability to reach a higher level of achievement. However this comes at a price..

The wry story didn’t really grab me – it left me feeling that I was missing something or other. Was I unable to sniff out a slightly hidden nuance in the story? Or wasn’t there one?

D.J. Cockburn. Beside the Dammed River.

Interzone has for some time published the winner of the annual James White Award, which is for unpublished authors. This is of course A Good Thing, although of course often the stories give some indication of why the author is as yet unpublished. This is not one of those stories, as it sits quite happily alongside the stories in this and recent Interzone issues.

It’s a simple story, simple setting, focussing on some human interactions, against a bigger picture that is the sfnal element. The setting is remote Thailand, a community where the building of a dam upstream has led them to losing their water supply. And the jeep passing through is carrying another precious item – an asteroid.

Just who is transporting it and why add to a satisfying conversation between a villager who is much more than he seems, and the European woman through whose eyes we get a perspective on the local situation.

E. Catherine Tobler. Chasmata.

An effective psychological piece. Not a standard narrative, just the thoughts of a Martian settler, standing by Valles Marineris, the massive chasm on the Red Planet.

The chasm, the dryness, the dust, the distance from Earth all impinge on the narrator’s thought processes (with a many a parenthical aside) with the cupping of a hand around another, and other basic human feelings and senses explored, looking back on, and sideways to things which did/not happen and which are/not happening now. Not a ‘fast-paced action adventure’ story!

And a word about page layout which has a red illustration of chasm walls hemming in the text. That word is excellent.

Caren Gusoff. The Bars of Orion.

A cracking story from an author new to me.

It starts by getting the reader hooked – the protagonist is getting PTSD therapy. He needs it because he is in a different universe to the one he lived until recently. He’s lost his wife, and everything else in his universe, except his daughter, and, living in a motel room, is struggling to make sense of things.

We follow his progress through several therapy sessions. It’s a story you can see working well as a TV drama series, so get touting it Caren Gusoff.


Strong issue with several excellent stories.

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