Interzone #256 Jan-Feb 2015

interzone256

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Nostalgia.

A second story about connecting with the past, following close on Derek Kunsken’s Ghost Colors in the Feb 2015 Asimovs.

Tori uses a drug to help her look back on the past. She’s in a new relationship with Kay, a pre-op ‘slate’ (F to slate), but her ex-girlfriend Meredith is very much still on the scene, and Tori has to get her head around the past, come to terms with it, before moving on.

Not much by way of a speculative element, so whilst a nice enough character study, and using non-mainstream sexuality/gender, it’s missing that little bit extra I look to SF to deliver.

T.R. Napper. An Advanced Guide to Successful Price-Fixing in Extraterrestrial Betting Markets.

Neat story from a new writer, as young Altair, who is a few steps more than most of us into the autistic spectrum, finds his brain, hard-wired into numbers and odds, is not just something for him to use in betting, but, as the title suggests, has an even more out-there relationship with the betting markets.

Awkwardly for him, what goes on in head, all that prime number stuff, not walking on cracks, varying which steps he uses going up and down stairs, is of great interest to some extraterrestrial interests, and he’s way deep in hock to them, and it doesn’t look like there’s a way out, and that’s bad news for him and his girlfriend. Can he beat the odds?

An engaging character, and fun to read, and a good follow up to his previous Interzone story Dark on a Darkling Earth, a pair of stories boding well.

Pandora Hope. The Ferryman.

Hope draws on Norse mythology for this story, although to the non-expert on Norse mythology, as there are no hammer-wielding blonde-tressed Vikings in the story, this is rather opaque.

Instead we have a suburban drama, as a widower, Heldig, struggling to look after himself, and even the dog bought to keep him company after his wife died, finds solace in the arms of a woman, who offers her services, and her bed, to gentlemen such as him. Except that little happens on the bed, except a warm embrace. I’m not sure if the woman’s name, Maggie May, is a deliberate reference to the Rod Stewart character, but it’s a bit jarring, as is the fac that his son and daughter in law have names that are a) rhyming (Barry and Carrie) and b) more British than Norwegian.

Storywise Maggie May’s cat has a say in the matter, scratching Heldig, and through this the story unfoalds.

BTW that last word isn’t a typo, but you’ll have to read the story to understand why so.

Christien Gholson. Tribute.

A story of a type that frustrates me. Gholson has a go at creating a totally alien environment, and in the first section succeeds well, with a creature living on dusty plains, opening the serrated edge of it’s mantle to the sun, a shell-like creature living in the sun and the dust.

Then the story progresses with references to very non-alien activities and social structures, as we find in the very first paragraph of section 2, where the aforementioned creature is found to be a historian ‘poring through the stacks’, there are stone busts of saints, there’s a chancellor, and a councillor and so forth. This sits awkwardly with the rest of the story where the alienness is maintained.

It’s a tricky one, as a story that is totally alien throughout will struggle to engage the human reader (I’m guessing not even Interzone has readers with serrated mantles).

Neil Williamson. Fish on Fridays.

Four-pager from Williamson which is a treat. Non-Brits will struggle to get all the references in a story of a near-future Scotland in which the government has moved from simply offering health advice, to a much more pro-active method, as we see from a woman trying her best to get around the all-seeing eye (her refrigerator is complicit in this) of The Agency for Sport, Diet and Technology Empowering Scotland’s Citizens (aka ASDaTESCo).

The story is a transcript of one side of a telephone conversation between an agent of ASDaTESCo and one Ms. MacArthur, and the agent tries to gently steer her back onto the straight and narrow of a healthy eating regime. In this process there are some blackly comic touches throughout, and good to find out that in the end that whilst the agent thinks they have succeeded, it might not be quite so clear cut a case.

Conclusion

Napper and Williamson the pick of the bunch for me.

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