Interzone, Number 160, October 2000

The Worms of Hess, Barrington J. Bayley.

I approached this story with no little trepidation, based on reading Bayley’s short story in the previous issue of Interzone. How do you follow a story which ends with gastro-fecal unpleasantness?

Well, Bayley continues with some stomach-turning (or, more accurately, stomach-ejecting) biology, that also includes one character being invaded by an alien life form via a route which is, shall we say, an original one. Hell no, let’s not mince words – a sentient worm enters through the sphinctal route. Ewww.

Leaving aside such matters, the story is an interesting take on symbiotic relationships, with the slightly out of the normal element being the three-way nature of the symbiosis on a planet called Hess. The planet is only named in the last sentence, which leaves me worried that there is a play on words, or reference to another of the author’s story, which I am missing out on.

The story is fine as far as it goes, but do we really need characters called Krrp and Bllp? Or is Bayley radically deconstructing SFnal tropes and putting them back together in a challenging post post-modern paradigm? Answers on a postcard, please…

The Blood Thieves, Liz Williams.

Brighton-based author Liz Williams appears in Interzone again with a short story set in Iceland. Olaf Olafsson meets one of the huldra, an ancient mythical race of ice-faeries (or perhaps f-f-faeries on account of the f-f-freezing weather?). The huldra requires him to investigate and then halt the building of a bio-genetic facility on an ancient site. But the huldra’s child is sick, and she is able to see that the modern ways can offer some benefit.

The Bookshop, Zoran Zivkovic.

Recent issues of Interzone have seen Zivkovic stories entitled

  • The Train, in which a passenger has a short encounter with a mysterious stranger
  • The Confessional, in which a priest has a short encounter with a mysterious stranger

So, would you be surprised to hear than in The Bookshop, a bookshop proprieter has a short encounter with a mysterious stranger. No, I didn’t think you would be surprised.

This story is however somewhat more of interest to the SF community in that the bookshop in question is a SF bookshop, and the story revolves around an alien who has arrived on Earth by a somewhat off-beat route and with a strange mission. This makes the story an interesting read for me, whereas the previous stories were much less so.

Snapshots of Apirania, Chris Beckett.

Another short from Chris Beckett. His Welfare Man (Interzone #158, August 2000) was so-so in my opinion, which I surmised was either from the subject of that story being either too close to Beckett’s or my own background in social work. In this story Beckett travels further afield, to Apirania. Or, more accurately, the story is told by a tourist who has travelled to the planet Apirania. (I hope you noticed the way I cleverly linked the previous two sentences). It is in effect a monologue, or verbatim transcript of someone showing their holiday video footage to friends. This might put some people off, but I think it worked fine in this case, and its nice to see an author trying something quite different.

Orchids in the Night, Jean-Claude Dunyach.

The first words of this story transported me back a quarter of a century. “My acquaintance with Professor Challenger..” the French author begins. Now I haven’t read any of Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger stories since my early teens, and hadn’t given them much thought since, but some very pleasant memories of reading those stories came flooding back to me with these opening words.

Dunyach takes Professor Challenger (and Conan Doyle) to France to solve a most mysterious murder. Written in the style of the original Challenger stories, the grand finale with Challenger entering arial combat with a pterosaur is most enjoyable. A tour de force.

Other bits

Also in this issue:

  • the usual well-written book reviews, a lengthy review by Paul Brazier of Mary Gentle’s Ash: A Secret History, which I particularly enjoyed if for no other reason than his criticism of sub-Tolkien trilogies which characterise a lot of fantasy, and putting forward John Crowley’s Little, Big in contrast, was something I could have written myself. I read Little, Big ten years ago or more, and can still recall the absolutely thrill of reading it. Gentle’s book is over 1,000 pages, but Brazier does such a good job of reviewing the book that I may even go out and buy it. Rudy Rucker’s clutch of books are given a similarly lengthy treatment.
  • audio tape reviews (of Dr. Who audio tapes)
  • interviews with Ben Jeapes and Steven Gould/Laura J. Mixon
  • David Langford’s Ansible Link as usual
  • Nick Lowe’s reviews of Titan AE, the Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, and Stuart Little

All of which adds up to a very good issue, IMHO.

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