Interzone Number 162, December 2000.

The Watcher’s Curse. Alexander Glass

Glass makes another Interzone appearance with The Watcher’s Curse. This tale has a similar theme to the two most recent of his IZ stories: that of “the other side”. In “Forgotten Tongues” (IZ 144) twins are separated when one disappears without trace in a wood in the Basque countryside, and in “The Language of the Dead” (IZ 161) in the same geographic setting ancestral voices from another time cross over a nebulous divide . In this story “the other side” is the ‘net’ – not the high-tech net we all know and love, but a vaguer, more shadowy construct. Hi-tech has no place in the net, with more mystic ley-lines and arches replacing Cisco routers.

Glass’s net is populated by various shadowy denizens – Watchers, Weavers, and the Bodiless, who virtually roam the net whilst their bodies remain in the “real world” (aka the Carrion Zone). The Grey Man, Myerson, is chasing Benjamin, who risks all in entering the net to rescue another. A longer story than previous Glass offerings, showing increasing maturity, although there was for me a slight tentativeness – after all, Stephen King, Greg Egan and others of that ilk would have a 700 page novel out of this storyline. But this story bodes well for this author’s future, and I will be keeping an eye out for future offerings from Glass.

“Think Tank”. Mark Dunn

This is the winner of the first James White Award for short SF by a new author. It scores marks for the audacity in setting a post-invasion Earth story in Blackpool (a working-class British seaside resort for those of you unfamiliar with this jewel in the U.K.’s tourist crown: Coney Island with Siberian temperatures and faecally-enhanced water). It reads like a story by a new writer, with little dialogue or action and perhaps overmuch wry description by the protagonist, and with a central story element (the think tank) a little too obvious.

Rude Elves and Dread Norse Reindeer. Dominic Green.

I approached this story with trepidation. A punning title and humorous illustrations flagging up some festive frivolity which brought on a flashback to reading Analog’s recent yuletide yawn – Jerry Oltion’s ‘It’s the Thought That Counts’.

But, in contrast, Green’s story is well written and funny, looking at increasing collective consensual mass hallucination, with possibly the most bizarre cast seen in SF – Father Christmas, God, Uncle Sam… and any story which has Ronald Macdonald being torn limb from limb by Proto-Neanderthals gets a thumbs-up from me!

Two quibbles: over long and unnecessarily explicit language in one or two places – I would have liked to have given the story to my 11-yr old son to read, but naming a missile the fistf**k rather put paid to that.

Single Minded. Tony Ballantyne.

The mischievous use of Von Neumann machines gets young Sean into trouble with the authorities, and a deal is offered as an alternative to punishment. As you might expect from such a scenario, Sean does not do well out of this negotiation, and he ends up facing a Galactic VNM menace, whose AI has resonances with his own spoilt single child upbringing. The story is semi-humorous, with Sean’s cozy spaceship in particular sounding not dissimilar to that of Wallace’s in “Wallace and Gromit in A Grand Day Out”.

The last science fiction story of the twentieth century. George Zebrowski.

Pokes fun at the relationship between science and SF, and between science and SF writers through an ingenious simulation within a simulation plot device set up by an SF writer struggling with a story. The story refers to such post-modern writing techniques, presumably making it post-post-modern.

Other content.

  • Interview with Walter Jon Williams by Jayme Lynn Blaschke
  • David Langford’s Ansible Link
  • Nick Lowe’s Mutant Popcorn, which reviews Disney’s “Dinosaur”, Paul Verhoeven’s “Hollow Man”, “Nutty Professor II: the Clumps”, “Space Cowboys” which stars Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland.
  • John Clute reviews J.G.Ballard’s “Super-Cannes” by way of Geoffrey Household’s “Rogue Male”, Terry Pratchett’s “The Truth”, and Philip Pulman’s “The Amber Spyglass” which he hails as ‘maybe the finest “children’s book” of the 20th century’
  • Paul J. McAuley reviews “Space” the second volume of Stephen Baxter’s “Manifold” trilogy, Brian Stableford’s “Year Zero” fix-up novel, “Salt” the first novel of new writer Adam Roberts, “Time’s Hammers” which collects almost 50 short stories by James Challis.
  • Chris Gilmore reviews Kim Newman’s “Where the bodies are buried”, John Hyatt’s “Navigating the terror”, Martin Scott’s “Thraxas and the Elvish Isles”, and Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s “Midnight over Sanctaphrax”.
  • David Mathew reviews “How the dead live” by Will Self, M. John Harrison’s collection “Travel Arrangements”, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s “The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Thirteenth Annual Collection”, Patrick McGrath’s “Martha Peake”, and Richard Laymon’s “The Travelling Vampire Show”.
  • Nick Gevers reviews new “Hainish” novel “The Telling”, and Patrick O’Leary’s “Other Voices, Other Doors”.
  • Tim Robins reviews Hy Bender’s “The Sandman Companion”, “Terry Pratchett: Guilty of literature” edited by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, the Gary Westfahl edited “Space and Beyond: the frontier theme in Science Fiction”, Lee Kovac’s “The Haunted Screen: Ghosts in Literature and Film”, Steve Cox’s “Dreaming of Jeannie: TV’s Primetime in a Bottle”, and Tony Thorne’s “Children of the Night: of Vampires and Vampirism”.

Conclusion.

The experienced writers provide solid fare in this issue, although with four stories having humorous undertones the feel of the issue is slightly lightweight as opposed to a festive feast with all the trimmings.

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