Spectrum SF 7

A bigger than usual issue of Spectrum, which is nice. But only the third issue published this year, and so the quarterly publication schedule has been missed for 2001. Maybe it doesn’t worry non-librarians, but for a quarterly periodical to only publish three issues – tsk, tsk.

The extra number of pages enables a lengthy serialisation in two parts of a Charles Stross ‘novel’ entitled ‘The Atrocity Archive’. I’m not sure about referring to this as a novel, as for me a novel is something that is or will be published alone with its own ISBN. Furthermore, publisher Paul Fraser has put me in the horns of a dilemma – I don’t read serialised novels, but this is by Charles Stross, whose stories I particularly enjoy. A quick spot of rationalisation resolved this dilemma – I will pretend that this is a very long novella split over two issues of a magazine, and will review it next issue. ;-)

Crew-Dog. Mary Soon Lee.

Another effective short short story (3 1/2 pages) by Mary Soon Lee (others appeared in Spectrum’s #4 and #6), this time from the POV of a genmod intelligence-enhanced dog. Planetfall finds the dog coming wet nose-to-wet nose with some peculiar cousins..

The Pilgrim. Josh Lacey.

The first published SF story of a screenplay writer.

It is difficult to put my finger on the reasons why, but it does come across as a story written by someone not wholly familiar with the genre.

A young boy witnesses his father’s attempts at getting into space come to a traumatically terminal ending (shades of the Challenger disaster), but continues his father’s work. He manages to raise the capital to achieve his dream of building a spaceship, but has to make another difficult choice – to leave Earth he has to leave his wife and unborn child. This is a bit of an artificial plot twist and slightly unecessary – the character does not really develop as a result of this Herod’s choice.

He chooses the stars, and finds another wife and begets a child.

The ship in question is called the Mayflower, and really my question is what the story is trying to achieve? Simply an updating of the stories of the founding fathers? Or something else. The short, episodic nature of the story, borken into twelve numbered sections, gives a feel of a movie story-board approach.

A further story by Lacey is set to appear shortly, which should help to gain a better idea about the quality of his SF writing.

Green England. David Redd.

The previous issue of Spectrum SF saw the unprolific Redd return to the setting of previous stories written in the 60s and 70s. That story, ‘Eternity Magic’, didn’t engage me in any way as the magic abilities of the main characters were such that they were able to extricate themselves rather too easily from the difficulties the plot put in their way.

This story links to a previous story from Interzone in 1989, and eine German story from 1996.

Upon reading this I did worry a little, but found myself enjoying the story hugely.

‘Green England’ is written from the perspective of an Afro-American (I use this term as the black American has quite clearly presented African roots) who is on a diplomatic mission to England. Our green and pleasant land is under the rule of an ultra-ecological commune-promoting government, and the Americans are hoping to do business.

Dr Michael Ademuyiwa-Jackson (known as Mizta Shagga) and his nubile (and accommodating) wife are aghast at the basic conditions in which the English live. But who will benefit from any trade between the countries?

This is a clever piece of work, written in an engaging style through the shades of Mizta Shagga, and is to be recommended. I would also suggest a translation of the German-language only story in this sequence to be published in English.

The Kethani Inheritance. Eric Brown.

Spectrum SF has a small stable of good, mostly British writers, and Eric Brown regularly appears between the covers.

Once again this story is in a sequence – following stories from New Worlds in 1997 and Interzone in 1998.

An alien race are enabling those on Earth to choose to have cranial implants which enable their brains to be resurrected after death and put back into younger, fitter bodies.

Two adults meet when visiting their elderly, senile parents, and companionship quickly turns into much more.

The death of the man’s father precipitates a crisis, as he has to finally come to terms with his relationship with his father, and how it has impacted on him throughout his life. Only through his father’s death does he finally achieve closure on that part of his own life.

Conclusion.

The lengthy serialisation and 40+ pages for the archive (new novels, summaries of short stories) limit the space for short fiction. The Soon Lee and Lacey stories are quite short, the Eric Brown story is gently understated, leaving, for me, the David Redd story as the high point of this issue. The missing of a quarterly issue for me is a bit of a worry – I would rather see Paul Fraser spend less time on writing and putting together the Archive, and more on filling the pages with fiction!

 

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