This magazine shows strange variations in the binding method, paper quality and the use of colour. This issue (Sept-Oct 07) is on matt paper and monochrome only, except for the cover. The format remains the same however, with SFF news and comment, several short stories, and book, film and other media reviews (including podcasts this time), plus the odd author interview (Charles Stross in this issue – not that he's particularly odd…).
The stories (all of which tend towards the bizarre in the Interzone tradition) are as follows:
Feelings of the Flesh, by Douglas Elliott Cohen. A fantasy set on what seems to be a post-apocalyptic Earth in which humanoid Aberrates live alongside (and in a state of lethal conflict with) normal humans. These Aberrates are of various types, but all have the ability to remove a particular sense from humans for their own pleasure, and are called Tasters, Sighters, Feelers, Listeners or Smellers accordingly. The story concerns a bounty hunter's long search for the Feeler who killed his love. A grim tale, but it finishes on a hopeful note.
Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Lyn Powell. A near-future tale concerning a cartoon character, transferred to virtual reality, who takes on a life of his own through an online learning programme, with catastrophic results for human technology. What you might call a "pre-apocalyptic" tale.
A Handful of Pearls by Beth Bernobich. A disturbing fantasy about a sexually disturbed man and a tortured young girl.
Dada Jihad by Will McIntosh. Another story in what could be described as a near-future apocalyptic world, in this case as a result of a gradual deterioration in civilisation as a result of present trends, rather than any dramatic single event. A young scientist struggles to earn her PhD, very much against the odds.
The Algorithm by Tim Ackers. A fantasy in a medieval-level world concerning a Church based on machinery found in strange vessels which occasionally float downriver and are believed to come from God. One of these is found to contain a young girl, who has a message…This is really about the arbitrary way in which humanity builds belief structures, and the intensity with which they will be defended.
All of the stories are worth a read, if collectively rather depressing (it would be nice to have a few upbeat tales scattered through future editions), but The Algorithm seems most likely to stick in the memory. However, I had to laugh at the editorial note at the end of that one: "Tim wrote this story in a lined moleskin notebook with a brushed aluminium Lamy Studio fountain pen and antique brown ink." Surely a blatant bid for inclusion in Private Eye's Pseuds Corner!