The Sept/Oct issue of the British SFF magazine notes the passing of three authors whose names I am familiar with: John Boyd, who wrote The Last Starship from Earth and a dozen more novels in the 1968-78 period; Douglas R Mason, perhaps better known as John Rankine, who published 21 SF novels between 1968 and 2001 as well as contributing stories to Space 1999 and other series; and last but far from least Frederik Pohl, who was one of the giants of my early SF-reading life. Pohl's first published story emerged in 1937 and he wrote around 150 books, the last being published in 2011. I will always associate him with the 1960s, my formative decade of SFF reading, by which time he had not only written many novels himself (I still have one by him, A Plague of Pythons, and must re-read it soon) but also collaborated with others, particularly Cyril Kornbluth. Two of these works I have re-read in recent years and reviewed here: The Space Merchants and Wolfbane.
The featured author is Christopher Priest, with a long interview to accompany a review of his latest novel, The Adjacent. Priest is one of those authors whose work I respect more than like, as I don't always find his subjects of interest (or indeed understand what is going on), but I did read and review The Separation a few years ago and might well pick up his new book. There is also the usual collection of book and film reviews, although with the former in particular I get the sense that some reviewers are trying to impress their peers with their erudition rather than writing to inform simple readers like me.
The five stories in this issue are as follows:
Ad Astra by Carole Johnstone, illustrated by Wayne Haag. A young couple on a years-long journey in a small space capsule experience all of the stress one might imagine, with bizarre consequences.
The Hareton K-12 County School and Adult Extension by James Van Pelt, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A ramshackle old school serving a small town appears to acquire a life of its own.
Dark Gardens by Greg Kurzawa, illustrated by Martin Handford. Mannequins seem to come to life in a house with a very unusual basement.
Il Teatro Oscuro by Ken Altabef. An old theatre is scheduled for demolition, but one man still – literally – sees it as it used to be.
Technarion by Sean McMullen, illustrated by Richard Wagner. This starts as a steampunk tale but turns into something else. The battle against computers is taken to a literal level since there is, in a very real sense, no future in them.
A collection of stories which all tend (or enthusiastically dive in) to the bizarre. Johnstone's story is the most conventional of them and even that has a strange ending, but the one that seems most likely to stick in my mind due to its downright oddness is Van Pelt's tale of the all-embracing school.