The July/August issue of the British SFF magazine arrived on my doorstep recently. The R.I.P. section noted the loss of Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon, arguably the most carefully constructed and most moving short SF story ever written (later expanded into an award-winning novel), also Jay Lake, author of Green (reviewed here in August 2013), and H. R. Giger, the artist and designer most famously responsible for the terrifying monster in the Alien films. Another name from the distant past of my reading history was Mary Stewart, author of the Arthurian Merlin trilogy, who has died at the age of 97.
The interview this month is with John Joseph Adams, better known for his editing than writing, having jointly edited: Robot Uprisings (also reviewed in the magazine); The Apocalypse Triptych; Seeds of Change; and various others. I have to say that apart from Interzone's own offerings I read very little short fiction, preferring to get stuck into a novel. Talking of which, there are the usual book reviews (three of the ten of which are collections). The only one which sparked my interest (I become ever harder to impress – too many books to read, too little time) was Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica, which sounds like a fun read involving an alternative world and a girl from our time who finds herself somewhere very different, with a lot of questions she wants answering.
In the screen reviews, there's warm approval for Under the Skin (the plot summary of which doesn't much appeal to me), also reasonably favourable takes on: Edge of Tomorrow; X-Men: Days of Future Past; and Transcendence, all three of which will no doubt end up on my viewing list.
Six short stories this time:
My Father and the Martian Moon Maids by James Van Pelt, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A nostalgic story of a childhood with an imaginative dad who believed in UFOs, seen in flashbacks by a now adult son looking after his elderly father. Not science-fictional until the ambiguous ending – might he have been right after all?
Flytrap by Andrew Hook, illustrated by Daniel Bristow-Bailey. Three parallel plot threads following people who feel that they don't belong in the world; which may be true, given the fascination that The Body Snatchers has for one of them. Mysterious.
The Golden Nose by Neil Williamson, illustrated by Martin Hanford. An olfactory specialist – a "nose" – finds himself becoming redundant as scientific scent analysis takes over, until he acquires the legendary golden Habsburg Nose, which transforms his fortunes. But there is a powerful downside….
Beside the Dammed River by D. J. Cockburn (James White Award Winner). In a future Thailand, in a region suffering permament drought from the Chinese damming of the Mekong river, a former professor provides help to a foreign woman whose vehicle has broken down. A gently humorous tale of clashes between cultures and age groups, with an environmentalist point.
Chasmata by E. Catherine Tobler. A hallucinatory story of a couple living alone on Mars whose grasp of reality is steadily slipping away. Confusing.
The Bars of Orion by Caren Gussoff, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A man and his daughter find themselves on our Earth after their parallel version has vanished. He finds our version of his late wife married to someone else but forms a connection with the psychiatrist who is helping him to adjust to his new life.
Cockburn's story deserved its award, but I also enjoyed Gussoff's. Both of these are worth second readings.