Saturday, 7 February 2015

Interzone 256 (Part 2)

The author interview this time is with Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice (reviewed here on 2nd August last year) and its sequel Ancillary Sword (currently in my reading pile). The review of the sequel, which incorporates a comparison with the original, is interesting since it sounds rather different in approach, so I may have to accelerate that one up my priority order, if it can find its way past all of the others....

Other book reviews did not prompt me to add any more to my "must buy" list (I am becoming increasingly selective, given the way my reading pile keeps growing faster than I can shorten it). The film and DVD reviews are as entertaining and informative as usual, although thanks to my recent efforts to actually travel to a real cinema to watch films in their natural habitat, I have already seen some of the ones featured here.

An interesting addition to the usual contents is an interview with artist Wayne Haag, who has worked on many films as well as providing covers for Interzone over the past year. Some insights into a normally obscure corner of the film industry.

Now to the short stories, of which there are just five this time.

Nostalgia by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, illustrated by Richard Wagner. Dysfunctional people in a future dystopia, trapped by their drug addiction in an apparently endless cycle.

An Advanced Guide to Successful Price-Fixing in Extra-Terrestrial Betting Markets by T. R. Napper, illustrated by Warwick Fraser-Coombe. The hero of this one is a not entirely sane gambling addict who follows obsessive little rituals such as varying the treads of the stairs which he steps on, imagining that alien gamblers are placing bets on which he chooses. Until reality crashes into his imaginary world to dire effect, forcing him into drastic action to save the day. A likeable story, filled with wry humour.

The Ferry Man by Pandora Hope, illustrated by Ben Baldwin. For ninety percent of the story this appears to be a non-genre tale about the grief of a recently widowed old man who turns to an unusual therapist for comfort, but the ending veers off into mythological fantasy.

Tribute by Christien Gholson, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A glimpse of an incomprehensible world in which a more or less normal human culture – apart from a predilection for sacrificing children to their god, that is – coexists with what seems to be one of the "gods", who doesn't have a clue what is going on.

Fish on Friday by Neil Williamson. A short story which consists entirely of one side of a telephone conversation, in which an earnest minion of an independent Scottish state tries to persuade a recalcitrant elderly woman to eat more fish, along the way revealing some of the bizarre priorities of the ultimate "nanny state".

I frequently complain about the downbeat mood of stories published in Interzone, so must raise a cheer that there are no fewer than two amusing stories in this issue. No surprise that they are my favourites by a wide margin. Williamson's tale is a little gem, using the comic possibilities of only hearing one side of a phone conversation to good effect, as the reader enjoys imagining the other side. Napper's story reminded me of the kind of really good tale that used to appear in anthologies decades ago when a neat story structure, dry humour and a satisfying ending were far more common ingredients of SFF than is the case today. More like these, please!

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