Saturday, 5 December 2015

Interzone 258-260

I haven't posted anything about the last three issues of this magazine so far, because I did not like any of the stories in Issue 258 so thought it better to skip that. This experience rather put me off reading the two subsequent issues, other than the usual comprehensive book and film reviews, but I've finally caught up with the stories. I won't list all of them but just mention a couple I enjoyed enough to feel that I might want to read more about the worlds created in them.

My favourite, by some distance, was in Issue 260: Murder on the Laplacian Express by C A Hawksmoor, illustrated by Warwick Fraser-Coombe. A Jupiter covered with jungle (however did that happen?); a terraformed Mars with breathable atmosphere; spacecraft in the form of long trains of linked compartments, capable of planetary landings; a strange non-religious sect enhanced by “pneuma” machines integrated with their nervous systems; prison space stations in rebellion; and a likeable heroine, all packed into an exciting short story. Much more about this universe, please!

Also worth noting in the same issue is No Rez, the first story by Jeff Noon to appear in Interzone. Surreal, intriguing and fast moving, it conjours up a future world so grim that people only observe it through optical implants, but the more money they have, the higher the resolution they can afford. Like most Interzone stories it is dystopian, but there is a hopeful ending.

Other topics covered in the stories are school shootings, a flooded Beirut, a world populated by clones, another in which unproductive members of society are “weeded”, and an apparently immortal intelligent manatee…

One interesting item in Issue 259 concerns a take on superhero movies by Simon Pegg, the actor/writer/director who has been involved in many SFF films including Shaun of the Dead and Paul:

"Obviously I'm very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and thinks we've been infantilised by our own taste. We're essentially all consuming childish things - comic books, superheroes. Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously!

It's a kind of dumbing down because it's taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys. Now we're not really thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot."

I have a lot of sympathy with this concern and have previously complained on my blog that superhero movies are becoming increasingly bereft of any plot or characterisation. Even when a series starts out relatively well - for instance the first Iron Man film and Thor - the sequels ditch the more thoughtful elements in favour of more fights, chases and explosions. Are we allowing the dramatic capabilities of CGI to distract us from the lack of any worthwhile content? Is it really satisfying to spend time watching productions aimed at the comprehension level and attention span of a pre-teen boy?

Fortunately there are other SFF films aimed at audiences who are a bit older (e.g. The Hunger Games) or a lot older (e.g. Ex Machina). The puzzle is why the superhero movies appeal to so many adults; let’s face it, the whole concept of superheroes is fundamentally juvenile.

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