The interview in the latest issue of Interzone is with Jeffrey Ford, author of the Well-Built City trilogy (The Physiognomy, Memoranda, and The Beyond). I've not heard of him or his books before, but they sound very unusual (the books, that is) and worth a look. There's also an interesting article analysing the work of Christopher Priest, whose intriguing alternative World War 2 novel The Separation was reviewed on this blog a while back. And of course the usual news, chat, and book and screen reviews, plus a cover illustration by Adam Tredowski. Now to the six stories:
Monetized by Jason Stoddard (illustrated by Paul Drummond): a future in which everyone is constantly bombarded by exhortations to feature and promote particular products or services, thereby earning money. And the higher their Attention Index (= celebrity), the more money they can earn. A son rebels against the wealthy mother who thought up the whole idea.
Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster (illustrated by Geoffrey Grisso): a fantasy in which everyone wears a mask in public – a mask which determines their personalities and the events they are involved in. It is illegal to be seen in public without one, so every morning people have to choose which identity to adopt from their varied collections of masks. But there are some who reject the idea and try to develop their own independent personalities.
After Everything Woke Up by Rudy Rucker (illustrated by himself): in this world, everything has a personality and can be communicated with: each tree, stone, stretch of stream. This is an extract from a forthcoming novel, Hylozoic. Amusing enough in a short story, but I hope there's more to the novel than that.
Spy vs Spy by Neil Williamson: a future in which extreme paranoia is encouraged by companies selling security devices and worse…
Miles to Isengard by Leah Bobet (illustrated by Warwick Fraser-Coombe): a small group hijack the last bomb and drive it to a volcanic crater for disposal, in this LOTR-inspired tale; lots of atmosphere, not much explanation.
Memory Dust by Gareth L Powell (illustrated by Daniel Bristow-Bailey): a strange alien, the last survivor of its race, and a planet which is covered with a black dust with bizarre properties.
A very varied bunch in content and style, but I wouldn't say that I had a particular favourite this time.
I've been watching the ITV series Demons. Not my usual fare, but I was drawn to it because it features Philip Glenister, the star of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. I'm still watching it for reasons which I can't quite understand, but probably because it's so bad that it's become perversely irresistible. For those of you fortunate enough to have avoided the snare, it concerns a team of heroes in present-day London who spend their time hunting a varied collection of nasty supernatural beings. They are led by Glenister (with a dodgy American accent), and include a lad who is the last surviving member of the Van Helsing family, his would-be girlfriend, and a blind female seer.
In the last episode, the latest big bad demon managed to get into the team's hideout and set a time bomb next to the seer, who had been knocked unconscious. First "huh?" moment: he set the timer for a full 45 minutes, thereby helpfully setting up a long-drawn-out drama as the girlfriend arrives and wonders what to do. Does she carry the bomb away so it explodes somewhere harmless? Nope. Does she drag the seer out of harms's way and let the bomb destroy the hideout? Nope. Does she say "sod it" and get the hell out of there? Nope. She spends nearly all the time researching explosives in the library, then finally gives up and goes to sit by the bomb before, in the very last second, cutting through a wire at random and thereby stopping the clock. I was rather sorry that it didn't explode. Meanwhile, Glenister and the Van Helsing have been decoyed away in search of the demon, and find themselves trapped in a room in the sewers which has a sturdy grille in the ceiling with a trapdoor in it. Now these two heroes invariably carry a range of hardware including some fancy guns for disposing of demons. So when the demon duly appears above them, do they spring into action and start shooting? Nope. Not even when the demon helpfully opens the trapdoor to give them a clear shot plus a means of escape? Nope. They just stand there and trade insults, until the demon tires of the game and bolts down the trapdoor. Sadly, the girlfriend and the seer arrive in time to save them as the room floods, with only a fraction of a second to spare.
The next episode's on tonight. I can hardly wait…