Friday 2 April 2010

Interzone 227

The featured author in the March/April issue of Interzone is Connie Willis. There's an interview with Paul F. Cockburn in which she talks about her work in general and her latest duology set in the London Blitz, Blackout and All Clear (really one novel split into two volumes). There's also a review of Blackout. The author is best known for short stories, although I can't recall having read any by her (my short-story reading being largely confined to Interzone and British Fantasy Society publications). I have read a couple of her novels, however; To Say Nothing of the Dog and Passage, both of which I reviewed on this blog (see review list on the left). Two things struck me about her novel writing: it is very good, but it goes on at inordinate length. As the reviewer of the 500-page Blackout puts it, she has a "relaxed pacing". Still, I expect I might well tackle these two sometime, despite the vast allocation of time I'd need to set aside for them.

The rest of the review section is notable for discussing the film Avatar at some length, providing a lot of background information concerning the making of the film.

Finally, the usual half-dozen short stories:

The History of Poly-V by Jon Ingold, illustrated by Robert Dunn.
A small team of research scientists discovers a drug which enables memories to be retrieved precisely and in great detail, as if they were being experienced afresh. It's a great commercial success, but further development work begins to reveal that memories are not what they used to be.

Dance of the Kawkawroons by Mercurio D. Rivera, illustrated by Jim Burns.
A couple of fortune hunters manage to bypass the quarantine patrols around a planet populated by some exotic intelligent flying creatures living among the ruins of an ancient alien civilisation. They steal some eggs which have characteristics which are incredibly valuable to humanity; but who is exploiting whom?

Chimbwi by Jim Hawkins, illustrated by Ben Baldwin.
Western civilisation is collapsing into chaos, but in Africa scientific breakthroughs have provided limitless free power. A British physicist makes the hazardous journey to start a new life there, and discovers that to be accepted he needs to demonstrate a lot more than just scientific knowledge.

Flying in the Face of God by Nina Allan, illustrated by Robert Dunn.
An astronaut makes her goodbyes as she is irrevocably changed by a treatment to make long space journeys possible.

Johnny's New Job by Chris Beckett.
The ultimate expression of the blame culture visitied upon social workers who make the wrong judgments.

The Glare and the Glow by Steve Rasnic Tem, illustrated by Dave Senecal.
Strange new light bulbs reveal far more than is comfortable.

I was particularly impressed by the first three stories which, while very different in style and content, are good enough to be published anywhere.


Fred said...

I like Connie Willis' short stories better than her novels, which, as you tactfully point out go at an "inordinate length."

You might want to try her collection of short stories titled _Fire Watch." It includes the title story and 11 other tales.

"Fire Watch" is the first story in the "London Blitz" series; it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best short story.

Bill Garthright said...

Um, a slight correction. I wouldn't say that Connie Willis is known for her short stories, necessarily, but rather for her short fiction (i.e. short stories, novelettes, and novellas). I believe "Fire Watch," for example, was a novelette.

Yeah, that's kind of picky, I know. And really, she's written more short stories than novelettes or novellas, I'm sure. Maybe I just make this distinction so I can be sure to include "Fire Watch" and her novella, "The Last of the Winnebagos."

Major Major said...

A friend who read (perhaps an advance copy) of Blackout complained of too many Americanisms. What it sounds like is a "Time Patrol" run by idiots who pick unsuitable people for missions and then give them the wrong kind of briefing and training.

My problem with for example Passage was that it was a extraordinarily long screwball comedy. Screwball comedies are about social situations that could be resolved in five minutes if anyone involved had any sense, so naturally they drag on.

--Joseph T Major

Anthony G Williams said...

'Passage' a comedy? Are you sure you didn't mean 'To Say Nothing of the Dog'?

Major Major said...

No, i meant Passage. I never said screwball comedies were funny, and in Passage everyone has his (or her) inane schtick which serves to keep the protagonists from actually getting anything accomplished, while acting like an idiot. See "Bringing Up Baby"; the one scene of which that sticks in my mind is Katherine Hepburn's character destroying a dinosaur exhibit that must have, even then, cost thousands of dollars.

Bill Garthright said...

Passage is certainly funny, but it's much more than just a screwball comedy. In fact, I was amazed at how the tone of the book changed, and at how many different emotions it evoked. Humor, horror, romance, mystery - it just seemed to have a bit of everything.

But then, I like screwball comedies. And I like her brand of humor.

I enjoyed Blackout, too, though it wasn't always easy keeping track of the characters and the timeline. And since I'm an American, I wouldn't recognize Americanisms if they bit me.