Saturday 8 June 2013

Interzone 246

The May-June issue of the British SFF magazine features a fantastic sea creature on the cover: Gorgónavis, by Jim Burns. Inside, David Langford’s Ansible Link blog includes the sad news of the terminal illness of Iain Banks and the death of horror writer Frank Herbert.

The interview features Lauren Beukes, along with a review of her latest novel The Shining Girls. Other reviews include the 25th anniversary edition of Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, which I recall as a rich and original modern fantasy. Must read it again soon. There is also what appears to be the first in a series of articles about the state of SF, Future Interrupted by Jonathan McCalmont, in which he argues (to give a very brief gloss) that popular SF themes are becoming too well-worn and tired and we need to focus more on the uncertain future, with a wider view than the traditional Anglo-American focus. I take his point and agree that we should be seeing more modern concerns in fiction (in fact, these have always formed a small sub-genre of SF), but one of the traditional attractions of SFF is the escapism it provides; too much inevitably gloomy reality might lose much of the audience!

Film and DVD reviews include Season 5 of Fringe, which I hastily skipped over as I’ve only just started Season 3 so I have some catching-up to do. It’s still gripping my attention as a kind of modern version of the X-Files, but with a much more coherent overall story arc and with more intriguing characters. The review pages of Interzone is where I first heard about the superb Continuum, which I wrote about recently. I have now finished the first season and don’t know when the next one will be available on DVD. I’m also waiting patiently for Season 3 of Game of Thrones to become available. Despite the fact that I stopped watching Once Upon a Time and Warehouse 13 in their second seasons (I decided I was becoming too much of a couch potato and carried out a cull of the weakest series), I have the impression that we are unusually fortunate at the moment in the choice of high-quality SFF TV series.

Unlike recent issues there is no novella or longer story included in the magazine, but that leaves room for seven instead of the usual five or six, plus an extra one – the winner of the James White Award.

The Machinehouse Worker’s Song by Steven J. Dines, illustrated by Wayne Haag. The last two workers in a huge sealed-off factory wonder why no more people are arriving, and one of them decides to try to escape in order to find out. Rather eerie.

Triolet by Jess Hyslop, illustrated by David Gentry. Flowers which recite poems when touched form the skeleton of this story of personal relationships.

Sentry Duty by Nigel Brown, illustrated by Wayne Haag. The arrival of the first human on an alien planet, as observed by one of the aliens. A lesson in the perils of cultural assumptions.

The Angel at the Heart of the Rain by Aliette de Bodard, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A brief, fey story of a refugee in a strange city, and the need to adapt to a new life.

Thesea and Astaurius by Priya Sharma, illustrated by Martin Hanford. A very different take on the Minotaur in the labyrinth myth, told by one of the intended victims. Intriguing.

The Core by Lavie Tidhar, illustrated by Vincent Sammy. A continuation of the story The Bookseller in Interzone 244. We seem to be getting an entire novel in instalments.

Cat World by Georgina Bruce, illustrated by Richard Wagner. Two orphaned girls hiding in a hostile world find escape in hallucinogenic chewing gum, which takes them to Cat World and memories of their past. A sad tale.

You First Meet the Devil by Shannon Fay. Winner of the James White Award for new writers, this is a bizarre story (factually based, according to Wikipedia) concerning the short career of Stuart Sutcliffe, an early member of The Beatles pop group, told from Sutcliffe’s viewpoint but in the second person.

A mixture of unconventional, and sometimes decidedly strange, stories this time. Most aren’t really to my taste, but the one which captured my attention was Priya Sharma’s engaging fantasy.

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