Interzone #246 (May – Jun 2013)
My RTRcausal of the fiction in this magazine that I received as a result of my subscription to TTA Press.
All my previous reviews of TTA Press publications are linked from HERE.
The fiction in this issue is written by Steven J. Dines, Jess Hyslop, Nigel Brown, Aliette de Bodard, Priya Sharma, Lavie Tidhar, Georgina Bruce, Shannon Fay.
My review will appear in the ‘comment’ stream below as and when I read each story.
It may take some while to complete this review during the period I remain busy preparing the ‘Horror Without Victims’ anthology.
The Machinehouse Worker’s Song – Steven J. Dines
“…black and red swirled together to reach an agreement of colour.”
When I was young in the 1950s, I sometimes listened to ‘Workers’ Playtime’ on the BBC Light Programme – where variety acts visited factory canteens to entertain the workers at lunchtime. Why I was reminded of that when reading this cerebral story – part Pinter, part Beckett, part Pete and Dud or the Arthur Haynes Show – I am not sure, but its poignancy of dialogue seemed to convey nostalgia for such events … while reaching up through some corrugated underlay of Heaven above which I imagine my own Mother Moon passing as the Machinehouse business churns on, producing what for whom? …until, in this distant future I once envisaged but that has finally arrived, I can hopefully reap some mysterious ‘tontine’.
“My long shadow covered him, surrounded him, like a coffin.”
Pingback: Interzone #246 reviews | stevenjdines
Triolet – Jess Hyslop
“‘Good morning, Mr and Mrs Lewis!’ she says, and her face goes all over wrinkles as she smiles.”
A beautifully original concept for a story that I will not give away here, other than to say it skilfully blends an ordinary suburban reality with the poetically fey and plant-like. A Hardy perennial of changing emotions and relationships. Something Elizabeth Taylor the fiction writer may have written if she lived today. It is comforting and discomforting at once and I shall be ever grateful as to the hint on how to discover one specific feature of the nature of a ‘triolet’ that I didn’t know before, as I have now done.
Also, I guess my own acquired interpretation of the previous story, in the shade of the Intentional and Affective Fallacies of Literature — and indeed possibly my whole approach to reviewing from 2008 — has now been given more than just an oblique licence by this story’s “It means what you make it mean. It means what you think it means.”
Sentry Duty – Nigel Brown
“…marching Sisters, chanting, thousands in the ranks,…”
This is an intriguing – artfully and economically built-up – scenario where the lines of communication are breached between an alien egg-gestating Sister (with counter-balancing tail) on official duty and a wayfaring human-like-us-readers Sister – the former on sentry duty here at the latest universe or migration oasis during an on-going, open-ended diaspora of Sisters throughout the cosmos, or so I infer. Fascinating to see a human as an alien via the eyes of an alien’s POV. Remarkably, as in the previous story, cigarette smoke ends up being a tell-tale sign of what actually has transpired, and in this story it is a shock that reveals the natural instincts of hedonistic survival against comradeship between different alien breeds if not genders. All evocatively described. [This story also reminds me of a new published novel by PF Jeffery about a future world of Sisters (or Warriors of Love) where childbirth is by this novel’s own form of creative gynogenesis – and of Douglas Thompson’s ‘Quasar Rise’ female-dominated world – both of which items of fiction I happened to review very recently here and here.]
The Angel at the Heart of the Rain – Aliette de Bodard
“…breaking open the earth to pave the way for newer, better infrastructures.”
A short inspirationally allusive or elusive or poetic version of the previous story’s Sisters who were upon an on-going diaspora, here two sisters as siblings and “refugees” – and here, too, with mention of killing by “drones” and the raining down of bombs, I feel we need to factor in endlessly unresolved machine-driven war scenarios that beset our world today.
With that feeling and with the “infrastructures” being scooped from the Earth and a sense of an unresolving struggle by trial and error (for what and by whom?) I am reminded again of the machines of war but also of the Machinehouse in this magazine’s first story – and reminded, too, of precariousness, a precariousness that was effectively evoked by a simple moving of a single item of punctuation in ‘Triolet’, with the text here in the de Bodard being so rich and susceptible to sensitivity, I guess — but, here, you (a ‘you’ as one of the sisters) become bolstered by the punctuating presence of the clarifying Angel…and by hopeful renewal. You believe in the Angel but do you believe the Angel? [This would probably bear re-reading but, as ever with the nature of real-time reviews, my comments are based on the first reading of any work from the book or magazine being reviewed.]
Thesea and Astaurius – Priya Sharma
“She looks into an alcove, then realises it’s a balcony. The Minotaur’s below her, in a vast field.”
Great cinematic sweeps of panorama with more Pinteresque or absurdist dialogue as if by a film directed by Jean Cocteau, recasting the Minotaur legend, where Theseus becomes Thesea (another Sister for this magazine’s Sisterhood or another Mother Moon above the Machinehouse?), Asterius Astaurius, featuring, too, Icarus and Daedalus. This is remarkable because we have here created for us a gestalt that spans, for the first time in my real-time reviewing experience, two separate simultaneous publications that arrived in my letterbox together: Interzone #246 and Black Static #34 (my review of the latter written in the last few days is shown here where the Icarus story features). Only those who subscribe to both magazines will benefit from any synergy. However, each story is appreciable as a discrete work, without the knowledge that they also form a parthenogenetic hybrid plant that grows stories like ‘Triolet’ grows poems.
“She can’t reconcile this paradox. That labyrinth is down there and up here. / ‘Daedalus says that’s the moon.'”
The Core – Lavie Tidhar
“…the feel of every grainy wood pulp page and crumbling spine. The stories built a maze in his mind…”
Today my spines are still uncrumbled but — in this highly effective ‘blade-runner’ type extrapolation of the future with humans as those earlier hybrids and mazes of this magazine’s fiction (perhaps a naïve observation on my part regarding any SF story as I don’t read as much SF these days as I once did: Dick, Delany…) — we return to an explicit (yet subtle) variation on the theme of the Triolet’s “It means what you make it mean. It means what you think it means.” as the third person singular protagonist here adjusts the gears of his own self-narration toward his node story.
Those hybrids? Not only did ebooks encourage more plagiarism and piracy in this world’s past, but, now, in the mind’s future, this story, with its balance of “the digital and the physical”, intrinsically affects the living flesh-and-mind existences themselves with resultant schizms of reality, including spiders on the moon (that Mother Moon above the Machinehouse?)
Our protagonist is not in the “Conversation” or is out of the loop (as I read it and as I feel I am out of that loop, too) and we can only hope that individuals like him can rescue his own integrity and that of his lover. Our children’s, too. Whether this be a vampire story or a didactic prophecy or whatever, up or down, never sideways, like the talking Elevator whose only hope is hybridisation, we seek this wonderful story’s “authentic” core.
Cat World – Georgina Bruce
“Maybe she found the women who help,…”
Sisters again – here two little girls named Oh and Little One. Oh’s name reminded me of Oy in King’s The Dark Tower series, where, when reading and reviewing those mighty books, I often vocalised Oy into ‘I’ – and now following the ‘you’ of a previous sister in this magazine’s fiction aptly blending with the ease of moving through doors of perception, as in the King books, here in ‘Cat World’ to where cats live, containing a gentle, but eventually dark, ‘growing-fantasy’ similar to that in ‘Triolet’, also with the undercurrent of that Sisterhood diaspora which seems subtly to continue here, possibly with Little One as the sentry for what might be a ‘Naughty Girls’ Home’, an establishment managed by two characters named Book and Mr Cow. Haunting material that also has the rain of the de Bodard story – and Little One then worries about growing into grass rather than poems, I guess. Or about ending up with those children in the Tidhar story? But are the greatest horrors Oh and Little One themselves? Depends which way you migrate, forward or back or sideways towards Mother Moon…or downwards like Icarus? Beautifully written and tantalising. Do seek its node or core.
“We are not little girls, I think. We are something much more terrible.”
Proposed title: ‘deine Augen’?
You First Meet the Devil at a Church Fete – Shannon Fay
“All that’s left of him is a drifting wreath of cigarette smoke.”
This story is printed here for having been the 2012 James White Award Winner. Yet, incredibly, it echoes the exact leitmotif of the cigarette smoke trope that features previously at least twice in this edition’s fiction – and this well-written poignancy of a tale telling of Stuart Sutcliffe’s involvement with the Beatles during their Hamburg days certainly provides, if unintentionally, an intriguing coda to this set of stories. A fine example of the ‘synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’. The Minotaur legend earlier transfigured, now the Faust Legend. The ultimate Icarus legend as a ‘dying fall’ in music, I feel. It leaves a good thought-provoking aftertaste, as we wonder which Beatle is still to reap the ‘tontine’. And the Sisterhood of fans who screamed…..all now as old as me.
There is much else in Interzone, in addition to the fiction, for SF & Fantasy enthusiasts to enjoy.
Pingback: Gestalt Real-Time Review | Panglossian Hubris