INTERZONE #250 Jan-Feb 2014
Received as part of my subscription to TTA PRESS
Stories by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, David Tallerman, C. Allegra Hawksmoor, Caroline M. Yoachim, Greg Kurzawa, Rebecca Campbell, Georgina Bruce.
All my previous Reviews of TTA publications HERE.
MY REAL-TIME REVIEW OF THE FICTION IN THIS ISSUE WILL START APPEARING HOPEFULLY TOMORROW IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ EACH STORY:-
The Damaged by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
“I’ll make the ceiling spin like roses.”
As a naive SF reader, a light bulb suddenly came on inside my head during my reading of this story: moving, as I did, from thinking it was merely an accomplished theme-and-variations on the conundrum of Bladerunner-type replicants (here, of commercially manufactured ‘playmates’) toward thinking it to be something far more clever, disturbing, artistic, ‘human-cyborg noumenal’, fiction-truth-original bordering on revelatory… And that light bulb has so far stayed bright even as the words started tugging at my heart strings, as I fathomed the hunger switches, the discovery of mysterious box-screws inside the ‘playmates’, the female protagonist’s flawed professionalism as an accretively believable character, the deliberately missing links of the processes in both the perfect as well as the damaged ‘playmates’, the synergy (or otherwise) of the real and fabricated in human emotions/yearnings. But who is likely to be unscrupulous enough to deploy the traditional built-in obsolescence of their readers’ light bulbs as part of a commercial business plan in professional creative writing, I wonder? An intriguing, eventually poignant riddle.
Bad Times To Be In The Wrong Place by David Tallerman
“But neither of us was going to make the other see sense with all that language passing back and forth.”
A fascinating short short about an argumentative couple (but what’s the point of arguing when life’s so short short, too?) in an atmospheric forest area plus an isolated diner, and I felt I could actually hear Johnny Cash singing in the background, the scenario was so deftly atmospheric. Significantly now, after the previous story, my light bulb is still shining bright … just about, I guess.
The Labyrinth of Thorns By C. Allegra Hawksmoor
“An offering for the addicts and the damaged wrecks that people like you (like all of you) become when the implants imbedded in the soft dark of your brains begin to degrade and malfunction.”
You are pleased by the highly poetic prose in this story, keeping the light burning inside your head, however vulnerable you think that light might otherwise be … vulnerable and ultimately misleading as to who or what you are.
Yet, you know deep down that you believe in this setting of a city on struts above the ocean, and in who you are said to be as the main protagonist within this text’s vision: the labyrinth of thorns seeking to be inside your head instead of being a scarring crown of thorns upon it.
Something vies with the light amid a ‘low server-humming’ and ‘reverse-osmosis’ and you seem to know, as any reader might know, that if you try to establish the gestalt from the leitmotifs of this inspiring set of fictions so far, it might lead to spoilers for any future readers simply by indicating that these fictions are not fictions at all.
The yieldingtree, the hanging tree, my own secret willow trees…
Beneath the Willow Branches, Beyond the Reach of Time by Caroline M. Yoachim
“Laura looked so vulnerable with her skull open.”
This tantalisation is another inspiring retro-Cartesian extrapolation: yet, while being a seasoned horror and weird-literary reader, I remain a naive SF reader, and I cannot claim to understand some of Yoachim’s deployments of time-manipulation into the synergy of this magazine’s perceived gestalt, yet I was imaginatively provoked by them, with the now constructive flickering of my light bulb or, rather, its propensity to reality-strobe backwards and forwards.
This is a tale of requiting a Proustian unrequited love as Takeshi tries, by surgery, to save Laura’s memory-bank as a means of saving her. I also perceived and relished a retro-Proustian effect of the willow trees as a reverse form of the ‘petit madeleine cake dunked in tea’: echoing the previous story’s ‘reverse-osmosis’.
“Laura had made the quilt.”
An example of one of my better half’s many quilts.
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Predvestniki by Greg Kurzawa
Ben has a quilt, too.
This is a story that truly caught my horror literature and budding SF imagination: with its traveller’s tales to a foreign city (here Moscow) that constructively reminds me of John Howard‘s fiction work (his is mainly Berlin).
The backstory, I infer, is Ben’s trip to Moscow with Russian Myra – a growing relationship, I also infer, but a fragile one – and the Antonioni-Blow Up-like photographs that Ben takes of strange towers with black tarpaulins and more … and other citizens with sharpened teeth. Accretively monstrous. This work is INCREDIBLY haunting – a real find.
And it latches in with this magazine’s perceived gestalt to a tantalising extent when Ben catches Myra watching TV…
“He glimpsed the wet, flexing walls of an internal cavity, what looked like video captured during laparoscopic surgery…”
Lilacs and Daffodils by Rebecca Campbell
“…the unlighted towers that stretch away…”
This is a stream of consciousness about nostalgia – as it says, a sensation of a memory, not the memory itself.
The eponymous images and their growth amid a little girl’s house where its green paint that needs scraping and grassblades that need stroking like a green cat. And the Quatermass films, even the Guelphs and Ghibellines that haunt me from when I read about them in history lessons …. and this piece is more like music than a fiction story, as if played on a theramin where you only need adjacency and a space between you and it to make its high whine or low server-hum. Not touch.
All other instruments need physical touch of fingers or of lips, or of both. All this is where humanity adopts the autonomous theramin light inside, rather than the tingle of a touch from outside by others. Someone on shiftwork kept away from loving you as measured in days, weeks, months, years (forever) not diurnal hours. Like the author (a shiftwork away from her reader children) telling this story as if to complete strangers: trusting it will touch those strangers (you and me) simply by tugging their ‘damaged’ heartstrings from such a great separation of distance. Watching for us slowly emerging, like childbirth, in the photographs taken from the towers of literary creation.
Stream of consciousness deserves stream of consciousness in reply.
“It is malfunction.”
Wake Up, Phil by Georgina Bruce
“‘If only you knew,’ said Throom. ‘If only you knew how many chances you’ve had.'”
It seems unlikely that the author intended Throom to be a morph of Theramin, but it seems appropriate if she did so, especially in the context of the overall gestalt. The untouchable executive doctor in a corporation, a corporation that vies with another corporation, each seeking the slavish loyalties of its staff. This is on the face of it the clinching satire finale of Stufflebeam’s “I can’t escape my job” opening salvo. It is also a compelling and engaging absurdist narrative that sometimes approximates a painting by Picasso but is mainly a 1950s/1960s SF novel where townships work diligently at their own employments in the face of alien invasion or cerebral counter-clockworlds like Yoachim in reverse, and homely and housewifery things mixed in with the crazy fantasies or with a theramin music backing to various Forbidden Planets to where these wholesome nuclear families travelled to fraternise with robots or replicants or just playmates or puppy dogs,
There is a character in this last story – a writer called Phil – middle-aged and portly and wearing Hawaiian shirts. I hope this is not a spoiler but, for me, and perhaps for me alone, this is Philip K Dick. But there you go – the light bulb’s finally gone out. Good job I had two.
“Built-in obsolescence meant that Callihounds would die after seven years.”
My previous reviews of stories by
Georgina Bruce: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/interzone-246/#comment-738
Greg Kurzawa: http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/15005-2/#comment-9078
I hereby claim my prize, you are Philip K Dick.
Or at least a set or fiction in # 250, when taken as a whole, that is a tribute to him?
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