I received INTERZONE #256 as part of a subscription. I shall real-time review its fiction in the comment stream below as and when I read it.
Stories by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, T.R. Napper, Pandora Hope, Christien Gholson, Neil Williamson.
My previous reviews of TTA Press publications linked from HERE.
Nostalgia by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
“…once shu had already grown into the new skin, the smooth Barbie V between shur legs.”
Nostalgia portrayed as a tangible thing that can be charred or smoked or collected – represented, say, in a fiction about truth, where gender with new pronouns are closed smooth systems as well as memories of people who penetrated you or whom you penetrated, all whisked away into a substance called nostalgia? On the surface, this is a story of communal studentish young people from, say, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro or fiction by Ursula Pflug, where death is a belief that the person is still alive upstairs. A clean slate. Something that tantalised me nicely, as good fiction should.
An Advanced Guide To Successful Price-Fixing In Extraterrestrial Betting Markets by T.R. Napper
“They are currency, but they are also the fuel we use to fold space…”
As I read this story, I felt I had been destined to read it forever; it has the sort of clinging importance to my life, as I, in my own ‘borderline Aspergers’, have felt aliens betting on the way I do things, not just big things, but meticulous details I do either intentionally (for them) or synchronously (like these real-time reviews) or quite unconsciously as accidents. But there is a devastatingly conscious accident by the self in this story that took me by surprise, but it shouldn’t have surprised me. This read was an exciting experience for me, not only for what I have already described, but also for aspects more detached from me like its convincing futuristic world, living on a spire with a mars-scape, the deadened, smoothed-over feel sometimes of the mock or real Irreality of loved ones and of enemies, of humans and of aliens alike (a bit like the ‘slates’ in the Stufflebeam), plus the fascinating details of real gambling, the obsessive self-deception when aspiring to the profitability of making bets on things, with that spire as ‘objective correlative’, a dead monument to once ancient hope.
The Ferry Man by Pandora Hope
“I’d said to Barry, ‘It’s like I’m in an alien world,’ but he never watched science fiction and didn’t know what I meant,…”
On one level, a poignant tale of a newly widowed man who now needs a reason not to die, despising his son and daughter-in-law. He seems to be a Norwegian fjord ferryman manqué, one who takes to buying ‘hugs’ from a local woman. But there are other layers of not only penetrability (scratches) but also impenetrability with the easy word ‘hugs’ being, for me, things people often offer to others on the Internet as a palliative for sorrow, in tune with Stufflebeam’s ‘slates’ — in telling contrast to a ferryman linking a physical connection from shore to shore. All this amid a painterly, mythic undercurrent that relates Fuseli as well as Hansel and Gretel. There is a madness about this story. A madness that tells you more about human and animal connections than sanity or science fiction ever can.
Reference to this story here in my concurrent review of the latest Black Static.
Tribute by Christien Gholson
“: spiral towers of cartilage, hard as stone;”
This has an entrancing feel of reading some unknown holocaust religion’s holy book, laced with Blake’s mystical poems. It is a bespoke prose poem with SF visionary tropes, and the haunting mystery is to discover to whom it is bespoke. It conveys the insulation of the earlier stories in this gestalt of stories, an insulation here by mobile spiral shells between the beings, like ‘the space between the stars’, the sun shining between the dust particles… a tribute band playing the songs of a dead band?
“We are these beings and we are not these beings.”
And, tellingly, in the light of earlier comments, this is all seen from the point of view of another explicit Ferry Man! It as if it was meant to be: an uncoordinated synergy. And there are more ‘hugs’, eventually empty ones: “Was it a comfort to have someone there to hold in the final moments?” At one moment, I even visualised, as if bespoke for me, those children in Hitler’s bunker put to sleep with their mouths forcibly clamped shut on poison capsules? Bespoke for me, bespoke for you? “…I feel it’s important to simply let the story sink into the mind and leave it at that.”
Fish on Friday by Neil Williamson
“We’re not Nazis.”
Coda and chips? This seems to be an alternate world letter from a supermarket to one of its lady customers (to tell you how old she is would be a spoiler) following the recent Scottish independence to become a Nanny State. Swiftian and swift. Hugged to death by health?
There is much else in ‘INTERZONE’ to interest the SF enthusiast in addition to its fiction.