Stories by Malcolm Devlin, Rich Larson, Greg Kurzawa, Julie C. Day, Gary Gibson, Ken Altabef.
My previous reviews of TTA Press publications linked from HERE.
When I real-time review the fiction in this edition of INTERZONE, my comments will be found in the thought stream below or by clicking on this post’s title above…
FIVE CONVERSATIONS WITH MY DAUGHTER (WHO TRAVELS IN TIME) by Malcolm Devlin
“Six across, see fifteen down. Fifteen down, see six across.”
A revelatorily absorbing, simply narrated, account of five interactions across the coordinates of time till the truth can be triangulated, a triangulation much like my own real-time dreamcatching over the last few years, if I may say so. The crossword analogy embodied in that quote is not only a brilliant one regarding the constraints of time travel, but the numbers involved there also possibly relate to the ages of the narrator’s daughter. She first told him she could time travel when she returned to her six year old self. We begin to understand the fallible nature of the narrator (a motorbike courier) as father and husband – and the walking-upon-eggshells nature of what is really going on between father and daughter across their cross-section, but we finally do believe in the integrity of both characters, and their need to optimise but not change the rules of time. “After all, who do we pray to, if not the future…”
WE MIGHT BE SIMS by Rich Larson
“If it was real, there’d be stars.”
Or reality is 2/3. A triangulating ratio that reminds me of the numbered coordinates of reality during time travel in the Devlin. But there the similarity ends!
Here, we enter ‘2001, Obscene Odyssey’ except that year’s number is just a guess – on my own part from my own past.
Vilely tongued, and an old codger witnesses a younger couple’s attempts to make things real through sex, plus a muted abstract painting splattered on a pod’s wall for three palm prints to be impressed as a collusive code needed to open the pod’s door to see how real that black sky REALLY is. Three convicts on their way to a prison in Europa? Or a virtual experiment on sims or expendable humans who feel they are real but sense they are sims, or feel they are sims but sense they are real. Or other permutations. My mind was blasted by this text. It whittled my margins. Guided by a Joycean joystick.
Fiction with characters who believe they are believable.
“Reality is whatever hurts most,…”
HEARTSICK by Greg Kurzawa
“It certainly occurred to Martin that there was something obscene in his handling of a strange woman’s heart. Or if not obscene, at least intimate.”
Thus, this remarkable work demonstrates, in its own more gentle, yet heart-rending, way, the obscene intimacy of the Larson. But it also blends with that same story’s sense of doubtful self-reality as sims bearing in mind his own preternatural ability to survive without his heart after being treated on a paper-covered surgical table, like the paper of these pages where it is actually portrayed.
Strikingly, too, it blends with the poignant reunion of a father-daughter relationship from the Devlin, not exactly here through time-travel but by the transport (in more ways than one) of an excisable and, eventually, partially replaceable heart.
As a work that stands on its own, it is one to treasure, with the contrast of the gruesome meaty similes used here vividly to describe the residual heart after the body’s deadpan and ready acceptance to survive without it, even if the person himself is emotionally changed as a result. The fact that a bit of a heart, the bit that you want to keep, will recharge certain emotions or even to transcend bereavement, makes this story, as I said before, heart-rending (literally and figuratively) with regard to the believability of the residual guitar-playing father-husband protagonist.
FLORIDA MIRACLES by Julie C. Day
“I can see Dad’s face reflected in the monitors. No matter which version I look at, his expression doesn’t change: starman lost, starman lonely. That’s my dad, all right.”
Another father-daughter relationship coupled with the earlier Space Odyssey feel I got with the Larson, plus that sense of being a sim or being possessed, very little difference felt by the host, I guess, if you are this magazine’s previous sim with a human mind, or, as here, a human with an alien mind. Also, this seeming alien parasite or Masker, Mrs Henry, is at first like Kurzawa’s detachable heart, i.e. a tangible bodily organ blended with bits of its host’s mind, then a monstrous creature, then more like a soaring soul reaching toward space travel, an odyssey of dragons.
On this first reading, I got a great feeling from this story’s complex and mature vision masked initially as a tale about young people self-harming with knives – possibly to unmask the miracle from the monster-masked soul.
[As an aside, I had a ‘short short’ published in ‘Cerebretron’ in 1989 entitled ‘I’ll Take Them On A Dream Ride’ which I very vaguely recall resonating with above. Not read it for years. Looking for a copy of it now. If I find it, I’ll post it here as a comment to the comment.]
Now found ITTOADR and have put it here https://etepsed.wordpress.com/627-2/
…. and its original publisher Alex Bardy has also now made it available in its ancient glory here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ytsvn4lqu0v39r9/DesLewis_request.pdf?dl=0
The two versions seem slightly different.
Am guessing you’ve rewritten or ‘touched it up’ since 1989 [ooh-er!]… 😉
Can’t remember doing so! And thanks for hunting out your copy.
SCIENCEVILLE by Gary Gibson
“But if what you’re saying is true, what doe it matter if there’s a map or not? It’s just paper and ink. What the hell does it matter if we believe it or not.”
…and that seems to relate to what I said about the paper used for the heart surgery in the Kurzawa… A belief system, here, too, akin to that of the humans as sims or sims as humans in the reality panoply of the Larson. The explosion of belief from within as in the Day, the preternaturally connective bereavement in the Devilin, while, in the Gibson itself, “he saw the whole town laid out before them as night descended.”
This Gibson, as a story that stands on its own, is an intriguing extrapolation of an imaginary SimCity into reality or at least into the realms of what I call the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction, a Möbius strip of territories and alternate worlds, where arguably territorialists, after the brutal change of point of view in the last section, become terrorists.
I was captivated, too, by the vision of SCIENCEVILLE itself through Gibson’s otherwise plain words on important paper…but less convinced by the interaction of the ‘real’ characters by email, snail mail and eventually in the melodramatic real-time meeting of each other. Enjoyed Milan’s abstract painting, though (cf the abstract painting in the Larson.)
All in all, I enjoyed this compelling SF concept.
From territorialists and terrorists to a terrier…
LAIKA by Ken Altabef
“The song was like a hairball building up and burning and irritating till it had to be coughed up.”
And the narrator’s aged, dying, Russian uncle had eventually to cough up (literally and figuratively) the mongrel terrier he had kept by him for sixty years, that LAIKA whom I remember personally from the news reports in 1958…
This is an ingenious and compelling extrapolation of an alternate world or the revelation of a hidden truth (here about the unknown outcome of Laika’s momentous trip into space) or a blend of the two as in the Gibson.
A ‘coughing up’ of, say, another ‘Mrs Henry’, with a poignant excising of tantamount to a long trapped canine hairball heart as well as the exorcising of an alien soul for its own good. Tantalisingly leaving us with a question of exactly who was being cruel to be kind or kind to be cruel in exercising this famous dog one last time.
A fine coda to this symphony of fiction stories.
There is much else in this issue of INTERZONE in addition to the above fiction.