9 thoughts on “Interzone #271

  1. THE ROCKET FARMER by Julie C. Day

    “Rocket farming is a disaster-strewn practice more than a thousand years old. Sophie may not know it yet, but the shed reeks failure.”

    This glows alone, without need of rocket science. But it is even more enhanced for me by my having reviewed ‘The Spaceman” by Mike O’Driscoll (here) yesterday, where a kindred if otherwise different spirit resides. The glow of rockets not as NASA transports and preening national pride but here as a sense of human and family ambition and a Heath Robinson type ingenuity beyond rocket science itself, where unlaunchables become launchable more by faith than technical drawing-boards. The feisty-sullen 14 year old Sophie inherits this spirit from her dysfunctional mother and her old man Granddad who speaks as a rocket ready for launching himself. Multi-viewpointed, complete with mourning doves, Mongolian ancestry, oxygen candles, gunpowder cylinders, rocket blooms, I am sort of beginning to love this story the more I think about it in retrocausal post-launch anticipation.


    “The people don’t want a champion, they want a mentor. Lose every event and they will follow you as one of their own.”

    A male teacher tousles a girl pupil’s hair to test out the skull shape. Out of context, insidious. And indeed he is suspended, But in context where some pupils are sponsored by the Facility (GIF) and we sense eugenics and, more questionably, an arc of golden piss exhibited by a Facility boy on one of today’s social media GIFs? This is a very provocative piece where it is difficult to triangulate the lie of its land, its amorality, and what is conspiring with whom. There is almost a Trumpish element, i.e. whatever he does amiss, there is still gold in his piss. All tied up with a connection with these special children who seem to be linked to a text of Sumerians from ancient times, one text being completed by one of the Facility children. As if reaching for the stars – and so, were those early Sumerians aliens or gods? Which leads me to think of Sophie’s Mongolian-shaped skull in the previous rocket story? Mongols were, in my childhood, an alternative name for those with Down Syndrome. The down ‘who rise’? And there is also the Neanderthal theories of the teacher himself. I am intrigued and bemused and possibly misinterpreting. A story (perhaps inadvertently re-morphed by the previous but otherwise disconnected story) that will surely haunt and worry me, by linkage. Perhaps I am myself complicit, with my own above-average sized skull? And all this read on the very day when the news tells us that men are losing their sperm count and so mankind is at long-term risk. Hence the Facility.


    “And that means hauling ossuaries in the middle of the night.”

    Osseomancers, too, although I am not clear how the bony carapace of self fits in with ‘tentacles on tin.’ A city with fairy lights and immanently hovering tentacular God Beast as well as tin, and a male barista-cum-portalist called Jun (with female cohort in pink hijab called Hannan) seeking, as the main part of this story’s quest, his lover, seeking him via portals and GPS locks, a lover called Riel who is currently doing his duty in the IVORY Coast, against entropists et al. This whole thing about Jun’s quest flows over my head like a million drones carrying words and slip-easy doors to different Rielaties but restrictions as to how Jun ever gets back through those doors, mixed with glimpses of his parents, of his tutelary Mum and one of his Dad on the loo. This work took me by storm. It divided the Red Sea of my ossified brain and let a Messiah through. Sort of. Still stunned, still thinking. My own powers failing in a city of bone. Thrill-seekers, hydromancers, opportunists, fleshfeeders, travel by a Worm of howdahs, phone texts, and a hero called Jun chased by aspiring paparazzi. Not a rift but a rent in reality. Nemonymous key included.

  4. CHUBBA LUNA by Eliot Fintushel

    “I’ll bawl and haul ass out of here,”

    Hey, this is like ‘Under the Volcano’ drunk bar drinking in space, and it’s my destined storymate as a Platonic lover. Meanwhile, we have characters, more than just Lowry’s stick people, fleshed out with skull domes that match. Really!
    Joyce, eat your head out.
    Two couples once affianced and a female barkeep called Keepy, now a tontine currently down to a ménage à trois, just to avoid a job on asteroids hawling mines. And singer Chubba Luna is in town. Makes an old man with a big dome like me fall in love, even after prostate radiotherapy.
    “Maybe eugenic matchmaking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

  5. IMG_3513WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES by Chris Barnham

    Vanessa Bell, mentioned in this story, was the sister of Virginia Woolf, and it is Woolf’s THE WAVES that I am already re-reading after some decades and real-time reviewing alongside this review! Seems significant.
    The prospective asteroid mining of affianced bashertes in the previous story, now made actual, but here more a search for life in the mines of Titan, as scientific job that he strived to get rather than strived to avoid, despite the dangerous visions of his dead wife in the dress she was buried in after a car accident. And startling multipede pebbles. This story itself is plain-spoken, engaging and SF adventure suspenseful. On another level, it might also tell of the sounds within the helmet, the actual conversation with his characterful life-preserving tunic and its eventual poignant sacrifice, and desperate calls to the base crawler outside and its woman inside called Willis, as he suffers rockfall, a compelling rite of passage to escape – from inside the head as a mine of mind in skull? Or in spatial alien actuality to the satellites of self outside? Either imagined or real, it is a moment of catharsis and epiphany. A Woolfian rediscovery of self beyond earthly ambition, of self’s love as an eternal bond or balance between two? Engagement rings around? When he closes his eyes, the difference between being killed outside and actually dying inside.


    “The Carbonhousian spermatheca is an amazing thing, a tiny growth on the uterus, interfaced with a new pea-sized structure in the brain: a genotype delivered to womankind by a virus, ironically.”

    The tension between this set of fictions’ eugenics and inner/outer life as Sophie’s rockets into space as sperm into a woman’s space, whatever the shapes of the skulls that sent them, now with the Dudak a mixing symphony by birthing women (like mixing bespoke colours in a paint shop?) and as a result of such diaspora (there was explicitly reference in these fictions earlier, I forget where, of the current Adriatic refugee crisis) – making this set of fictions unique stories written alone in garrets as it were and submitted to Interzone separately and independently, but here mixed into the optimum child or gestalt of their creative slants on eugenics etc. But this last story, on a first reading, seems to show further tensions between such female choices of whose sperms give which trait to the eventual child and the contestant Union-in-One marriage system exponents as thugs, now so tellingly seen in a retrospect of the marriages or bashertes in the Barnham and Fintushel. I have still not crystallised these tensions, their rights and wrongs, their Handmaid’s Tale syndromes. A ‘functional autist’. ‘A synergetic mix of it all.’ All still cohering.
    Nena speaks to her future child in this last discrete story. It seems powerful, this tale about her tales of interface with the fathers whose sperms she blends. The cost to her life, but that child of hers SHALL be born, just as strongly as a mother trying to save her already born child against the odds, as has been paramount in our news recently. And I cannot do justice to this last story. All my gestalt real-time reviews since 2008 have been based on the first reading of any story, unless I am deliberately re-reading something, like THE WAVES, after several years. I shall need to re-read this set of separately written fictions. They seem to have so much left for me to mine, to hawl. I already feel changed as a result. And there is a final resonance from the Dudak, too, with the envelope-accompanying union-in-one Black Static #59 fictions reviewed here. “Women give birth, so women decide.”


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