Interzone #289


TTA Press Nov-Dec 2020

My previous reviews of this publisher:

Stories by James Sallis, Françoise Harvey, Tim Lees, Cécile Cristofari, Matt Thompson, John Possidente.

When I read this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

8 thoughts on “Interzone #289

  1. CRYPTOZOOLOGY by Tim Lees

    “I don’t believe in stupid made-up animals!”
    “No,” she said. “It’s worse than that. You don’t even believe in yourself, do you?”

    A lean but obliquely insightful portrait of a marriage in slow breakdown, couched alongside mostly slick believable dialogue that summons up the wife’s obsession in seeking monsters like a Bigfoot or Yeti in all manner of well-evoked American settings, and her round-eyed worship of the type of man that leads the group hunts for such dangerous prey. Her husband, the narrator, is no such type of man, but an advertising creative who creates convincing lies for the products he is employed to sell. Where all hangs on a word and its positive or negative innuendo of political correctness. An advertising ‘campaign’, a word used here, and Champlain as the name of a monster-finder who married a twelve year old, as just one false co-suiting of fake news words that I spotted. The telling ending is more than just a politically incorrect Flannery O’Connor man in a gorilla suit, nor is it even a lean Hemingway ‘what if’, but something far more monstrous than either end of that scale: a monstrousness that cannot be taken off like a suit.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  2. “How long is a man’s life, finally? Is it a thousand days, or only one? One week, or a few centuries? How long does a man’s death last? And what do we mean when we say, ‘gone forever’?”
    ― Brian Patten


    “I felt like a mushroom farm.”

    Not much room in the journalist’s lockdown in the Nuclear Power Core, though, on Humboldt Station! I now feel as if I am a journalist myself, like Debin. Full of rules for journalism, if only I had similar strictures for book reviewing whenever a book goes above my head! But does it? As if by osmosis, I do attempt a fluff piece on this story, follow the journalist’s trail, the journalism rules, the rules of the station, too, and its mysterious mœurs. The well-characterised pilot, like a grizzled old captain of the stars, except it’s a woman and her piece to my tape about a visit to Mersay to see her dying Dad. Is this piece that she records sporadically throughout the whole piece a way to divert attention away from the unlawful things of which she is part? Is she seeking her own Bigfoot as inspired by the Lees story? And myself the journalist just her pawn in a chess game amid the sudden jolts of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) as a metaphor for today’s Corona? Whatever the case, I loved the seasons on Mersay she described, involving Long Fallow, Pelt, Rot (that allows me to justify my photo posted above before I read this story), Short Summer and a four day Spring. Not to speak of the blue bees. She went there with the help of ‘Fugacity’, I see. Poignant story, too, poetic and about poetry, as well as mind-frazzling, with Billie as Debin’s passing love interest. No Shylockdown.

    “That was the job, lockdown or no lockdown.”

    My previous review of John Possidente:

    “I’d like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over. “
    — Roger McGough

  3. THE WAY OF HIS KIND by James Sallis

    “One morning following a warm rain, our neighbour stepped out her front door to see mushrooms, already two inches high,…”

    I look at this brief story but I should be looking at a different one, looking there not here, or looking over there where there’s nowhere. I am this story’s changeling reader just at the point that you my real self understood it, all your scruples up for grabs, your most modest ambitions in a modest neighbourhood, your need to understand everything become water that slips through fingers or a co-vivid vision of two cockroaches mating, or your mother’s lungs growing an “errant sampling of fungus”. Her child: a missing Midwich mushroom, not a cuckoo?

    My previous reviews of this author:

    • Again, I confirm that I had no idea at all that at least two of the stories (so far) have featured mushrooms or fungi when posting the top photo above before starting to read any of the stories!

  4. Nature’s smoke bombs – bioshot puffballs become a New Korea as a new fugacity’s mushroom clouds…with as short-lived an eternity of a bodily epiphany as a Mersay Spring and its own short-lived denizens of colour…?

    SMOKE BOMB by Matt Thompson

    “Even the colour seemed not quite right; the green too intense, the yellow not as integrated as it should have been.”

    “, bulbous cancers protruding from bellies and cheeks, glistening innards…”

    This is a remarkable reading experience and a half! With characters who are evoked with powerful strokes of slick textures of prose. In a wet city weathering well its Mersay-like season of Rot, I guess, with windows outside which fish pass by, as narrated by the pimp in this night club, in charge of the ‘mixing girls’, whereby one of the latter’s bio-engineered bodily processes result in the eponymous smoke bomb cocktail, an exquisite sexual cocktail, I infer, during a customer’s tasting of it… The nature of the woman who is the latest customer, a famous oldster who used to have a better or worse half, now continues with the pimp’s favourite charge, the mixing girl who seems to apotheosise one of my own thoughts about filters working in both directions of flow and the resultant mix will surely set the separate souls of your own tastebuds not only watering but literally mating each other!
    But I can do no real justice to this work by describing it. There is something deliciously self-destructive about it, like a puffball. But, above all, a story that just is.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  5. “There are so many dreams beyond our nights, and so much sunshine beyond our gray walls. But we can’t see it when we stay at home.“
    Françoise Hardy

    THERE’S A GIFT SHOP NOW by Françoise Harvey

    “, worn and torn by the Rooms.”

    A story about a woman called Elizabeth (Elizabeth R, capital R for Rooms?), but I shall concentrate, to fulfil the purpose of my review, upon the rest of it. And elsewhere where the ‘rooms’ are spoken of in the text, they are uncapitalised, lower case rooms. Making me think there was not much room in the rooms as the walls’ dimensions and style of colouring magically dictated, before I went out into the garden with the other tourists or students or subjects to this house or experiment or school or museum (with attached gift shop), wearing specially provided boots to squash, as an antidote to the rooms, squash, I infer, to a mush, what was growing there – or what was living there, like rabbits or ants. I felt I was a changeling reader again, as I felt with the Sallis. You see, I definitely had an existential crisis, as some of the so-called museum’s tour notes warned. I should have orientated myself by looking at the green dot said to have been provided in these notes? So, whatever my need for bespoke boots, was I looking for my own Bigfoot, as, so fittingly in hindsight, portended earlier above? Don’t look the context’s gift shop in the mouth!

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. THE THIRD TIME I SAW A FOX by Cécile Cristofari

    “‘First time I saw a fox, I was not yet ten,’ I say. ‘Had been walking in the rain for hours, trying to find mushrooms.’”

    And the narrator repeats this story three times, it seems. Plus the story of once falling in love with Louise. This narrator is an old man caretaker in a Natural History museum to match the previous story’s museum, but here he does not stamp on the exhibits with his boots, but talks to them, and cares for them. And they often talk back, including the Circus Man in the anatomy section. There are skeletons here of dinosaurs, and at night you can tell better which are real bones and which fabricated from plastic. A zoology section beyond the crypto Bigfoot and the bioshot. A very intense story of poignant regret that I shall never forget. And the dream of memory or the memory of dream, a co-vivid dream, I suggest “in another, stranger construct of your brain”, someone else’s brain, as if I have, as another old man, become, by reading about him, absorbing his narrative words, become this old man’s changeling, moving retroactively towards the third time he met a fox where wildlife is not trussed as exhibits nor stuffed rabbits. Inside the woods, or the woods inside him. Or am I already in a dream’s wilderness of my final hospital bed but not yet remembered it? I wonder if I have written my name on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket?

    “November is never kind on anyone.”

    My previous review of this author:

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