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The Dear, Green Place by Archie Hind

Polygon, 2008, 248 p, plus viii p introduction by Alasdair Gray. In The Dear Green Place and Fur Sadie.

Borrowed from a threatened library. (One of the 100 Best Scottish Books.)

 The Dear, Green Place cover

Many Scottish novels betray a love of the country’s landscape, some even start with descriptions of it. So too it is with The Dear, Green Place, except – the place in question being Glasgow – it’s a cityscape we are reading about. Glasgow’s name is supposedly from the Gaelic Gles Chu, (“the dear green place”) the location where St Mungo (St Kentigern in the Celtic) built his little church and founded the settlement which became the second city of the empire. As described here, “A Calvinist, Protestant city. The influx of Roman Catholic Irish and Continental Jews had done nothing to change it. Even they in the end became Calvinist.” (This is true not just of Glasgow but reflective of Scotland as a whole.)

Our protagonist, Mat Craig, thinks of the city that, “the foundries, steelworks, warehouses, railways, factories, ships, the great industrial and inventive exploits seemed to give it all a kind of charm, a feeling of energy and promise,” and finds pride in the thought that during the (1945-51) Labour Government’s first term of office domestic life changed from sordidness and squalor to become decent. Like many a working man of the times he is well read – the text is peppered with references to art and literature, in particular to Thomas Mann – and capable of finding the dynamic sublime in the dripping of raindrops from one rail of a fence to another. “The dynamic sublime. A wee Glesca one. All on a reduced scale.” On New Year celebrations he feels that it is, “good in the depth of winter to have a formal and ceremonious occasion for the release of inhibitions, but in Glasgow drink still leaves the sober certainty of the bitterness of life and the inexorable passage of time.”

His great ambition is to be a writer but his mother is against him getting above himself. She complains when he gives up his office job, “It’s a guid respectable job with a collar and tie.” He replies, “Aye. It’s respectable. And I’m fed up to the teeth with respectability. As soon as anyone shows any sign of gumption you want him to become respectable. Put a collar and tie on. It’s in case they’ll bite. They’re frightened they’ll bite. And so they will. The ones that don’t get collared.” But, he thought, he would always have to make concessions to others just because he loved them. “It was exactly thus that conscience makes cowards of us all.”

He marries and to make ends meet goes to work alongside his brother in a slaughterhouse. There are vivid descriptions of the processes involved in rendering an animal fit for human consumption. He meets with minor success with a few short stories written in a style he knows will sell but completing his novel is a more elusive task. Even stopping work and living on his and his wife’s savings isn’t enough. He feels a deep attachment to his art, “obliging him to accept the arrogant task of creating art out of deprivation rather than choose the easy way of leaving deprivation behind him…. To attempt the difficult, almost impossible task of making art out of his Scottishness rather than turn towards a sophisticated, successful but alien tradition.”

On the death of his father in a lorry accident he thinks, “everything in human life – the everyday common tasks, sex, love, contentment, aspiration, ordinary human intercourse, hope, laughter, were like dirty snivelling little secrets being uncovered by this sneering, wicked, expedient, mechanistic force that was the world,” and conceives “a story of this bonny wean, of a gifted child who’d scatter his useless gifts about the world; a story of prodigality, of waste, of squandering, which would contain all his sourness, pessimism and accusation; and his love too.”

An intensely literary book, The Dear, Green Place is about the struggle to stay yourself and be true to a vision, and the difficulties that lie along that path. And a reminder that knowledge and deep thinking do not belong exclusively to the well-heeled.

According to Alasdair Gray’s introduction (again I left this till after reading the book) Hind’s shorter works – plays, radio scripts and some short stories – are now lost. All that remains of his œuvre is contained within this book’s covers. The Dear, Green Place is the major part and acts in contrast to the stereotypical view of Glasgow and its inhabitants as portrayed in the likes of No Mean City. Gray tells us that Gles Chu has been previously translated as green hollow, green churchyard, greyhounds ferry, dear stream, and later, in Glasgow’s industrial, imperial pomp, grey forge or grey smithy but that the dear green place, Hinds’s own translation, is now generally accepted. Though sometimes, still – even now the smoke and the industry have largely gone – that description can seem inapt, the city does have an abundance of parks and leafy spaces.

The other large story in these covers is the unfinished Fur Sadie, the story of Sadie Anderson, a woman with perfect pitch – her ‘doh’ (in her head she can translate intervals and chords into sol-fa) – who, remembering her childhood friend Ann Berman playing the piano, in middle age buys one of her own and starts to get lessons – despite the incomprehension and teasing she receives from her husband, Alec, and sons, Hugh and Colin. In a pun on musical terminology and the position of a working class woman of her time Hind tells us Sadie had always known how to diminish. Despite many years of marriage and three children together Sadie and Alec had never seen one another naked, “A terrible modesty that excluded sexuality from the commonplace acts of the day and, denying ordinary acts of touching and looking, denied a way of expressing tenderness.” This “modesty” surrounding the human body (pudency would be an even more apt term) was an all too prevalent tendency in a Scotland steeped in Calvinism. The story’s title is not only a reference to Beethoven’s piano composition Für Elise but also to the way the word “for” is pronounced in Glasgow dialect. Fur Sadie acts as a companion piece to The Dear, Green Place in that it features another working class protagonist with aspirations to artistic endeavour but it has a more optimistic feel. It’s a pity it is incomplete (apparently Hind said, “It developed a slow puncture,”) as Sadie is an engaging character and this reader of the fragment was definitely left wanting more.

The final prose piece in the book, The Men of the Clyde, appeared in Scottish International, August 1973, and is an encomium to the workers of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in. Lastly there is a song lyric, The Dear Green Place, (composed with Peter Kelly) from a review Through with a Flourish presented at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1971.

Pedant’s corner:- compatability, (compatibility,) grills (grilles,) rough shod (roughshod,) in a list “paraffin. turpentine,” (paraffin, turpentine,) octopi (octopuses or, the Greek plural, octopodes,) the cuticle of the nails (cuticles would be more correct,) tick (tic,) Anna’s surname flicks from Bermant to Berman and back,) worried at lot (worried a lot,) piano stood (stool,) just that same (just the same,) waked in (walked in,) rubbing a corned (corner,) “Beethoven’s sly double use of the piece, which was for Elsie in the concession to unlearned fingers and that it was for Elsie in that it seemed to express, sensuously, her young bloom” (should not both these Elsies be Elises?)

Shroud by John Banville

Picador, 2002, 416 p. (Borrowed from a threatened library.)

 Shroud cover

Axel Vander, an elderly academic on the east coast of the US, one-eyed and gammy-legged due to an unfortunate incident many years before, is contacted by a young woman who says she knows the secret of his past. They both travel to neutral ground, Turin, to meet. She is Catherine Cleave, called Cass. Somewhat precipitately, a sexual relationship begins between them. Though predominantly Vander’s story, even before their first encounter the narrative switches between their two viewpoints, his in first person, Cass’s in third.

His secret is that in the dark times of the early 1940s “Vander” (we never learn his “real” name) took on the identity of a childhood friend after that friend died and identity became something potentially dangerous. As a result, “Mendacity is second, no, is first nature to me. All my life I have lied …. to escape, to be loved, for placement and power. I lied to lie.”

Cass isn’t a simple blackmailer though quite why she seeks Vander out, or becomes his lover, remains obscure. And in the end it avails her nothing. She hears voices, as she suffers from Mandelbaum’s syndrome, a complex condition encompassing depression and delusion. She knows all about the Turin Shroud, which she wants them to visit together. (“He said he knew about fakes.”) Is there just a touch of the “too knowing” about this? Did Banville choose Turin for his setting only because of the Shroud – an obvious metaphor for the identity “Vander” has been wearing for most of a lifetime?

But Vander also compares himself to Harlequin, an inexplicable creature with no relationship with other human beings, and says, “I am an old leopard, my spots go all the way through.” His excuse for taking up with Cass is, “She was my last chance to be me,” asking rhetorically, “Is not love the mirror of burnished gold in which we contemplate our shining selves?” Then again, “There is not a sincere bone in the entire body of my text.”

When he professes to love Cass and tells Kristina Kovacs, his fellow academic and former one night stand, that he is willing to let her go, she replies, “Oh Axel, only someone incapable of love could love so selflessly.” A tale of contradictions, then, and of deceptions, revealed and unrevealed.

Be warned that Banville is fond of the obscure word or two. I hadn’t previously come across apocatastasis (restoration to the original or primordial condition) and pococurantish (demonstrating a tendency toward indifference.)

Pedant’s corner:- “the glass is clear” (The bottle banks have this wrong. Except when it is frosted, all glass is clear – even coloured glass: Banville meant colourless.)

This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow

Gollancz SF Masterworks, 2013, 312 p, with iv p introduction by Justina Robson.
(Not borrowed from but) returned to a threatened library.

 This is the Way the World Ends  cover

Framed as a tale told by Doctor Michel de Nostradame in Salon-de-Provence, 1554, (that’ll be Nostradamus to you and me) this is the story of George Paxton, a monumental mason, in the late(ish) twentieth century US.

George is approached by a glib salesman to buy a scopas suit (Self-Contained Post-Attack Survival) for his daughter to protect against nuclear attack. It is too expensive and his wife makes him return it. However, soon such suits are commonplace, people wearing them in the course of everyday life. Then George is offered a free suit provided he accepts the condition that he sign a confession of his complicity in the nuclear arms race. He does so, to give the suit as a Christmas present to his daughter. On his way back home his town is obliterated in a Soviet nuclear strike, a response to the US attack which followed the detection of Soviet Spitball missiles heading for Washington. As he heads towards the blast area to try to rescue his family the last thing he sees before losing consciousness is a giant vulture as big as a pterodactyl heading for him.

As it turns out he was taken from the ruins by the crew of a submarine, the City of New York, now headed for Antarctica. The crew are “unadmitted”, humans – with black blood – whose existences were pre-empted when their hypothetical progenitors were annihilated by the war. The survivors they have gathered were all architects of the war in one way or other. After giving them medical treatment – ‘If one had to say something good about acute radiation sickness, it would be this: either it kills you or it doesn’t,’ – the unadmitted put them on trial, Nuremberg-style. This allows Morrow to skewer the through the looking-glass idiocies and contradictions of deterrence theory. The submarine’s captain, dismissing a particular riddle as having no answer, poses one that does, “When is a first strike not a first strike?” is then asked, “When,” and replies, “When it is an anticipatory retaliation.” (Sounds like 1970s Rugby Union doctrine.)

In the course of all this we encounter a MAD Hatter (Mutually Assured Destruction,) a March Hare (Modulated Attacks in Response to Counterforce Hostilities) and Stable talks (Strategic, Tactical, and Anti-Ballistic Limitation and Equalization,) the likelihood that scopas suits contributed to a willingness to accept the possibility of nuclear war, and the thought that, “When you turn the human race into garbage, you also turn history into garbage.”

At the time of writing (1986) the prospect of nuclear annihilation was never far away, in 2015 it has, perhaps, much less resonance. Whether it is this that contributes to the sense of distance throughout the book is difficult to decipher. Whatever the reason, the tone feels somehow off-kilter. Moreover, rather than being rounded characters most of Paxton’s fellow defendants are ciphers there solely to represent points of view and the unadmitted seem like actors inhabiting parts only shallowly instead of true agents. The role the giant vultures had in precipitating the war is a nice touch though.

The blurb mentions Kurt Vonnegut as a comparison but – repetitions of epitaphs “they were better than they knew” and “they never found out what they were doing here” apart – I was more reminded of R A Lafferty, except without his level of utter bonkersness (giant vultures excepted of course.) Despite Vonnegut’s lighter touches the seriousness with which he treated his subjects was always apparent. Morrow approaches this but doesn’t quite get there.

Pedant’s corner:- Paxton is named as Paxman on the back cover! Then an other (another,) as if a rain were felling on its streets (falling,) Jesus’ (Jesus’s,) videocassertes (videocassettes,) liquifying (liquefying.)
In the introduction:- whimsys (whimsies,) the reasoning of the accused make them (reasoning is singular so “makes”.)

Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

A veritable account of ‘Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea’ scrieved by Harry Langton.
Quercus, 2014, 368 p. Borrowed from a threatened library.

 Fair Helen cover

After all these years, all those novels, you’d think there would not be much more to say on the subjects of love, sex and death. But they are the human driving forces; or fears. There isn’t really much else to write about. And Greig has a heart and a talent to match anyone’s.

In Fair Helen Greig adds himself to that long line of Scottish authors who have illuminated the byways of the country’s history, in this case the last gasps of the Border reiving tradition. James VI – referred to as Jamie Saxt in the text – sits in Holyrude awaiting the death of “the Auld Hag” (as our narrator Harry Langton calls Elizabeth of England) to fulfil his destiny and incidentally ensure the end of the border feuds. Langton, though flawed, is an engaging guide to the times; discursive, reflective, and prone to the occasional footnote. If the setting and vocabulary were not enough (an appended “Scots Guide” defines some of the non-English words used: my favourite of these, houghmagandie, is given as sexual shenanigans but that fails to recognise the connotations of exuberance) the attentive descriptions of landscape and evocations of other works of Scottish literature, “Timor mortis conturbat me, indeed,” “a mere mouse running before the coulter blade,” “‘How can they stay sae fresh and fair?’” would anchor Fair Helen firmly. (That some of these references post-date the novel’s times only makes them the more redolent.)

Early on we have a warning about the trustworthiness of text, “What is the point of gossip and story if not to exaggerate our lives to the scale we believe they should be rather than the small affairs we fear they truly are?” – and there is that “veritable” in the strapline – yet the tale purports to be the true story of the tragedy described in the border ballad ‘Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea’. Greig’s choice of narrator is subtle, being none of the three main actors in the events that led to balladry. Harry was cousin to Fair Helen (Irvine) and friend of Adam Fleming, her lover, though not so close to the man whom she is contracted to marry, Robert Bell. Langton’s presence at, and contribution to, the outcome of the affair is approached via his entanglement not only with the lovers but also with the coming man, Walter Scott of Branxholme and Buccleuch. Langton notes that, “Rarely is it fortunate to come to the attention of the high heid ones.” But Helen has words of advice when, “‘I am much changed,’ I said, ‘And the world has grown ugly.’ Her hand squeezed my wrist. Her grip was strong and urgent. ‘Think that and they have won.’”

Through Langton, Greig is also overly modest. “I contemplated my Thucydides. The wars of Greek city-states did not seem so distant. If they appeared more noble, perhaps, it was just they had better writers.” The meat of his quote from Montaigne, “‘The public weal requires that men should betray, and lie, and massacre,’” is alas followed too closely to this day.

Greig has been described as a post-Calvinist author. This is explicit here in passages such as, “The rediscovered voices of Antiquity have offered a vision of a greater, kinder, more humane and playful life (scarcely in Scotland, ma foi, not till the hoodie craws of the Reformed Faith back away from the carcass of this my only true home!)” The older Langton reflects, “There is no dancing in the inn courtyards now, religious fanatics denounce and rule, witches still confess under torture and our songs are all grim or piously false as ‘Fair Helen of Kirkconnel Lea’,” and, “Women have become douce-like, modest, eyes downcast as though feart to trip on their own feet, and men are penitential. The flesh is sinful and chastity rated far higher than charity,” adding cuttingly, “It is a wonder that bairns still get born at all.” The women and men Langton knew in the borders in the far-off days of his youth days, “were … otherwise.” He tells his latter day patron, Drummond of Hawthornden, (in whose library he leaves a copy of Love’s Labours Won, a gift from a strolling player in London, another knowing authorial touch,) “‘Reform may have banished corruption,” (of the church.) “It would also banish wit and laughter, music and dance and kindliness.’” And thinks to himself, “And fornication.”

As to the country itself, “Here all about lay Scotland, dark and dreich and dear. Cloud-shadow scurrying over hill and burn, cold wind and dry branch, our hard humour and hidden hurts. Here affection came wrapped in insult as sweet fruit in burnt pie-crust. Tenderness was hidden under armoured jacks, with only keening pipes and fiddle and human voice to tell the heart’s ways.”

The novel is threaded with a sense of loss. This could perhaps arise only in that the story is narrated by an old man, “My soul is an old horse-trough that lies forgot in a field, its rotting boards mottled with fungus and moss,” remembering the past – were it not that this sort of deep nostalgia is a familiar strand in Scottish literature. And the Scottish fixation with death is marked by, “The skull and hourglass we Scots inscribe on our tombs to counter any pious suggestion of the life to come.”

The hyper-critical might carp that the story is merely (merely!) a recapitulation of Romeo and Juliet – the Fleming and Irvine families are after all in feud when they first get together – but star-crossed lovers are a literary staple and here there are complications; an end to the feud is negotiated but Helen’s engagement to Bell is announced at the celebration which marks the reconciliation. Fair Helen is a delight and, despite any lack of Calvinism, still Scottish to the bone. As in That Summer and Electric Brae Greig makes you care about his main characters and portrays the others as rounded.

Pedant’s corner:- That mention of high heid ones looks odd as it is usually rendered as high heid yins. We have maw as mouth rather than stomach, hung at times (when hanged is used elsewhere,) Lucretius’ (Lucretius’s.) “As we forded the stream I look off to my left,” (looked,) Longshanks’ (Longshanks’s,) snuck in (sneaked? tucked?), their force were (was,) had began (had begun; or merely, began,) snuck (definitely sneaked.) I also thought I caught a continuity error when Langton hands Mrs Smeaton’s packages to Jed Horsburgh, who is in custody for protecting Adam Fleming.

Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

Canongate, 2007, 164 p.

Not borrowed from a threatened library but returned to one of them.

 Girl Meets Boy cover

This is part of Canongate’s Myths series and is a retelling of one of Ovid’s Metamorphoses wherein Iphis (a name used for both sexes) was born a girl but on the gods’ advice is brought up by her mother as a boy as her father said they couldn’t afford a girl. As a young adult Iphis falls in love with and is set to marry Ianthe but has to appeal to the gods to resolve the dilemma of how to do this as a girl.

Told in five chapters titled “I,” “You,” “Us,” “Them,” and “All Together Now” Smith adapts this to a story of Anthea falling for Robin Goodman whom at first sight she thought, “He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen,” rapidly amending this to, “She was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen.”

Mixed in with this is the story of Anthea’s sister, Imogen – at first shocked by Anthea’s relationship (Oh my god my sister is A GAY,) but later reconciled to it – and both their experiences of working for a rapacious company called Pure which sells bottled water. Office politics and the vacuousness of “creative” meetings are well skewered.

Many of the scenes take place in Inverness, Smith’s birthplace, but the book’s concerns are never parochial. Smith works in an account of not only – in Imogen’s trip down south – of the Englishness of England but of the many ways in which women are disadvantaged in the workplace and life generally and also provides a more satisfactory resolution to the “problem” than would have been available to Ovid. As Robin (another name used for both sexes) tells Anthea, “It’s what we do with the myths we grow up with that matters.”

The book is typographically idiosyncratic in that the author’s name on the title page, the page headers (Smith’s name on even pages and the book’s title on the odd,) the names of the dedicatees and the authors of the epigraphs are rendered in a fetching pink and as in most of Smith’s books the right hand margin is unjustified but, in this case, not in a distracting way.

This may be a short novel but it is perfectly formed, the best by Smith I have read.

Pedant’s corner:- back and fore (maybe it is an Inverness thing;) and in the acknowledgements, H2O (H2O.) Here Smith also seems to find it noteworthy that ‘water is bent,’ but that isn’t news to a chemist.

Asimov’s Science Fiction Jun 2015

Dell Magazines.

Asimov's Jun 2015 cover

This magazine is more weighted to fiction than Analog though there are non-fiction pieces. Kathleen Ann Goonan’s guest editorial describes SF as a literature that asks Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? – thus adding two additional questions to the one most literature addresses – Robert Silverberg’s Reflections goes over the history of predictions of the end of the world and of apocalyptic SF while James Patrick Kelly’s On The Net: an Optimist’s Tale argues that modern day SF is not as pessimistic as some in Project Hieroglyph present.
As to the fiction, there is less cleaving of the paper light years in Asimov’s than there was in Analog, notwithstanding the first story The End of the War by Django Wexler, wherein two remnants of humanity called Minoans and Circeans fight a proxy war on derelict spaceships left over from the main battles by means of pilot-controlled salvage/manufactory devices. The opposing pilots have conversations as they fight over the remains.1 Henry Lien’s The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society has two society ladies in what seems the nineteenth century trying to find the favour of Mrs Ava Vanderbilt by means of elaborate gardens. They take it too far.2 Mutability by Ray Nayler sees a couple meet for the first time in a café – four hundred years after being photographed together. Indrapramit Das’s The Muses of Shuyedan-18 features two human women who are witnessed having sex by the huge alien of the title which reproduces them in a carving on its back.3 The titular characters in M Bennardo’s Ghosts of the Savannah are two prehistoric women hunters who don’t want to settle to a life of domesticity and child-bearing. Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker is the tour bus for the band Cassis Fire, who are rare hold-outs still playing real gigs in a world where entertainment has been cornered by the corporate might of StageHolo.4

Pedant’s corner:-
1 the compute power (twice!! “computing power” is so much less ugly,) to go to particular place (a particular place,) “slingshot” as the preterite of the verb (slungshot? slingshotted? But then I suppose USians use fit as a past tense,) the maze of room and corridors (this ship had corridors but only one room?)
2 hostess’ (hostess’s,) the USianism “dove” for “dived”, plus the story jumps from Chapter VII to IX with no sign of VIII.
3 chord (cord,) in a way the human brain will remind of our own architectures (will be reminded of.)
4 in the cards (on the cards.)

ANALOG Science Fiction and Fact, Jun 2015

Special 1000th issue. Dell Magazines.

ANALOG 1000 cover

I read this as it was kindly given to me (along with the June 2015 edition of Asimov’s) by the good lady’s blog friend Peggy when she came to visit us in May.
The cover of ANALOG 1000 is apparently an adaptation of the very first cover (of Astounding Stories of Super Science, Jan 1930) and in his editorial Trevor Quachri says how much he loves both illustrations. He also notes the move under John W Campbell from unashamed action-adventure pulp to a magazine where “fleshed-out characters and realistic science are integral to what we do.” (You might still want to work a bit more on that “fleshed-out characters” thing, guys.)
In accordance with Campbell’s prescription, as well as the fiction the mag has several fact articles. This being the 1000th issue these include a look at how the magazine might evolve, a statistical comparison of Analog with other comparable magazines (genre or not) with regard to its longevity while also noting its most frequent contributors and a piece on the importance of legendary editor Campbell to the evolution of Astounding into Analog (and SF as a whole.)
The fiction is highly skewed towards the space operatic. Only two out of the featured stories were Earthbound. In The Wormhole War by Richard A Lovett, Zeke Schlachter is piloting Earth’s first exploratory wormhole (to the Earth-like planet Gaia 205c) when it suddenly explodes. Five years later so does the second. Every wormhole meets the same fate. The Gaians turn out to be sending wormholes towards Earth faster than humans can in the other direction. Something has to give.1 The very YA in tone Very Long Conversations by Gwendolyn Clare has an expedition to an alien planet being contacted by the indigenous population – through sculpture. The Kroc War by Ted Reynolds & William F Wu is told from a variety of sketched viewpoints, pro and anti the war, mostly human but one Kroc, and is the story of said war from beginning to end, and beyond. In Strategies for Optimizing Your Mobile Advertising by Brenta Blevins a man whose T-shirt runs ever-changing advertising slogans (you can’t block adverts from someone standing right in front of you) has his system hacked. The Odds by Ron Collins contemplates the chances of being the one ambassador in the history of the universe charged with lying to the only other sentient species known.2 In The Empathy Vaccine by C C Finlay a man wants to buy a treatment that will remove his empathy. (The seller has already taken done this.)3 Seth Dickinson’s Three Bodies at Mitanni relates how three people (though it is their consciousnesses only) have been charged with roaming the galaxy and deciding whether the societies derived from seedships sent out earlier “by a younger and more desperate Earth” are to be culled or not. 4 Ships in the Night by Jay Werkheiser has a high c, time-dilated interstellar trader spin a yarn at a pub on a stopover. In The Audience by Sean McMullen, humanity’s first starship arrives at the gas giant Abyss as it passes through the Oort cloud. Under the surface of its moon, Limbo, the crew finds alien life. And it finds them.5
Many of these contain the sort of stuff I loved when I was a teenager discovering SF and consuming it voraciously. While I’m glad people are still producing stories like these (they’re entertaining enough and do what they say on their tins) I’ve moved on a bit and wouldn’t seek them out. But it’s great to have the 1,000th issue of a magazine on my shelves.

Pedant’s corner:- (in one of the book reviews) “who will stop at noting” (if only such people – or indeed aliens – would!!)
1 mowed (mown,) like Damocles’ (Damocles’s,) Two year later (years.)
2 has “lay” for “lie” but this seems to be common in USian
3 he probably checked out me the way I checked out him (checked me out the way I checked him out sounds more natural to me.)
4Lachesis’ (Lachesis’s; several instances.)
5 Complimenting each others’ skills would be a fine thing for the crew to do but complementing them is actually the reason why they had been selected. Clouds do not contain water vapour (it’s colourless) but rather liquid or solid water. And a scientist ought not to use “steam” in this context either. Gasses (gases.)

Interzone 256 Jan-Feb 2015

Interzone 256 cover

In Nostalgia by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam the nostalgia of the title is a drug that takes you back to earlier times. This may not always be a good idea.
T R Napper’s An Advanced Guide to Successful Price-Fixing in Extraterrestrial Betting Markets features a mathematical prodigy imagining creating bets about his behaviour on a market for extraterrestrials. He is surprised when an alien turns up to collect. (He has neglected to take his medication, though.)
The Ferry Man by Pandora Hope1 is inspired by one of the byways of Norse mythology. A ferry captain has the power to reverse the usual attraction of a siren for the unwary.
In Tribute by Christien Gholson2 a mysterious creature is puzzled by why others bring some of their kind to his world to die. While it is a different story entirely, I noticed (of course, I would) that this has some tonal and descriptive similarities to Dusk, the story of mine that appeared in Nova Scotia.
Fish on Friday by Neil Williamson is an amuse bouche set out as a transcript of a phone call from a state apparatchik in an independent Scotland to a Ms MacArthur who is something of a refusenik of the benefits, dietary and otherwise, of the regime.

Pedant’s corner:-
1 Pandora Hope sounds very pseudonymous to me.
2 Can anyone else not see this? (Can no-one else see this?) Kaayam (Kaayem.)

Interzone 255 Nov-Dec 2014

Interzone 255 cover

In Must Supply Own Work Boots by Malcolm Devlin1 a man whose augmentations are old-tech seeks work.
Bullman and the Wiredling Mutha by R M Graves is a tale of gang warfare and genetic manipulation told in a degenerate English.
Thana Niveau’s The Calling of Night’s Ocean describes a late 1960s experiment with dolphins, when the dolphins are injected with LSD.
Finding Waltzer-Three by Tim Major2 sees a group investigate a ghost spaceship, Marie-Celeste-like, except the bodies are still there.
E Catherine Tobbler’s Oubliette3 has a woman move through the levels of Aphelion Station, in time as well as space, in search of a locket, and peace.
Mind the Gap by Jennifer Dornan-Fish4 is narrated by an AI which is on the road to achieving genuine consciousness.
Tom Greene’s Monoculture is set well in the aftermath of a flu epidemic that has wiped out all of humanity except clones of Dave Williamson and a few “randoms”.

Pedant’s corner:-
1 “discrete” where “discreet” made more sense.
2 The captain, along with the bulk of the crew, are scheduled to sleep. (The captain are?) wigwam-like (as described it was more tepee-like.)
3 Written in USian; a slow exhale (exhalation?) to lay invisible (lie invisible,) lead to (led to,) lain bare (laid bare)
4 Written in USian: tick born disease (tick borne?)

In Evil Hour by Gabriel García Márquez

Penguin, 2014, 186 p. Translated from the Spanish La Mala Hora by Gregory Rabassa. First published in Spain in 1968.

Borrowed from a threatened library.

 In Evil Hour cover

In Evil Hour is a very South American tale set in a town where the inhabitants keep expecting the bad old days of summary execution to return. In amongst descriptions of various relationships in the town there are vignettes such as the local telegrapher spending his free time sending poems and novels to the lady telegrapher in another town. The church is plagued by mice and the town by the clandestine posting of scurrilous notes on its walls while it sleeps. These notes, which the text calls lampoons, contain only gossip everybody knows but have created tension which spills over when César Montero kills the local troubadour Pastor for an alleged affair with his wife. The mayor at first tries to keep things low-key but later, as the tensions rise, imposes martial law and street patrols. There is a hint at the end that despite arrests being made these measures have been ineffective. Apart from the constant threat of governmental violence/coercion the book seems to deal with the more mundane aspects of life and is not as invested with magic realism as others of Márquez’s works. It is very readable though; a testament both to Márquez and his translator, Gregory Rabassa.

Pedant’s corner:- Father Ángel is rendered once as Angel.

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