Another for Interzone

Close your Eyes cover

My latest review for Interzone – for issue 276 – will be of Close Your Eyes by Paul Jessup.

Mr Jessup is another author new to me.

From my researches on the internet this seems to be an expansion of, or companion piece to, a novella, Open Your Eyes, he published in 2009.

Philip Roth

I heard on the radio news this morning that Philip Roth has died.

I must confess I have not read much of his work, apart from the (ahem) seminal Portnoy’s Complaint – which I was moved to sample partly because of the attention it received – and My Life as a Man which covered much the same ground. Anything you ever wanted know about living as a young(ish) male Jew in the USA was here.

I do remember being intrigued by a long ago television programme about him which featured, as I recall, his creation Nathan Zuckerman fantasising about Anne Frank surviving the Holocaust and making a new anonymous life for herself in (I think) the US, which may have been another spur to reading him.

I can’t say I much took to what seemed from the evidence of those two books to be his perennial subject matter but he was obviously an important US novelist of the second half of the twentieth century whether I favoured his work or not and his ability as a writer shone through in any case.

Much Later I read his Altered History novel The Plot Against America which I reviewed on this blog here. The impulse behind his decision to write it was admirable – and arguably necessary – but I felt that overall it was an opportunity missed, that the punches the book threw were somewhat pulled.

Sadly that impulse might be even more necessary in today’s political climate than it was when he published it thirteen years ago.

Philip Milton Roth: 19/3/1933 – 22/5/2018. So it goes.

Pasadena Roof Orchestra on Tour

I ended up behind this van while wending my way through south Perth and Kinross, while travelling north on the A 912 in March 2017.

Pasadena Roof Orchestra on Tour

Pasadena Roof Orchestra Van

I didn’t know the Pasadena Roof Orchestra was still going.

Queensferry Crossing (x)

Photos from March 2017. Gap finally closed.

From South Queensferry:-

New Forth Road Bridge 49

New bridge in full, Forth Road Bridge to right:-

New Forth Road Bridge 50

From approach road to North Queensferry, Forth Road Bridge in background:-

New Forth Road Bridge 51

Northern support pillar and cable stays:-

New Forth Road Bridge 52

Northern cable stay tower:-

New Forth Road Bridge 53

All three cable stay towers:-

New Forth Road Bridge 54

South cable stay tower and support pillars. Work still being done where gap was closed:-

New Forth Road Bridge 55

A Fingerprint in Space

Well that’s what this picture looks like to me.

Rotation of Large Cloud of Magellan

It comes from the European Space Agency (ESA) via Astronomy Picture of the Day for 16/5/18 using data from the Gaia satellite and shows the rotation of the Greater Magellanic Cloud or Large Cloud of Magellan.

An Honorary Son? (and Daughter)

I see some overprivileged bloke who got married today has been granted the somewhat unlikely title of Earl of Dumbarton, which means his wife will be Countess of Dumbarton.

My first reaction on hearing this was that the local earldom was surely that of Lennox; but it seems they are still going, only elevated to Dukes, so that title wasn’t vacant.

A quick piece of Googling showed that there have in the past been two Earls of Dumbarton (see upper link above) but the last of them died in 1749 so making the title available.

I wonder what the new Earl and Countess will make of the place should they ever deign to visit.

And does his title make the new Baron Kilkeel (not to mention Duke of Susex) an honorary Son of the Rock? Or his wife, Lady Kilkeel (and Duchess of Sussex,) an honorary daughter thereof?

I look forward to them turning up at the Rock for a game, but I shan’t hold my breath.

Pedant’s corner:- On the (utterly sycophantic) BBC television coverage of said nuptials I heard Huw Edwards refer to “Lord Lieutenants”. Tut, tut, Mr Edwards. Standards at the BBC used to be so much higher. Lieutenant here is an adjective descriptive of the Lord concerned. The plural you were so vainly seeking is “Lords Lieutenant”.

Shoreline of Infinity 6; Winter 2016/17

The New Curiosity Shop

Shoreline of Infinity 6 cover

Noel Chidwick’s Editorial ponders the 2016 US Presidential Election as a Jonbar Point for future fictions. SF Caledoniaa discusses Andrew Blair’s Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century. Gary Dalkin interviewsb Stephen Palmer. In Noise and Sparksc Ruth E J Booth ruminates on how illness steals time, and the year ending is full of both reflection and hope. In Reviews Chris Heymand looks at The Augur’s Gambit/The King’s Justice by Stephen Donaldson (though the book cover shown has the order of titles reversed,) Chris Kelsoe delights in Thirty Years of Rain the anthology celebrating the anniversary of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers’ Circle and edited by Neil Williamson, Elaine Gallagher and Cameron Johnston, Ian Hunterf enthuses over James Barclay’s Heart of Granite, Henry Northmore recognises some merit in The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone while acknowledging it’s not high art, Nik Abnett’s Savant is reviewed by Steve Ironsideg who found it unsatisfying and Noel Chidwickh thoroughly welcomes Charles Stross’s Empire Games. Multiversei contains poems by Grahaeme Barrasford Young and J S Watts. Parabolic Puzzlesj has two parts both about variously encumbered musicians crossing a dangerous bridge.

In the fiction, Other Colours1 by Michael F Russell features the intrusion by a strange figure, a kind of interdimensional policeman into the laboratory of an over-dedicated nuclear physicist. It reads a bit like a mash-up between my own Closing Time (Interzone 89,) and Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
In Shaker Loop2 by Bo Balder a family heirloom makes objects appear and disappear.
A Visit at Saint Nick’s by Gregg Chamberlain sees one of Santa’s elf helpers give comfort to a harassed woman.
In Spaceman3 by Florence Vincent the titular perennially inebriated alien is to be found alone and eyeless in a bar on Christmas Eve after closing time. A doctor comes in to assuage his angst at losing a patient.
Tales of the Beachcomber by Mark Toner is another edition – with a slight Christmas theme and nod to the team bringing us the magazine – of the strip familiar from earlier issues of Shoreline of Infinity, but this time seems more light-hearted than before.
Six4 by Hannah Lackoff is a tale of six successive clones of a girl and a boy and their creator.
In Goodnight New York, New York5 by Victoria Zelvin a suitably biologically enhanced woman goes illegal deep-sea diving in a flooded New York.
The narrator of The Descendant6 by Katy Lennon is a Plaisim 0200, a robot recommended for young families. It accompanies its owner – who calls it his son, only one manifestation of his psychological instability – on a government mandated trip out of Edinburgh beyond the wall into “the Vastus”. The other humans on the bus resent the Plaisim’s presence.
The Worm7 by Russell Jones considers the ramifications of an educational tool ingested by placing it under the tongue.
Annals of the Twenty-Ninth Century8 by Andrew Blair (Chapter XVII. Between Heaven and Earth) is an extract from the named chapter.

Pedant’s corner:- a“The amount of inventions and concepts are staggering.” (The amount is staggering,) “the way history often relayed to us – the ways in which often a country’s national narrative, the stories it tells itself about its own history – are often distorted” (is surely missing “is” between “history” and “often” and that “are” ought to be “is”, the verb’s subject is “history” not “ways”) “with such shaky foundations like this” (as this,) “but for a someone writing” (omit the “a”,) “on the short time he lived” (in the short time,) Coupar-Angus (Coupar Angus isn’t hyphenated,) Strathkinnes (Strathkiness,) enormity = hugeness (I prefer to reserve this word for a great wickedness,) “implications of in space travel” (does that need the “in”?) b“a single isolated baby who had their every physical need cared for” (baby, singular; so, its every need.) c”a difference nuance” (different,) “snuck up” (sneaked up.) d“palette cleanser” (palate,) focussed (focused,) “ne’er do wells” (ne’er-do-wells,) “portend to” (just portend, no “to”.) e“a writers group” (arguably writers’,) a missing full stop after “Phil Raynes” (which is, I believe, spelled Raines,) “the illusive Amanda” (elusive?) f“jammed packed” (jammed, packed, or jam-packed, not jammed packed.) g “puts the whole system gets put at risk” (puts the whole system at risk, or, means the whole system gets put at risk,) “outside of” (x2, just outside, no “of”,) “there are a couple” (a couple is singular.) h“the Clan .. are also building up their power” (is also building up its power – later we had “its host world” and “itself” referring to the Clan,) “as we go” (x2.) ihuman-kind’s (humankind’s.) “The speaker … their” (his or her.) jThe second paragraph is a single quote but its full stop has been placed after the end quote mark.

1”there’s no klaxon, no flashing lights” (I can’t help feeling there ought to be a plural verb in there somewhere,) “clatteringglassshattering” (this was intended, though,) “tailor you response” (your,) “Homo Sapiens do not evolve” (Homo Sapiens is a single species; ‘does not evolve’,) “…broken into with this,” he gestures at the frozen on-screen display,” crude attempt” (misplaced quote mark [… on-screen display, “crude attempt].) “This place is a great death. The song of life had been muted to stillness here. Silence had condensed to a singularity..” (The rest of the passage is in present tense; so, ‘has been muted’, ‘has condensed’.) 2Written in USian (the author is Dutch,) “When the last uncle had left, back to their normal lives” (‘uncle’ is singular, ‘their’ isn’t.) In the author info ‘The Wan”’ (I’ve no idea why that end quotation mark is there.) sup>3species’ (it was species singular; so, species’s.) 4lays (lies,) lay (x2, lie,) but despite these instances we had “lying”, not “laying”,) elasticy (elasticky??) “there is whole fridge” (a whole fridge.) 5Written in USian, “her myoglobin in her muscle tissue” (the myoglobin in her muscle tissue is a more natural construction,) “the kayak taken paddled out from the larger boat” (the kayak taken from; or, the kayak paddled out from. Not both,) VHF’s (an inverted comma signals missing letters, there are none here; VHFs,) “as few drowning deaths as could be possible” (as few drowning deaths as possible.) “She walked on the girder out to the window and hopped out the window” (‘on the girder to the window and hopped out’ would far more elegant phraseology.) “They scarce looked real” (scarcely,) “a spot she>d had picked out for herself” (possibly ‘a spot she’d had picked out for her’, more likely given what follows, ‘a spot she’d picked out for herself’; or, a spot she had picked out for herself’,) “freezing waist deep water” (waist-deep,) “discovered upon investigation that a family of crabs that had moved inside” (either ‘that a family of crabs had moved inside’ or ‘a family of crabs that had moved inside’,) “she smiled see this shark” (smiled to see this,) “she doubted the photo of would live up to” (the photo of it,) ambiance (ambience,) laying (I know USians use “lay” this way but it’s still totally wrong, the correct usage is lying,) didn>t (didn’t.) In the author blurb; program (it’s a perfectly reasonable decision to have all the authors’ stories in their original form and that Zelvin will have provided this information herself, but this is really an editorial segment, hence, programme.) 6IRREPERABLE HARM (IRREPAIRABLE or IRREPARABLE,) “off of” (just off; no “of”,) unrea-formaldehyde (urea-formaldehyde,) “Johm’s clothing and skin was covered in blood” (that “and requires a plural verb; so, “were”.) 7“They probably know more than me now, having had the worm their whole life” (lives,) woops (whoops makes more sense,) “Doctor Sabre leans my door” (leans on my door,) “‘MediGov have vital new information’” (MediGov has,) a missing start quote before “Please vacate. Biohazard.” Another missing before “Stick to the path…” 8 “thousands of trans-atmospheric apparatus” (“apparatuses” is the more usual plural in English but the Latin one is “apparatus” with a longer sounded “us”, Blair probably knew that,) “spoke with an inspiration which have endowed his words into the classics” (an inspiration which has endowed,) the piece has day and night in space (there would be perpetual daylight if not in a planet’s or moon’s shadow.)

Something Changed 10: Everybody Hurts

For all Sons fans who were feeling down after last Sunday.

REM: Everybody Hurts

Horse Sculpture, Peebles

Erected in honour of Olympic medal winner Scott Brash. Created by Kevin Paxton. Situated just by the A 703 near its junction with the A 72.

Horse Sculpture Peebles

Front view:-

Horse Sculpture Peebles Front View

Information plaque:-

Peebles Horse Sculpture Plaque

Dedication plaque:-

Dedication, Horse Sculpture Peebles

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

Angry Robot 2017, 397 p Reviewed for Interzone 270, May-Jun 2017.

The Stars Are Legion cover

Lit by an artificial sun, the worlds of the Legion hang in space. Massive orbs, they are living things covered externally by tentacles that simultaneously reach out but also offer protection to their world’s inhabitants. Their interiors are sticky and moist, biology taking the functions of such things as floors, walls and lifts. The worlds, though, are dying, with patches of rot blotching their surfaces. Beyond the misty veil that shrouds the sun lies the Mokshi, the only world to have moved out from the usual orbits of the Legion. As a result the Mokshi is an object of envy and conquest; but it is defended fiercely. Anat, Lord of Katazyrna, has a metal arm whose power is lost and she wishes to conquer the Mokshi in order to restore it and (literally) make a new world.

Each chapter here is prefaced by an aphorism by-lined, “Lord Mokshi, Annals of the Legion”. The narrative viewpoint, though, is shared between Zan and Jayd, once lovers, neither of whom are particularly sympathetic characters. At least twice as many chapters are devoted to Zan, who has lost her memory but is the only one of Katazyrna’s army ever to penetrate the Mokshi and survive. She is told she has made the attempt and returned many times.

The first set piece is a fairly standard piece of military SF as Katazyrna’s latest army attacks the Mokshi. However, the prospect this holds out of endless space battles is misleading. Hurley’s attention is more on the somewhat complicated relationship and backstory between Zan and Jayd.

It doesn’t take very long to work out that there are only women on these worlds. Hurley does not make anything of this – except in her afterword – it is merely a factor of this scenario, the society she has decided to portray. The mechanics of how their inhabitants become pregnant are obscure, though; even the mothers seem in the dark. Also, the birth products may be non-human, “Each world produces what it needs.” But in a strange mix of this magical-seeming biology with hi-tech, womb transfer can be effected surgically. Indeed we find Zan has donated hers and its contents to Jayd.

Neither does Lord Mokshi’s identity remain a mystery to the attentive reader, becoming obvious long before Hurley confirms it.

Interference from the forces of Bhavaja makes the attack fail and Anat decides on an alliance with these erstwhile enemies. To this end she arranges a marriage between Jayd and Rasida, Lord of Bhavaja. Jayd’s pregnancy is an important aspect of the deal. Bhavaja has not had a birth for some while. For a long time, to help Zan penetrate the Mokshi, Jayd has been working secretly towards this end.

The wedding is accompanied by a human sacrifice. This is only one of the many gory incidents in the book exemplified by Rasida’s despairing philosophy expressed later, “There’s no such thing as love in the Legion. There is birth and there is death. That’s all.” By this time Rasida has not kept her word, destroying Ana in the process, while Zan was thrown into Katazyrna’s recycler.

Which is where things begin to get bogged down. As well as what are in effect no more than monsters devouring the material to be recycled (Hurley seems to relish the details but they are oddly uninventive) Zan finds a woman living in the belly of the world, Das Muni, who helps her to escape to the next level.

The main body of the book is taken up with Zan’s journey up through the strata of the living world where the obstacles she meets are overcome perhaps a little too easily and she picks up another two handy companions.

One of Gene Wolfe’s prescriptions for writing fiction is that if your hero(ine) goes on a journey you must describe it. Well, there’s describing and then there’s overdoing it. The journey here is certainly important to the outcome as it provides Zan with clues to both her past (she has done all this before, remember) and future but it reminded me of the seemingly endless trek across the Ringworld in one of Larry Niven’s series of novels; it’s there more to show us the author’s invented world rather than advance the plot. Together with the emphasis on violence here that, for me, reduced engagement. It may be more to others’ taste.

The following did not appear in the published review.

Pedant’s corner:- “I change directions” (direction,) auroras (aurorae.) “The security crosses their arms and puts their backs to me” (its arms, its backs,) “a bevy …. begin” (begins,) “the whole of Katzyrna pour out” (the whole pours out,) in the hopes (in the hope,) maw in sense of mouth (sigh; it’s a stomach,) “a hunger than no meal can satisfy” (that no meal,) “fearful that the council will change their mind” (its mind,) the moths become less and less (fewer and fewer,) a missing start quote when a chapter began with a piece of dialogue, “I motion to Das Muni to lower the litter …… I motion to Das Muni to lower our own load” without the load being picked back up in the meantime, “I … try to see the where it’s fallen from” (no “the” needed,) “lined in row upon row” (by row upon row,) “if it is was my child” (if it was,) “that something had happened to her leg” (the narration is always present tense; so, something has happened to her leg,) “One is full of clear liquid. The other is full of purple liquid.” (clear here is contrasted with a colour; since clear does not mean colourless, the purple liquid could equally have been clear,) “Zan gets up now and wipe her hands” (wipes.)

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