Interzone 277, To Be Read

Interzone 277 cover

The latest issue of Interzone, 277, arrived last week.

As well as the usual fictional goodies and commentary on SF this one contains two of my reviews.

The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri and Supercute Futures by Martin Millar.

Art Deco in Blackpool (v) Queen’s Mansions

Very Art Deco building in the grand style in Blackpool – though actually I think it’s technically in Bispham.

The ground floor now houses Hart’s Amusements. The rest is, I think, holiday accommodation.

From southwest. Its eyes have been poked out, though:-

Queen's Mansions

Full vista. Wonderful deco style. Great horizontals and verticals. Rule of three in columnar windows and the central portion above the rounded canopy. Flagpoles! Clock!:-

Art Deco Queen's Mansions Blackpool

Clock and Sculptures, Queen’s Mansions, Blackpool. Fine Art Deco styling. 1936 date on roof half-roundel. The sculptures are reminiscent of the A A Gill ones on the Midland Hotel, Morecambe:-

Clock and Sculptures, Queen's Mansions, Blackpool

Shoreline of Infinity 9: Autumn 2017

The New Curiosity Shop, 2017, 132 p.

 Shoreline of Infinity 9 cover

Noel Chidwick’s Editorial riffs on the importance of SF as an admonitory undertaking. In SF Caledonia1 Monica Burns discusses the Victorian Robert Ellis Dudgeon (who also greatly improved the predecessor of the device used to measure blood pressure.) The Beachcomber Presents2 (Where Have all the Time Machines Gone) continues our four page graphic stories. There is an Interview with Cory Doctorow.3
Reviews has Eris Young praising Shattered Minds by Laura Lam,4 Neil Williamson describing Nina Allan’s The Rift as “a high class piece of fiction and a triumph of styorytelling”, Katie Gray in the end dislikes Sirens by Simon Messingham, Marija Smits5 casts a welcoming eye over Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun, Steve Ironside recommends Carapace by Davyne DeSye to lovers of bleak and gritty SF,6 Benjamin Thomas7 reviews the anthology Off Beat: Nine Spins on Song, Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway is appreciated by his interviewer Joanna McLaughlin, while The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross is assessed by Duncan Lunan.8
Multiverse9 features poems by Marise Morland, Bill Herbert and Peter Roberts. Paul Holmes’s Parabolic Puzzles10 updates the old what happened to the missing change conundrum.
As to the fiction:-
In The Last Days of the Lotus Eatersa by Leigh Harlen the universe is dying. The last humans inhabit a small village in a cooling world under a starless sky. One girl reads about the past and questions their straitened existence. For this heresy she is sacrificed; but her essence lives on in a tree.
Keeping the Peaceb by father and daughter pair Catriona Butler and Rob Butler is set in a world where sentients predict how long people will live. Narla is upset by the preferential treatment her brother receives as the result of his short projected life-span.
In Death Acceptancec by Tony Clavelli a funeral director receives a call from an unusual client, one of the community of NextState androids who wants to die: because if it doesn’t end it isn’t a story.
The unusual one sentence story, APOCALYPSE BETA TEST SURVEY by Gregg Chamberlain, consists of the pitch for custom – complete with disclaimers – by Armageddon Inc, whose motto is, “The Horsemen are always ready to ride.”
The spires in Spirejackd by Patrick Warner are huge towers propping up cities in the skies. The titular spirejack finds himself under investigation after his wife gets involved with subversives. The writing shows signs of the author’s lack of experience.
A young girl is obsessed by getting to the Moon (again) in Vaughan Stanger’s The Last Moonshot.e
Lowland Clearances by Pippa Goldschmidt is the same story that appeared in Shoreline of Infinity’s special Edinburgh Book Festival edition, issue 8½.
In The Sky is Alive by Michael F Russell, a settler on Gliese 581 has found life not so congenial as he had hoped. There, the threat of cloud is of them absorbing water – from anything.
The Useless Citizen Actf by Ellis SJ Sangster sees a woman faced with being culled because she’s jobless in a harsh 2107, locking herself in a cupboard to escape her fate. Or is her subjective experience just a metaphor for her depression?
In the extract for SF Caledonia from Colymbia by Robert Ellis Dudgeon our narrator joins a white shark hunt.

Pedant’s corner:- aWritten in USian, make-up (is cosmetics; the sense was “imagined”, so, make up,) sooth (soothe,) “there were less and less of them” (plural; so, fewer and fewer.) b“the family sit quietly” (the family sits.) cWritten in USian, “in a shock” (the phrase is “in shock”,) “give you creeps” (the phrase is “the creeps”,) “each of the Guillorys comment” (each comments.) dWhat‘s (the inverted comma was the mirror image of what it ought to have been,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (twice,) “’Wait, what you mean?’” (has a “do” missing.) eLamber2033 (previously always Lambert2033.) f“I listen to rapid beat of the pulse” (the rapid beat.)
1“designed restore perfect vision” (designed to restore,) homeopathy/ic, (I prefer homoeopathy/ic, or, better still, homœopathy/ic.) 2The Beachcomber Presents is missing from the contents page (as is the Interview with Cory Doctorow.) 3focussing (x 2, focusing,) half an hours (hour’s.) 4“people the company think no one will miss” (people the company thinks no one will miss,) “occur to to” (omit a “to”,) “easily elided; Indigenous …” (It wasn’t a new sentence, hence no capital I needed at indigenous.) 5milieus (milieux.) 6sci-fi. (SF. Please.) 7“starts off strong” (strongly,) “there a two or three” (there were two or three; or, if Scottish, there were a two-three,) “provided in extended depth” (an extended depth?) “Each song effecting us in a way” (affecting us.) 8mediaeval (hurrah!) “lack if manpower” (lack of.) 9Roberts’ (Roberts’s.) 10“Bud-Eyed Monster” (Bug-Eyed?)

Art Deco in Blackpool (iv) A Building

Under refurbishment at the time of photo. I’ve no idea what it is or was. Possibly once an insurance company?

Art Deco Building in Blackpool

Detail, cartouche and slogan, “Progress.”

Art Deco Detail, Blackpool

Friezes. Representations of aeroplanes of various sorts:-

Art Deco Friezes, Blackpool

Cartouche on corner block:-

Art Deco Cartouche on Corner Block

Ship friezes (right):-

Art Deco Ship Friezes, Blackpool

Ship friezes (left)

Ship Friezes, Blackpool

Stitch of ship friezes:-

Stitched Photgos og Ship Friezes, Blackpool

The further end of the building:-

Art Deco Building Again, Blackpool

Window detail:-

Art Deco Window Detailing, Blackpool

More of Flåm, Norway

I just remembered I had more photographs of our trip to Norway to post.

It’s over a year now since we were there.

The red road train here was plying up and down the road while we were walking in Flåm, Norway. Photo taken beside Flåm Church, hence the gravestones:-

Road Train, Flåm, Norway

The good lady posted photos of Flåm Church – an example of a wooden stavkirke – on her blog here.

The odd sight of this locomotive poking out of a shed is just by the side of the road. It didn’t seem to part of the Flåmsbana Museum:-

Locomotive Poking Out of Shed, Flåm, Norway

After Flåm the ship departed to cruise Nærøyfjord but had to travel back down Aurlandsfjord first.

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

These photographs make it look a bit more misty than it felt at the time.

Heading towards Nærøyfjord from Flåm:-

Aurlandsfjord

More of Aurlandsfjord:-

More Aurlandsfjord

Side of Aurlandsfjord, side bow of SS Black Watch in shot:-

Aurlandsfjord Side

Typical wooded slope of fjord:-

Wooded Slope Aurlandsfjord, Norway

Live It Up 47: The Way It Is

I’m sure you were expecting this. You know how my mind works. I just held it over for an extra week.

A wonderful piece of piano playing from 1986.

Bruce Hornsby And The Range: The Way It Is

Art Deco in Blackpool (iii) Various

Las Iguanas. Nice curved frontage and great detailing if you zoom in:-

Art Deco Style in Blackpool

Harry Ramsden’s. This looks more like a seaside café than a chippy. Near Blackpool Tower:-

Art Deco in Blackpool, Ramsden's

Modern Art Deco. Goldsmith’s. Doesn’t look at all like it’s from the 1920s or 1930s but still has the style:-

Modern Art Deco in Blackpool

Art Deco style flats:-

Art Deco Style Flats, Blackpool

Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre

Orbit, 2017, 414 p.

A space station, the city in the sky known as Ciudad de Cielo, shortened to CdC or Seedee, has the ostensible purpose of preparing for and building a generation starship, the Arca Estrella, to continue humanity’s history of exploration. Run by the corporate Quadriga, it is the subject of jealous regard from the Federation of National Governments (FNG) down on Earth. Despite widespread corruption and venality, CdC has never had a murder, not officially anyway.

The narration focuses on Alice Blake, the new representative of FNG on the station, and Seguridad member Nikki Freeman. Like most on the station Nikki has to supplement her income with underhand dealings of various sorts. Pay rates are low, decent alcohol hard to obtain, hustling is a way of life.

This is a depressingly familiar scenario, the worst aspects of capitalist society extrapolated into the future. Granted it gives ample scope for the darker side of human nature to be displayed (and to depict acts of violence) but some authors seem to revel in it. For a long while Brookmyre also appears to do so. By the time he does emphasise the co-operative, law-abiding, anti-exploitative, do-as-you-would-be-done-by side of things it is almost too late to make the point. His good guys are really only guys who are slightly less bad. Then again, I don’t suppose a novel that is relentlessly upbeat would sell.

On Seedee people are equipped with mesh, a device for inserting memories. But there is a distancing from them, referred to as watermarking, so you know they aren’t yours. Also prevalent is the grabacíon, a kind of video clip from your vision recording system that can be uploaded instantly to Seedee’s web equivalent. (I note the abbreviation Seedee is probably only in the text in order to enable the pun “The Seedee underbelly.”) Part of the mix is a musing on the part of Alice on the nature of androids and advanced AI tech.

Since she was once a cop down on Earth Nikki finds herself called in to investigate human remains (flayed and eviscerated) floating in a “gravity-free” area of CdC. Her job is made more difficult by being saddled with Alice Blake – masquerading under a pseudo-ID – as a side-kick.

That “‘consciousness is a lie your brain tells you to make you think you know what you’re doing,’” the brain fabricates a narrative that makes us believe we experience the world objectively, is one of the drivers of the plot. On Seedee people have begun to do odd things, like a woman stripping off and demanding any random stranger has sex with her on a bar top, or a man continuing a knife fight with ridiculous abandon. All of this is connected to a leak from the mysterious Project Sentinel, knowledge of which seems to mean death.

I found Brookmyre’s use of information dumping utterly intrusive. Most of the time it wasn’t at all well integrated into the text and the time where he used supposedly naïve kids to enable it was a particular low point.

I also took exception to the sentence, ‘Humanity is born from somewhere messy and bloody and stinky.’ The first and third of these adjectives probably only apply when the second does – and that’s by no means all the time. The third in especial is a misconception promulgated by advertisers in order to sell deodorant. Taken in all, this is an extremely sexist sentiment Brookmyre should be embarrassed by. Especially since he put it in the mouth of a woman.

Brookmyre does nod to previous SF by naming the halfway station from Earth to orbit (at the top of a space elevator) Heinlein, and having a character say, “‘Find the puppet master.’” Whether or not he’s a true fan is difficult to say on this evidence (I assume he must be or he wouldn’t try to write the stuff) but it was a nice touch to have a plot point dependent on the notion of refractive index. I can’t recall that in an SF story before.

Brookmyre has never steered away from violence but in a space station environment where utter disaster is never more than a thin metal plate away surely co-operation and teamwork are much better bets for survival than a constant round of competition and one-upmanship. (Even with a wee bit of smuggling on the side – which would still be scratching each other’s backs.)

I suppose Places in the Darkness makes a fair enough fist of what it’s trying to do but it also doesn’t really distinguish itself from a swathe of like-minded SF, and panders too much to the free-market, individualist, bloodthirsty constituency. It’s far too uneasy a blend of SF and the crime novel and consequently fails to do justice to either.

Pedant’s corner:- USian usages (airplane, she could use, leastways etc) but then, manoeuvres, “the rest of today’s audience fully appreciate” (appreciates,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (x2,) “she is aware that that” (only one “that” required,) “a standard container …. These are…” (This is,) “where Habitek assemble and demonstrate their test modules” (where Habitek assembles and demonstrates,) “was a soccer player” (Brookmyre is a buddy!* A season ticket holder no less. He knows it’s football, never soccer.) “There is no more screaming, no more cries or moans” (can’t help feeling there ought to be an “are” in there somewhere,) jerry-rigged (it’s jury-rigged,) “the Quadriga aren’t” (isn’t,) Gonçalves’ (Gonçalves’s,) “to home in in on” (only one “in”.)
*St Mirren supporter.

Blackpool Art Deco (ii) Seaside Wall

Art Deco styling on Blackpool sea wall. Pillar, and fencing:-

Seaside Pillar, Blackpool

From shore side:-

Sea Wall Pillar, Blackpool

Blackpool Art Deco (i) Former Woolworths

This stunning builidng is hard by Blackpool Tower.

Loads of horizontals and verticals. And that clock tower! (Blackpool Tower behind):-

Old Woolworths, Blackpool

West (seaside) frontage. Now the Albert and Lion pub:-

Former Woolworths, Blackpool from West

Clock Tower:-

Clock Tower, Former Woolworths Blackpool

South facade and part of clock tower:-

Former Woolworths, Blackpool, South Facade

Towards the rear the building has a delightful curve. Those portions now house a Poundland and a Sports Direct:-

Curve on Fortmer Woolworths Building, Blackpool

The detailing here is sublime:-

Detailing, Former Woolworths, Blackpool

Rear of building:-

Rear, Former Woolworths, Blackpool

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