Shoreline of Infinity 8½: Special edition; Edinburgh Book Festival 2017

The New Curiosity Shop, 2017, 222 p.

Ken Macleod takes the editorial slot as he curated the SF strand in 2017’s Edinburgh Book Festival. He cautions that SF does not predict the future but can warn of it and notes Scotland’s present flourishing SF and fantasy scene inspired by its distinguished history. In From the Editor’s Log, Noel Chidwick introduces the authors and stories.
Some of the fiction has appeared previously, The Great Golden Fish by Dee Raspin in Shoreline of Infinity 3; The Stilt-Men of the Lunar Swamps by Andrew J Wilson, Model Organisms by Caroline Grebell, Senseless by Gary Gibson and SF Caledonia by Monica Burns with an extract from Gay Hunter by James Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon) were in Shoreline of Infinity 4; The Revolution Will be Catered by Iain Maloney and Incoming by Thomas Clark in Shoreline of Infinity 5; The Worm by Russell Jones in Shoreline of Infinity 6 while 3.8 Missions by Katie Gray and The Beachcomber Mutable Martians graced the magazine’s 7th issue.
In Edinburgh Masks1 by Adam Roberts a mediocre jobbing actor playing Iago in Edinburgh is given a gift of two theatrical masks, Comedy and Tragedy. They speak to him and he agrees to seven great performances in exchange for his soul, meaning to cheat his fate by retiring before the seventh. Whether by accident or design Roberts has mined one of the rich seams of Scottish literature, the meeting with the devil story.
The Last Word2 of Ken MacLeod’s story is produced by a meme generator coupled with a learning algorithm using out-of-copyright texts to combine phrases with ostensible meaning; a future equivalent of a million monkeys with typewriters.
Lowland Clearances by Pippa Goldschmidt is a neat inversion of a piece of Scottish history. Here people are cleared from Glasgow to the Highlands in order to make way for rubbish-eating sheep from ‘Dolly Enterprises’.
Ruth E J Booth’s The Honey Trap3 is a reprint from Le Femme, NewCon Press, of her BSFA award winning story. Agriculture has been thoroughly collectivised. A representative at a Faire is intrigued by an ugly but utterly delicious apple variety brought to him by a young girl in a hoodie.
Whimper4 by Nalo Hopkinson is a reprint from the very last edition of Clock magazine wherein each story was entitled either Bang or Whimper and ended in the middle of a sentence. Here people are being pursued to their death by things called leggobeasts. Our narrator claims she dreamed them all.
New Gray Ring to Join Olympic Five by Ada Palmer reads like a newspaper report of the addition of a sixth ring to the Olympic flag.
In the non-fiction:- Imagining Possible Futuresa by Charles Stross addresses the problem of writing optimistic futures in pessimistic times by pointing to the positive developments in the non-Western world. The following, Tomorrow Never Knows, written by Iain Malone follows on from Stross’s short essay by discussing recent examples of Scottish dystopian fiction. Russell Jones outlines the genesis of Shoreline of Infinity’s monthly “sci-fi”b cabaret: Event Horizon. Mark Toner in Making Art on the Shoreline of Infinity describes the magazine’s evolving policy on art work. Multiverse is introduced by Russell Jones making the case for SF poetry and showcases poems by Jo Waltonc, Iain M Banks, Ken MacLeod, Jane Yolend, Marge Simon, Shelly Bryant, Benjamin Dodds and Grahaeme Barrasford Young.

Pedant’s corner:- 1Leith Way (Leith Walk certainly, but there is no Leith Way in Edinburgh,) “liquorish-coloured wood” (liquorish – or lickerish – means fond of alcohol. I have no idea how that could translate to colour. I suppose Roberts meant liquorice,) “‘that would be a cheap of me’” (that would be cheap of me,) hiccough (hiccup, any comparison to a cough is misplaced,) an indent carried on from a quote to the next line of text, “in the stage” (on the stage is more usual,) “they too had had words” (the two is more natural,) “on Lothian road” (Lothian Road,) Wesminster (Westminster,) “audiences gasped and clutched their hands to their chest” (to their chests.) “A new generation of actors were being celebrated” (a new generation was,) “to hold the crowd’s attention, to manipulate their emotions” (its emotions,) “no more than and flotsam” (has an extraneous “and”.) “Attempting a cheat the Prince of Darkness”. (Attempting to cheat,) “brooding over the one great performance that still left in him” (that was still left in him,) “who had a better grounds” (who had better grounds,) bakelite (Bakelite, which wasn’t in any case in widespread use during the Great War where it appears here,) the story ends with a piece of dialogue but its end quote mark is missing. 2Kirkaldy (Kirkcaldy.) 3“‘none of the growers have seen you before’” (none has seen you.) It stunk like … (It stank like …) 4leggobeastst (leggobeasts.) Some of the author info blurbs end with a full stop others (including Multiverse) don’t.
a“Big Carbon … trying to monetize their assets” (its assets, and while we’re about it, monetise.) bsci-fi (I hate this usage. It’s SF,) “but we’ve even more pleased” (we’re even more pleased,) a missing full stop at the piece’s end. cIn the author blurb she has a novel due out in Fenruary 2018 (February.) d“with it fierce seers” (its.)

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