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Ursula Le Guin

I’ve just looked at the Locus website and discovered to my deep sadness that Ursula Le Guin has died.

She was one of the greats of Science Fiction and Fantasy and will be sorely missed.

Probably most famous for her “Earthsea” series of books she first came to my attention in the 1960s. I cannot now remember which book of hers I read first but I think it must have been the acclaimed The Left Hand of Darkness. I went on to scour bookshops for her work. I confess I wasn’t as impressed (in my relative youth) by the even more critically praised The Dispossessed – I probably hadn’t enough life experience then to appreciate it fully – but since those days her fiction has always been the background to my SF reading life, my anticipation of each new book never disappointed by its content.

Most recently I always enjoyed her book reviews for The Guardian, which showed a mind as sharp and incisive as ever.

Tonight the world – the universe – feels like a much smaller place.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin: 21/10/1929 – 22/1/2018. So it goes.

Invisible Planets: 13 visions of the future from China, edited and translated by Ken Liu

Head of Zeus, 2016, 383 p. Reviewed for Interzone 268, Jan-Feb 2016.

 Invisible Planets cover

Chinese SF has been making something of a splash in the wider world of late. This volume – containing thirteen stories (bar one all award winners in China) by seven authors, four women and three men, along with three essays on the form’s Chinese incarnation – provides the opportunity to delve into its ripples but perhaps dangles an invitation to a question. Do these examples of Chinese SF exhibit traits which are specifically Chinese in nature? Is it possible to discern characteristics unique to a culture’s literary output and, within that, to its SF?

In the broad sense, surely yes. Russian literature for example has a very different feel to that written in English. So too its SF. But does Invisible Planets spread its net widely enough to allow any such judgement? (I myself, though, having noted a qualitative difference in the broad sweep of US SF as opposed to that from the UK – which was then all but solely English – and so deliberately set out to write a novel that could only have arisen from a Scottish background, might be the wrong person to ask.)

In his introduction Ken Liu specifically warns us not to expect the contents here to be monolithic, that SF from China will be as diverse in nature as that from anywhere else, and cautions us that the stories he has chosen may not be representative; though he does note that SF from Singapore, the UK and the US “are all quite different” from each other, even if there are “further divisions within and across such geographical boundaries.”

He offers us “science fiction realism” from Chen Qiufan, the self-proclaimed “porridge SF” (neither “hard” nor “soft” – the terms apparently have slightly different meanings in China where hard refers to the inclusion of more technical material) of Xia Jia, “wry, political metaphors” from Ma Boyong, the “surreal imagery” of Tang Fei, “dense language-pictures” from Cheng Jingbo, the “fabulism and sociological speculation” of Hao Jingfang and Cixin Liu’s “hard science-fictional imagination”. Apart from Cixin Liu, most of the authors (whose names are all rendered in Chinese style, family name first) are “rising stars” and all work in professions.

The fiction starts with three stories from Chen Qiufan (Stanley Chan.) The Year of the Rat sees an unemployed graduate forced to join the Rodent-Control Force dealing with the genetically engineered NeoratsTM infesting the Chinese countryside. In The Fish of Lijiang, people exposed to time dilation or compression require occasional readjustment which they obtain by meeting up with those of the yin tendency to their yang. Body films, patches which express personality in response to muscular tension or temperature, feature in The Flower of Shazui which reworks the old tale of a man fascinated by a prostitute who is beyond his reach. She nevertheless requires his help.

Xia Jia also makes three appearances. In the at times dream-like A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight foundling Ning is the sole living inhabitant of a village of ghosts whose days as a tourist attraction are gone. He nevertheless does not age beyond seven. Tongtong’s Summer sees Tongtong’s grandfather needing care after a fall. This comes in the shape of Ah Fu, a robot controlled from afar via a telepresence body-suit. Soon grandfather is interacting remotely with others in his position. Packed with invocations of opposites and apparently inspired by the poem “With Dreams as Horses” by Hai Zi, Night Journey of the Dragon-Horse (a story original to this book) sees the dragon-horse awaken after centuries to a world long bereft of humans. It meets a bat and they travel together telling each other stories.

Ma Boyong’s The City of Silence might be taken to be a reflection of Chinese experience in its depiction of a time when web access and everyday discourse is restricted to only allowable words but its explicit reference to Orwell’s 1984 (and implicit one to Fahrenheit 451) implies a wider relevance. The inevitable attempts to circumscribe the rules lead to an ever narrowing list of healthy words. Marring this slightly was that some aspects of the story were seen from our frame of reference rather than its.

Hao Jingfang has two contributions. Invisible Planets uses a Scheherazade type storyteller (without the jeopardy) describing fantastical planets and their inhabitants to suggest how both interactions with others and experiencing stories can change us. Her Hugo Award winning Folding Beijing sees that city – out to the sixth ring road – as a kind of time share, with three Spaces taking turns in occupying the ground over two days before the cycle recurs. During two such Changes Third Space denizen Lao Dao, wishing to earn enough money for his daughter to attend kindergarten, makes the dangerous journey to take a message to the less crowded and much wealthier First Space.

Xiaoyi is the fifteen year-old titular character in Call Girl by Tang Fei. It isn’t sex she sells, though, but stories related to her ability to manipulate space and time. Cheng Jingbo’s Grave of the Fireflies is an almost indescribable admix of fairy tale – princesses, magicians – and end of the universe SF – the stars are going out – in five sequential sections headed three successively apart days in February yet spanning centuries.

We round off with two stories from Liu Cixin. The Circle is a reworking of a chapter from his Hugo winning novel The Three Body Problem. An ancient Chinese mathematician develops a binary calculating machine utilising soldiers carrying flags. In Taking Care of God two billion members of the God civilisation which created the conditions for life on Earth and oversaw its development are deposited on the planet’s surface from a horde of ageing spaceships. In exchange for the Gods’ knowledge their wellbeing is catered for by billeting each of them on a family. Inevitably tensions ensue. Their science turns out to be too far advanced to be intelligible and their daily habits tend to forgetfulness. There are echoes here of Aldiss’s Heresies of the Huge God, Clarke’s The Nine Billion Names of God and a touch of Leinster’s The Greks Bring Gifts. (Whether Liu was aware of, or even intended, these cannot be judged from a distance.)

The three concluding essays delve into various aspects of Chinese SF. Liu Cixin’s “Three Body and Chinese Science Fiction” covers SF’s century-long history in China, its original incarnation optimistic, its later role in the People’s Republic era where it was seen as being only for children, to be educative about technology, the startling absence of Communist Utopias within its purview, its new-found literary credentials and confidence, all as a lead-in to explaining the origins of the pessimistic vision imbuing his trilogy.

Chen Qiufan’s “The Torn Generation” contrasts the anxiety of the younger generation with the thoughtlessness of the older. “Faced with the absurd reality of contemporary China the writer cannot fully explore or express the possibilities of extreme beauty and ugliness without resorting to science fiction.” These are not strictures necessarily confined to China.

In the final essay, where Xia Jia tries to answer the question asked of her at a convention “What Makes Chinese SF Chinese?” she covers some of the same historical background as Liu Cixin, saying the breakaway from science-popularisation was motivated by binary oppositions such as China-the West, underdeveloped-developed, tradition-modernity, and concludes that while the Chinese SF community is full of internal differences she does find some commonality as the stories are written primarily for a Chinese audience, but, “Perhaps Western readers can also read Chinese science fiction and experience an alternative Chinese modernity and be inspired to imagine an alternative future.” Alternative futures. Any SF reader will drink to that.

But it’s the stories that matter. All here work well as SF. Their characters behave as characters do, with love, jealousy, resentment, tenacity, fear, and loathing. Apart from references to aspects of Chinese daily life and culture they could easily have originated from non-Chinese sources. Taken in all, however, I did note a tendency to didacticism, a leaning towards the fantastical, an awareness of contrasting opposites, an air of detachment. None of that would make them uniquely Chinese, though, and whether or not Chinese SF really is a creature all to itself, on this evidence it’s certainly worth reading.

The following did not appear in the published review.

Pedant’s corner:- “the fiction written in Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States are all quite different” (is all quite different,) interpretive (interpretative,) one of the China’s most elite colleges (one of China’s,) maw for mouth rather than stomach, Xian Quan (Xiao Quan,) hid (hidden,) “When seven words had been deleted, Arvardan knew it was Sunday. (Only if he’d started on a Sunday.) The structures on two sides of the ground were not even in weight, (is slightly clumsy; balanced in weight?) “has to transfer buses three times to get there” (has to change buses? Has to take three different buses?) “archers loosened volleys from their bows” (loosed volleys.)”There were a total” (there was a total.)

Best of 2017

Fifteen novels make it onto this year’s list of the best I’ve read in the calendar year. In order of reading they were:-

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Stornoway Way by Kevin MacNeil
The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone
The Untouchable by John Banville
Swastika Night by Katherine Burdekin writing as Murray Constantine
Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Imagined Corners by Willa Muir
This is Memorial Device by David Keenan
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer
Psychoraag by Suhayl Saadi

That’s six by women and nine by men. Six were SF or Fantasy, counting in The Underground Railroad, (seven if the Michael Chabon is included,) seven were by Scottish authors.

Worldsoul by Liz Williams

Prime, 2012, 310 p.

 Worldsoul cover

This starts promisingly enough in the prologue when the ancient library of Alexandria lifts off into the sky like a rocket with parts of it still burning. What follows after though is a bit of a disappointment by comparison as its settles down into a tale of fantasy and magic which arguably does not need that preamble at all. When we start chapter one the library has for a long while been in Worldsoul, a place in connection with Earth but also on the border of the Liminality – woven by the Skein out of the legends of the ancestors of man – and a kind of limbo known as the nevergone.

A power vacuum has been created by the sudden unexplained disappearance of the Skein, who used to run Worldsoul, and now various entities are trying to muscle in. It falls to librarian Mercy Fane and an alchemist called Shadow to resist.

Since the origins of the Liminality are not revealed till near the end the mythologies the book draws on appear a bit of a mish-mash with djinns and ifrits, not to mention a Shah, mixed in with demons and Norse gods, Loki in particular. Another off note is the short chapters, which do become more appropriate towards the end when the action hots up but at the start prevent the reader getting to know the characters well enough before being flung off into another viewpoint. Then, too, the action sequences are curiously perfunctory and there is too much info dumping, with a lot of telling rather than showing. The ending screams “sequel coming.” I might give that a long time before ever reading it.

Still, fantasies like this are not really my thing and I have found Williams’s work more palatable in the past.

Pedant’s corner:- Plus points for Abbots General as the plural of Abbot General. Otherwise; the Has’ (the Has’s,) descendent (descendant, which was used later but then reverted to descendent,) Sulis’ (Sulis’s,) “is in the cards” (I’ve always known this as on the cards,) “she would say only that it had been a ploy” (she would say that it had only been a ploy,) dreadnaught (dreadnought, which appeared later,) “the bisecting road ran in either direction” (yes, roads do that; but shouldn’t it be each direction?) stood (standing,) “the no-colour of clear glass” (‘clear glass’ does not mean what this implies; clear itself means transparent. It does not mean colourless.) “But she could not more have resisted it than it any more than she could have flown” (has one ‘more’ too many.) That mean a deeper investigation” (meant,) fit (fitted,) “had made a homunculus of her” (a humuncula, then? Maybe not,) humunculus’ (humunculus’s.) “When it was sure it had got its full attention” (her full attention makes more sense,) “‘I wanted to see what you’d so’” (what you’d do,) “‘Something’s happening?’” (It wasn’t a question,) auroch’s (as far as I’m aware the singular of aurochs is aurochs, so aurochs’s) “all was not as predicted” (that not all was as predicted.)

Reading Scotland 2017

There are 36 books in this year’s list of my Scottish reading. (That’s three per month on average but I decided that in December I would not read anything Scottish at all.) 18 were written by men and 18 by women. 6 were SF or Fantasy, 3 were poetry, one was non-fiction.

Those in bold were in the Scotsman’s 20 Scottish Books Everyone Should Read. Those in italics were in the 100 best Scottish Books. The ones with an asterisk* were among Scotland’s favourite books.

Under the Skin by Michel Faber*
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnett
Driftnet by Lin Anderson
The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh
The Bonniest Companie by Kathleen Jamie
The Return of John Macnab by Andrew Greig
The Ragged Man’s Complaint by James Robertson
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan*
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Waverley by Walter Scott
Divided City by Theresa Breslin
The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie
The Stornoway Way by Kevin MacNeil
The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone
The Bull Calves by Naomi Mitchison
Garnethill by Denise Mina
*
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Collected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy
Grace Notes by Bernard MacLaverty
The Missing by Andrew O’Hagan
Imagined Corners by Willa Muir
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
This is Memorial Device by David Keenan
The Magic Flute by Alan Spence
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle*
Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre
The Revolution of Saint Jone by Lorna Mitchell
Psychoraag by Suhayl Saadi
Lilith by George MacDonald

Phantastes by George MacDonald
The Weatherhouse by Nan Shepherd
The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod
The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid*
The Golden Bough by James Frazer
Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Gráinne by Keith Roberts

Kerosina, 1985, 175 p.

Gráinne cover

A man lies in a hospital bed being asked questions. In answer he begins to tell his life story. It is a curiously detached process: he thinks of himself in the third person, referring to himself as Bevan. (In this Roberts may be utilising aspects of his own young life to flesh out his story – or carrying out a double bluff to make us think so. He used the name Alastair Bevan as an early pseudonym.) The man doesn’t name some of the characters from his early life, merely gives them titles; The Mother, The Headmaster. His early discomfort on dealing with women is well conveyed. Things change when he meets the enigmatic Gráinne, however, though to begin with he only worships her from afar. She is named for the mythical Irish princess.

Roberts’s prose is oblique, meaning is not immediately transparent, it has to be teased out by the reader. By the end, though, the process does become less opaque. The intercutting between “Bevan”’s reminiscences and his interlocutors is an important part of this. It highlights and comments on his tale, allows Roberts to ask the questions the reader might – and answer them. He tells his story in five “sessions” named Anuloma, Abhassara, Brahmacariya, Aranyaka and Upanishad respectively. These titles are not from Irish mythology but relate to Hindu customs and tales.

The Gráinne ‘Bevan’ remembers has aspects of a goddess, or an everywoman, and she has the gift of prophecy. “Right down through history religion had backed the state. She said the end result of money sticks” – some man had invented these centuries ago and things had gone downhill from then on – “was three World Wars. Two down and one to go. She said she wanted something to survive, But not a God. Or it would all start again.”

Some time after their relationship ends she lands a job as a TV presenter on Channel Five (a fifth UK TV channel was fictitious in 1985) and becomes famous. As part of a project she is working on she asks the advertising firm Bevan works for to devise a campaign for her, knowing he will have the idea she wants. The ramifications of her programme cause the authorities some problems and this is the ultimate reason for Bevan’s questioning. It is only at this point that aspects of SF creep in to the novel. In common with most of Roberts’s œuvre the whole, however, has an unsettling effect, always teetering on the borderline of the fantastic, as if Gráinne might have been a figment of ‘Bevan’’s imagination.

For Roberts completists this is a must though those unfamiliar with his work might be best to start with earlier novels.

Pedant’s corner:- I note “mike” as the abbreviation for microphone. Hurrah!
Otherwise; woffle (waffle,) Guy Fawkes’ night (I believe it’s just Guy Fawkes night; if it had an apostrophe it would have to be Guy Fawkes’s night,) staunched (stanched,) “an old tobacconists” (tobacconist’s,) “his Dad had given for his twenty-first” (had given him?) Fitzsimmons’ (Fitzsimmons’s,) Éirann (more usually Éireann,) verandah (I prefer veranda.) “He left the door stood open” (standing open,) “a line of men in saffron robes plod east” (a line plods.)

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

Windsor/Paragon, 2013, 423 p. First published 1984.

 Nights at the Circus cover

In fin-de-siècle London, Fevvers – so-called because of the downy nubs on her back when she was born – has fledged into a stage act, the leading aerialiste of her time. Among others she fascinates the Prince of Wales. It is through American journalist Jack Walser, also besotted with her, that we make her introduction. The book begins as he interviews her backstage after a performance. To Walser the evening is made more peculiar as midnight seems to strike several times while Fevvers and her companion Lizzie (who may be her mother) relate her life story up to that point – a fabular tale of a foundling and brothels of varying degrees of harshness. The mixture here of mundane detail of discarded, more or less grubby stage clothing and the removal of tawdry theatrical make-up with the fantastical unfolding of the story of Fevvers’s wings and hesitant attempts at flight – her life as a whole – adds verisimilitude to the narrative while not undermining its fantastical elements. It may even emphasise them.

Fevvers is engaged by US circus owner Colonel Kearney – guided in his actions by his pet pig, Sybil, who picks out lettered cards to spell the relevant decision – as one of the acts he will take on his tour to St Petersburg then across Russia to Siberia, with Yokohama the eventual destination. Walser persuades his editor to give him time off to follow his fascination with Fevvers. He joins the project as a member of the Clown circle. Wandering the circus Walser finds apes with their own school (complete with blackboard) which they break up as soon as they realise it is being observed, tigers enchanted by music and a Strongman with a cowardly streak – an interesting echo of The Wizard of Oz.

In the text it isn’t really seriously questioned if Fevvers’s wings are real or a stage fabrication. Only at the end, in an unrelated matter, is her reliability as a witness undermined, by which time there have been enough fantastical happenings to make this seem a misstep. Carter’s intention seems to be to interrogate the boundary between the real and the imagined. Magic realist touches flavour the narrative but the everyday degradations inflicted on some of her female characters (highlighting sexism, a feminism slipped in to the tale but unremarked on save in the case of the unlikeliness of a prostitute to undertake her work for pleasure, or to find any in it) are all too believable. Her prose flows and bounces, occasionally soars. Her characters are well-drawn. In the end, though, I found the flights of fancy a bit overblown. Are the South Americans just better at this sort of thing or is my cultural bias blinding me to its merits in this case?

Those thirty or so years ago when this was first published the descriptions of Carter’s work which I read failed to enthuse me sufficiently. For anyone so minded now I would say she is definitely worth reading and I’ll look for more.

Pedant’s corner:- Fevvers’ (Fevvers’s,) Prince of Wales’ (Prince of Wales’s,) ripost (usually riposte; ripostes was used as a verb later,) ballock/s (Carter consistently uses this as a demotic word for testicle and reserves bollocks for the expletive = balls,) maw (it’s a stomach, not a mouth,) exort (exhort,) cartilege (cartilage,) orizens (orisons?) tealeaves (tea leaves as a single word?) he lirruped and chirruped (lirruped?) “to whit” (to wit,) Lyons (in English now more often spelled Lyon,) pects (more often pecs,) liquifying (liquefying,) wrapt (the sense is rapt but it was describing two lovers so most likely a pun,) “identified the figure of that of Father Time” (it makes sense but “as that of Father Time” is more natural,) lassoo (lasso,) “when the sun temporarily laid low” (lay low,) oblivious of (oblivious to.)

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Virago, 1985, 151 p, plus vii p Introduction by Elizabeth Longford. First published in 1952.

Travel Light cover

It wasn’t till I read Elizabeth Longford’s Introduction (after the story itself) that I realised this is a sequel (of sorts) to Mitchison’s The Corn King and the Spring Queen – apparently the best historical novel of the twentieth century – which is on my tbr pile but a much bulkier volume than this one so I had passed on it as yet. I must admit I was slightly annoyed to have read them out of sequence but Travel Light can stand alone. It is, though, a fantasy rather than a straight historical novel, the tale of Halla Bearsbairn, later Halla Heroesbane, and later again Halla Godsgift, born the daughter of a king of Novgorod whose second wife persuades him to get rid of her. She is saved by her nurse who turns into a bear and takes Halla into the woods where the bears are waking from their winter sleep. Halla spends the year with them picking up bear ways but is too lively for them as they begin to hibernate and so is adopted by the dragon Uggi as part of his treasure, most of which is kept at the back of his cave. Encounters with Norse heroes and Steinvor, a red-headed Valkyrie, suggest this may all be a Norse-based fantasy but events conspire to force Halla to leave. She has an encounter with the All-Father who tells her to travel light. She does, down the Volga to the Black Sea and the town of Marob, then sailing to Byzantium which the Norse had known as Micklegard. The bulk of the book is spent in this environment where Halla learns to navigate the ways of the human world, realising among other things that the emperor is merely a man not the near-mythical entity she had previously supposed. Halla’s ability to communicate with animals comes in handy for betting on the results at the Hippodrome and procuring the money needed for her friends from Marob to petition the court. Halla’s detachment from her human interlocutors, her air of wafting through the proceedings means that we never really feel a sense of jeopardy on her behalf, her other-wordliness, which might have been a danger, is a coat of protection. Along with this, in Travel Light, Mitchison also plays tricks with time.

The book is an example of Mitchison’s interest in other times and places, compare Blood of the Martyrs, and I did wonder about the significance or otherwise of the name which results when Halla is spelled in reverse.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Introduction Dneiper (Dnieper.) Otherwise; mankind were (mankind was,) dispirited (dispirited,) one missing full stop.

Interzone 272, Sep-Oct 2017

TTA Press

Andy Hedgecock’s Editorial1 is an appreciation of the late Brian Aldiss of blessed memory. Jonathan McCalmont2 ponders the uses of allusion, contrasting the reductive and lazy with the dense or expansive. Nina Allan welcomes post-SF. Book Zone has an interesting and discursive author interview by Jo Walton3 with Adam Roberts to tie in with his new novel The Real-Time Murders but neglects to review the book. Duncan Lunan4 reviews Paul Kincaid’s book of criticism Iain M Banks mostly by relating his experiences of the late master. There is also Juliet E McKenna’s take on Charles Stross’s Delirium Brief, Stephen Theaker5 on Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning while John Howard reviews Xeelee Vengeance by Stephen Baxter, with the final item a review of Hal Duncan’s A Scruffian Survival Guide by Elaine C Gallagher who also interviews6 the author.
In the fiction:
As the world slowly rebuilds after war and ecological disaster, Blessings Erupt by Aliya Whiteley tells the story of the last of the original plastic eaters, consuming the hydrocarbon-based tumours that afflict the population in return for years of service to the company he represents.
The Music of Ghosts7 by Paul Jessop is set on a generation starship after Earth has been destroyed. The voyagers’ essences are supposed to be uploaded into the library after their death but things go wrong.
In a Melbourne fifty years past any relevance it ever had Ghosts of a Neon God8 by T R Napper tells of two small time crooks who are unwittingly embroiled in a dispute between the Chinese who run the place.
A white mist of unknown origin – possibly alien, possibly human – has “clouded cognitive processes and slowed down conscious thought” and in Erica L Satifka’s The Goddess of the Highway9 people are fitted with plates in their heads in a caste system to suit each to their new roles. Viewpoint characters Harp, a Plastic who monitors a truck criss-crossing the former US, and Spike, a Platinum, come together to try to join the resistance. The titular goddess may be a manifestation of the plates.

Pedant’s corner:- 1Aldiss’ (Aldiss’s.) 2 aWritten in USian, “the crowd are right” (the crowd is.) 3Lord Peter Whimsy (did Roberts actually say that? I believe him capable of such punnery but in English English – as opposed to Scottish English – the correct, Wimsey, and the pun, whimsy, are much less distinguishable,) descendent (descendant,) 4 Banks’ (Banks’s,) “human affairs are so complex than any stance (that any stance,) 5”A series of innovations have set this world apart” (a series has,) 6 fit (fitted) 7Written in USian, “the sun grew wane and hungry with light” (wan?) “the whirring of machines are chugging” (the whirring is chugging but even that is clumsy.) Ray stops programming for a moment and touches Ray’s hands” (Mark’s hands.) The story is riddled with errors in tense. It’s written in the present but has past tense verb forms intruding, “He’d been training for this day” (He’s ) “And his heart was a wild thing inside his ribs” (is.) “They ran into the storage facility” (run,) “and then she turned” (turns.) 8“Now it may as well not even existed” (exist,) his practiced stride (practised,) focussed (focused.) 9Written in USian, hocking up (hawking,) “the majority of what gets shipped are luxuries” (the majority is,) “intersecting a round sphere” (I’d like to see a sphere that isn’t round!)

Interzone 273

Interzone 273 cover

Interzone 273 has arrived.

Included along with the usual columns, fiction and reviews this one contains my review of Frances Hardinge’s A Skinful of Shadows.

I note the Book Zone now occupies the last part of the magazine, its order having been swapped with Nick Lowe’s film reviews.

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