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Interzone 283 Has Arrived

Interzone 283 cover

Interzone 283 has landed on my doormat.

The issue contains, among the usual fare, two reviews of mine:-

The novel This is How You Lose the Time War, a collaboration written by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

Palestine +100 edited by Basma Ghalayini, the first ever collection of SF from Palestine.

Time flies….

I’ll need to be getting on with reading the books for review in issue 284.

Reality, Reality by Jackie Kay

Picador, 2012, 248 p.

 Reality, Reality cover

The title of this second collection of Jackie Kay’s short stories reflects the contents. Most of the stories have shifting perspectives or protagonists who are unsure of their surroundings. All are very well written.

Reality, Reality is a stream of consciousness narration by a woman who is attempting to reach the final of a TV cookery competition, or thinks she is.
Another stream of consciousness, These are not my Clothes is told from the point of view of an inmate in a care home – who is not receiving very good care. The title is a phrase she keeps repeating to the nurses who dress her. Her only confidante is the part-time cleaner Vadnie.
From its first sentence I could sense from the way it is written that The First Lady of Song is a piece of Science Fiction; which is what, indeed, it is. It is narrated by a female singer, who centuries ago, was drugged by her father with a potion that meant she would not die. Her performing names always start with the letter ‘E’ – Elina, Eugenia, Ekateriana, Elisabeth, Ella, Emilia. The only change over time is that her skin darkens. Kay doesn’t bring much that is conceptually new to the old SF chestnut of the life eternal but she does write it well.
In The Pink House a heavily pregnant woman – also heavily debt-ridden – finds refuge in the house that Elisabeth Gaskell once lived in.
Grace and Rose is the story of the first lesbian wedding in Shetland, told by both its principals. A joyous tale of love and fulfilment.
In Bread Bin the narrator’s grandmother tells her she has never had an orgasm – but always had a clean bread bin. The narrator is similarly starved of sexual ecstasy; till the age of forty-nine.
Doorstep sees Cheryl decide to spend Christmas on her own; to the displeasure of her latest girl-friend Sharon.
Hadassah is a retelling of the Moses story, updated to feature a young refugee, Hadassah, who becomes the King’s eyes and ears. The King is running a people-trafficking and prostitution operation.
Inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, The White Cot features two women in a holiday let picking at the cracks in their relationship. One had wanted a child, the other hadn’t. The white cot in their room becomes the material focus for the first’s longings.
In Mind Away the narrator’s mother is gradually losing her memories and thoughts. Together they seek out the doctor into whose head the thoughts have gone.
Two girls who were on holiday together aged ten and nine the year their parents swapped partners, forever after call themselves Barn and Tawny due to witnessing the activities of an Owl.
In The Last of the Smokers two life-long friends contemplate giving up by comparing smoking to ex-lovers.
A woman seeks to find the Mini Me inside her by dint of dieting. Repeatedly.
Mrs Vadnie Marleen Sevlon (the same Vadnie as in These are not my Clothes) took the title Mrs as she thought I it would engender respect. She also invents a husband and children for herself reflecting that, ‘Only people with money have choice.’
The Winter Visitor appears to our narrator every so often without fanfare, taking over her life, until vanishing again as mysteriously.

Pedant’s corner:- “like she is tossing a ball” (as if she is tossing a ball,) “the river Mersey” (river here is a proper noun, so River Mersey,) “and, and” (only one ‘and’ needed, no comma required.) “None of them have” (strictly ‘none of them has’ but it was in the narrator’s voice so perhaps true to that,) “coming forth to carry me home” (I had always thought the words from Swing Low, Sweet Chariot were ‘coming for to carry me home’ and it seems that is indeed the case (,_Sweet_Chariot#Traditional_lyrics)) homeopaths (homoeopaths, please; or even homœopaths,) “I clamour through” (it was through a window, so ‘clamber’,) sprung (sprang,) edidn’t (didn’t,) “as if it was the scene a crime I had committed” (scene of a crime I had committed,) doubt (a cigarette end is spelled dout,) lasagne (lasagne. Narrator’s spelling? Or author’s?) “‘could of’” (could have; but this was in dialogue.)

More for Interzone

 Automatic Eve cover
 Incomplete Solutions cover

At the end of last week two books arrived from Interzone (very quickly I might add. I only let editor Andy Cox I was interested in them on the Wednesday.)

The books are:-

Automatic Eve by Rokuro Inui, a Japanese writer hitherto unknown to me.

The story collection Incomplete Solutions by Wole Talabi, a Nigerian.

The reviews ought to appear in Interzone’s issue 284.

The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges

and The Gold of the Tigers, Penguin Modern Classics, 1987, 190 p, including Author’s Note, two Prefaces and Notes.
The Book of Sand was translated from the Spanish El libore arena (published by Emecé Editores SA 1975) by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. The Gold of the Tigers – a selection of poems from The Gold of the Tigers (published as El oro de los tigres by Emecé Editores SA 1972) and The Unending Rose (published as La rosa profunda by Emecé Editores SA 1975) were both translated by Alastair Reid.

The Book of Sand cover

In all of the tales in this collection there is an economical sparseness to the prose, a distancing, which tends to make them read like myth, or fable. They are certainly flavoured with the fantastic. The typical style is to tell rather than show. But in Borges’s hands it works. In his preface to The Unending Rose Borges says, “the notion of art as compromise is a simplification, for no one knows entirely what he is doing. A writer can conceive a fable, Kipling acknowledged, without grasping its moral.” He’s underselling himself. He knew perfectly well what he was doing.

A strange meeting is the nub of The Other. In Cambridge in 1969, by the Charles River, Jorge Luis Borges encounters Jorge Luis Borges, who is in Geneva in 1918, a few steps from the Rhone.
In Ulrike, a Colombian man has an encounter with a Norwegian woman in York. Their walk together leads them into a different time.
The Congress is the Congress of the World, an organisation set up to represent the men of all nations, whose President is Alejandro Glencoe, Uruguayan son of a man from Aberdeen.
Dedicated on its title page to the memory of H P Lovecraft There are more Things is in the tradition of ‘entering a strange house’ stories and ends with an undescribed horror approaching the narrator. Borges’s interest in Scotland is in evidence again. A character is named Alexander Muir and the narrator tells us, “Scotland’s symbol, after all, is the thistle.”
The Sect of the Thirty is a ‘fragment from a manuscript’ tale and reveals the origins of the titular sect’s name.
The night of the gifts contains a tale within a tale within a tale – all inside six pages. The gifts are knowledge of both love and death.
The mirror and the mask is set in the aftermath of the Battle of Clontarf when the High King of Ireland commissions a bard to compose a poem celebrating the victory, then – when it is delivered the next year – another, and finally a third the year after that. Each poem’s significance eclipses the earlier’s.
Undr purports to be a translation of an old manuscript and is another tale within a tale in which a man travels to the land of the Urns to find the single word which is their poetry plus a short rendering of his life thereafter to find the word’s meaning; and that of life.
In Utopia of a tired man our narrator is strolling a vast plain and comes across a building inhabited by a man who, when he speaks, reveals they are in the narrator’s (and the reader’s) future. Within the story’s seven pages we learn how the world came to be as it is and some of the future humans’ beliefs. Borges provides us with some sly digs at his own trade. “Printing – which is now abolished, since it tended to multiply unnecessary texts to the point of dizziness – was one of man’s worst evils.” “Language is a system of quotations.”
The bribe is an account of a piece of academic politics wherein one scholar publishes a critical paper as a stratagem to incline his criticisee to nominate him for a place at a conference.
Avelino Arredondo plans his forthcoming action for the morning of the twenty-fifth of August, sequestering himself from friends, fiancée and newspapers so that none but him can be blamed for it.
In The disk a now blind woodcutter recalls the time he gave a stranger shelter. In the morning the stranger told him he was the king of the Secgens and had Odin’s ring – the only one-sided ring in the world – in his palm. The woodcutter tried to obtain the ring.
The Book of Sand is a story which claims to be true. A man in Buenos Aires (with a great personal affection for Scotland through a love for Stevenson and Hume) opens his door to a Bible seller from Orkney – to where he hopes to return – who shows him the Book of Books, one which has no beginning nor end and whose pagination is arbitrary. He buys it.
The latter half of the book contains many of Borges’s poems; each printed with the original Spanish on the left hand page and the English translation on the right.

Pedant’s corner:- in the author’s note; Wells’ (Wells’s.) Otherwise:- Heraclitus’ (Heraclitus’s,) Tacitus’ (Tacitus’s,) Beauvais’ (Beauvais’s,) John Wilkins’ (Wilkins’s,) Jesus’ (Jesus’s,) extra marks for ‘hanged himself’. “One day less.” (One day fewer,) Wiclif (usually spelled Wycliffe,) Córboda (Córdoba.) In the Notes; Borges’ (Borges’s.)

The Start of the End of it All and other stories by Carol Emshwiller

Women’s Press, 1990, 169 p.

 The Start of the End of it All and other stories cover

In these stories Emshwiller’s style tends to the intellectual and reflective, and always told with a female slant on the world. Very few are straightforward narratives but all of them are intriguing – and well written.

The Start of the End of it All is an alien invasion story. “‘Politics,’ they say, ‘begins at home, and most especially in the kitchen’” – a good place for a revolution to start. But first they have to get rid of the cats. The aliens seem to have targeted divorced, post-menopausal women for their infiltration. A tinge of alarm strikes when one of the aliens says, ‘Time to find lots of little dark, wet places.’ But our narrator isn’t keen on giving up cats.
Looking Down is narrated by a sentient bird (or flying creature at least) who allows himself to be captured by humans to function as an oracle and protector.
In Eclipse a woman stumbles into the wrong party and is taken for either a pianist or flautist. She is neither. But a student of Jung gives her confidence.
The Circular Library of Stones is found by our narrator who collects stones and imagines the circle as a library. Her story can be read as if she has lost some marbles though.
In Fledged a winged woman who looks remarkably like the narrator’s ex-wife comes crashing into his house during a storm.
Vilcabamba finds a man displaced from his people but able to remember gestures they made and bits of their language. He sets out to try to find his way back home.
In Acceptance Speech a man abducted from his own world makes his speech on being made Humble-Master-of-the-Poem.
If the Word Was to the Wise is a story about the importance of the word, and its dangers. In the tallest building in the city are two safes. One contains the law, all that keeps the city secure, the other, all the banned books. A young prince of the library (despite the title, really an underling) falls for the chief librarian’s daughter, Josephine. They begin to plan to open the “banned” safe.
The centre of the universe in Living at the Centre is Omphalo, of whose fabulous beached women the mountain men have heard tell. One old woman goes down there to find out if the tales are true.
In Moon Songs a brother and his older sister encounter an unusual insect which when pricked with a pin “sings” for ten minutes. The sister tries to parlay this discovery into a stage career.
But soft, what light… is a variation on the 100 monkeys eventually typing out Shakespeare thing. Uniq-o-fax, (rather quaintly now in 2019) thirty nine typewriters and a word bank, “all those wires and tubes,” and the female narrator fall in love and write poems to each other.
Pelt is set on Jaxa, an ice planet on which a human has landed, with his dog, to hunt for furs. The viewpoint character is the dog, and the hunter finds more – and less – than he bargained for.
Début could be seen as a variation on Snow White. An apparently blind girl is brought before the Queen only for her mask to be removed before she is banished to the hills. There, the story diverges from that template.
The titular organisation of The Institute is the Old Ladies Institute of Higher Learning (the OLI of HL,) the story one that features an embedded drawing and ends with a piece of musical notation for a song. The narrator’s grandmother, an alumna of the OLI of HL, was quite a gal.
Woman Waiting is the stream of consciousness of a woman waiting for her postponed flight, retreating ever into herself.
In Chicken Icarus a man who is a head and torso but little else (but that little – or not so little – is important,) schemes to have himself displayed more widely.
Sex and/or Mr Morrison features a woman looking for the Others amongst us spying on her upstairs neighbour.
In Glory, Glory a woman on holiday with her husband in a country where they don’t know the language is taken by the locals for a goddess.

Pedant’s corner:- six storey (six storeys,) “bit for the tower, I also, would have done” (either no comma after ‘also’ or an extra comma after ‘I’,) “‘the first snows will be coming’ he says. ‘The tower..” (that ‘he says’ is part of a sentence the character is speaking so it should not be outside the quotation marks,) “in order fit my own ears” in order to fit,) “the forsythia were not in bloom” (either ‘forsythias’, or ‘was not in bloom’, largess (USianism for largesse?) stachel (satchel,) contraposto (contrapposto.)

Terrance Dicks

A name well-known to fans of Doctor Who, Terrance Dicks has died.

His asssociation with the programme began first as script editor (a position he held from from 1968-1974) and then as writer, starting with the last Patrick Troughton serial The War Games, which introduced the Time Lords, in 1969.

Away from the Doctor he wrote the all-but forgotten (some would say rightly) Sf series Moonbase 3.

Perhaps less commendably he contributed scripts for the ITV soap opera Crossroads, famous for its cardboard sets (and equally cardboard characterisation – none of which could be attributed to him.)

He also wrote many of the Doctor Who novelisations and original stories not derived from TV scripts.

Part of many people’s childhoods, his loss will sadden those who look back upon his work with affection.

Terrance William Dicks: 14/4/1935 – 29/8/2019. So it goes.

Interzone 281, May-Jun 2019

TTA Press, 96 p

Interzone 281 cover

Georgina Bruce’s Editorial calls for SF to resist celebrating the beautiful apocalypse and instead to imagine something better. Andy Hedgecock’s Future Interrupted muses on the Golden Age future that didn’t happen and the present day world of work and its intersection with the “stultifying timidity” of business, academia and politics. In Climbing Stories Aliya Whiteleya contemplates stupid questions, obvious questions, the unanswerable Why? and the attempts of film, theatre and fiction to answer it – or not. In Book Zone John Howardb welcomes the “directly and compellingly told” reprints of all-but forgotten 1950s and 1960s writer Charles Eric Maine’s far from cosy catastrophe novels The Tide Went Out and The Darkest of Nights, Duncan Lunan finds A Brilliant Void: a selection of classic Irish Science Fiction novels edited by Jack Fennell a book for the literary historian rather than the SF enthusiast and Temi Oh’s generation starship novel Do You Dream of Terra-Two? not entirely convincing, Ian Hunter lauds Tim Major’s science fantasy Snakeskins as better than good, where good equates to “stays with you”, Stephen Theaker feels the anthology New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl is a missed opportunity to trawl a wider writers’ pool than the editor’s acquaintances, Barbara Melville “cannot fault” the “seamless, gripping and immersive” The Record Keeper by Agnes Gomillion, the best she has ever read for Interzone, Maureen Kincaid Speller says Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan, partly a thought experiment on what happens if the plug is pulled on the internet, is a novel that has been well worth the wait, while finally Andy Hedgecock reviews Georgina Bruce’s “eminently impressive” debut collection This House of Wounds and interviews the author.
In the fiction:
The Realitarians by James Warner1 features, as well as a woman inveigled into luring a physicist to a hotel in Paris, a couple of talking cats. Apart from the cats there is little to this that reads as SF or Fantasy.
In Float by Kai Hudson2 a young woman exiled back to Earth from a space colony struggles with high gravity and the plethora of water.
Harmony by Andy Dudak3 is set in a totalitarian world where the regime uses song as a means of control. A foreign agent tries to resist its siren call.
The city of A Dreamer Arrives in the Occupied City by Malcolm Devlin4 is occupied by lopers who steal dreams, have imposed a curfew and keep the populace subjugated by means of a drug called kurshi. Felicia Fortuna suffered an accident in her youth and so still dreams. She sings her dreams in a nightclub.
The longest story, Scolex by Matt Thomson5, features a drug mule used to smuggling contraband in his blood, who has been given the Scolex of the title, a substance which alters DNA.
The very short Café Corona by Georgina Bruce is illustrated by a background of the recent photograph of the event horizon of a black hole. A woman sits in a café and ponders the malleability of the world, the resemblances between things.
In Our Fathers Find Their Graves in our Shortest Memories by Rebecca Campbell6, the Ossuary, a vast digital database of human images and messages, a repository of human memory, counts down the dwindling number of humans still alive.

Pedant’s corner:- a“to not answer” (not to answer.) b“even if his handling of some of the scientific aspects were not always so sure” (his handling … was not always,) focussing (focusing.) 1Written in USian. 2snuck (sneaked.) 3Written in USian; staunch (stanch.) 4crenelated (crenellated,) “the cream of the city’s middle class were slumming it” (the cream …was slumming it,) “their audience are allowed to dismiss what they say” (their audience is allowed to.) 5“A group of office workers jostle him” (a group jostles.) 6Written in USian, “the species’” (species, singular, so species’s.)

Shoreline of Infinity 12: Summer 2018

The New Curiosity Shop, 134 p

In Pull up a Log Iain Maloney reflects on his time as Shoreline’s reviews editor.

In the fiction we have Do Not Pass GO by Helen Jackson, a light-hearted time-travelling story which tells how the board game “Property Is Best!” became “Monopoly” and conquered the world.
This is followed by Aeaea by Robert Gordon where day by day a man’s consciousness passes between bodies working on a production line of some sort. The workers are overseen by robots. He knows little of his past but occasional dreams let him know he had one. He instigates a revolution but there is still time for an ending which, despite some foreshadowing, is still a deus ex machina.
In Jammers by Anton Rose a young Max is recruited into a gang which remotely hi-jacks self-driving cars in order to rob their passengers. His junkie mother is disgusted by his new-found occupation.
Paradise Bird by J S Richardson features an exotic alien – a male – from an almost forgotten far-flung outpost of humanity come to visit the Habs on the fringe of the asteroid belt and charm one of the hermaphroditic inhabitants.
In Sand and Rust by W G White the entirety of human civilisation wanders through a relentless desert landscape in a caravan guided by a machine called The Chaperone. The caravan’s First Rider has to induct his replacement before entering The Chaperone, never to re-emerge. I did wonder how, in the midst of all this desert, the people in the caravan obtained food.
Sleeping Fire by Elvira Hills is a tale of haves and have nots, the desert people left without regeneration technology, those in Rejensy exploiting them to secure their own longevity. New recruit Resa determines to redress things. The pacing here is a little too breathless at times and the action sequence borders on cliché.
The Beachcomber Presents graphic strip literally depicts people living in social bubbles, escaping their confines to find the richness outside.
SF Caledonia: Crossing the Starfield by Chris Kelsoa relates how he stumbled on a copy of Starfield, the first ever anthology of Scottish Science Fiction, in a Glasgow second-hand bookshopb. He goes on to wonder how it has been so forgotten (not by those of a certain age, mate) and to eulogise the contents.
The Square Fella1 by Duncan Lunan is one of the stories from that collection and describes the first manned rocket mission out of the bowl of the world in which its protagonist lives.

There is a page introducing a flash fiction competition for SoI readers on the subject of the Moonc followed by an interview with Ada Palmer conducted by Eris Young.
Ruth E J Booth’s Noise and Sparks column Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Genred discusses the ongoing disparagement of SF by some academics.

Reviews sees Eris Young finding new depth in Ada Palmer’s Terra Incognita trilogy as books 2 and 3 Seven Surrenders and The Will to Battle roll on, Steve Ironsidee confesses to not being armoured enough to cope with the rhythm and narrative of Hal Duncan’s A Scruffian Survival Guide, Katy Lennon delights in the intricacies of M John Harrison’s You Should Come with Me Nowf, Georgina Merryg appreciates the gorgeous writing and unpredictable story line of Sarah Maria Griffin’s Spare and Found Parts, Callum McSorley feels the mix of action thriller and political drama in Null States by Malka Older doesn’t quite mesh, Lucy Powellh describes Eric Brown’s Binary System as a colourful romp.
MultiVerse has poems by Caroline Haker, Ken Poyner and Elizabeth Dulemba (whose three very short pieces are illustrated.) Replacing Parabolic Puzzles we have Spot the Difference by Tsu.

Pedant’s corner:- I proofread the fiction original to this issue before publication so assume there are no remaining errata there. 1“at its comers” (‘corners’ makes sense, ‘comers’ doesn’t,) “on one side that the other” (than,) “but if was less massive” (if it was less massive,) “the last chance to bum him with his knowledge” (burn. This – as with comers above – is a manifestation of the problem in some fonts of distinguishing the letter pairing ‘rn’ from the single letter ‘m’.)
a“There is a notable contributions” (contribution,) David Crooks’ (Crooks’s,) “of it’s achievements” (its.) bSaid in the introduction to be in Glasgow’s Merchant City but it’s in the West end. c“on the the theme of the Moon” (only one ‘the’ needed.) d“the kind of the impact” (the kind of impact,) “startling out of depth” (startlingly.) e“but the challenges I faced in getting to grips with Duncan’s writing means …” (the challenges mean….) 3272 pags apparently (pages,) clamor (is the reviewer USian?) “twisting the reader’s expectations, forcing them…” (that ‘them’ means its noun antecedent ought to be “readers’”,) maw (it’s a stomach, not a mouth.) g“merely part of the characters’ identity” (characters, plural, therefore ‘identities’.) h“for all intents and purposes” (it’s ‘to all intents and purposes’.)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Puffin, 2014, 262 p.

 A Wrinkle in Time cover

Meg lives a more or less normal life with her family of three brothers, twins Sandy and Dennis and the younger Charles Wallace, one of those children who are slow to speak but when they finally do so it is in complete sentences. Normal that is, apart from her mother having a chemistry lab in the back room, and a physicist father who has disappeared (accompanied by all sorts of rumours as to where; and with whom.) Meg, Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin meet three odd women who are secretly inhabiting the local “haunted” house. Mrs Whatsit was once a star in the sky, Mrs Who speaks in quotations (Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, as well as Shakespearian,) and Mrs Which talks in ddoubblle cconnssonnannttss with the occasional double vvoowweell. Mrs Which can also ‘wrinkle’ space-time and so is able to send Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin off to battle the forces of evil which have trapped Meg’s father.

On their interstellar journey they encounter a Black Thing in the interstices of space, which almost draws the life from them, strange multi-tentacled creatures who restore them to health, eventually moving on till they reach the planet Camazotz, where Meg’s father is captive and which is home to a large pulsating brain dubbed IT (which nowadays reads slightly differently to how L’Engle would have intended it) bent on total control of the universe.

Meg is disappointed that, once freed, her father can not set the universe right by himself. It is she and her love for Charles Wallace that is the key to overcoming IT’s baleful influence.

Regarded as something of a children’s classic, this was first published in 1962, making the descriptions of card- or tape-fed computing machines, with dot-dash punched print-outs somewhat quaint to modern eyes. Mrs Who’s quotations and Mrs Whatsit’s comparison of the children’s lives to a sonnet, expression within strict constraints, do not talk down to its intended readership. The resolution, though, is a little forced and more in line with early 1960s attitudes than more modern ones.

Pedant’s corner:- Jenkins’ (Jenkins’s,) “in ITs clutches” (IT here is a proper noun not a pronoun, so ‘in IT’s clutches’.)

2019 Hugo Awards

These were announced at the Worldcon in Dublin at the weekend.

As far as fiction goes they were:-

BEST NOVEL: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells ( Publishing)

BEST NOVELETTE: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)

BEST SHORT STORY: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

BEST SERIES: Wayfarers by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton/Harper Voyager)

I have read none of these.

That “Best Series” award shows that the Hugos are little more than a popularity contest and not an indicator of merit. I read the first of Becky Chambers’s novels and was put off her writing for life.

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