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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.

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?)

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.

The Stars Seem So Far Away by Margrét Helgadóttir

Fox Spirit, 2015, 161 p.

The Stars Seem So Far Away cover

This is a set of stories set in a future Earth presumably globally warmed where the south has become parched and refugees have flowed north to places such as Svalbard and The Green Land. Though not conceived of as a unity the author gradually found they described one fictional world. Characters reappear from one story to another. There is a certain sparseness to Helgadóttir’s style evident throughout.

The scene setter is Nora. The titular woman, who is sailing her ship alone, has her own methods of dealing with pirates. More like a sketch for a story rather than the story itself.
The Lost Bonds of this story’s title are those between humans and the animal world. In a post-ice northern clime a spirit fox helps out a group of men.
Aida is a refugee to the highly populated Svalbard Islands from the drought ridden lands to the south. Her survival after the plague which has depopulated the islands again is secured by an old man. But he is dying.
InThe Rescue, Bjørg, a young girl left by her father in charge of a seed vault, lives in fear of intruders. Things might not be as she fears though.
The Stars Seem So Far Away sees Zaki travel across the deserts of what was once called the Green Land and stumble upon a crashed aircraft in which lives the man who was once an astronaut.
In A Sailor Girl Goes Ashore, Nora goes ashore in Svalbard against her better instincts only to find the place all but deserted. She does, however, meet Aida and take her under her wing.
The Breakfast Guest is a boy who is following Zaki and Roar as they journey west towards Nuuk. He offers to help them cross a lake but they sense something is amiss.
In The End of the World Simik from The Rescue is on a hunt for murderers with his squad of soldiers when they come across a group of boys whose living space inside a mountain contains a mural depicting the decline of life on Earth up to now – and into the future.
Nora and Aida come ashore on The Women’s Island where they are greeted by three women whose friendly overtures they soon mistrust.
Frostburst Heart sees Bjørg and Simik, her earlier rescuer, threatened with separation after his invitation to go to space.
In Conversations siblings Zaki and Aida have finally been reunited in Nuuk but find it difficult to talk to each other. Enrolled in school they both have prospects of joining the space programme.
The Whale in Nuuk relates the visit of Bjørg and Simik to see the remains of possibly the last such creature not to be made by humans.
In The Last Night Nora says goodbye to her sailing ship, Naureen, and is surprised by a visit from Bjørg.
Farewell sees five of our principals go into space. Roar, who’s already been, and Aida’s dog Tarik stay behind. It’s an ending, of sorts.

Pedant’s corner:-“he clearly saw it lay down” (he saw it lie down,) the text refers to the lighting of explosives (in the future? Unless the future has degenerated – and this one doesn’t seem to have,) plus points for whom, “to not let people see her emotions” (not to let people see,) sailboat (sailing boat,) “he was not much taller than she” (either “he was not much taller than her” or “he was not much taller than she was”,) sunk in (sank in,) air field (airfield,) aircrafts (aircraft,) spacecrafts (spacecraft,) “the skin didn’t lay tight” (lie tight,) boar (the creature is obviously a bear,) a missing comma before a piece of direct speech, “‘Where is Gard?’.” (Doesn’t need that full stop outside the quote mark,) sunk (sank,) shrunk (shrank.)

Hugo Awards for 2018

These are for works published in 2017.

I forgot they were due to be published in August.

I’ve also been having internet connection problems recently so only looked them up tonight.

The winners were:-

Best Novel:- The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit.)

Best Novella:- All Systems Red by Martha Wells ( Publishing.)

Best Novelette:- The Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017.)

Best Short Story:- Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™ by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017.)

I note N K Jemisin’s third win in a row for best novel – a record I think.

The other fiction winners were also all women. Again a first I believe.

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, 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 Marians 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 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.)

Exalted on Bellatrix 1 by Eric Brown

The Telemass Quartet Part Four, PS Publishing, 2017, 92 p.

In this conclusion to Brown’s Telemass Quartet, Matt Hendrick’s chase across the galaxy via different telemass stations in order rescue his daughter Samantha reaches its end on the titular planet, to where his wife Maatje has taken Samantha’s life-suspended body in an effort to be cured and possibly “exalted” by the indigenous Vhey.

We first, though, have a bit of misdirection when Hendrick learns of a cure for Samantha’s condition. It is however, prohibitively expensive, which leads him to take on a commission from the EU in effect to spy on the Vhey on its behalf and enable his travel there.

The Vhey are another example of Brown’s stable of enigmatic aliens, eminently nebulous in their motivations, almost incomprehensible in their actions. (The cover’s depiction of them is, though, somewhat at odds with their description in the text.) Other common Brown tropes to appear include an artist’s colony – though here this is pretty much incidental – and someone with a profound psychological disturbance. And, of course, there is telepathy, in the shape of Hendrick’s helpmeet, Mercury Velazquez. But all contribute to the plot.

There are the usual bumps and hollows and action incidents along the way but the spying element never really comes to much as the Vhey dispose of the means of surveillance very expeditiously. However, that is more than made up for when we finally witness an exaltation, the details of which are suitably horrific. It all rounds up the Quartet satisfactorily.

One quibble. The cover and title pages have Bellatrix 1 as the planet on which this is set. In the previous three Telemass novellas the planet’s number was expressed in Roman numerals (IV, III, II.) The reason why this one’s should contain the Arabic numeral 1 is obscure. Within the text the planet’s name is written as Bellatrix I so I assume the change wasn’t due to the author.

“Time interval” later count: 7. Pedant’s corner:- a missing full stop, “out offer” (our offer,) “the subjective interpretation of objective phenomenon” (either “objective phenomena”, or, “an objective phenomenon”) tae chi (tai chi,) “to affect change” (to effect change,) “when the might return” (they,) “they Vhey” (the Vhey.) “Its eyes nictitated slowly from side to side” (eyes don’t nictitate, eyelids or membranes do. Then again maybe in aliens eyes do nictitate,) “watch Sam grown up” (grow up would be a more usual expression. Though watching Sam grown up would be possible for him.)

Winter’s Tales 27 Edited by Edward Leeson

Macmillan, 1981, 187 p.

Winter's Tales 27 cover

I read this because it was recommended (and loaned) to me by Guardian reviewer Eric Brown as containing a very good non-SF story written by 1960s and 70s British SF stalwart John Brunner. It does and it is. There is also a story by once (and now again) SF author – and reviewer for the Guardian – M John Harrison.
Letting the Birds Go Free by Philip Oakes is narrated by the son of a farmer whose eggs are being stolen. They both confront the culprit but then offer him employment. He is, though, a deserter from the Army unwilling to be sent back to Northern Ireland.
Another first person narration, Things by V S Pritchett, is the tale of the sudden descent after years away of a wayward sister(-in-law) on a newly retired couple’s home.
Old Tom1 by Celia Dale relates the experiences and reminiscences of a down-and-out war veteran intercut with the administrations of a retired woman to an ageing cat.
In Flora’s Lame Duck by Harold Acton, Flora has taken under her wing a young Italian disfigured by polio. He becomes besotted with her but she is only waiting for the terminally ill wife of the man she loves to die before returning to the US to marry him.
Terence Wheeler’s Safe Wintering2 is narrated by an ex-sailor and describes the sequential (and contrasting) relationships another man in the town has with two women.
The Indian Girl3 by Giles Gordon is the tale of the narrator’s possibly hallucinatory experience while travelling from New Delhi to Amritsar by train.
A Mouthful of Gold4 John Brunner is another of those ‘as told to’ tales – this time in a London club for writers – concerning a particularly fine wine and the failure of a US flier shot down over Italy and hidden by the region’s inhabitants from the Germans to understand the nature of its secret ingredient.
Home Ownership5 by Murray Bail tells the story of a Brisbane house, growing old along with the man who lives there.
In Chemistry by Graham Swift a ten year-old child muses on the relationship between his widowed mother, his grandfather, his mother’s new lover and himself.
Egnaro by M John Harrison is the story of a bookseller/pornographer who is tantalised by the possibility of a mysterious land, Egnaro, found nowhere on the maps except by hint or exegesis, and the translation of this obsession to the narrator.
Birthday!6 by Fay Weldon concerns the marriage of two people, Molly and Mark, who had both been born on the same day and met on their twenty-eighth birthday. Words beginning with “m” dominate the text as does Molly’s belief in astrology. Another birthday, their fortieth, when Mark’s workmates descend on the family with a birthday video, bookends the story.
In Christmas with a Stranger by Leslie Thomas, a young man from the Welsh valleys uses the bit of money he has come into to visit London. On the train there he invents for himself a persona as a film director. In the city he meets a woman fashion designer, down from the north. They spend Christmas Day navigating a deserted London.

Pedant’s corner:- In the Editor’s Note; “full of strange, twists and turns” (unless strange here is a noun, that comma is unnecessary.) 1“if he don’t move” (this is the only verb in the piece not in standard English; doesn’t,) plimsoles (x 2, plimsolls.) 2the whole story is told in seaman’s language so contains instances of ungrammatical or other usages. Otherwise; laying (lying,) “farther gone that he had thought” (than,) a lay-in (lie-in.) 3mannaged (managed.) 4“there were only a couple of” (there was only a couple.) 5 “You-who!” (is normally Yoohoo!) 6silicone-chip (silicon,) sprung (sprang.)

Interzone 276 Jul-Aug 2018

TTA Press

 Interzone 276 cover

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam takes the editorial slot and reflects on how growing up queer (her word) revealed that adults knew as little as children about navigating the world and instilled her with all sorts of phobias. In Future Interrupted Andy Hedgecock reveals how certain formative reading/viewing experiences still colour his tastes. Nina Allan’s Time Pieces reflects by way of her own experience and Marian Womack’s debut collection Lost Objects on how the short story is still the best pathway for a writer to come into his or her own.

The fiction kicks off with Grey Halls1 by Rachael Cupp where a future musician famous for, but himself dismissive of, his one big success, Grey Halls, travels back in time for inspiration.
Superbright2 by Ryan Row is set in a world where superpowers are common. This story totally failed to capture my interest.
In Tumblebum3 by Darby Harn, New York is flooded and everything is controlled by a huge corporation named TAG. Tumblebum is hired to find the missing photographer daughter of a racehorse owning family.
A species of harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex quaesitor; or P.q. starts building sculptures- or are they temples? – in P. Q.4 by James Warner.
In Tim Major’s Throw Caution5 pseudo-crab lifeforms have been found on Mars. Their bodies contain diamonds. (Well, not really. They’re silicon based.) The story follows two prospectors searching outwith the normal areas.
So Easy6 by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam is a post-apocalypse story. Well enough done but a bit inconsequential.
Paul Crenshaw’s Eyes7 has a young boy find a pair of disembodied eyes floating in the stream which runs by his house. They can still blink and so answer his questions thereby telling a tale of life, the universe and so on.

In Reviews Iain Hunter recommends the Jane Yolen edited Nebula Awards Showcase 2018 (rather confusingly featuring stories from 2016;) I am rather less enthusiastic about Paul Jessup’s Close Your Eyes; Duncan Lunan says Rob Boffard’s Adrift relocates the aeroplane movie to a tour shuttle from a habitat overlooking the Horsehead Nebula, Lawrence Osborn claims Revenant Gun, the last in Yoon Ha Lee’s trilogy which began with Ninefox Gambit is essential reading for military SF space opera or worldbuilding buffs (I still won’t be going near it;) Duncan Lawrie accepts Shattermoon by Dominic Dulley for what it is, fast-paced light reading; Andy Hedgecock lauds at least one entertaining and provocative story from an under celebrated master in The Adventures of the Ingenious Alfanui by Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio translated by Margaret Jull; Stephen Theaker8 likes Kameron Hurley’s fix-up Apocalypse Nix better than he did her God’s War trilogy and Andy Hedgecock returns to praise Juliet E McKenna’s The Green Man’s Heir.

Pedant’s corner:- 1Written in USian, “He was fortunate, then, to not have Osorio’s fan base” (not to have.) 2Written in USian; “experiments with which had given her son” (either experiments which had given her son, or, experiments with which she had given her son,) “He shined.” (He shone.) 3Written in USian. 4Written in USian, “atypical climactic conditions” (climatic.) 5“sand….sunk away” (sank,) shrunk (shrank.) 6Written in USian. 7Written in Usian. 8“her ramshackle team of misfits are pretty much always doomed to fail” (her team is always doomed to fail.)

The Passion of New Eve by Angela Carter

Virago, 2002, 189 p. First published 1977.

The Passion of New Eve cover

Please note. This book is almost impossible to review without revealing possible spoilers. It would be ludicrous to try.

Evelyn is the sort of unreconstructed male who I suppose was prevalent at the time this book was written. We are introduced to him, his offhand attitude to women and attraction for now faded film star Tristessa de St Ange, the quintessential woman (who of course on the screen remains as she was in her prime) via an incident in a cinema. The next day he sets off for NewYork where he takes up with a girl called Leilah, whom he treats in the expected uncaring manner. He arrives there at a time of strife and civil unrest, though in the book this only occurs in the background. Evelyn seeks to escape New York, the unrest, and his responsibilities to Leilah, by making a trip to the desert. He runs out of fuel and is perhaps about to die when he is taken prisoner and transported to Beulah, a place ruled over by a multi-nippled Mother Goddess who has a facility for plastic surgery. Evelyn is soon transformed into Eve, with a vagina, maidenhead and all. Escaping from Beulah s(he) is again marooned in the desert only to be kidnapped by the seven female acolytes of Zero (I don’t think his name was by any means accidentally conjured) and is immediately brutally raped by him. His is a menage where the seven acolytes provide a wife for every day of the week. Zero’s decision to replace one of them as prime mistress with Eve – without, of course, Eve’s agreement – doesn’t go down well even if as Zero says, “a godhead, however shabby, needs believers to maintain his credibility.”

I did start to wonder here whether this was going to be some sort of Swiftian satire but Carter’s vision turns out to be more focused. Zero is a monomaniac and blames his infertility on that same Tristessa about whom Eve is so besotted. He is determined to find her and wreak his revenge. Zero’s gang accordingly descends on Tristessa’s isolated house where we get to the core of things. Tristessa, this archetype of womanhood, is in fact a man, the best cross dresser imaginable, the very image of constructed femininity. Zero has Tristessa and Eve marry, an outcome Evelyn would once have delighted in, but in a role that is now reversed. The story is reading here like a kind of Oedipus in reverse. The attempt to consummate the union isn’t entirely successful but Eve still contrives to thwart Zero’s intentions and, with the house spinning like a top, spirits Tristessa away.

The narrative is pervaded with an air of detachment. The characters are perhaps too divorced from “normal”, too outlandish, to engender empathy, the scenes too stark to convince fully. In some accord with this the action sequences seem perfunctory. You can sense this is not where Carter’s interest lies. For this is allegory. In her elaboration on the nature of woman we are twice treated to Tristessa’s philosophy, “‘Solitude and reverie. That is a woman’s life,’” followed later by, “‘Solitude and melancholy. That is a woman’s life.’”

Even at this late point, though, Eve’s troubles are not over. She and Tristessa fall into the hands of a gang of boy soldiers – the background impinging on the narrative at last – poor, lost creatures needing direction and guidance. Yet again Eve escapes and once more meets Leilah who reveals she is in fact, Lilith. “I called myself Leilah in the city in order to conceal the nature of my symbolism.” Quite.

I saw a television programme on Carter just after I read this in which The Passion of New Eve was described as a modern classic. An important feminist work no doubt, but also laced with oddness – run through with it even. Hyper-reality utilised in the aid of enlightenment.

Even so one thing I couldn’t get my head round was that the copy I have was a reprint of a reprint – yet still it is littered with misspellings (see Pedant’s corner.) Surely in all the previous editions someone else has noticed these. By the time of this edition they ought to have been corrected.

Pedant’s corner:- mold (mould,) crucifiction (crucifixion, unless it was meant to be a portmanteau word ,) lead (led, x 4,) aquiescently (acquiescently,) aquainted (acquainted,) etherial (ethereal,) “INTROITE ET HIC DII SUNT” (DEI SUNT,) projectory (trajectory made more sense to me, I’ve since found projectory is a term exclusive to basketball,) spuriosity (spuriousness,) Marx’ head (Marx’s,) span (several times, though, to make it worse, the correct form – spun – was used later,) “I loose my nerve” (lose,) “her hot, close breath basts me” (bastes,) pathenogenesis (parthenogenesis,) staunched, staunching (stanched, stanching,) delinquescence (deliquescence,) concensus agreement (consensus,) elegaic (elegiac,) impotent (is used in the sense of infertile rather than the more common meaning of incapable,) “then all would all vanish” (remove one of those “all”s,) négligé (is a state of undress; not a garment, which is a negligee,) cacophany (cacophony,) degredation (degradation,) Savonorola (Savonarola,) orizens (orisons.)

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