Archives » Fantasy

Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe

Tor, 2017, 439 p, including 12 p Glossary. Illustrated by David Grove.

 Pirate Freedom cover

This is a book that probably contains all you ever wanted to know about pirates and then more. Not quite a swashbuckling romp – it is too reflective for that, not shying from depicting the downsides of pirate life – it is always highly readable.

It is also a time travel story. Narrator Chris (Crisofóro) was handed over by his father to be brought up in Our Lady of Bethlehem monastery in a post-Communist Cuba. When he left there he somehow or other found himself back in the heyday of the Spanish Empire, got caught up in the piracy trade, eventually becoming adept at it and in charge of several ships. Interpolations into the narrative of his pirate times relate Chris’s thoughts in later life when he is back in the future but not as far as the time he left it. In these interludes he is an ordained priest, given to musing on his past sins, and on God’s forgiveness.

One of his reflections is that, “money is just another way of saying freedom. If you have money you can do pretty much whatever you want to do. (If you do not believe me. Look at the people who have it.) …That is not exactly how it is for pirates … but it is close. And that is why they do it,” another on the ethics of obedience, “A boy who has been taught to be a sheep will not protect himself or anybody else. If he is molested and does not fight, the people who taught him to be a sheep are at least as much to blame as the molester.” In this he, and Wolfe as author, come dangerously close to condoning abuse.

Then we have, “I remembered that America had fought Spain once and freed Cuba.” Freed Cuba, eh? Swapping one empire for another is hardly freedom. That’ll be why they had a revolution sixty years later.

There are some bons mots. Of a man with whom he had dealings Chris says, “D’Ogeron was an honest politician – when you bought him, he stayed bought.” Another pirate captain says, “‘Not all beautiful things are treasures, but all treasures are beautiful.’”

Pirate Freedom is not one of Wolfe’s major works but it passes the time entertainingly enough and may correct some misconceptions about the pirate life.

Pedant’s corner:- a missing comma before a piece of direct speech (several instances,) formast (foremast.)

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter

Penguin, 1982, 219 p.

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman  cover

In a South American city possibly modelled on Manaus which at one time the “diabolical” Doctor Hoffman filled with mirages – nothing was what it seemed, “nothing at all” – in order to drive the inhabitants mad, an old man named Desiderio, too sardonic, too disaffected to be influenced by the mirages, is writing down his memories because he became a hero by surviving. The manifestations of Doctor Hoffman’s depredations included a dollop of synaesthesia and inspired the creation of the Determination Police, a seemingly fearsome body endowed with the duty of deciding whether something is real or not, though the name also implies a degree of tenacity.

Through Desiderio we are party to a conversation between Doctor Hoffman’s ambassador to the city (sent to demand surrender) and Desiderio’s employer, the Minister, where the ambassador says, “What if I told you we were engaged in uncovering the infinite potentiality of phenomena?” a get-out for describing any number of impossible things. The Minister refuses the surrender demand and sends Desiderio as a special agent to assassinate Hoffman “as inconspicuously as possible.” Complicating his mission is the fact that Desiderio is in love with Albertina, Hoffman’s daughter.

We follow Desiderio as he spends time at a peep-show, goes on a sojourn with river people, falls in with a troupe of acrobats (Carter seems to have had a thing about circuses – I suppose because they present illusions of various types,) meets a mysterious Count, and is captured by centaurs, before finally encountering the Doctor himself.

Carter indulges in various philosophical musings, “The introduction of cinematography enabled us to corral time past,” while the motion picture, “offers us nothing less than the present tense experience of time irrefutably past.” “Even if it is the dream made flesh, the real, once it becomes real, can be no more than real.” Desiderio tells us, “The habit of sardonic contemplation is the hardest habit of all to break.” She also makes an aside to the reader, “Those are the dreary ends of the plot. Shall I tie them up or leave them unravelled?” In this regard Desiderio’s encounter with the Doctor reminded me of the film of The Wizard of Oz even down to “clanking, dull stage machinery” – this is not a spoiler as a clue to this – desire machines – lies in the book’s title, though their power source eroto-energy doesn’t.

Imagine a series of surrealist paintings rendered in prose, mashed up with a picaresque adventure chronicle somewhat akin to Gulliver’s Travels – though Desiderio meets those centaurs rather than Houynhnhmns – then throw in a smidgin of James Bondery at the end and that is pretty much this novel.

Pedant’s corner:- “all they could do to make a living was to sell to the credulous charms and talismans against domestic spectres” (‘make a living was to sell the credulous charms’ makes more sense,) tetrahydron (tetrahedron?) statis, (stasis,) In ‘Dr Hoffman will make metaphysics your business’ the emphasis ought to be on ‘make’ rather than ‘your’.) “They gilded their finger and toenails” (finger- and toenails,) focussed (focused,) “teeth in a maw” (a maw is a stomach, not a mouth,) colossi (colossus is from Greek not Latin, its plural will be colossodes,) shantys (shanties,) unharmonious (I prefer inharmonious,) “the shape of tears laid on their sides” (laid what on their sides? Oh; ‘lay on their sides’,) ensorcellating (ensorcelling,) “I thought the military were roused at last” (was roused.)

Truth дnd Feдr by Peter Higgins

Orbit, 2014, 366 p.

 Truth дnd Feдr cover

I wasn’t too taken with Higgin’s scenario in the first volume of his trilogy, Wolfhound Century. However, I realised early on on our recent cruise that I would probably be a touch short of reading matter and so was pleased to find this in the ship’s library, especially as I have the third book on my tbr pile.

Following on from the death of the Vlast’s leader, the Vorozhd, in the previous book, Vissarion Lom and Maroussia Shauman are continuing their search for the Pollandore, while trying to dodge the attentions of the Vlast’s security forces. Its security chief Lavrentina Chazia, who has designs on full power, has the Pollandore in confinement in the Lodya. Chazia has discovered that while her focus has been on supernatural eminences a secret project on the remote province of Novaya Zima has produced a technological weapon of devastating power. This project she hijacks by eliminating its instigator. In line with the book’s “Russian” background there are some scenes here which seem to be based on the Great Patriotic War. As the Vlast’s war with the Archipelago has not been going well and its forces are now capable of bombing the capital, Mirgorod, this new weapon shapes up to be a timely development.

Lom and Shauman are arrested but then broken free due to the intervention of shapechanger Antoninu Florian – a kind of supercharged werewolf. But Shauman is recaptured. Lom and Florian chase her down to Novaya Zima to where Chazia has taken her. Meanwhile the supernatural entity, Archangel, whose thoughts are rendered in italics is pursuing the Pollandore in order to destroy it. When the old hierarchy abandons Mirgorod, Josef Kantor takes charge in the guise of General Rhizin and puts the new technology to terrible use.

Higgins writes well and knows how to keep the reader turning the pages yet despite copious incidents there is a sense in this volume of marking time. Among other things, Elena Cornelius and her children are left hanging. There is, of course, that third instalment of Higgins’s trilogy to go but I am now intrigued enough by Higgins’s scenario not to leave it too long.

Pedant’s corner:- “the taste of … benzine” (no such usage in English now exists; benzene, yes, but that’s not meant here. Petrol possibly was.) “Lom had to listen the message three times” (listen to the message,) “spread out a chart out” (only one “out” needed,) “a group of seamen were playing cards” (a group of seamen was playing cards,) “just to breath it” (breathe it,) “folding his unconscious and desperately injured body in her arms” (holding makes more sense,) “to not let him die” (not to let him die,) epicentre (Sigh. it was a centre, not an off-centre,) “radios,.gramophones” (an extraneous full stop there.) “They saw women in overalls and headscarves worked at asssembly lines” (working at assembly lines.) “The hour hand on Lom’s watched crept” (watch.)

BSFA Awards Booklet 2018

BSFA, 2019, 104 p.

BSFA Award Booklet for 2018

It would appear from the nominations for shorter fiction appearing in this year’s booklet that the SF short story is dead. Barring the last in the booklet none of the shortlisted stories is printed in its entirety. The others are all extracts from longer pieces of fiction.
Nina Allan’s The Gift of Angels: an introduction1 is narrated by a Science Fiction writer, whose mother was the first person on Mars but whose fate remains unknown, and tells what appears to be his life story. The tale riffs on and critiques the films La Jetée and Twelve Monkeys. Allan has a beautiful writing touch. I did want to find the longer version to finish it. The story, though, refers to Harry Potter and Game of Thrones as famous. I doubt these will be quite such cultural touchstones in the fifty years or so time when this is set as they are now.
I read The Purpose of the Dodo is to be Extinct by Malcolm Devlin in Interzone 275, where it was first published. I reviewed the issue it appeared in here.
The Land of Somewhere Safe3 by Hal Duncan is one of the author’s Scruffians stories. Here we have a wonderfully linguistically inventive tale (Dunstravaigin Castle is a brilliant coinage) involving wartime evacuees to Skye and a Nazi spy.
The magnificent Time Was by Ian McDonald I reviewed here.
Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries Vol 4)5 by Martha Wells is narrated by a murder bot apparently lured to a planet by an organisation that has sequestered its boss. The story suffers from being told to us rather than shown and did not grab me in the slightest.
Phosphorus6 by Liz Williams is set on Mars and the planet Winterstrike. One of its viewpoint characters is dead. However, the extract is not really long enough to judge whether its balance is askew or not nor to evaluate the story properly.
Kingfisher7 by Marian Womack is set in a future where wildlife is all but vanished and human births a rarity yet libraries seem to abound. Our protagonist is saddled with a useless tool of a husband, an abiding sense of failure and a fascination with birds. There is a hint of a writerly sensibility lurking underneath the prose but the story is riddled with a ridiculous number of errata.

The non-fiction nominees section contains two of Nina Allan’s “Time Pieces”a columns from Interzone, ditto for Ruth E J Booth’s Shoreline of Infinity essays published as “Noise and Sparks”, Liz Bourke has five of her “Sleeps with Monsters”b columns for Tor.com, Aliette de Bodard writes “On Motherhood and Erasure”c from the blog “Intellectus Speculativus” and there is an extract from Adam Roberts’s “Publishing and the Science Fiction Canon: The Case of Scientific Romance”d.

Pedant’s corner:- 1“A sinister band of scientists prey off” (a band preys off,) “sprung up” (sprang up,) “the museum has replacedtheir stash” (its stash,) “a cetain child .. finds themselves” (a child finds itself.) 3puntied in (punted?) argylle socks (argyle,) liptick (lipstick seems intended but liptick may be one of Duncan’s neologisms.) 5GrayCris’ (GrayCris’s.) 6governess’ (governess’s,) mistress’ (mistress’s,) “The scatter of hovels erected at the tip of the Tail were the last to fall behind..” (The scatter … was the last.) 7 “each bar offered their personal take” (each bar offered its personal take,) statues becomes statue several lines later, “a prevalent Sun descended” (a prominent Sun?) “it was frightening how comforting was to fall back into” (how comforting it was to.) “The library would pay for my librarianship degree on the sole condition that I came back to work for them for three or four years” (to work for it, or, to work there,) “climbing up thopusands of miles up in the air” (one ‘up’ too many,) a ‘seem’ where ‘seemed’ fits the other tenses in the sentence, “and they would let themselves been touched” (be touched,) “Jonas was better at cooking at me” (than me,) “scribbled in old pieces of reclaimed paper” (scribbled on,) “in a strangely elaborated [dream]” (elaborate.) “I looked a Jonas” (at Jonas.) “I fell a moment of void” (I felt.) “I had never knew whsat to do with it” (I had never known, or, I never knew,) although there were not fluff” (although they were not fluff,) “but they seem to accumulate” (seemed,) “when I notice a stain” (noticed,) “too look inside” (to look,) “the dinning room” (dining room,) “what they where for” (were for.) “Whener I don’t remember what it means to be sad I took it out and look at those pages” (either ‘remembered’, and ‘looked’, or, ‘take’,) “minus zero” (that would be zero, then,) “magazines cut-outs” (magazine cut-outs,) “I had tided them up” (tidied,) “plastics bags” (plastic bags.) “They were not native to the local fauna” (‘They were not native’, or, ‘they were not local fauna’,) “so effectively they had contaminated the environment” (so effectively had they contaminated the environment.)
a“are startling out of step” (startlingly.) b“I’m going to look at take two books together” (either ‘look at’ or ‘take’ not both, automatons (automata,) “Neither of them resolve anything” (neither of them resolves anything,) “[X]’s .. pregnancy …. and her feelings … is central to the narrative” (there’s an ‘and’ in there; that makes for a plural verb subject, so, ‘are central’.) “The poets are most affect by” (affected by.) c“are littered with the death of mothers” (deaths.) d“is comic-satiric impossible voyage” (is a comic-satiric impossible voyage,) “triple-decker length SF form this era” (from, I think,) “the content of which were published” (was published.)

Gene Wolfe

And they keep coming. (I suppose, really, that should be going.)

Yesterday, via George R R Martin’s Not a Blog, I learned of the death of Gene Wolfe.

I have been an admirer of his work ever since his novel The Shadow of the Torturer, the first of his sequence set in Urth, with the overall title The Book of the New Sun.

This was followed by Soldier of the Mist set in ancient times, whose hero, Latro, can not remember things from one day to the next, and two more books with the same protagonist.

Two other series, The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun, appeared in the 1990s and early 2000s along with two books related to each other The Wizard and The Knight.

Many stand alone novels were published before, during and after these series books.

I have 24 of Wolfe’s books, 20 novels and 4 collections of his shorter work, but have not yet read them all. (So many books to read, so little time.)

Ursula Le Guin was a great admirer of Wolfe’s writing, calling him “our Melville”, (our in the context of the SF and Fantasy field.)

The last of his novels to be published, A Borrowed Man, 2015, I had the privilege of reviewing for Interzone. I had the impression that was to be the first in another series of books, which sadly are now probably lost for ever.

I’ve got those unread ones to look forward to though.

Gene Rodman Wolfe: 7/5/1931 – April 14/4/2019. So it goes.

Shoreline of Infinity 10: Winter 2017/18

The New Curiosity Shop, 132 p

 Shoreline of Infinity 10 cover

In Pull up a Log Editor-in-Chief Noel Chidwick rightly notes the achievement of the magazine reaching its tenth edition. There are Judge’s Reports by Eric Brown and Pippa Goldsmith on Shoreline’s flash fiction competition followed by a celebration of The Worthy Winners and shortlisteesb. Three of these stories appear in this edition (see *.) Tales From the Beachcomber riffs on the human fascination with powers of ten via the life and works of Arthur C Clarke, there’s an interview with Helen Sedgwick by Pippa Goldschmidtc, in Noise and Sparks: The Company of Bears, Ruth E J Booth lauds the interactions and memories convention going brings, the tolerance it fosters. Reviewsd considers Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, the Jonathan Strahan edited Infinity Wars, Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack by Nate Crowley, 2084 edited by George Sandison, and The Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel by Daniel H Wilson. Multiverse has poems by Rachel Plummer, Jo-Ella Sarich and Rosemary Badcoe. Parabolic Puzzlese challenges the reader to identify twelve SF writers from their photographs and very brief information about them.

Little Freedoms by Ephiny Gale1 is set in a closed room where some sort of endurance test of nine characters is taking place with various tasks to be undertaken – such as not touching, not speaking, not breathing. The winner gains freedom (from an unspecified but clearly onerous existence.) The others are restored to their former state.
Sweet Compulsion by Chris Bailey is told to us rather than shown and overall feels more like a sketch of a story than the complete article. Riddled with quotations from Paradise Lost it features a world in which people’s thoughts are etched onto others’ skins.
In Junk Medicine2 by Die Booth plastic ownership is outlawed but there are still people willing to pay over the odds for items made from it. This story does for plastic what Number Ten Q Street did for real food.
ATU334 The Wise*3 by Marija Smits is a future tale of Baba Yaga and an importuner, the titular ATU334.
If Thine Eyes Offend Thee4 by Daniel Rosen is narrated by Elsa whose ambition was always to be a mermaid. We see the lengths of body reconstruction and skulduggery she will go to to win the Miss Cosmos competition.
Pauline and the Bahnians*5 by S K Farrell is set on a demilitarised outpost turned into a – possibly illegal – smallholding. Its weapons are still there though.
The narrator of The Apple Bee6 by K E McPhee is marooned on an island on a mostly water planet, with no communication with the rest of humanity and only potatoes, apples and corn as a food supply.
Don’t Speak; Don’t Listen7 by Serena Johe explores the ramifications of an implant that prevents the speaker insulting or denigrating anyone.
A Choice for the Golden Age* by Matthew Castle was the overall winner of the flash fiction competition. It’s set on a generation starship which rotates its crew (and holds its genetic cargo permanently) in suspended animation.

Pedant’s corner:- aIn the cover artist’s (Dave Alexander) information paragraph; “His biggest claim to fame were the two front covers he painted for DC Thomson’s Starblazer series” (His biggest claim to fame was the two front covers.) b“As economical a tone-poem … it’s” (As economical as a tone-poem.) cnot mentioned on the contents page. d“if the government get wind of him” (gets,) “while others featuring AIs and a couple are” (the rest of the verb forms in this sentence are indicative so ‘feature’,) “take several different aspects … and extrapolated them” (extrapolate them,) “how will it effect you” (affect was meant,) Watts’ (Watts’s,) a missing full stop at the end of a review, bail out (bail-out,) counsellors (as I remember the book it was councillors,) Eric Morecombe (Morecambe,) political dissension (dissent I would think.) “Although, some readers have taken issue with” (no comma after ‘although’,) as though there maybe” (as though there may be,) “into this under ground world” (underground.) e“The winning team …. were amply rewarded” (The winning team was amply rewarded.)
1“a couple of pair of trousers” (a couple of pairs of trousers.) 2whinging (whingeing,) there’s a missing full stop, “Carbonari’s” (earlier it was Carboneri’s.) 3Written in USian. 4Written in USian – though curiously we have manoeuvre instead of maneuver – there is a full stop instead of a comma at the end of piece of direct speech embedded in a longer sentence. “Scales in every spectrum of the rainbow” (suggests the author doesn’t know what spectrum means.) “I let her wheel me all the way back to my room and offered me another drag of her vaporiser” (offer.) “Auroras antennae flickered” (Aurora’s.) “The voice rumbles like through the water in a sticky molasses bass.” (The only way I can make sense of this sentence is if the ‘like’ is redundant.) 5“(what is a Bahnian, please?).” (doesn’t need the full stop.) 6“Quite early on he’d abandoned the neatly organised rows and began planting” (begun is more grammatical,) we have ‘gotten’ and ‘maneuvered’ (the author is Aussie which wil possibly explain these.) 7“someone shined a light” (shone. It’s shone a light.)

BSFA Awards Booklet 2019

BSFA Awards Booklet for 2019

This year’s booklet arrived this morning.

It contains all the short fiction and non-fiction nominees for the BSFA Awards for works published in 2018 and the artworks nominated for the relevant award.

On perusing it I found the closing date for electronic voting is today so I had a lot of reading to pack in this afternoon.

I have been expecting the booklet’s arrival since the turn of the month and was getting worried it would not be forthcoming in time.

Eastercon, which I will not be attending this year, where the final awards will be announced, is of course this Sunday coming.

Paris Adrift by E J Swift

Solaris, 2018, 379 p. Reviewed for Interzone 274, Mar-Apr 2018.

Paris Adrift cover

Time travel is one of Science Fiction’s most venerable tropes but in more recent times has taken something of a back seat to other aspects of the genre. In Paris Adrift, E J Swift has adopted an oblique approach to the topic, gaily skipping over any problems with the ethics of non-intervention and avoidance of the grandfather paradox. She does not make anything of, still less explain, the mechanics of the process (which arguably puts us in fantasy territory,) it is simply an integral part of the story she has to tell.

Hallie, an English geology student estranged from her family, is on a gap year in Paris trying to sort her life out. She takes a waiting job at Millie’s, a bar near the Moulin Rouge. Millie’s is a nexus for the strange. Fellow employee Gabriela finds she is always somehow prevented from leaving Paris while Hallie has odd encounters with birds that talk to her, an apparent doppelganger, and customers, while also experiencing odd sensations both in the keg room and in Paris’s catacombs. She still finds space for a relationship with fellow waiter Léon, and Swift charts superbly the overwhelming intensity of a burgeoning love affair.

The narration is almost exclusively from Hallie’s viewpoint, in that pressing present tense which can seem like a default in so much modern SF. Occasional mentions of geological terms underline Hallie’s background.

The incursions of the weird might perhaps have been more unexpected had we not already read a prologue chapter introducing us to the chronometrist, a person seemingly able to take control of other’s bodies at will but whose essence is fading, and to the concept of anomalies and their incumbents. Hallie soon finds out the keg room is a time portal and her future has been mapped out by the Way of Janus.

Her first experience of timefaring takes her to 1875 where she seems to adapt to her new situation remarkably quickly and is befriended by the Millie who will one day found the bar. She also meets the architect designing the Sacré-Coeur. Partly due to Hallie’s interference that building will no longer be erected. In its stead will arise the Moulin Vert which becomes a significant location in the rest of the book (plus inspiration for a political movement) and technically makes the novel an alternative history. However, other aspects of our modern world and its history are unaffected, there are mentions of Whatsapp, plus the Bataclan, Stade de France and Nice attacks.

The anomaly’s next flare sends Hallie to 1942 and a suitably claustrophobic encounter with would-be cellist Rachel Clouarte. Hallie dodges German soldiers and the curfew to reunite Cluarte with her cello and aid her escape in order to ensure her career in music will prevail, so that she will not marry and produce (eventually) the descendant who will contribute to a catastrophic war in the future. This 1942 Paris is lightly affected by the occupation, street life continuing gaily as normal, though of course the deportations from which Clouarte is to be saved proceed apace. I did wonder why Hallie’s intervention in the Clouarte family tree had to be quite so early but of course it does give Swift the opportunity to depict Paris in wartime and up the danger quotient.

Another flare takes Hallie to 2042 and a terribly plausible fascist Paris (complete with Metro station called LePen) and the seeds of the situation which the Way of Janus seeks to avert. Other timefaring trips are mentioned but not gone into in detail.

The 1942 and 2042 excursions lend the novel aspects of a thriller yet there are other scenes which bring to mind Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus and the work of Tim Powers. Throughout, Swift’s portrayal of her characters is assured. These are people we can believe in even if one of them is prey to the logical fallacy that because the Earth is remarkably suited to humans it is a sign of something miraculous rather than the unfolding of impersonal forces which merely allowed us to arise.

Paris Adrift deals with the heavy theme of totalitarianism and the threat of the far right but never loses sight of the smaller people who live through interesting times. While Léon and Hallie are pivotal to the resolution of the plot (and History itself) its emotional focus, though sometimes sidelined, is on their relationship.

Like a lot of SF this suggests life is hard and pain impossible to avoid but unlike most recent SF it proffers hope along with the sacrifice. Never mind it being good SF/Fantasy, this is a good novel.

The following did not appear in the published review.
Pedant’s corner:- “the night team begin to trickle in” (the night team begins to trickle in,) “the group want shots” (wants,) “a stream of people flow inside,” (a stream flows,) “the confines of the locker room lends an air” (the confines lend an air,) “a travelling company were performing” (a company was performing,) “the shape of the walls change, become smooth and rounded” (the shape changes, becomes smooth,) “Her age and appearance has altered once again” (have altered,) “the floor team are doing the rounds” (the team is doing the rounds.) “None of these people have an anomaly. None are bound to this place” (none has, none is.) “Only a small proportion of the catacombs are maintained for visitors.” (Only a small proportion is maintained,) “as the assault team go through their final checks” (as the team goes through its final checks.) Yet despite all these examples of such failures of agreement of subject and verb Swift obviously knows what’s what as we had the correct “a rickety set of steps leads up to”,) “till I am stood right next to him” (it wasn’t a passive activity, so standing”,) “sat on the gravestones” (sitting,) gotten (in a narrative otherwise so British in tone this USianism jars,) “since she bid me farewell” (bade me farewell,) “preempting the touch that will follow” (the context implied savouring rather than pre-empting,) Dušanka calls Hallie “‘my petit chou.’” She responds, “‘And I’m not a pastry.’” (That response would be to “my petit choux” – chou is a cabbage and “petit chou” a term of endearment. Hallie’s French isn’t supposed to be good but surely she would not confuse the two?) “is sat” (is sitting,) “another woman is stood at the window” (is standing,) dove (USian; the British past tense of dive is dived,) “sat sipping” (sitting sipping,) “glasses pile up on either side” (context implies both sides,) inside of (USian, it’s just inside, no “of”,) descendent (descendant,) focusses (focuses,) syllabi (I prefer syllabuses, though I concede syllabi is a correct Latin plural,) “you’ll be never be happy” (that first “be” is redundant, “‘How can I do that.’” (That is a question so requires a question mark, not a full stop.)

Interzone 278 (Nov-Dec, 2018)

TTA Press

Interzone 278 cover

Tim Lees takes the guest Editorial where he ponders truth and realism in fiction and welcomes more inclusiveness – more truths – in SF. Andy Hedgecock’s Future Interrupteda wonders about the preponderance of negative perceptions of crowds in SF – and more generally – compared to their positive potential. Aliya Whiteley fills the gap left by Nina Alan’s columnistic departure in Climbing Storiesb, arguing that SF tales have no set structure like romances or horror stories do. Instead SF steals from everywhere. In Book Zonec Tade Thompson laments the failure of The Evolution of African Fantasy and Science Fiction edited by Francesca Barbini to treat African Sf&F on its own terms rather than Western ones, Daniel Carpenter says Aliya Whiteley’s The Loosening Skin will haunt the reader long after it is read (and also interviews the author,) John Howard appreciates Gary Westfahl’s reappraisal of Arthur C Clarke in the latest Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, Val Nolan discusses Christopher Priest’s “September 11th” novel An American Story, Duncan Lunan finds The Song my Enemies Sing by James Reich enjoyable hard work – up to a point – and considers carefully E M Brown’s Buying Time, I characterise Death’s End, the culmination of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, as a bracing intellectual tour-de-force but emotionally unsatisfying, Andy Hedgecock finds Adam Roberts’s By the Pricking of her Thumb too self-indulgent, Stephen Theaker says Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar is quite terrific – a corker – and Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates to be heavy-handed satire but arguably what this moment needs.

As to the fiction:-
Soldier’s Things1 by Tim Lees tells of a soldier invalided out from an ongoing conflict journey back home only to find nothing familiar, his memory untrustworthy – about anything.
In Doomed Youth2 by Fiona Moore an infestation of giant ants occurred sometime in the 1950s with intermittent rises and falls in their population ever since. The story is supposedly narrated by a Chinese American called Kara Chong in a chatty style that didn’t sit well with the content. The background of a world elsewhere falling apart has led to distrust of foreigners.
The Path to War3 by Louise Hughes sees a storyteller whose audience finds her lacking take a mountain path between two newly-warring countries (after a litany of wars) rather than the coast road in the wake of the army.
In Heart of an Awl4 by Eliza Ruslander an AI that was a car is bequeathed its owner’s body after his death. It and his widow go on a road trip.
Zero Day5 by Sheldon J Pacotti is the story of an off-duty cyber soldier who meets a girl on a bus. Tracking her later online he misses the big cyber attack.
The SF premise of Birnam Platoon by Natalia Thoeodoridou is much the same as that of Green Troops by William King, ie the development of soldiers capable of photosynthesising by themselves. This lot take their mission of promoting world peace seriously though. The story is framed via the post-war trial of one of their commanders for war crimes.

Pedant’s corner:- aZamyati’s (Zamyatin’s.) b“in the same way that there are” (in the same way that they are,) Roberts’ (Roberts’s.) cMaurits’ (Maurits’s,) “And it’s becoming clear is that” (and what’s becoming clear is that,) Roberts’ (Roberts’s,) 1fit (fitted,) 2“I made a final effort” (“I finally made an effort” makes more sense,) “someone beating a tympani” (tympani is plural, one of them is a tympanum.) 3snuck (sneaked,) “stood like marketplace crowds” (standing like marketplace crowds.) 4Written in USian, “she pulls up the hand break” (hand brake.) 5Written in USian, “and diffuse the situation” (defuse.)

Interzone 280 Has Arrived

Interzone 280 cover
The Orphanage of Gods cover

On the doormat this morning: Interzone 280.

This one contains – among all the other goodies – my review of The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan.

My review of The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders, due in issue 281, has been despatched.

free hit counter script