I’m starting below another of my gradual real-time reviews. This time it is of the fiction stories in TTA Press’s ‘INTERZONE’Issue 238 (Jan /Feb 2012).

{Received today in the post as part of my normal subscription.}

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the stories, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading them.  In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

There is no guarantee how quickly it will take to complete this review.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here:

My previous real-time reviews of TTA Press publications linked from here:

Interzone # 238 –

‘Interzone’ magazine contains a lot of material in addition to the fiction.

Authors: Ray Cluley, Carole Johnstone, E.J. Swift, Tyler Keevil.


Fata Morgana by Ray Cluley

“Are you out hauling?”

I estimate that this story is of novella length – or almost.  But I do not need to estimate its nitty-gritty poignancy as well as sublimely soaring grandeur. I know.

It is a catching vision of a world – not a waterworld, not a desert’s mad-angled contraptive city, not Carole Johnstone’s ‘bottom-trawling’ in an earlier TTA Press publication ,  not a new ‘Kiteworld’, not another ‘Dream Archipelago’, but a genuine originality of conception combining all those wonderful factors in different measures and more, much more: where the hierarchy of the city’s heights and depths, downtowns and uptowns, twist and turn just like its dangerous ‘sharks’ – and the cagers, sifters, upmen, roofmen, watersiders, hawlers (my expression), fishermen, lowfolk…. It’s a perfectly blended ‘genius loci’ that takes time to be fished by the reader towards the mind’s net, but never fully a ‘catch’. An uncle-nephew relationship  carving out a workmanlike living as well as an instinctive artistry from this world’s ‘flotsam’.  And a shuttling social pecking-order — with its half-sodden/ redolent/ sometimes heath-robinson complex of ladders-made-real-by-a-visionary-testing-of-truth-from-fantasy — upon which ‘scaffold’ the nephew meets feisty romance … and a yearning for a revolutionary admixture of levels that can only produce the reader’s treasurable outcome from both the story’s reaching beyond itself to manipulate or carve the flotsam of fiction-trove and the author’s own personal accomplishment, as I infer it: an accomplishment by dint of that very ‘reaching beyond’ and, then, of simply believing that he can clinch the impossible dream. An important SF work for future assessment as to its greatness by those who perhaps know SF better than I do.  So far I have only played footsies with this story.

“…accretions building one atop the other like the formation of coral.” (21 Jan 12)


fearful symmetry by Tyler Keevil

“…and Vargas jerks hard on the wheel – fishtailing around an icy pothole. ‘My job is conservation and protection. But people must be protected also.'”

I didn’t expect this story to be to my taste; I sensed early on a didacticism about conservation and a linear, easily-‘caught’ tale concerned with characters involved with scientific research and mutant animals.  I sensed wrong. Not completely wrong, but wrong enough to finish very satisfied with my read.  The prose textured enough. The genius loci well conveyed. The characters rich. Not with money but with sable hides and inferred backstories.  The frontstories very telling, too. The morality-drama with a “message”  of human safety / conservation / scientific research etc creating angles I hadn’t thought about before. And the message simply as message (as opposed to what was in the message) turned out to be germane to the whole story’s symbiosis of various forces. The symbiosis of host and parasite, and which is which: not only conservation or protection (usually the same thing but here not the same thing) but also a child’s stuffed toy tiger or real stuffed tiger, normal tiger or mutant tiger, good mutancy or bad mutancy, porn or real sex, message or messenger, hunting computer-game or real hunting, poaching or legal hunting, (Canadian) woman or (Russian) man, cough or vodka… And I almost sense – now in hindsight rather than shaky foresight – that the metaphor of “ladder-rung bases” is part of that ‘scaffold’ between this story and the previous one…  Disregarding those richly mutant symmetries, I did thoroughly appreciate this story’s skilful linear suspense regarding the nature of the outcome towards the climax.  But… “What about the haul in the shed?” (21 Jan 12 – three hours later)

I didn’t think the Blake reference was needed, however! (21 Jan 12 – another 2 hours later)


God of the Gaps by Carole Johnstone

Someone besides me is still coughing,…”

I can’t be arsed” even to read this story, let alone review it.  But, now having read it, I find it hilarious … worrying, too. It’s hard to explain but this chaotic monologue of a woman teacher in special care of a 12 year old boy in an Alien Museum of sorts – with a lift from Cluley’s updown to downup and back again – with something missing from somewhere and something else inserted somewhere else where it shouldn’t belong. Prose of crude ‘dying falls’ of backchat colloquialisms – and nothing to stop the flow other than cease reading it. But I couldn’t cease. Like being stalked through the Hythe.  What was worrying? I came out bereft somehow.  Lost my chakras or something. My maat. Or the deep thing that aliens fished from me on height. Using this story’s “combination of dissection and controlled observation” and also Keevil’s didactic research, I need to weigh things in the symbiotic balance. God is a Gap, I guess, but only if you believe in Him. Worrying about the anal probes. But I loved this story that has “even less interest in sci-fi than I do“. [My own ancient published short fiction about aliens and anal probes HERE and, via-a-vis the Cluley, another one about water’s ‘dream of real air’ HERE.] “I let Brian grab my hand and haul me out.” (21 Jan 12 – another 90 minutes later)


The Complex by E.J. Swift

“In the bathroom I hack up a compound of mucus, saliva, and red dust. I fill a bottle with water.”

An ‘adagio lamentoso’ climax (like that of Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony) after Johnstone’s Scherzo – and I’ll leave you to decide the ‘movements’ represented by the Cluley and the Keevil. A perfect Space Symphony whichever way you read it. Space or continuous God-Gaps – with up being down and down up, backstory is frontstory and front back. Here a story about a Convict Planet but which way Earth? – down or up? – Heaven or Hell? – from this red dust coughdrop world with a dream of real air as water – all told quietly, sedately, beautifully by a greying woman (convicted of murder) who still ‘talks’ to her sister in that other world: and who is threatened with becoming a version of Johnstone’s missing souls in one of many silver coffins (like raindrops?).  “Air conditioner pumping” as she prepares for the ultimate long-haul flight – Release.  Release as a two-edged sword (or sabre-toothed tiger?).  A mighty visionary sight – conveyed by this wonderful story – of the spaceship as it approaches to give her that ‘release’. So utterly poignant. So utterly two-edged. So utterly the moving up and down in the SF body-city of the self between the atoms that might create that self as a smooth series of selves.  Or, alternatively, each self coughs up the next?  Never perhaps a smooth process in the end. That’s the agony of hindsight’s ‘dying fall’.  But we do dance on. We continue to take life on board.  That’s what I take from this excellent story. That’s the melody-hook, too, I hope to use to ‘hawl’ all four fictions’ complete symphony into further ‘message’. Fata Morgana’s carved dream-catcher from high or low tide: another well-tempered soul that I hope is mine. “…paddling in the coral reef graveyards, collecting fish scales,…” (21 Jan 12 – another 2 hours later)



Filed under Uncategorized

6 responses to “INTERZONE #238

  1. Although I have reviewed above all four stories in one day on the same day as I received the magazine (faster than light, faster than a bullet, faster than an ebook!), I can confirm these are four substantial stories in length. It’s just that they hit my reviewing desk at an opportune moment. *And* they were compelling reading that I couldn’t put down!

  2. Incidentally, there is an interesting comparison to be made, I’m sure, between the Cluley story above and his ‘I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing’ here:

    Also, the ‘space symphony’ in Interzone above more a case of the coughs than the bends!?

    Changed the title of this blog to LINE-HAWLING in intended resonant honour to the Cluley story.


    Those interested in reading only the specific review of a particular story above should, in my humble oponion, read all four reviews as they do interact explicitly and have bearing on each other.

  3. Just been told that a real life toy stuffed tiger incident happened on my birthday a few days ago!

  4. Pingback: Line-Hawling « Panglossian Hubris

  5. Jim Steel

    Wow – I’m impressed, Des. I’ve not even seen a copy yet

  6. Thank you for such compliments, Des, you’ve brightened my Monday (and many of the days after)!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s