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 230 (Sep /Oct 2010). I shall attempt to draw out all the fiction’s leitmotifs and mould them into a gestalt.
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: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
The previous real-time reviews of TTA’s Black Static linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/black-static-issue-18/
Interzone # 230 – www.ttapress.com
Authors: Tim Lees, Aliette de Bodard, Lavie Tidhar, Patrick Samphire & Nina Allan.
Love and War – by Tim Lees
“…the oldest sixty-odd, sporting a thin, grey, military moustache.”
A power-dressed female narrator-protagonist facing a dual palimpsest of competing worlds, not parallel or alternate worlds, but intriguingly an intermeshment – and her relationships with the men in power (one in particular) as counter-adumbrated by caged jumblies. It is an impressionist painting where I am left wondering what is worse: one’s friends or one’s enemies. The style flows and then is staccato then flows again. Punctuated by a distracting illustration in real-space (as opposed to real-time) of the female narrator’s face strobing page by page. I keep my powder dry as to how this story stores up a context for itself (in my yet-to-be-dreamed dreams) or for the magazine’s remaining fiction yet to be read. Meanwhile, “ovals of Toynbeean history” is a strange phrase, but this story somehow evoked it. Don’t ask.
“(Children are shot.)” (13 Sep 10)
AGE of MIRACLES, AGE of WONDERS – by Aliette de Bodard
“Walking back from her children’s graves…”
A remarkable symphony of movements as if by Richard Wagner composing his Ring Cycle about a South American mythology rather than Norse, perhaps like that yet to grow up about the current plight of the Chilean miners. It is a blend of E.M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ (effectively a fiction about the Internet and the World as a Machine-God published in 1909!) and a DH-Lawrencian vision of the Earth as a near-menopausal but still bleeding grandmother. It has Harmonics in tune with Astrology, a divine-less destiny controlled (synchronously, not by cause-and-effect) with the cogs and wheels of the Cosmos. And references to stoning for adulterers that religions can manifest. It is a memorable Cyborg vision, that — with, inter alia, its ‘Heavens’ rather than ‘Heaven’ — echoes the multi-Earth palimpsest of the previous story. As well as the stories themselves becoming mutual palimpsests!
Loved it. Even the continued Philip Glass-like strobing of a face, this time a grim staring out-daring me to fail to like the words that surround it. (14 Sep 10)
The Insurance Agent – by Lavie Tidhar
“We use names like shields. We use names to blend in.”
I was biased in two opposite directions before reading this story. Lavie Tidhar’s first published story was nameless and in ‘Nemonymous’. And my professional life was spent in Insurance dealing with Insurance Agents. However, this all went out of the window with thoughts of life & existence compared to canoes on a river outshining any possible doubts about this story having a rare poetic truth – making the Alternate World boxing-matches, the living-room filled coconut and Garland’s ‘The Beach’ ambiance possess you with their ‘reality’. It has a machine un-mining itself from the earth. And a crab in a top hat to match the jumblies earlier. This is perfect harmony. Another palimpZest.
The face-strobing slows down and is a gentler face not now daring me to out-face the text but one enticing me to dream within it. (I genuinely had not noticed the artist is someone called Richard Wagner when I wrote my review of the previous story!) (14 Sep 10 – another 3 hours later)
CAMELOT – by Patrick Samphire
“I never told her my name.”
On the face of it, a quite different story from the other three. A more direct prose style and a simpler concept, a Whovian search through time for the narrator’s brother Jack lost at the end of the parachute in 2nd World War France. But, no, there is far more to this truly wonderful story – the interleaved tracing-paper(s) of Time, unrequited Toynbeean history and the loves and relationships within it. It also echoes the earlier Wagnerian fire and brimstone… So full of the harmonised music of the fiction in this particular magazine…
It is also personal to me. The narrator and his brother and their circumstances echo exactly my father and his own brother, in more ways than one. I was named after the brother.
Meanwhile, the strobing has now become a faceless coin, not an oval but a perfect circle. A panoply, a currency of war and doom in flight. Our Future History. (14 Sep 10 – another 2 hours later)
The Upstairs Window – by Nina Allan
“I had read the novel in a samizdat carbon copy…”
A staggering story – that does not seem to stagger when you’re reading it. Not SF other than its slowly emerging Alternate World that only gradually takes ‘copy’ (like the journalist narrator) in an imprint like an ill-bled and disgruntled Xerox. Or a painting that explicitly has Tidhar’s coconuts embedded. And the ‘face’-strobing of the female part page by page (Cf. – beware! – the image about a third of the way down on the right hand side here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Courbet ).
“…your role was decided for you by whoever got to write the history books.”
“…wrestling: two evenly matched opponents locked in perpetual stalemate.”
“The more I repeated a phrase in my head the less meaning it seemed to have.”
“If I tell you he looked like his own ghost…”
“World War Two gas masks…”
Just a few things that re-catch my eye after reading this intense London ‘roach motel’ as a ‘painting’ of a story.
This resolves the Music of the Magazine of Fiction as a spy novel mis-carboned from a secret agent story: a paranoia stemming from this now wholly synchronised Alternate World.
Palimpsest as Interzone – literally.
“He crossed out liberally, making heavy indentations in the paper.” (14 Sep 10 – another two hours later)
NB: There is also much else of value for the SF reader within ‘Interzone’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com