My life in outer space

Cox – Andy

Interzone 252 – Andy Cox (Ed) (2014)

Interzone 252

Death is a recurrent theme in this issue of Interzone, most obviously in Katharine E.K. Duckett’s ‘The Mortuaries’ but appears either overtly or obliquely in every tale. The quality is generally high with my top stories being by Humphrey and Stufflebeam (who together sound like a firm of Hogwarts solicitors)

The Posset Pot by Neil Williamson
The Mortuaries by Katharine E.K. Duckett
Diving Into The Wreck by Val Nolan
Two Truths And A Lie by Oliver Buckram
A Brief Light by Claire Humphrey
Sleepers by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

The Posset Pot by Neil Williamson

Two men survive in a post apocalyptic city where a parallel world is exchanging sphere-shaped samples of itself with ours via mysterious ‘bubbles that appear at random. Great characterisation. Works well.

The Mortuaries by Katharine E.K. Duckett

An intriguing piece about future mortuaries inspired by the work of van Haagens, where one’s plastinated loved ones can be viewed.

Diving Into The Wreck by Val Nolan

An excellent story involving obsessive researchers hunting for the lost landing stage of Apollo 11. Explores the concept of ethics and mystery.

Two Truths And A Lie by Oliver Buckram

This piece is one of those experimental pieces that border on prose poetry. It doesn’t quite work although may have done if it was substantially shorter and not so obscure.

A Brief Light by Claire Humphrey

Quite lovely. Not SF by any means but a gorgeously crafted piece in which the dead are returning to their old homes with the talent to turn into birds. Do they bring messages? Not unless, it seems, one wishes to perceive them as such.

Sleepers by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Quite simillar to Claire Humphreys’ ‘A Bright Light.; in that odd white creatures are appearing and may or may not have some resemblance and connection to sick or dying relatives. Original. Very atmospheric, Quite moving too.

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Interzone #251 – Andy Cox (Ed) (2014)

Interzone #251 Mar: Apr 2014

This is another cracking issue of Interzone featuring themes of relationship and identity. Loss seems to run through them also. It’s also interesting to see the structure of the modern short story evolving, although not as radically as one might have imagined back in the 20th Century. Stories seem more impressionistic, leaving much unexplained and to be determined by the reader. Highlights are ‘Old Bones’ and ‘A Doll is Not a Dumpling’.

Ghost Story by John Grant
Ashes by Karl Bunker
Old Bones by Greg Kurzawa
Fly Away Home by Suzanne Palmer
A Doll is Not a Dumpling by Tracie Welser
This is How You Die by Gareth L. Powell

Ghost Story by John Grant

A young married man gets a call from a childhood sweetheart who tells him she is pregnant and that he is the father, something that is clearly impossible since he has never slept with her and they have not been in touch for some time. It’s a story that develops well into a tale of fractured reality.

Ashes by Karl Bunker

Very reminiscent of Michael Swanwick, not least because an AI manages to host itself within a cat, this is a compelling read. AIs and transhumans can not go beyond a certain level of intelligence without ‘winking out’ and vanishing. The protagonist’s dead girlfriend had become obsessed with the projects that these transcendent entities had left unfinished, hoping to find some workable technology. The Cat/AI has identified another project site where he thinks it may be fitting to scatter her ashes.
A very stylish piece which leaves one wanting more.

Old Bones by Greg Kurzawa

Kurzawa, a regular feature of Interzone, is beginning to fascinate me. I can’t honestly explain what this story is about, but maybe that’s the point. It certainly leaves one with more questions than answers. A man is living alone in the city, hiding from the robed ‘Mummers’ who roam the deserted streets.
One day a man knocks on his door, claiming to be a Doctor who can help him escape the city, but first he must perform a surgical procedure. It’s a poetic and surreal piece which stays in the mind despite (or perhaps because of) its lack of resolution or explanation.

Fly Away Home by Suzanne Palmer

Dark and not a little topical, this tells of Fari who was taken forcefully from her mother as a child as payment for a trespass fine and forced into work on an asteroid mine. A tale of love, repression, sacrifice and vengeance. Quite excellent.

A Doll is Not a Dumpling by Tracie Welser

An original tale featuring exquisitely drafted characters. I so wish more people could breathe such life into the small population of a short story. It’s a brief, beautiful, bittersweet and colourful tragedy featuring a young girl, an augmented dog and a sentient mobile dumpling machine. My favourite story of late.

This is How You Die by Gareth L. Powell

A fairly standard post-apocalypse tale of a young man’s life in London following the effects of a fatal pandemic virus. It’s well done, but brings little new to the table.


Interzone #250 – Andy Cox (Ed) (2014)

Interzone #250 Jan: Feb 2014

Another fascinating bunch of tales from authors in the main unknown to me.
Interzone certainly pushes the boundaries with style and is possibly redefining the structure and style of the short story. Some of the authors here do not make it easy for the reader, which is perhaps as it should be, although there’s always the risk of leaving too much unexplained.
Relationships feature heavily throughout either overtly or obliquely, and the quality of work is on the whole, very high, as one should expect in this 250th issue.

The Damaged – Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

A wonderfully compelling tale about artificial humans and how we might treat them should such a thing become a reality. Told from an odd viewpoint.

Bad Times to be in the Wrong Place – David Tallerman

This is an odd but well-done rural post-Dickian tale. How would one react should one discover that one was living in a back-up of the real world, if indeed the world is real in the first place? An excellent piece set in an entropic US midwest.

The Labyrinth of Thorns – C. Allegra Hawksmoor

There are echoes of Jeff Noon in this, but ultimately there is something lacking. An agent for ‘The Company’ (which has been a cliche for so long it becomes almost parody when employed seriously) has had memories downloaded into his head which alternate with his mission in ‘The City’. All very poetic but a tad indecipherable. Not really up to the level of quality one would expect from Interzone.

Beneath the Willow Branches, Beyond the Reach of Time – Caroline M. Yoachim

This is lovely. A scientist enters his wife’s stored memories – where she is trapped in a timeloop – in an apparently hopeless attempt to break the cycle and save her, echoed by her childhood tale of the Green Willow.

Predvestniki – Greg Kurzawa

A man accompanies his wife to Moscow on a business trip and, unable to interest her in the sights or the food, becomes obsessed with what he sees atop a domed tower. A great story which walks that difficult line between revealing too much and too little and is at the same time a deftly sketched portrait of an ill-matched relationship.

Lilacs and Daffodils – Rebecca Campbell

This is a lovely little puzzle of a story told by an AI with a convincing realism (if such a word can be meaningfully employed here).

Wake Up, Phil – Georgina Bruce

‘The Company’ in this tale is Serberus, although it could also be Callitrix, for whom Laura works. Unhappy with Laura’s weight problem Throom, the company doctor, prescribes her a course of Serberitum, an amphetamine and hallucinogen. Her life takes on another reality in which her neighbour, ‘Phil the Sci Fi man’, has two separate bodies, one of which will not wake up.
It’s interesting that Philip K Dick, some thirty-odd years after his death is still manifesting as a presence. I can think of two other works at least in which he has appeared as a character. There’s also an echo of Orwell here. A haunting story, one that clings in the head.


Interzone #248 – Andy Cox (Ed.) (2013)

Interzone 248

Ad Astra – Carole Johnstone
The Hareton K-12 County School and Adult Extension – James Van Pelt
Dark Gardens – Greg Kurzawa
Il Teatro Oscuro – Ken Altabef
Technarion – Sean McMullen

A very interesting collection of tales in this issue which push the boundaries of what the average reader would consider to be SF. I have always avoided trying to establish a definition, and although established names within the genre have put forward definitions in the past, there always seem to be works which fall outside the parameters.
I’m happy to consider it as a broad church with a fluid remit. It’s a lot easier to say what isn’t SF, and I have labelled some works as such in the past.
Luckily I have no such problems here. Interzone continues to publish excellent work from new – and not so new – writers which are engrossing and thought provoking.
A few of these stories have ambiguous and unresolved endings, something I find refreshing. There’s also a strong poetic element to some of them, such as the pieces by Van Pelt and Altabef which take us into the realm of the surreal and inexplicable.
The magazine also features an interview with Christopher Priest as part of Interzone’s review of ‘The Adjacent’.

Ad Astra – Carole Johnstone

In a future where space flights are sponsored by media companies and reality stars, a married couple are sent on a mission beyond Pluto. This is a first person narrative told by the wife whose mental integrity is slowly crumbling.

The Hareton K-12 County School and Adult Extension – James Van Pelt

An American School built in the mid Twentieth Century acquires so many various extensions, annexes, basements and sub basements that it grows into a Gormenghast-esque world of its own in which reality becomes somewhat fluid. Beautifully written. Quite fascinating.

Dark Gardens – Greg Kurzawa

A man buys a house after the previous owner, an unsuccessful magician, disappeared. The house contains all his equipment and some notebooks and videotapes. In the basement he discovers something that looks like a submarine hatch which leads to a dark waterworld filled with houses and their eerie mannequin occupants.
A very compelling story, haunting and disturbing.

Il Teatro Oscuro – Ken Altabef

A very short piece set in a dystopian future which begins with an old man – sitting in a condemned opera house – recreating a lost opera and the opera house by means of some ingenious opera glasses. Poetic, atmospheric and evocative.

Technarion – Sean McMullen

An interesting steampunk piece from McMullen about the development of a computer in 1875, the consequences of which are far reaching.


Interzone #249 – Andy Cox (Ed) (2013)

Interzone #249

Unknown Cities of America – Tim Lees
Paprika – Jason Sanford
Filaments – Lavie Tidhar
Haunts – Claire Humphrey
The Kindest Man in Stormland – John Shirley
Trans-Siberia, an account of a journey – Sarah Brooks

I have returned to Interzone after a period of many years (although I have read many a tale that was anthologised in Annual Best collections)
I am pleased to see that Andy Cox (for whom I once provided illustrations for both The Third Alternative – including the cover of one of the early issues – and his excellent ‘Crimewave’) has assumed the helm and that the quality of content remains strong, varied and of excellent quality.
If you’ve never read a copy of Interzone before, I urge you to do so. It’s available in digital format these days for the Kindle (and no doubt other formats). It was founded and edited for seemingly aeons by David Pringle, author of ‘Science Fiction : The 100 Greatest Novels’ and can be credited to a large degree with creating a British SF renaissance and introducing many authors who have forged successful careers.
I was a subscriber at least twenty-five years ago and am very pleased that it remains at the forefront of the SF short fiction world. It is, I can see, in good hands.

Unknown Cities of America – Tim Lees

This is a well-written piece in which ‘the map is not the territory’. A young man is searching for a girl who lives in one of the US towns that is not on the map. He met her once when she escaped but she was tracked, as she always knew she would be, by a man known as The Turk, who has some kind of psychic gift for hunting down the missing children of these strange hidden communities. It’s power lies in what it doesn’t say, allowing the reader to create their own ideas of what these communities may be.

Paprika – Jason Sanford

‘Paprika’ is a beautiful story of longevity, loss and the artificial creatures that are created to hold the consciousnesses of those who die.
It’s a gorgeously created self-contained world full of colour and detail.

Filaments – Lavie Tidhar

A robot priest-rabbi is infected with a virus by a young boy who seems not quite human. Again, a beautifully detailed tale. It seems that the post-Asimov robot has been reborn of late. the word went out of favour for quite a while, replaced by androids, replicants and other individual creations. The concept seems to have now been revived by various authors in some post-modern act of authorly synchronicity.

Haunts – Claire Humphrey

The Head of a school for duellists has to let go of her actual and metaphorical ghosts in a strikingly-imagined world where old duellists can sell their fingers to be grafted on to younger aspirants. This, they believe, will endow them with luck or skills.

The Kindest Man in Stormland – John Shirley

In a future USA, climate change has wracked the country with endless storms. A law enforcement officer has to traverse the storm to track down a serial killer. Although the weakest story of the bunch, it’s still a winner.

Trans-Siberia, an account of a journey – Sarah Brooks

Noir and Steampunk collide in a personal documentation of a journey from China to Siberia through a dangerous no man’s land where dangerous creatures are abroad, and indeed aboard.