Tag Archives: Interzone

Interzone #220

A slightly belated reading journal entry, as I finished the magazine over a week ago… what can I say, I’ve been busy?

cover art for Interzone #220Interzone #220TTA Press

“Monetized” by Jason Stoddard

Stoddard is definitely settling into a breezy web-hip post-cyberpunk delivery style that is very much his own – less nerdy than Doctorow, but more Stateside than Stross. Here as in a number of his more recent tales, the subject matter, sociology and buzz-word tech feels quite deliberately close to the favoured discussion topics of the blogosphere geekerati, with the end result that for said demographic there are few writers with as good a sense of the Zeitgeist.

Stoddard’s stories can be sharp and a little satirical, but at their core they tend toward an sf-nal boy’s-own-adventure template set in a California that seems all too possible; Phil Dick and Bill Gibson meeting in 2021 down a dark alley near the Embarcadero to compare P2P tracker URLs and share a crafty joint.

The only problem I had with “Monetized” was the lead character, who was as mawkishly petulant and spoiled as I presume he was intended to be – the privileged kid who rebels against said privilege without entirely leaving it behind. The voice is appropriate, but here I found Stoddard had pushed up the “teen slasher movie character trait” fader a touch too high for my taste; the kid is the Principled Rebel Geek, but he’s playing the role a little too hard.

“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster

Initially I though this was going to be a non-starter; the opening format had me convinced that I was in for one of those New Weird pieces built up from fragmented vignettes and mood pieces. Turns out that Foster lulled me into a false sense of familiarity, as the initial surface layer drops away like the stage dressing to reveal the full plot striding out onto the stage.

Regular thoughts will know my feelings about spoilers in reviews, but this is one of the cases where I think it’s best to let you find out the twists for yourself. But suffice to say that the broadening of the theme from science fantasy psycho-drama to full sf dystopia is a satisfying shock, and just when you think she’s going to wrap things up with a relatively redemptive ending, Foster sneaks in a suckerpunch in the end that’ll leave you wide-eyed and a bit breathless.

The prose seems a little flat in places, but the conception and plotting are top notch, and it’s a much more sf-nal story than it initially appears. Recommended.

“After Everything Woke Up” by Rudy Rucker

This is another technicolour trip into the world of Rucker’s imagination; it’s also an excerpt from his forthcoming novel Hylozoic. Being moderately familiar with Rucker’s style and the preceding book Postsingular, I can see where he’s going with this piece, but it didn’t feel very satisfying as a stand-alone, possibly because there’s very little opportunity for serious conflict or plot development.

It also shows Rucker at his most cutesy; at novel length these bits are balanced nicely against the hipster gnarl and a sensawunda that few can match, and they fit well into the cartoonish vividness of his ouvre (as well as alongside Rucker’s own paintings, used here as illustration), but seen in isolation, “After Everything Woke Up” feels a little saccharine-sweet, and isn’t the sort of scene that I’d use as an introductory to Rucker’s books. I’m very much looking forward to the full novel, though – as regular readers will be aware, I’m a fully paid-up Rucker fan-boy.

“Spy vs. Spy” by Neil Williamson

Williamson fits a neat little reality-next-door sousveillance-escalation conceit into the flash fiction format to make a wry and funny little tale of paranoia that doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s fun and fast, and shows just how much you can do with just a thousand words or so.

“Miles To Isengard” by Leah Bobet

This is a very interesting character piece wrapped around a dystopic near-future in the Southern States. The narrative has an almost hyper-real quality, possibly to enhance the sleep-deprived POV of the characters who are driving a stolen nuclear weapon to its (and their own) doom.

Its a story about rebellion and following the voice in your heart, the latter given emphasis by the actualising of the opposing voice in the form of the bomb itself, who the main character half-believes is talking to him, telling them that their efforts are futile. The bitter-sweet ending does little to suggest the bomb is lying, but their defiance in the face of inevitable capture and punishment is all the more poignant for that. A cautionary tale, albeit one that feels thematically a few decades late – which is not to say nuclear weapons are a solved problem, but their time in the fictional spotlight feels to have receded with the mid-eighties. Nonetheless, written with subtlety beneath the grit and country grammar, and much more moving than I expected thanks to a strong eye for detail.

“Memory Dust” by Gareth L Powell

Powell steps out into space again for this tale of an explorer haunted by memories of a mysterious dust-whipped planet and the living specimen he brought back from it. Returning the critter to the planet lands the hero in some deep weirdness, and he soon discovers the secret of the planet’s abandonment – not to mention why the critter was seemingly the last of its race. Given the title of the story, the experienced sf reader will be able to guess what’s happened fairly early on; the real meat of the tale is in the growing horror of the explorer finding out the truth more slowly than does the reader.

As a character piece, “Memory Dust” has the spare but strong emotional characterisation that I tends to think of as one of Gareth’s fortés. However, I prefer his swift plotting when it’s used in more near-future scenarios; while the journey to the planet doesn’t need to be dwelled upon, it still felt a trifle jarring to be taken there in the space of a few brief paragraphs. That said, I think this is as much a reflection of my own immersion in the near-future subgenre in recent times, and I’d be interested to hear what others thought; it’s been a rare thing of late for me to read a story featuring interstellar travel, and I think it’s that rarity that gave me such a jolt of cog-diss. Maybe I need to cleanse my palate with some space opera…

***

So, another interesting issue from Interzone, which appears to be leaning more solidly toward the sf end of the spectrum of late – possibly because Black Static is taking the dark fantasy stuff now, but equally possibly because that’s just the way the selection dice have rolled of late. That said, Interzone‘s always something to look forward to.

And to reiterate what myself and many others have said already – that’s one of the best sf mag covers I’ve ever seen, period.

The passing of the baton

Well, all but one of the reviews for Interzone #217 are in. All that remains to be done now is give them a thorough editing sweep and email them off to TTA Towers …

… and then step out of the driving seat. Yup – thanks to the pressures of actually having lots of proper paid work coming at me from various angles, as well as all the other as-yet-non-lucrative stuff I’m entangled in, plus the fact that a lot of my new work puts me in the direct employment by authors and/or publishers, I’m stepping down as Interzone‘s Reviews editor as of the forthcoming issue.

Hard to believe I’ve been doing it for a year. In some ways it feels like much longer, in other ways it feels like I only just started. One thing’s for certain: if time were no object, I’d not be leaving the post, as I’ve had a lot of fun doing it and worked with some great people in the process. But time is the one resource that no amount of mining, outright theft or invading other countries can secure for you; as I’ve just said in an email to my team of reviewers, the Interzone gig is the easiest thing to disentangle myself from – not easy, by any means, but easiest.

In addition to being vaguely informative to the blogosphere at large, this post is to thank all the people I’ve worked with indirectly as a result of being IZ‘s Reviews Editor – the publishers, authors and website types who form part of the network of genre. Thanks for going easy on a neophyte, and for teaching me a lot in the process!

I’m looking forward to using that knowledge (and gathering more) in my various other posts – as PS Publishing‘s PR guy, as website-manager to various stars of the genre firmament, as Futurismic‘s editor-in-chief, and as a critic and writer in my own right (time permitting, natch, especially regarding the latter). Meanwhile, my Interzone post will be taken on by the eminently capable Jim Steel, who I’m positive will do a job far superior to my own.

All change!

Friday Photo Blogging: summer sunsets

Just because I’m a lame photographer doesn’t mean I can’t have a go at the photography clichés … so here is a shot from sunset last Sunday:

Sunset5Aug07_6

If someone reading has the m4d-1337 sk1llz0rz with GIMPshop (not Pshop, I can’t justify that sort of expense), and can tell me how to adjust for overexposure after the fact, please make use of the comments field at the bottom (or email if you’re shy).

Justifying the silence

So, no FPB last week due to the (as yet unexplained) server failure. Personally, it was a very weird experience; this weekly download of my life has become quite a ritual, and it felt very odd not doing it. One less load of waffle for y’all to scroll through, though, so the karmic balance probably works out quite neatly.

Nose to the editorial grindstone

I’ve also been pretty quiet between then and yesterday as far as this blog is concerned, because I’ve been fully engaged in the administrative end of my first stint as fully-fledged reviews editor for Interzone. Sandy Auden has stepped aside (with what sounded suspiciously like a sigh of relief), the training wheels are off, and from now on I have to keep my balance if I want to avoid breaking my nose (or overextending a metaphor).

So I’ve been sorting through the huge list of books that get sent to TTA Press over a two month period, working out which ones to offer to my team. This is less a science than a combination of gut feeling and arcane calculation. We only have so much space to work with, after all. The whittled list is with the reviewers, so now I wait for responses and divvy the titles out next week. It’s a lot more work than it sounds like (honestly, it is), but quite satisfying nonetheless.

(Plus I get to exercise my editorial privilege once again and cherrypick a title I really want to cover … Karl Schroeder’s Queen of Candesce should do nicely, methinks.)

Andy (Ed-in-Chief) also asked me to write an editorial for the next issue, which I have done. I think that’s what’s made the reality of the position sink in – it’s quite scary to think that my opinion on book reviews will be the first thing that people see when they open up Interzone #212. I hope I’ve managed not to sound like a total arse.

Books and magazines seen

OK, a fortnight’s worth of incoming materials. So, magazines first:

  • F&SF August 2007 –  (About a fortnight after the last one. I’ve totally given up trying to predict when these will arrive; the vagueries of the transAtlantic postal system are utterly opaque to me.) I’ve actually read most of it, too; very heavy on the ‘funny’ stories, which aren’t necessarily bad as such, just not really my thing. I enjoyed the Gwyneth Jones, though.
  • Murky Depths #1 – I’d totally forgotten about subscribing to this until it turned up in my letterbox. It’s an interesting idea; a genre fiction mag that takes a mixed media approach. Comic-book size, heavily illustrated, leaning more toward the shorter stories. A bold experiment, from the flick-through I’ve had so far, and I wish it the best of luck.
  • Locus August 2007 – my last issue, I think, as I’m not renewing my subscription. I simply don’t get enough out of it for the money, especially now the prices are higher for postage. Would that I were richer, but so it goes.
  • Vector and Matrix from the BSFA – the former featuring, among a number of far more qualified and erudite commentators, yours truly waffling on about Glorifying Terrorism (the book, not the practice), and my favourite short and long fiction of 2006.

And the books:

  • Dagger Key and Other Stories by Lucius Shepard (ARC) – a bit of a change of pace for me with this latest assignment from Vector. As regular readers will know, I don’t read much fantasy, so Shepard’s work will be an interesting expedition into new pastures. I often read high praise of his work, though, so I’m hoping to be impressed.
  • Halting State by Charles Stross (ARC) – George Walkley at Orbit knows me too well already, I feel! It’s all I can do to not drop my current books-in-progress and tear straight into this title immediately … if I find myself with a spare afternoon, that shred of discipline may dissolve. I get the impression from other reviews that this is the book I’ve been waiting for someone to write.

Coda

So, there we are, and here I am. It’s the end of the week, the sun is shining, and my stomach is growling, which by the calculations of any sane person surely means it’s time for The Friday Curry.

So, I’ll bid all and sundry a good weekend – I’m hoping the unusually seasonal weather holds out, myself. Whatever you have planned, I hope it works out well for you. Peace.

Subscribe to T3A Space – new TTA Press website tweaked

Well, I hope you’ve all had a nice long holiday weekend – even if the weather was as rotten as it was here in Velcro City. I hardly noticed, though – I’ve been busy.

One of the many things I’ve been doing over the weekend is playing around behind the scenes at T3A Space, the new-look blog-style website for TTA Press (publisher of short genre fiction magazines Interzone, Crimewave and Black Static). T3A is where updates and story acceptances for the TTA stable are posted, and over the coming months it’s going to grow into a content-rich site with lots of good stuff to read.

Andy (TTA’s head honcho) already had things looking sexy with an eye-catching theme (luckily – as, having seen VCTB, no one in their right mind would set me loose on the aesthetics of a website), but yours truly has been hacking about with the ergonomics and functionality. Upgrades include a working spam-free comments system, and lots of other behind-the-curtain search-engine friendly stuff. There’s still work to be done, but things are looking good so far.

I’ve also set the RSS feed for the site to run through Feedburner, which is a very easy operation but well worth the time invested. But if you click through, you’ll see the subscription counter sat at a lowly first-day count of zilch, zero, nada.

So, here’s the challenge – I’d like you all to subscribe to the T3A RSS feed, which I’ve made extra easy by linking to it there. You don’t even have to click more than once! Let’s see if we can’t get that counter to show something a little more impressive than zero by tomorrow, eh?

Interzone announces special Mundane SF edition for 2008

The title should say it all, and whatever else you need to know should become apparent after you read Geoff Ryman’s announcement on the TTA Press website.

But for those too flabbergasted (or lazy) to click through, Mr. Ryman (with the assistance of Julian Todd and Trent Walters) will be guest editing an issue of Interzone to be published next year, which will adhere strictly to the manifesto of the Mundane SF movement, of which Ryman is a founder. Some simple guidelines:

“What makes a story Mundane? A few simple rules:

• no FTL travel or communications
• no aliens
• no time travel
• no parallel universes
• no immortality or telepathy.”

There you have it. More guidelines, plus details about how to submit a story for consideration, can be found by clicking through to the TTA website. So get writing, already! I might even have a go at this myself. After all, what’s a little failure between friends?