Interzone issue # 286
Now that Interzone issue # 286 has fallen on my doormat its time for review of my long favorite short Science Fiction magazine. TTA Press has managed to produce yet another high quality issue beautiful art and colouring. For those interested the cover art is by Warwick Fraser-Coombe.
The editorial & interface
Interzone magazine starts off with a section known as Interface. Here the guest editor – in this case Val Nolan – gets to write his take on the state of short fiction. Val is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University in Wales. In the editorial he describes what he and his students read in his class and the what latest influences are. Class modules include ‘Literature of Surveillance’ and ‘To Boldly Go…’ with A Scanner Darkly, V for Vendetta and Star Trek read. Its an interesting description as it gives an idea what influences the next generation of authors. At the end of the editorial Val apologizes that the short story ‘Cofiwch Aberystwyth’ sees him yet again drop a nuclear bomb on idyllic landscape of western Wales.
But interface contains more. In ‘Future Interrupted‘ by Andy Hedgecock we read about the consequences of algorithms in our daily lives and how they might negatively impact our creativity. He goes on to describe how the ‘anything goes’ mindset has changed people’s perception on politics – especially on the far right. In ‘Climbing Stories‘ by Aliya Whiteley we read about the nature of Easter eggs in popular culture: movies, series etc. If we spot them we are dragged out of the experience. However, people have perceptions and expectations surrounding franchises such as Star Trek. They also have particular emotions surrounding characters which Aliya describes as ‘fixed points within creations’. According to her, they are nearly impossible to escape.
Interzone issue # 286 contains four pieces of short fiction. Three of which are heavily influences by post-apocalyptic scenarios. The first is the aforementioned ‘Cofiwch Aberystwyth‘ which sees a group of female vloggers enter the nuclear fallout exclusion zone surrounding the area of western Wales that was destroyed. Their journey starts in a matter of fact form and has vibe similar to Annihilation sprinkled with the vivid descriptions of the countryside that made me think of Dear Esther. Slowly the reader is queued into the ulterior motives of the narrator. It is not just to vlog inside a dangerous radiated disaster zone.
The second story “Rocket Man” by Louis Evans and describes an alternate 1960’s in which ICBMs could not be guided by early computers. Instead humans are needed – a suggestion made by early computer pioneer and virulent anti-communist John Von Neumann, all the way to the target. The narrator is such a pilot, his objective will be Moscow. Yet the narrator decides to sabotage his efforts and guided to missile into space – should the occasion arise. But the narrator’s desire to miss Moscow may not be just a humanistic view. His dreams keep changing, the scenario’s change – perhaps as much as due to fear as due to desire. The author thus describes our always changing inner monologue and how they change our perception of the world.
More short fiction in Interzone issue # 286
The third story is “Organ of Corti” by Matt Thompson. This short story sees a small team of specialists infiltrate what appears to be a gigantic ants-nest. The nest is made possible through genetic manipulation and a rapidly escalating climate change. Set in Spain most of the area surrounding Madrid has become a desert. Inside the nest team members quickly disappear due to infighting and hallucinations. The large ants have created a gigantic organ of Corti which in mammals helps with hearing. It’s purpose in this story is unknown. The ants use other mammals through parasitic control to care out the huge chambers and tunnels. It is strongly hinted that will the ultimate fate of the team members.
The final story is “Carriers” by James Sallis. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which the government is practically gone. Shortages and collapse of society has been a slow-burning affaire for several decades. The protagonist knows a man named Eric who strikes back against corrupt pretenders of government and gangs. However, that is much as I dare to write about this story. I found it mostly confusing, and I dare say not enjoyable. The constant shift in timeline and character perceptions made this feel like a pointless story. As best as I can describe it is that is has something to with madness – which is a theme in the other stories as well.
Book and Movie review
Interzone ends with a section on book and movie reviews. Val Nolan himself reviews Bone Silence by Alastair Reynolds and ends up writing quite perceptively about the last of novel of that trilogy. Certainly more so than my own review. Then there is an interview of author Zen Cho and her second book The True Queen. There is also a section on author Rebecca Roanhorse and her two novels collectively known as The Sixth World Series. The reviewer at times sharply criticizes her for writing a fictional story set in the Navajo nation.
My judgment would be less harsh as I still believe people can write about what they know and believe. The review ends up being a supposed critique of cultural appropriation, a cottage industry on its own. The section on movie reviews include films such as Mutant Popcorn, Vivarium, Star Trek The Rise of Skywalker, Harley Quinn and Underwater. None of these movies gets a particularly positive review and that is probably deservedly so.
Despite Interzone issue # 286 being very good I cannot help but feel there is something lacking. The short fiction stories are in each their own way confusing and open-ended. Which is a common theme in a lot of short fiction. It leaves me unsatisfied. The setting and exposition is all top notch but I felt a lack of mystery, though the stories by Val Nolan and Matt Thompson are better in this regard than the others. Nonetheless I enjoyed Interzone issue # 286 and I will continue to review upcoming issue with eagerness. I can strongly recommend you purchase a subscription to this magazine from TTAPress.