INTERZONE #202

Reviewed by Christopher Teague

I first read and subscribed to Interzone during the late 90s/early 00s - this was by no means a boom time for the magazine, but I found it was not publishing the science fiction that I liked - therefore, I didn't re-subscribe, not until David Pringle handed the reins over to Andy Cox of TTA, and what a breath of fresh air: I'm not a fan of fantasy, but the sf stories within were exactly what I wanted. But of course there were the detractors, "I don't care about glossy pages, the fiction isn't the same," or the infamous "improbable breasts" situation (if you were an editor of a small press magazine, would you turn down a Jim Burns cover gratis? No, thought not!).

Unfortunately, finances meant I could not re-subscribe - though I will, promise - so when IZ202 came up for review, I grabbed it.

First off, results of the readers' poll: I didn't vote, but glad to see that Chris Beckett's

Piccadilly Circus came third, an absolutely stunning story and well deserved.

Then of course you get the usual Ansible Link from David Langford which is always a fine and witty read, and shows that sf fans do have a sense of humour (even if we are portrayed as Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons).

Following this is a fairly short and hardly in-depth interview with Terry Pratchett - having TP's name on the cover obviously helps with newsstand sales, but I would feel cheated once I read what is essentially a sales piece. Much better is the interview with Gerry Anderson and Richard Morris on Captain Scarlet, funny and informative, and just emphasises how infuriating fandom feels at the way ITV scheduled such a great new show.

Right, fiction: first story up, Sundowner Sheila, is also my favourite. An unusual terraforming tale - unusual in that the two terraformers are Australian, for-lack-of-a-better-word, cyborgs - written with a great love for the whole Australian tongue by "technical", though Scottish by birth, Aussie F Gwynplaine MacIntyre. In it Dicko and Bodger fall for the same woman, the eponymous Sheila. A funny and tragic tale, with an interesting mix of sf ideas that is brought to the page by a wonderfully talented scribe - makes me want to go out and search for more Gwynplaine fiction.

My second favourite is The Unsolvable Deathtrap by Jack Mangan, a writer relatively unknown to many though if this story is a benchmark for his talent then he should go far. Describing the mundane and routine life of a taxi driver that is turned literally upside down, Mangan's prose is uncluttered and pared down to the bone, which makes for a thrilling story, spoilt only by the fact that the protagonist knows who Clint Eastwood is - the technology within seems to suggest a faraway future, yet the Man with No Name is still ever-present?

Of the other stories - The Macrobe Conservation Project by Carlos Hernandez and The Last Reef by Gareth Lyn Powell - it's the latter that sticks in my mind: Kenji Shiraki riding across the Martian desert, searching for his true love Jaclyn who happens to be linked to a self-aware nanotech "Reef". Not the best short story I've read, but the Morgan-esque writing, like Jack Mangan, will I believe make Gareth Lyn Powell an author to watch out for.

The other piece of fiction - After the Party by Richard Calder - is the second of a three-part novella that I did not read: the artwork looked lovely, but since I had not read the first and probably won't get around to reading the final instalment, I gave it a miss.

The remainder of the magazine comprises Nick Lowe's Mutant Popcorn, and as usual it pulls no punches, though I'm glad he liked both Wallace & Gromit and Serenity, followed by the new Gamezone by Alan Fraser and Mangazone by Sarah Ash, both features long overdue. John Clute also returns with his Scores, plus there's a myriad of other book reviews penned by the IZ review crew.

Overall, Interzone deserves success - the professionalism of the design makes it stand out from the crowd (the look of SFX and Starburst on the newsstand pales into insignificance) and the quality of artwork and prose makes it indispensable for any fan of science fiction.

And I promise to re-subscribe soon.

Interzone, edited by Andy Cox and published bi-monthly by TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs CB6 2LB, UK. A4, 84pp, £3.50/$7US or £21/$42US for 6 issues (for other countries see ordering details on website).

Website: - www.ttapress.com


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