INTERZONE #209

Reviewed by Sarah Jackson

Interzone is 25 years old this month, which is a fantastic accomplishment, and one not achieved by many in this business.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, in congratulating the magazine on their first 'quarter century of publication', says '[25 years] may be a speck of time amidst the eras that science fiction writers dabble in, but staying in business this long is no mean accomplishment. Especially since we have seen the entire publishing and media landscape being turned upside down by advances in technology during that time.'

So how have they achieved such success? Christopher Fowler cites 'proper editorship' as the reason for Interzone's success. He goes on to say that 'rigorous control creates a world-class magazine of consistent quality. And the fiction's so good you want to have sex with it.'

And so issue 209, Interzone's 25th anniversary edition, promises to be a corker. With stories by Alastair Reynolds, M. John Harrison, Gwyneth Jones, Daniel Kaysen and Jamie Barras, as well as an interview with Hal Duncan promoting Ink - the conclusion to his Book of All Hours duology - and a related short story by Duncan, how could the magazine fail to be anything but a winner?

Starting with the layout, the magazine is beautifully put together. It's a comfortable size, with a matt finish and consistently high quality art work throughout, especially the striking illustration by Richard Marchand which accompanies Hal Duncan's short story The Whenever at the City's Heart.

The magazine contains a good mix of stories, reviews and interviews, with a rather amusing page of news and gossip, including the 'as others see us' sections, detailing snippets of evidence of how the science fiction world is viewed from the outside.

The one thing I notice as I read through the stories in this issue is that whether they are my cup of tea or not, all six of them are fantastically well written. The quality of the fiction in this magazine is indeed outstanding. The opening story is Hal Duncan's The Whenever at the City's Heart. The story portrays snapshots of the lives of various characters as Duncan depicts the end of the world, a coming catastrophe. As I mentioned before, this story is related to his Book of all Hours duology, and uses concepts from that work- The Cant, Graving, The Vellum etc. There is no doubt that this man has a way with language. He can use words in a way that makes them seem almost lyrical on the page, and when he can't find a word that doesn't perfectly describe the concept he wants to express, he makes one up. But halfway through the story, I found my attention wandering. No matter how brilliantly written it was, I just didn't feel the substance was there to back the story up.

Jamie Barras' Winter was the next story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a story of genetic experimentation during WW2, and the premise is intriguing. The writing was excellent, and I was hooked from beginning to end.

Next up was one of the treasures of this issue. The Good Detective by M. John Harrison is truly special. It is a wonderful insight into the human mind and depression, told from the point of view of a private detective tasked with finding missing persons. I love how Harrison manages to paint such a vivid picture of how easy it is for a person to lose themselves to hopelessness and depression. This little gem is a fantastic portrayal of modern life.

Big Cat by Gwyneth Jones is a Beast of Bodmin story set in a futuristic world that focuses in on human relationships. It is well written and thought provoking. The Sledge-Maker's Daughter by Alastair Reynolds is an interesting concept with well developed characters and vivid writing that actually managed to shock me.

The final story was my favourite. Daniel Kaysen's Tears for Godzilla is an emotional, thoughtful and layered story about a writer who lives inside his own head too much. (We've all been there!) It depicts his insecurities about his own writing, and how his head is so full of ideas so much of the time, to the detriment of normal, human relationships. And so, he replaces them with the characters from his stories. I really felt myself empathising with this character.

This issue is well put together and illustrates why Interzone has been around for 25 years, and hopefully will be for another 25. I will leave you with the thoughts of one of Interzone's editorial panel, Andy Hedgecock, on the magazine's success: 'Interzone remains significant because it showcases established writers with challenging ideas. But its real value lies in its support of rising stars.'

Interzone, edited by Andy Cox and published bi-monthly by TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambs CB6 2LB, UK. A4, 68pp, £3.75/$7US or £21/$42US for 6 issues (for other countries see ordering details on website).

Website: - www.ttapress.com


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