INTERZONE #216

Reviewed by Gareth D. Jones

This is the Mundane SF special issue, a subject that I came to without many preconceptions as I haven't really been keeping up with the discussions on the subject. As usual the magazine looks competent, with striking cover art and a nice clean layout within.

How to Make Paper Airplanes is the opener by Lavie Tidhar, and it's either really clever, or has taken the remit of the issue too far and is very mundane indeed. It's an account by a member of a small research team on a Pacific island, interspersed with snippets of information about the islands. The group eat, sleep, go to the bar, carry on with their mundane lives and nothing much happens. Yet it's strangely charismatic. I suspect opinion will be split over this one, as mine is.

Endra--From Memory is a beautiful tale by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, set in the far future when the ice caps have melted and there's a lot less land still above water. Think of Waterworld written instead by Jack Vance. When a charismatic sea captain comes to port she has a profound effect on the locals, and particularly the Trading Monitor. The details included in the tale paint a picture of a well-thought-out society that has adapted to rising sea-levels. I was captivated.

In Billie Aul's The Hour is Getting Late we discover the entertainment technology of the future through the eyes of a broadcaster and music commentator. The way entertainment entwines itself into real life is explored through the control that the audience has not only on programme content, but on the personal lives of their favourite stars. The two threads are woven cleverly together to discover how much TV controls our lives.

US border control is given the satirical treatment in Remote Control, a near-future tale of machine guns and internet access by R.R.Angell. The concept has already been used, allegedly, for long-distance big game hunting, but this story concentrates as much on the humanity behind the cold-hearted killing as it does on the hardware. It's the kind of story that sounds just too real for comfort.

A future of domed cities and mass transportation is the setting for Elisabeth Vonarburg's The Invisibles. Translated from the French original, it has an indefinably exotic appeal. Among the well-ordered routine of the masses, two individuals find themselves in a strange world hidden beside their own. At first it seems that parallel worlds are involved, which doesn't sound Mundanish at all, but it's actually much cleverer than that, and far more satisfying.

An old widower travels half way round the world to live with his daughter in Into the Light, Anil Menon's touching tale of dotage and alienation. It's a bleak future for those who already feel left behind by advancing technology, and the viewpoint of the old man dragged away from everything familiar and secure makes for a powerful story.

Another avenue of Mundane SF is explored in Geoff Ryman's Talk is Cheap, set in a time of virtual reality and bio augmentation. The central character is a Walker, whose job is to walk in the real world to ensure things are staying stable for the majority of citizens who spend their lives in cyber space. He's an interesting character, and his opinions on society and relationships help us get a good picture of what his life is like. It's a gentle story that holds back from the excesses of cyberpunk in a way that allows you to connect more easily and enjoy the tale.

The interesting thing about this issue is that I wouldn't have noticed there was a theme. The stories were so varied the absence of anything that could be described as space opera or anything not 'mundane' did not stand out. I guess that goes to show that Mundane SF isn't particularly restrictive; it's just another sub-genre that highlights the diversity of Science Fiction today.

Interzone, edited by Andy Cox and team. 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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