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Interzone #200

Interzone #200
Interzone, Britain's leading science-fiction and fantasy magazine, founded in 1982, has now reached 200 issues. Short-listed for the Hugo Award many years running, and a Hugo winner in 1995, it has a high reputation around the world.

Interzone has published short stories by many of the big names of the field, from Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard to Ian Watson and Gene Wolfe, but its particular strength has been in the nurturing of newer writers.

Interzone Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

The two hundredth Interzone marks a number of important milestones, not the least of which is that it has reached this many issues -- and seems positioned to exceed it -- when not too long ago it seemed teetering towards extinction. To celebrate, this issue is particularly slick, with full glossy color throughout (presumably for this commemorative edition only). Moreover, editor/publisher Andy Cox seems to have hit on a formula that in terms of both graphic presentation and content not only improves on the issues that struggled through the transition from David Pringle's venerable "old" Interzone, but also distinguishes itself from Cox's The 3rd Alternative (ahem, I mean the newly renamed Black Static) as a separate product.

In addition, and most importantly to its dedicated readership, it's successfully building on its heritage, a natural worry about any change of ownership/editorship. In looks, this isn't your father's Interzone (thank goodness), while the fiction continues in the tradition that helped fashion the genre's cutting-edge.

Indeed, Cox nicely tips his hat to this legacy by starting the issue off with an interview of Richard Calder, a longtime Interzone contributor who marches to the beat of his own unusual literary drummer. According to Calder, his marching orders come from his own reading of the magazine: "For quite a few years, I lost interest in SF completely. I then began reading Interzone and became switched on to the whole cyberpunk phenomenon, particularly the work of Gibson, Jeter, and Rucker, writers who seemed to mirror so many of my own influences, from Burroughs to the Velvet Underground. Like the New Wave, cyberpunk implied that SF could be a visionary literature and absorb and freely use modernist and postmodernist techniques."

I initially thought the magazine might have lost sight of these high standards when I first began reading the opening tale, "Strings" by David Mace. However, what at first appeared to be the typical sort of military SF you'd find in Asimov's or Analog delivers a powerful metaphor on the fragile interconnections that define our humanity, even in the face of the powerful forces that try to strip that very humanity away from us.

At the height of the Cold War, SF was understandably fixated on the theme of what hope, if any, there was for the human race now that the nuclear genie had been conjured out of its bottle. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the revolutionary growth of personal computing and biotechnology rendered this theme as anachronistic as a Jane Austen comedy of manners. Current events are such, however, that Will McIntosh's "Soft Apocalypse," in which the narrator in a crumbling and discombobulated reality finds dating service love while the end-of-the-world looms, unfortunately no longer seems so quaint.

One of Calder's cited heroes -- Rudy Rucker -- makes an appearance with "Guadalupe and Hieronymus Bosch." This is a bizarre and funny story that may have no other point than to be bizarrely funny, though, as frequently happens in this fiction by a professional mathematician, perhaps there are some underlying axioms that make sense to somebody other than the author. A sexually frustrated Hispanic art student steals a microscope when she gets fired from her laboratory job, which leads to the discovery of an alternate life form that transports our heroine back to 1475 to possibly bear the child of the famous painter of the title. Who himself is a kind of weird guy. What this has to do with science fiction, I'm not sure, except maybe there's some strange biology and possibility of alternate realities physicists these days are taking as seriously as Philip K. Dick. You get the picture.

"Saving Mars" by Jason Stoddard is a sequel to "Winning Mars," which appeared in issue 196 of Interzone. Whereas the latter was a nice take on the standard SF trope of a literal race to conquer a planet merged with the notion of a reality TV show, this latest story is a much darker critique of a contemporary dysfunctional chemistry that mixes business interests, oppressive government, reactionary religious beliefs and good marketing. Another stalwart genre theme that never seems, alas, to lose its relevance.

Science fiction is no different from any fiction in frequently pondering the significance of existence, which can easily become sophomoric in the wrong hands. But Alaya Dawn Johnson manages to tread the fine line rather well in her atmospherically powerful -- and a bit disturbing -- "Third Day Lights." Think Jonathan Carroll on LSD and you'll sort of get the idea.

Another Dickian tale, perhaps more in keeping with Phil's weird world view than Rucker's lighter touch, is "Thinking the Unthinkable About Ronald Reagan by Lester Bangs," which isn't the title but the opening line of a story called "Imagine" by Edward Morris. Building irony upon irony, Morris envisions an alternative reality in which the legendary rock critic hasn't burned out, and is writing about the fortunate circumstances that resulted in the successful assassination of Ronald Reagan by has-been and delusional rock musician John Lennon. Somewhere in whatever reality he ended up in, Dick must be smiling in approval.

So, Interzone certainly has cause to celebrate with this issue. Here's looking forward to what the future brings -- while run-of-the-mill SF prides itself in trying to anticipate it, Interzone publishes fiction that prefers to warn us of the shapes of things that may come. Or may already be here.

Copyright © 2005 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.

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