INTERZONE #273 (Nov-Dec 2017) edited by Andy Cox. Zine review

INTERZONE #273 (Nov-Dec 2017) edited by Andy Cox, TTA Press, Ely, Cambs, UK p/b £5.99 (UK) 96 pages,

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Interzone is the longest running British SF magazine having been founded in 1982. In its life-time it has changed editors and formats but it remains a showcase for short fiction. In the past, it has seen the first publication of Hugo winning stories. This issue contains the winning story of the James White Award which is open to non-professional writers. ‘The Morrigan’ by Stewart Horn brings ancient Celtic mythology into a contemporary setting. Set against the gang rivalries in Glasgow, the narrator is intrigued by a woman who introduces herself as Morven and seems to foment violence.

Another award winner in this issue is Erica L. Satifka. She won the BFS Award for Best Newcomer with her novel Stir Crazy, and here writes the guest editorial as well as presenting the story, ‘The Big So-So’. This is an after-the-aliens-came story in which the invaders solve the world’s problems by giving everyone happy juice, then select those most susceptible to keep getting it, discarding the rest. A few, like the narrator, have tolerance to the drug and are able to help those bottoming out from the universal high. She realises that the aliens are not benign and are merely harvesting humans. It is told in the same, light, off-centre style as the novel, both of which have serious undertones.

There are four other stories here. ‘Looking for Laika’ by Laura Mauro starts quietly, an ordinary holiday at the seaside with Grandpa looking after two children. When five- year old Beverly is told about Laika orbiting the Earth, she develops an obsession about the dog, fuelled by her brother’s invented stories. Pete, though, has a different obsession. If he carries out a daily ritual, then the world won’t be destroyed by a nuclear war. This a beautifully told story about the inability to change the inevitable. Rachael Cupp’s ‘After the Titans’ is a mythological fantasy about the indifference Gods have to human affairs while Dan Grace’s ‘Fully Automated Nostalgia Capitalism’ paints a portrait of a world where almost everyone works in a recreated simulation of something from the past, such as a chip shop. Both these are well written but ‘The Garden of Eating’ by R Boyczuk provides a snapshot into a ruined future. Boy is being educated by a robot whose functions are not working properly, something the reader can appreciate where Boy hasn’t the context to compare with. It is a carefully constructed story of misinterpretation.

Interzone also has regular features including Dave Langford’s Ansible Link – which, if you haven’t come across it before is worth chasing up on the internet. There are also Book and Film review columns. Nick Lowe is very knowledgeable about films and the books are reviewed by seven different reviewers each with a different approach to the task.

This is a magazine worth supporting so that it can continue to print quality stories and keep the SF short story outlet alive.