INTERZONE #279 (Jan-Feb 2019) edited by Andy Cox. Zine review

INTERZONE #279 (Jan-Feb 2019) edited by Andy Cox, TTA Press, Ely, Cambs, UK p/b £5.99 (UK) 96 pages, www.ttapress.com 

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

There are two reasons why people buy magazines; the first is to learn something new in an area in which they have an interest and secondly because there is fiction inside. If it has an eye-catching cover, that is a bonus. Interzone regularly has all three, and issue #279 is no exception. 

The fiction, six pieces, is accompanied by illustrations using a restricted palate. Most are by Richard Wagner whose skill is shown by the startling, full-colour cover. The lead story, ‘The Backstitched Heart of Katherine Wright’ by Alison Wilgus, is a gentle, subtle story that is driven by love. The protagonist is the sister of Orville and Wilbur. On a number of occasions she is able to go back in time and use her skills as big sister to prevent tragedy. This is a beautifully crafted tale. ‘The Fukinaga Special Chip Job’ by Tim Chawaga is, as a contrast, set in a far future where most cities float. It takes a side-swipe at the obsessions of the rich. Instead of rare wines or stamps, the desired object is potato chips (crisps). The most expensive are a line that was discontinued decades ago. The narrator and a rival are in a race to find any surviving packets and claim the very lucrative reward. This story should be taken with a pinch of salt (in a blue paper twist?).

As Interzone was conceived as an SF magazine, it is good to find a story with aliens at its heart. G.V. Anderson’s ‘For the Wicked, Only Weeds Will Grow’ is set on a planet which is basically a hospice for the terminally ill. The aliens that run the place have the job of providing palliative care. They are extremely alien. For most that go there it is a relief but Terran Arnold Burke is extremely resistant to his treatment. It tells of the understanding that develops between Arnold and his carer. ‘This Buddhafield Is Not Your Buddhafield’ by William Squirrell is also SF but contains a touch of surreal. Neatly constructed like the building the protagonist is hired to clean. She is alone in a mansion suspended in the atmosphere of Uranus. While there is little plot the descriptions are faultless.

Different kind of surreal is found in David Cleden’s ‘Seven Stops along the Graffiti Road’. There have been other stories and novels about people journeying along a road with no destination in sight and no idea of thee catastrophe that has set them off on the path. The journey is everything. Ry Stormglass is a traveller along this road that is covered with graffiti. He is disturbed by recognising the marks he has made even though he walks only in one direction. Steam Punk is a branch of SF/Fantasy that has been growing in strength. Set in the Victorian era, ‘Terminalia’ by Sean McMullen is an aberrant approach to the sub-genre, revolving around the doctor who is developing a technique of restarting the heart with electricity.

To satisfy the readers desire for information about the genre, what better than David Langford’s ‘Ansible Link’ a column that provides news and humour. There are also perceptive book and film reviews as well as articles from Andy Hedgecock and Aliya Whitely. Overall, this is a well-produced issue containing fascinating stories wrapped inside a beautiful piece of artwork.