INTERZONE #281 (May-Jun 2019). Zine review

INTERZONE #281 (May-Jun 2019) edited by Andy Cox TTA Press, Ely, Cambs, UK p/b £5.99 (UK) 96 pages, 

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

When TTA Press first started publishing (as The Third Alternative), it had a reputation for publishing slipstream and surreal fiction. Interzone was renowned for its SF stories. Once TTA Press took over Interzone, it didn’t mean that it had abandoned its original ideals, rather it combined the two to consider anything of a high standard. The fiction in this issue (#281), owes much to the original vision and has included stories that are quirky and surreal. Some of this may be down to the writer of the guest editorial, Georgina Bruce, who is also featured heavily elsewhere in this issue – there is an interview, a review of her debut collection This House of Wounds and a short story. The story, ‘Café Corona’ is written in the second person is a surreal piece and is more flash fiction than plot or character-driven story. It is pure slipstream.

Second person is an unusual form for prose, yet this issue contains three of them. ‘Our Fathers Find Their Graves in Our Short Memories’ by Rebecca Campbell also takes on a surreal aspect. The Ossuary appears to be a computer program which collects facts about the dead but also has a counter of the current human population. The story tracks that number and other changes through the next few decades. It is a bleak story. The third is ‘Harmony’ by Andy Dudak. This, too, is bleak. It is also an allegory for the insidiousness of state propaganda and the futility of fighting it. The controlling element is music, a harmony which pervades everything and everywhere. The protagonist is a foreign agent trying to get out of the city before they are sucked into accepting the control. 

Agents are also a link with ‘The Realitarians’ by James Warner. In this surreal story, Jacinta is in Paris awaiting the arrival of Nestor. He was always looking for the next ‘big thing’ to make money from. She is disconcerted by being stalked by two talking cats. While Jacinta wonders if she is being used to smuggle drugs, Tyner Kaunas in Matt Thompson’s ‘Scolex’ knows he is. The drug he is carrying is in his veins and when he arrives in Nampo, his intention is to get it filtered out of him as soon as possible before its effects on his system are too great. He, too, suffers from altered perceptions.

The remaining two stories are closer to the general expectation of an SF/Fantasy story. Malcolm Devlin’s ‘A Dreamer Arrives in the Occupied City’ is subtle, giving the reader enough clues to unravel the nature of the invaders. In contrast, ‘Float’ by Kai Hudson shows how easy it is for the stranger to misinterpret alien concepts.

Other than the fiction, this issue of Interzone has the expected book and film reviews. David Langford’s ‘Ansible Link’ is always good value as are the perceptive columns from Andy Hedgecock and Aliya Whiteley. 

The whole package is adorned by another magnificent cover by Richard Wagner.