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Interzone, December 1999

Interzone, December 1999
Interzone, Britain's leading science-fiction and fantasy magazine, founded in 1982, has now reached over 150 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
SF Site Review: Interzone, November 1999

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

The December issue of Interzone features a number of regulars, with fairly characteristic stories. By and large this is a middling issue: none of the stories are outstanding, but most are at least interesting.

The always baroque Richard Calder opens the magazine with an unusual contemporary story with a horror edge to it, "Impakto." The protagonist, a Filipino raised in England, is returning from London to the Philippines, on a long flight. He sits next to a man who identifies himself as an impakto, product of an abortion: a man possessed by demons. The man, we learn, plans to kill himself by causing the plane to crash -- there is no escape. Or perhaps there is, although the escape may be worse than dying... This is pretty good contemporary horror, not exactly to my personal taste but entertaining, especially as it achieves its effects with imagery and ideas, as opposed to gore.

Another Interzone regular, Ian Watson, offers "The Descent." The narrator is rebounding from a breakup, and he joins a crowd witnessing the passing of a comet. All of a sudden, the sky is full of strange light and everyone seems to know that everything has changed. He meets a woman and they go home together, both aware that they are wholly different people, and yet the same. The story simply works out the basic idea; it's an odd view of a familiar but slightly twisted alien invasion theme.

Leigh Kennedy's "The Bicycle Way" tells of a woman with an odd job: she is a Tiny Woman, someone who plays a child and rides a bicycle along certain routes, apparently trying to flush out potential rapists and abusers. I couldn't quite rationalize the setup; perhaps I missed a key element. But the story is told well, with an involving main character.

In some ways, James Lovegrove's "Terminal Event" resonates with the Ian Watson story in this issue. The title "event" is unexplained, but somehow it has been determined that the world is going to end in the near future. Lovegrove portrays an oddly utopian world: no need to work, lots of uncomplicated sex, and of course lots of suicide. As his narrator says, "This is paradise..., and I'm determined to enjoy it..." The story centres on the narrator's friend's decision to use a government-supplied euthanasia kit. It's a decidedly unusual story, disquieting and thought-provoking, but not one I found sympathetic.

Interzone has been featuring SF in translation quite regularly lately, and I've been very impressed. Jean-Claude Dunyach is a French author whose "Unravelling the Thread" was voted the best Interzone last year by the magazine's readers. He's back this issue with "Footprints in the Snow," an unusual short piece about a group of people who come every year to a remote Andean mountain for a reunion. We soon realize that these people are actually aliens, and the story is an effective evocation of their loneliness on this planet.

Eric Brown specializes in colourful, rather old-fashioned SF. Aliens are prominent in his stories, and remote planets, and adventure. His work reads to me strongly like 50s SF with a 90s sensibility. Lately he's written several stories about planets whose suns are about to go nova. "The People of the Nova" is at least the third such story from Brown in the past two years. This story features the head of a Station on Tartarus, charged with evacuating the planet before its sun blows up. His wife has disappeared, but he finds some comfort in a girl from an interior tribe (of humans, in this case) whom he has sort of adopted. But then he is summoned to a tribe who stubbornly refuse to leave the planet. This story never quite caught fire for me, so to speak. It's not bad, but there's nothing special here either.

As always, Interzone has a number of interesting features. Besides the usual letters, book reviews, and columns (including David Langford's entertaining "Ansible Link"), this issue has an interview with Canadian author Alison Sinclair, an essay about SF film by Gary Westfahl, and an annotated bibliography of the work of the late lamented James White. This is by no means Interzone's best issue, but it was still enjoyable, and I remain a happy subscriber.

Copyright © 2000 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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