Interzone: 25 Years of Quality British Speculative Fiction
As a science-fiction-loving teenager in rural 1980s Alabama, my options for quality short fiction were limited. My grandfather subscribed to several science fiction magazines—most notably Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (as it was then called)—but otherwise the only way to find quality sf short stories was to buy paperback anthologies and collections at the local bookstore.
As I read these anthologies and collections, I noticed a fascinating trend: Many of the best short stories were being published in a British magazine called Interzone. Unfortunately, in those pre-internet days, I had no way of locating even a single copy of this trend-setting publication.
The good news, though, is that Interzone—now Britain's longest running science fiction magazine—is still around and as vital as ever. In 2004, long-time editor David Pringle stepped down and sold the magazine to TTA Press. Now edited by Andy Cox and a slew of fellow talented editors, Interzone has returned to its roots, publishing cutting-edge speculative fiction from new and established writers.
The February 2007 issue of Interzone (issue 208) features several strong stories, my favorite being "The Star Necromancers" by Alexander Marsh Freed, which is a far-future tale set in a universe where the stars are fading and the differences between science and religion are hard to state and even harder to believe in. Jason Stoddard also has an amazingly disturbing and well-written tale about the perils and limitations of communications among both humans and aliens in "Softly Shining in the Forbidden Dark." The highlights of the issue, though, are essays about three writers: Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. The Hand article/interview is an in-depth exploration of her life and writing, while the essays by Gaiman and Clarke examine their unique views on writing short stories. Their verdict? To Gaiman, "Writing a short story is the equivalent of looking over and thinking it might be fun to try and climb that tree. And you just shin straight up it." For Clarke, though, "Short stories scare me. A novel is something that happens to me. A short story is something I have to make happen."
The April 2007 issue (issue 209) is Interzone's 25th anniversary spectacular. As might be expected, the issue includes retrospectives of the magazine from a number of noted authors, including Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Moorcock (who evidently predicted, back in the 1980s, that Interzone would only last three issues). This issue also packs in a ton of top-quality fiction, including an interview with and new story by Hal Duncan. Other fiction standouts include Alastair Reynolds, who presents a well-written, if slightly predictable, post-apocalyptic story (although it's not the nuclear or virus-laden apocalypse most people expect) with "The Sledge-Maker's Daughter." Finally, new writer Jamie Barras has a great slipstream/science fiction story with "Winter," which is not only well written, but showcases how effective the unreliable narrator technique can be in storytelling. I should note that Barras has published several excellent stories in recent issues of Interzone. That, combined with his wonder of a tale from Strange Horizons last year ("Spinning Out," reviewed here) marks him as a writer to watch. This appears to be yet another case of Interzone recognizing and bringing attention to a talented writer early in his or her career.
I should note that Interzone is the best designed science fiction magazine on the market. The artwork truly strengthens the fiction without ever overwhelming the printed type with designer gimmicks (which is what too many magazines do, making the text unreadable). In addition, both issues feature the best film reviews I've read in ages in Nick Lowe's Mutant Popcorn column. As someone who has tired of the wink-wink, nod-nod insider's game of critiquing which passes for film reviews in most newspapers and magazines, Lowe's writing is truly a breath of Godzilla-flame-throwing, melt-your-eyeballs-to-their-sockets fresh air.
For people in the United States, copies of Interzone are carried by a number of independent bookstores, along with the Barnes and Noble chain of stores (which appears to still have issue 208 in stock). People can also order individual issues or a subscription on Interzone's website. One suggestion: If you order a subscription, order the two-year deal. Overseas subscribers who order two year subscriptions get a large discount on their postage and delivery charges.