Monday, May 19, 2008

Last bits for Interzone #215

Three more stories finish off this issue of Interzone. "Holding Pattern" by Joy Marchand is a claustrophobic tale that takes place on an airplane. The stewardess is convinced that one of the passengers is an alien. As the tale progresses we get vignettes about the lives of the other passengers, and we find out why this flight is special. It's an OK idea, but the story never sold it to me. I could never really suspend my disbelief — it was all too convenient and arbitrary. I suppose it's gauche to complain about a story set in the air not being grounded enough, but there you go.

"Street Hero" by Will McIntosh is more interesting. Kilo Orange is the hero of his own running internal monologue. He's got friends and mad martial arts skillz, which he needs in the plague-ridden eco-dystopia in which he lives. Through the story he makes various attempts to fit into the world: gang-banger, superhero, hippie drop-out, until he finally finds the right place for himself. Sometimes the transitions can be a little awkward and a little rushed. That makes sense; the author is writing a fairly complex bildungsroman into a short novella (or long novelette, Interzone doesn't label their stories by length, which makes things difficult come awards time). It's a satisfying piece that avoids the easy answers of some coming-of-age stories.

The last story, "The Imitation Game" by Rudy Rucker, is a short secret history providing an alternate explanation of Alan Turing's death. I'm always leery of stories that mess with real historical figures, and this one is no exception. Throw in a piece of bio-technology that Turing not only couldn't have access to in the 50's, it'd be impossible even today, and this story really didn't work for me. Basically, I wasn't sure if I should read this as secret history, sf, or science fantasy of some nature. If it's secret history, the tech should be plausible for the era. If it's science fiction, the tech should be plausible for any era (and I don't buy it at all), and if it's science fantasy then what's the point? I was probably also peeved that I read the entire story with only minute amounts of comprehension. Then I went to Wikipedia, looked up the circumstances of Turing's death, and realized what Rucker was actually doing. Any historical work, especially alternate or secret history, depends largely on the reader's appreciation of what the author is doing. This time, I didn't have the knowledge I needed to appreciate Rucker's approach, and that also soured me on the story. It may be much more attractive to Turing devotees.

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