Short Science-Fiction from the pages of Interzone.

I always find it surprising that I don’t read more science fiction as it is a genre I read avidly in my teens and love in movies. Perhaps it is just that I read more selectively in the genre now, rather than gorging on books in a series or by particular authors. I have spent this week of the Short Story Challenge catching up on my Interzone subscription. This was as much a recon of the magazine prior to my drafting and submitting the three sci-fi stories I have bubbling away in my notebooks as it was reading for enjoyment. Having said that, I was well and truly carried away by the majority of the stories in the last two issues of Interzone.

I have already covered some stories read in previous weeks, here and here. Of the stories read this week it would be hard to pick a favourite. Chris Beckett’s chilling ‘Johnny’s New Job’ has me itching to read his prize winning collection (currently sitting on my short fiction shelf), while The History of Poly-V and its temporal unraveling will certainly see me revisiting it in the future. ‘Flying in the Face of God’ by Nina allen had an air of ‘Defying Gravity’ about it, a compliment considering how much I enjoy that show, with its exploration of the human story in space exploration. ‘Dance of the Kawkawroons’ by Mercurio D. Rivera is a sweeping, powerful tale told through the eyes of the humans and an ‘alien’ Kawkawroon. A great example of how to do dual narrative view points and a twist ending.

The story I read this morning while sitting in a waiting room, ‘Chimbwi’ by Jim Hawkins has been flashing back to me over the course of the rest of today. It’s a classic quest story, the backdrop of which is a post climate change African continent that has emerged from the chaos as the new world power thanks to its development of proper, efficient solar energy. The main characters quest to escape the new fascist order in the West provides the thrust of the story but it is the ending which has stuck its hooks in me.

Which leads me to what I feel I have gained, as a writer, from reading these stories. Each one is a great example of building a compelling and original world in a short space. Each one uses structure in a way that serves the story rather than just for flashy effect. Each one eschews the option of just using a clever sci-fi idea and instead uses character to draw the reader in and make them care. Each one provides a thought provoking and sometimes shocking ending that sits with the reader for some time after. All things purveyors and critics of literary fiction will tell you are needed for truly great literary fiction. Proof if proof were needed that science fiction is bigger and better than the genre ghetto some would try to make of it.

And what have I gained as a reader? Well, I’ll be renewing my subscription to Interzone. That should tell you something.