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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Interzone, July 2007, Issue #211

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"Exvisible" by Carlos Hernandez
"Deer Flight" by Aliette de Bodard
"Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres" by Ahmed A. Khan
"Knowledge" by Grace Duncan

A large part of the July 2007 issue of Interzone is devoted to a special section on Michael Moorcock, including an extract from an unpublished novel and a short story (see the related article in Divergences).  This leaves just four stories by other authors, one of which is a one-pager.  However, the current issue still contains an interesting collection of pieces.

The first story is Carlos Hernandez's "Exvisible"—which, I assure you, unexpectedly turned out to be exactly the kind of piece I mentioned in my June 26 Divergences article, a story of a human being uploading their consciousness into a computer.

This time around, our narrator, Mr. Otero (he never tells us his first name; we know his last only because this is what everyone calls him), has just been hit up by an old man claiming to be the father he never knew.  Because he is dying, and broke, Timothy Fagin would like him to pick up the bill for the procedure, despite the total and complete absence of any connection between them besides the biological.

This could easily be a story of brooding and angst on the part of either or both men, but while Otero certainly has his baggage, the story stays light, and "Exvisible" instead finds its interest in its touches of humor about this odd situation, and its intricate detailing of just what "migration" is and what it entails—and why someone might choose not to take immortality on its terms. Migration is, at this point, still a work in progress, as Otero notes:

"A computer does not—yet!—create pathways based on what you experience or how you feel about that experience . . . We don't know yet how we can use our computers to grow a mind . . . All we can do right now is move them and store them . . . they become static, incapable of further development: in a way, neither alive nor dead."

This is, however, not expected to last forever.  As he tells us, "I'm sure that someday we'll be fully replicable, recoverable, both in mind and body, that we will all live in a Kurzweillian world of boundless spiritual machines."  In the meantime, you settle for being "reduced" to a small monstrance and kept around the house of a loved one.

Aliette de Bodard's beautifully written fantasy, "Deer Flight," by contrast, takes its inspiration from fairy tales, as the author's biography notes.  Such tales, of course, are not always sweetness and light, and this one begins with a particularly dark turn.  The wizard Lesper has spent fifteen years on the edge of the forest awaiting the return of his wife, Tarra, a deer-woman who had taken on human shape when he saw her and came to love her, then left him to be with her herd.  When at last he does find her, she is dead—murdered. This leaves him with the mystery of identifying her killer, coping with his troubled past, and the problem of revenge, which are the core of the issue's most compelling and elegantly composed drama.

Ahmed A. Kahn's one-page short-short "Elevator Episodes in Seven Genres" delivers what it can reasonably promise given its concept and length, a playful piece on the slipperiness of genre boundaries, flitting from one to another between one sentence or paragraph and the next.  In relating the simple story of a science teacher's vacation on the moon (that, of course, would be the science-fiction part), it tends toward the cute rather than the revolutionary, but the wry humor in the last bit made for a very satisfying cap to the tale.

The final piece, Grace Duncan's "Knowledge," is about Janine, a college student who one day finds herself seeing a digital readout counting down over the head of everyone she meets, much as in Nickelback's "Savin' Me" video.  Rather than marking the birth of a superhero, or setting up a parable about freedom and determinism (though it is open to being read that way), the story concentrates on Janine's coping with the burden of the titular "knowledge."  While Duncan's description of Janine's thoughts and actions after the fact is credible, I felt that the story failed to realize some of the intriguing possibilities it set up at the start, not least of all the implications of when and where she was when she first discovered this power.