Interzone 262

Anthony G Williams

Apr 18, 2007
Jonathan McCalmont's regular Future Interrupted column this time consists of a long review of the Quatermass series by Nigel Kneale, a genuine classic of British SF from the 1950s, written for BBC TV. These feature a rocket scientist (Professor Quatermass) in contemporary Britain who "continually finds himself confronting sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity" as Wiki puts it. These rapidly achieved a cult status comparable with the Dr Who series only more adult and less kitsch. The first three series (The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass II, and Quatermass and the Pit) appeared between 1953 and 1959, with a long delay before the final series (The Quatermass Conclusion) arrived in 1979 on ITV. Cinema versions from Hammer for the first three stories also appeared in the 1950s and 60s, and there was a 2005 remake of the first series for BBC4. I must admit I have only vague recollections of seeing some of the programmes on monochrome TV long ago, without having much idea what they were about. More details of the productions and plots can be found on the Wiki Quatermass page, but beware the usual spoilers. Sadly, most of the first series has been lost, but some DVDs are still available from UK Amazon, as are Kneale's one and only novelisation – of the final series – plus some scripts and explanations of the series.

In the Review section Dave Hutchinson is the featured author, along with his books Europe in Autumn and Europe at Midnight, which sound fascinating – definitely added to my "to buy" list. There are some other intriguing-sounding books reviewed as well: Planetfall by Emma Newman, Ultima by Stephen Baxter (the sequel to Proxima, which I haven't read), and The Sand Men by Christopher Fowler, but my reading pile continues to grow faster than I can shrink it, so I'm trying to impose some self-discipline here… The main film reviews are both somewhat lukewarm; of the new Star Wars film (I'm not a big fan, but I expect I'll see it sometime) and the final part of The Hunger Games (ditto).

On to the short stories:

The Water-Walls of Enceladus by Mercurio D. Rivera, illustrated by Jim Burns. As I have said a couple of times before: yet another of this author's stories concerning the relationship between humanity and the advanced alien Wergen race, who find humans irresistably attractive. Possibly the last we'll hear of them, judging by the finale.

Empty Planets by Rahul Kanakia, illustrated by Richard Wagner. An AI-controlled civilisation in which a dissatisfied adolescent Moon resident travels to take a Non-Mandatory Study program on Mars in an attempt to win a "bounty" for making some valuable discovery.

Geologic by Ian Sales, illustrated by Jim Burns. An expedition to a strange desert planet tries to work out the meaning of an ancient, massive rock covered with carvings. More like a brief segment from a story, but very atmospheric.

Circa Diem by Carole Johnstone, illustrated by Richard Wagner. In a far future in which the Earth's rotation has slowed right down, much of humanity has evolved to hibernate through the long, dark winters. The rest live in deep artificially-lit caverns, but the two versions of humanity carefully avoid each other. Until a young couple happen to meet and form a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of relationship.

A Strange Loop by T.R Napper. If you're short of money, you can sell your memories for rich people to live through. But then you've lost them forever. What will that do to your relationships?

Dependent Assemblies by Philip A. Suggars, illustrated by Richard Wagner. A fantastic alternative history set in a very different South America in which children can be made, as machines, then given life by the magical lux potion.

An interestingly varied collection of tales this time: the Wergen stories do nothing for me (a matter of personal taste) but while none of the others stands out, they are all well worth the time to read. The Sales story is particularly tantalising, as it made me want to carry on reading to discover what happened next.

(An extract from my SFF blog: Science Fiction & Fantasy)
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