A SF Periodical Full Of Suprises Sprung By New Authors.
I will start this review of Interzone with some blurb off the TTA Press website.
Founded in 1982, Interzone has maintained its position as one of the world’s leading professional Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines, nominated for a Hugo many years running and winning in 1995, a reputation that the new team will be making every effort to enhance and improve.
TTA Press took over from the previous publishers from issue 194 (September/October 2004).
Prior to that, it was published by David Pringle and his gang. It was a stylish, 68 page, (monthly/bi monthly depending on the schedule) containg around 6 or 7 short stories. It included both well known authors and up and coming authors. The kind of stories were what I would term proper SF. They made you think. They were impressive, and most of all they were enjoyable.
Because the lineup changed issue by issue, it was almost like a lottery as to what kind of story you would next read (but the reader always won). Interzone has published new stories by authors such as Brian Aldiss, Sarah Ash, J.G. Ballard, Iain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Michael Blumlein, Molly Brown, John Brunner, Christopher Burns, Richard Calder, Jonathan Carroll, Thomas M. Disch, Paul Di Filippo, Greg Egan, William Gibson, Nicola Griffith, John Courtenay Grimwood, M. John Harrison, Robert Holdstock, Gwyneth Jones, Graham Joyce, Garry Kilworth, Jonathan Lethem, Paul J. McAuley, Ian R. MacLeod, Michael Moorcock, Kim Newman, Rachel Pollack, Christopher Priest, Alastair Reynolds, Nicholas Royle, Geoff Ryman, Brian Stableford, Charles Stross, Ian Watson and a great many talented newer authors. The list contains some of my favourite SF writers, namely Christoper Priest and Jonathan Carroll. The point being is that the list is impressive.
As well as the fiction, there were articles of non-fiction which included book reviews, interviews and movie reviews. They were intelligently written and almost as interesting as the fiction.
So, in issue 193 they announced that there was a change of management, and that there was an ‘incoming publisher’. We held our collective breath…
I must admit, that when they announced a change of publisher I wondered exactly how Interzone itself would be affected. I have seen all too many times, an entity is taken over and all of a sudden it becomes unrecognisable for what it was. The new owners have big ideas, which can invariably have a negative impact on how it appears from then on.
It appeared to me as if it was the backbone of British SF and it seemed to be the general consensus from other critics.
Along came issue 194.
My first impressions were from the way the presentation had changed. I held in my hand a glossy Manga style magazine. The main obvious changes were to the logo and the fonts had changed to be more ‘trendy’. I could see immediately that they were trying to push the magazine from it’s ‘fanzine’ look, to a more commercially viable look.
Opening issue 194 showed that they had re arranged the content presentation as well as the content. The look was definately crisper, easier to read, and somehow just looked better. The artwork seemed to revolve around the content of the page it was on. For example there were drawings which fitted in with the page of the story it was on.
Upon comparing the non-fiction areas, I could see that there were still the main areas as there were before, gossip, movie and novel reviews. But in addition there was a new computer game page. Hmm I thought. This instinctively struck me as a bad move. If I wanted to read about computer games, I’d buy a computer game magazine. But after reading the column, and subsequent columns, it shows that in fact, it fits in well. The column is written with SF in mind. Even though I wouldn’t personally buy a game from the sole writings in the column, it makes interesting reading.
The fiction itself was pretty much the same as before, which I breathed a sigh of relief to. But being wary, I wanted to read each subsequent issue to see if there would be a gradual change.
The format lasted from 194 to 198. I think during this time, the publisher were ‘testing the water’, trying various tweeks to the format (as it is in fact only the format and presentation which has changed), and getting feedback from readers.
And along came 199. And it blew me away.
Again, the changes were primarily presentation, but it makes it so much more of a proper magazine. The artwork is still just as excellent. The fiction and non fiction sections are just as good. But now the changes to the look and feel of the magazine seems to have thrust it into a format which could be displayed in a high street newsagents.
The feedback from their readers seems to have payed off. It has a masthead and more of an identifiable front cover. It has been toned down slightly, the logo is no longer in such a ‘futuristic’ font.
I noticed also they’ve put a few choice keywords on the front - Aliens! Murder! Celebrities! Dragons! Sex! Food! I’m not sure what the mentality is behind this choice of words, but I have a feeling that the publisher are aiming for a larger market, something that will sit on a newsagents shelf and be catching to the eye. The picture of the cyberamazon girl with big tits and a laser kind of implies that too.
Looking back, Interzones pre 194 were pretty stagnant. I would envisage this is because it was a case of ‘why fix what isn’t broken’. The format worked. But now, post 193, Interzone is going through many changes to simply bring it upto date.
And it is certainly working. I will continue to subscribe. You can subscribe to Interzone here too. You won’t be disappointed.
So, it’s been revamped and revamped again, and the publishers are improving it all the time. It is very much the better for it. It should be available at WH Smiths (at Waterloo for tired commuters wanting to escape the reality of being stuck on a packed, sweaty train).
A last thought: A few Interzone Anthologies have been released over the years containing key stories through the lifetime of the magazine. It was, infact, how I first got to hear about the publication. I would hate to think that these compilations won’t be carried on. Let’s hope the new publisher have the time/energy/money to bring out the first 21st Century Interzone Compilation.
Issue 200 is reviewed here and it’s funkier than ever.