Visions #1: Visions Of Home (magazine review).

April 17, 2019 | By | Reply More

It’s been a long time since a new UK-based print genre magazine has appeared, so I was delighted to discover ‘Visions’, which has arrived to fill that void. When I started writing reviews years ago, I particularly concentrated on this type of publication, switching gradually to novel reviews as the magazines disappeared one by one. The particularly exciting thing about this magazine is that it includes not only short stories and non-fiction articles but also the first half of a 1930s French post-apocalyptic novel translated into English for the first time.

I’ve read several novels translated from various languages in recent years, as well as short story collections, and been fascinated by them since some of my own short stories began to be translated into numerous languages. Issue # 1 focuses on ‘visions of home,’ a theme followed by the stories but also expanded on in several fascinating articles that approach the subject from numerous and varied angles. It also has a highly unusual layout for the table of contents.

The first, very brief, story is ‘The End Of An Era’ by Ginger Moonbaker, in which a scientist faces the end of his city and of civilisation as the rest of the population flee to other planets. It’s a nice little twist, although not at all hidden from the reader, but gives a nod to cross-species understanding of how we feel about our home.

Hannah Gersen’s ‘Dud Planet’ is a fun little story that takes the old trope of watching from afar in an accelerated timeframe as civilisation develops but sets it in an amusingly mundane backdrop. When a real-estate agent speculatively buys Earth in the hope of making a quick profit, they are dismayed to learn that there are intelligent species living there, which immediately affects the value and the saleability of the planet. The broker’s gradually developing emotional attachment to the tragic hominids plays out nicely alongside the business decisions and consequences that result from the burgeoning civilisation.

‘Something Green’ is a reprint of a 1951 story by Fredric Brown and is a wonderful choice of story to be brought to the attention of a new audience. McGarry is an astronaut who has been stranded for years on the planet Kruger III, where everything is in shades of red and kept company by a small creature he has adopted as a pet. He longs to see some green and his dreams of returning to Earth are just heart-wrenching. It’s one of the most powerful stories I have ever read.

Freyja Sewell next discusses how ‘Your Head Is Your Home’, expanding on the importance of good mental health and how our own mind is where we spend all of our time. This is the first of a series of articles sprinkled through the magazine that give interesting perspectives on the concept of Home.

A group of four researchers discuss ‘Immersive Futures’ in another article, explaining the concepts of interactive media and how it can meld with the functionality of you house. Both this and the following article on ‘Designing The Future’ by Ana Dabija’ are excellent for a Science Fiction author, such as myself, who might want to write a near-future story, full as they are of cutting-edge ideas. Ana Dabija’s article discusses several architectural projects from past decades that show us that the future is, in fact, already here.

The fabulously titled ‘Homesick Doppler-Shifted Extraterrestrial Blues’ is Tom Offland’s short story that seems almost like an autobiographical musing on moving home, emigrating and pondering on future technology that will make living more convenient, though perhaps less homely. It has a kind of whimsical quality and blurred the boundary into belonging in the other category of non-fiction article.

Kathleen March’s ‘Of Two Minds’ has a similar feel and is written in the second person, so that it comes across as a musing dissertation on belonging, identity and language. It, too, has a delightfully whimsical quality.

In ‘Dinner’ by Julia Specht, an insecure woman regularly visits the restaurant ‘Dinners’ where she dines with a hologram of F. Scott Fitzgerald, while picking at her expensive food and daydreaming about what it would be like to live with him in real life. She appears to be drifting away from her husband, hiding secrets, wondering about the real-life Zelda Fitzgerald, who was committed to an asylum. Her motivation is not clear, but it’s an interesting immersion into the murky world where the imaginary takes on more importance than the real.

Sara Kate Ellis’ story ‘Snow On Snow’ is set in a world where the interactivity of the home has extended to a kind of reverse-Alexa where everybody’s conversations are recorded and can be listened in to via the Internet. A DJ, who samples these conversations and voices to create tunes inspired by real life, discovers that she had not appreciated how real other people’s lives can be. It’s a thought-provoking and touching story.

The content of the magazine is very well arranged, so that the non-fiction articles both introduce and complement the stories that follow. There’s fascinating look into ‘How One Lives In A Traditional Japanese House’ written by Bruno Munari, which is followed up by a short story by the redoubtable Frank Roger entitled ‘New Shinjuku’ set in a high-tech version of the same. It’s a fun and quirky little tale that had a somewhat Phildickian feel to it and left me with an appreciative smile.

The next non-fiction article, ‘Micro Art’ by Bruno Munari picks up some of the themes of Frank Rogers’ story and discusses how homes are becoming smaller as appliances and gadgets take up less space and people’s lives become streamlined. Interestingly, this is one of several articles that were written in previous decades and, in this case, by an Italian author, so that the complete picture we get of the concept of ‘home’ from this magazine has both a geographical and chronological span.

Sabrina Hadjaj’s story ‘The Anti Doll House’ follows a similar style to the earlier narrative stories in the magazine, describing a day in the life of a maths teacher and the way technology has impacted her life, particularly in this case in terms of family planning. It’s another thoughtful and visceral piece of work.

Mark Weiser’s article ‘The Computer For The Twenty-First Century’ was written in 1991 and has the eerie feeling of being almost like real life, but not quite. This takes the opposite format of the article-like stories in that it’s an article written as a story to illustrate the ubiquitous nature of the Internet of things and the potential there is for its misuse.

In ‘Mundane Futures’, Akil Benjamin takes a similar tack, describing what it could be like living in London in 2030 via the accounts of three characters whose lives overlap. 2030 sounded really futuristic to me initially, ‘til I realised it’s only 11 years from now and I had that ‘Back To The Future has already happened’ feeling.

In a total change of pace, ‘Ain’t Like It Used To Be’ by Adam Breckenridge is just as touching and mind-blowing as ‘Something Green’. It tells the story of one man’s bid to cope with the aftermath of nuclear war by continuing the mundane routine of life like making breakfast for the kids, going to work and stopping at the bar. It is a wonderful story.

Another classic tale is brought to life with the late Robert Sheckley’s tale ‘Cost Of Living’, which envisions a future where everything in the home is automated in that retro-futuristic style that could only have come from the 50s. It has that air of Golden Age SF charm and naivety and is full of wry humour.

Sprinkled throughout the magazine is a series of ten microfiction pieces under the banner of ‘The Bot Lost The Plot’. After the first couple, I began to think there was something odd about them. My suspicions as to their origin were confirmed in an article of the same title by editor Mathieu Triay who explains how he used computer algorithms to produce these pieces of fiction whose meaning hovers just beyond human comprehension.

Finally, in a great service to the Anglophone SF-reading world, Mathieu Triay presents his translation of the 1935 French post-apocalyptic novel ‘Quinzinzinzany’ by Régis Messac. Written before the Second World War, it prophesies the political turmoil that leads to a global confrontation but, rather than the conventional war we know, a huge global meteorological catastrophe ensues. The narrator, Gérard Dumaurier, finds himself alone with a bunch of children, as far as he knows the only surviving humans on the planet. Unlike many other post-apocalyptic novels and films, there are no handy supermarkets to raid or libraries to hole up in.

Widespread extreme weather events have destroyed everything. It’s a bleak vision of the future and Gérard Dumaurier becomes lost in despair and denial, unable to bring himself to care about the children he finds himself with. It’s darkly humorous, pitiless and uncompromising in its portrayal of the fall of civilisation. It goes on to explore the consequences of a total lack of anything, including adult supervision of a group of pre-teen children. Régis Messac explores linguistics, culture and religion as well as the practicalities of survival. It was a compelling read. Unfortunately for me, hooked as I was, only the first half of the novel appears in this magazine. I will have to wait for Visions # 2 to find out what happens.

The translation is flawless, the prose running smoothly and Mathieu Triay handles elegantly the issues of Régis Messac’s linguistic discussions of the corruption of the French language. The novel is presented as a series of notebook entries, as many novels and short stories of the time were, and the language has the slightly formal air of the time period. It was highly enjoyable.

Overall, I was highly impressed by this magazine. I have seen many genre magazines come and go and several of them were of questionable quality. A lot of thought has evidently gone into the concept of this magazine and that is evidenced by the way it has been put together. It has an interesting layout and a great variety to the contents. I sincerely hope the second issue will appear successfully in due course.

Gareth D Jones

April 2019

(pub: Atelier Triday. 256 page magazine. Price: £12.99 (UK0, $16.99 (US))

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Category: Magazines, Scifi

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