I’m starting below another of my gradual real-time reviews. This time it is of the fiction stories in TTA Press’s ‘BLACK STATIC’ – Issue 19 (Oct / Nov 2010). As before, I shall attempt to draw out all the fiction’s leitmotifs and mould them into a gestalt.
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the stories, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading them. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
My previous Black Static reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/
All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
Black Static # 19 – www.ttapress.com
Authors (the year shows when each author had an original story in Nemonymous): Steve Rasnic Tem (2010), Ray Cluley, Joel Lane (2002, 2010), Simon Clark (2001), Lavie Tidhar (2003, 2005).
Chain Reaction by Steve Rasnic Tem
“You cannot believe things were always this bad.”
I’m glad I’ve started my celebration of the second anniversary of my inception of real-time reviewing with this classic-to-be story. It is in itself a real-time narrative (literally) of a major statically-serial car pile-up — as a result of an avalanche (I think) — a piecemeal visitation to each constituent of the pile-up by one of its victim drivers, reminiscent (but not all that much) of Jean-Luc Godard’s film ‘Weekend’ (1967)…but that comparison gives you the idea. It is well-written (and although I rarely mention artwork in my real-time reviews, brilliantly illustrated by Dave Senecal) – and the story itself, without giving anything away, sure collects the leitmotifs retrocausally towards its own plot gestalt (a process that has recently become a personal obsession of mine). All life is here, absurd, horrific, poignant, itemised, surreal, caricatured… Loved the Suitcase Man, just as one example. And I also enjoyed what I interpreted as a seasoned authorial man’s view of life that does not only have entropy individually for each of us but globally for our way of life itself as a slow downward path from civilization’s beginning to where we are now and, later, to where we will be in a few minutes’ time….. Hey, loved it! (7 Nov 10)
Beachcombing by Ray Cluley
“The man was so lonely and sad and empty like a flat tyre.”
The boy finds ‘treasures’ on the beach inadvertently to scry lives about their previous owners… Beautifully described. Plainsong prose. Passive yet strong.
This boy ‘itemises’ things in his rite-of-search more passively (although the scrying is far more active than he can imagine) and indeed more fearfully than the main protagonist in the previous story conducts a similar ‘itemisation’ or scrying as he travels the pile-up. A wonderful contrast of styles, but a similarity of thrust.
It may only be me, but I imagine the man Tommy sees is a later version of that protagonist in ‘Chain Reaction’. But such a tangent of personal critique cannot prevent this separately special ‘Beachcombing’ becoming its own treasure that passive or active readers alike will keep forever after first discovering it.
[May I recommend another fiction that stems from a boy’s beachcombing: quite different, of course, but possibly complementary: the novel ‘Notes From An Exhibition’ by Patrick Gale.] (7 Nov 10 – another 2 hours later)
The Sleep Mask by Joel Lane
“The only cars he could see looked too damaged to be in use. […] …the roads were hardly roads at all.”
It is a bit of a cheek to switch characters from story to story as I did above, but here Joel does a similar job for me within his extremely Lane-like story – a dream-combing as this mag’s third rite-of-search, a floundering between reality and irreality: seeking by a dark itemisation-of-‘travel’ for that handle that is the ever-ungraspable truth. Who is the right who in our antecedents (a question betokening a deep sadness within this story)? Who is the man seeking ostensible oblivion?
[A sleep regularly or irregularly disturbed is I feel the best (or worst?) path to a dreamful sleep for the rest of it – as is the discomforting sleep mask (needed for the protagonist’s sleep disorder: chicken or egg?) and, in my own case, a weak bladder.] (7 Nov 10 – another 2 hours later)
[Can one literally drown in dreams as if dreams are the con(dream)fused panoply of one’s own life and its participants scrolled before you in those last moments of drowning? Possibly an irrelevant imponderable. (Joel’s stories in ‘Nemonymous’ were entitled ‘The Drowned’ and ‘The Drowned Market’)] (7 Nov 10 – another 10 minutes later)
they will not rest by Simon Clark
“…the sleep debt would build and build…”
[Cf: Joel Lane’s story above: “When he started to pay off the sleep debt…”]
I am currently drowned in connections. What a way to celebrate an anniversary of real-time synchronicities, those parthenogenetic serendipities of truth hatched from artifice! And all to the good of the stories separately and to their mighty gestalt. We have a flood (of dreams?) and utter disturbed sleep to the point of enforced sleeplessness causing a sort of holcaust zombie-feel in this story … and beachcombing tellingly introduced towards the end…and drowning.
Simon Clark’s story is an imaginative feat of enormously impressive proportions. A Horror story plain and simple, honed for genre readers, and with originality oozing at every pore. The incredible greater cosmos and the microcosm of humanity in interface, set within the purlieus of windy Whitby. The human emotions of the main protagonists are depicted neatly, some strong as a soldier’s, others weak and self-serving. Love and lust. Pity and cruelty.
People ‘zombied’ by a need to keep awake so as to avoid the walking coffins (cf: Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities). And flying coffins! Almost in war-time formation. And it all seems so believable within the plot. Can’t give any more away. Blakean and something I’d guess to be essentially pure Clark.
” – and when they force themselves awake the dream doesn’t leave. It remains inside their heads where it overlaps reality.” (7 Nov 10 – another three hours later)
The Wound Dresser by Lavie Tidhar
“‘What is your name, angel?’ she demanded as soon as I sat down.
This is a brief but over-brimming story as this mag’s fiction’s perfect coda … “at the conclusion of a grand symphony, straining for the final note.”
The ‘midwife’ of those souls who die, inter alia, in the death camps… Poetic, and deeply felt.
Create your own connections, do.
I am spent.* My first ever single day’s real-time review.
I am finished. Numbed, but fulfilled. A perfect set of five stories. Exquisite. (7 Nov 10 – another 3 hours later)
There is much else in ‘Black Static’ to interest the Horror genre fan. In fact, about only 50% of it, I guess, is the fiction I have discussed above.
*I am still awake. Not all dead bodies are put in coffins. Most are mercifully converted into ashes. Some were (and perhaps still are) piled together without care. Humanity’s cruelty to humanity. And later today, nothing will have changed in the nature of change. (8 Nov 10)