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 29 (Jul – Aug 2012). Received as part of my subscription to this magazine. 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.
All my previous TTA Pressreviews 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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/
There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.
The stories to be reviewed have been written by Nina Allan, Ray Cluley, Renee Carter Hall, Tim Lees, Baph Tripp.
NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com
Sunshine – by Nina Allan
“It is true that I have formed friendships, intellectual and sometimes emotional alliances that lasted a decade or more. But the ending is always the same: a boredom that finally becomes so oppressive that I am driven to fabricate some feud or schism that explodes the relationship apart.”
The human condition, that quote, present company excepted. These writers are mentioned in the text of this story: Russell, Steiner, Koestler, Canetti, Blake, Kierkegaard, Mrs Jetta Vries, Donne, Spenser, Hopkins — but I do sense that this wonderful story is about Elias Canetti’s ‘Crowds and Power’. It is an invention, not a story, perhaps, about a new creature (from its own perspective), not quite a vampire, not quite a serial killer, but something else that will haunt your nightmares, where early incest prevails, and subsequent physical and emotional bloody traumas also prevail: sown with human-imitative sympathies and empathies via the human condition that entail reeking cruelties and hard love. It is hard stuff, indeed. It presents a moral dilemma embodied in its last paragraph. An eye-opener. A ‘melting honeycomb’, too, left over from my immediately previous review, as a two-way filter between humanity and things that are not human. And I didn’t know I could be quite so affected by a single phrase like “a deckchair on somebody’s patio.”– “Cambridge was still quite new to me and at first I found it to be a strange place, an exposed and lonely island in the barren sea of East Anglia.” (27 Jul 12 – 6.20 pm bst)
Relevant to Nina Allan’s story, here’s a snapshot of the Kierkegaard statue in Copenhagen (and me!):
Horseman – by Renee Carter Hall
“Anywhere he could forget, but that place didn’t exist.”
This story reminded me of play called ‘Equus’ I saw live in the 1970s – and that play then being a major experience for me, so, potentially, is this story today. It has the bloody traumas of creaturification echoing from the previous story. And a revenge aspect where ugliness synergises with beauty: like growing a chrsyalis into a butterfly, or vice versa, but which is the ugliest of its forms, which the most moral or righteous? Very impressed with this well-written fable of this magazine’s theme so far of suckling human / inhuman filters, coupled with the fragility / culpability of humans like us who ride our metal steeds without care and attention. Metal steeds now here contrasted with reeking fleshy steeds that are born from man’s miscegenation or man’s miracle. (28 Jul 12 – 7.20 pm bst)
“….like some kind of insect voodoo loa riding a zombie horse,”
But we are ridden into this story slowly, savouringly, believably: a backpacker travelling towards his gap time I guess, a brilliantly conveyed plane journey, to the place that is foreign and potentially exciting to him, but I guess it’s where the reader lives? Which gives an increasing irony, an increasing horror (still believable by the skill of writing) but increasingly horrific and cosmically back-biting, increasingly something that makes you scratch your ‘backpack’ and want to itch your brain. There’s also a single image you’ll always remember, a building in a crematorium with a description that doesn’t captivate but captures you, coupled with word and number acrostics that also itch and creep like cockroaches from a Cluley story. And it has the previous two stories’ sense of two-way infiltration, here aligned with mutual love-making as well as dream-driven onanism. That anthill in the Allan story. As if Canetti are now the name for the plural form of insect life. And Cthulhu is now called Chodpa?? And Equus is you driven by a million brains?? A backpack journey, a Baph Tripp. “‘Why am I here?’ Anything that could arrange the circus of synchronicity that’s brought me here…” (29 Jul 12 – 10.50 am bst)
Shark! Shark! – by Ray Cluley
“He moves his mouth when he reads,”
Well, this is story with a horror version of an ‘Airplane!’ humour with inverted commas that go missing. No, it’s not that at all. It’s a version of the Sheila’s hairdo hirudo backyard beasts in sunshine, the land-based sea-horse birth in horseman and the hirudo-become-cockroaches of chodpa, nah, it’s a hilarious, jaws-breaking laugh a line with blood splattered intentional fallacies. No, it’s not even that. Just read it. Remarkable. But don’t forget it depends who wears the dark glasses whose eyes can’t be seen. Why I said land-locked birthpangs as a metaphor for shark slaughter above hopefully’s not a spoiler, but I needed a leitmotif to connect with the gestalt of the stories so far. And it’s damn well obvious to anyone who’s seen the film if not read the whodunnit script. I can’t stop this in real-time, my typing fingers will be snaffled by sudden Thing-like teeth before I finish this review… but it is an interesting extrapolation on security film still by still versus formal filming ‘artistically’ (without the inverted commas) for the cinema retrocausally. Not funny, I know. But the story is! (Good breasts, too). (29 Jul 12 – 12.20 pm bst)
The Counterweight – by Tim Lees
“She’d give them one word answers, bits of conversation, like a line of dialogue she’d memorised once, long ago. Sophie, they all privately agreed, was not the person that she used to be.”
POSSIBLE SPOILERS. There’s a serendipitous image of a ‘counterweight’ further up this page next to the Baph Tripp story review. And, sadly, Sophie is Nina Allan’s fabricated ‘feud’ from that quotation above, now in physical form… That first story had ‘leeches’ (as this story has ‘leeches’, too) where I started, when reading the Nina Allan, thinking the ‘leeches’ were almost as tiny as insects, but then they grew up into human shape by gradual visualisation – and as they later invaded human shapes in the Baph Tripp story: and as a vengeful intra-uterine birth in the Renee Carter Hall: and, now, here in the Tim Lees, Nina Allan’s hirudo become the hairdo (as inadvertently predicted in my review of the Cluley above) as her form of vampire ‘attacker’ turns from baldness to almost, I infer, a ‘Star Wars’ Chewbacca form….eventually! Mouthing Sophie’s words now, I follow the parrot-learnt conversation or frontal backstory of her life and consequent realisation of what others can do to you or suck from you without them even being noticed or confronted (an original concept by Tim Lees, to my reading eyes, in the shape with which he sets out this idea): a significant separate story, with or without all these connections, that gives a most interesting, nagging, contrastive (both contrasting with and limned by its proximity with the quite different ‘Shark! Shark!’ that had its own lone ‘vampire sharks’ or ‘loan sharks’). ‘Lear” or ‘Richard III’, the insectoid shadow follows you out of the gestalt… (29 Jul 12 – 3.40 pm bst)