Tag Archives: black static

Black Static #30

Since first real-time reviewing BLACK STATIC fiction a year or two ago, I have learned that the reader can depend on the stories being well-crafted, with great style and atmosphere including a creative weirdness and/or a haunting horror, each story stand-alone yet ineluctably blending into a serendipitous whole. The stories in issue 30 are no exception.

THE PIG FARM by James Cooper presents a bleak farming landscape where  the literal cross of penal crucifixion the girl bears is an actual scarecrow – but with additional crosses formed by members of her family with her stigmata not only  created by metal nails….the moon wonderfully conveyed as potential rescuer.  ALL CHANGE by Ray Cluley presents a railway train as its own Way Station of monsters, being, for me, like a a toy one circling childhood’s track.  This selection of stories seems to contain  monsters exterior to oneself as well as within, reaching out in fear and love towards what I envisage to be Bradbury’s October Moon, the month we’re in today. In THE WAYSIDE VOICES by Daniel Mills, we have the Way Station as the Wayside Inn of old Falmouth – a mixture of souls constituting the ‘crucified’ girl – ever returned to the Wayside by a circular track of points-of-view … The recurrent movie that are Black Static stories, each one different, each one the same, each so utterly a diamond from among the stars above us, bringing us to RECURRENCE by Susan Kim, the claustrophobic House of Leaves, as it were, with critters, beyond the interior partitions, with a car outside, as it turns out, waiting for us to escape that recurrent movie version of, say, The Birds, the Promethean circular track… And in a major novelette SOMETIMES I GET A GOOD FEELING [or SOMETIMES I GET A GOD FEELING (as the magazine’s contents list significantly has it!)] by Carole Johnstone, the House of Leaves has its own crawl space where humanity’s panic-button critters transcend one’s own crucifying cross of closet (literally) orientation in a way that only the Horror Genre can supply. THE ORPHAN AND THE BAD, BAD MONKEY by David Kotok presents that cross or circular track as mines to where disconnected souls  are consigned: ‘mine’ in both senses of crawl space and belonging to me. That transcendence of eating a bodily snake, like the closet release earlier, reaches here nirvana. Stars that surround the rescuing Moon, Money or Monkey…. A nirvana that only literature can reveal from its own darkness.

———————
The above is the third of my new post-real-time reviews (following the recent completion of all my previous real-time reviews ).

All my previous TTA Press reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/

Black Static site: HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Three BFS Award Winners 2012

All my real-time reviews for CHOMU PRESS books ab initio: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/my-chomu-press-real-time-reviews/

All my real-time reviews for BLACK STATIC issues: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/

My massive real-time review during Autumn 2011 of the VanderMeers’ massive THE WEIRD:  https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/df-lewiss-real-time-review-of-the-vandermeers-massive-the-weird/

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Black Static #29

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)

From Dürer’s Melencholia I
Chodpa – by Baph Tripp

“….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)

END

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Black Static #28

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 28 (Apr 2012 – May 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 Press 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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Item image: Black Static 28 Cover

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 Carole Johnstone, Jon Ingold, Priya Sharma, Daniel Kaysen, Joel Lane.

NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com

————————–

The Pest House – Carole Johnstone

“A very nasty thought followed fast on the heels of that nasty enough discovery, and she hauled hard on his hand.”

A substantive work: at one level a forensic attempt to create horror in words by painfully hauling out roots, irrespective of the story being told and its difficult suspension of disbelievability. At another level, a compelling, mock-amateurish, story in itself of an ill-suited couple Gregor and Mary, centred on a common trope of many authorial first attempts at writing fiction for commercial readability: i.e. an inheritance and its repercussions. All with an evocatively sick condition of Caithness.  Those two levels blend skilfully: making me want to both groan and cheer with a single guttural sound of readerly absorption.  The larger-than-life ‘roots’ of bottom-fishing, including an almost autonomous phallus, a suppurating cold sore, a planted plague-residue, a paternal dislodged daughter-root, a tortured past, a tortured future, and a present wherein we readers all track the stylised horror-experiment-in-words by exploring a once ‘religious’ building now inherited yet still here rooted within the ancient past, a past as pest, the pest of all possible worlds, one that housed plague victims… As ever with this author’s work, loved it. (24 Apr 12 – 3.40 pm bst)

Cracks – Jon Ingold

“I squeezed her free hand. ‘It can’t be long.'”

This is probably the funniest horror story I’ve ever read.  I spurn the need to connect leitmotifs between this story and the previous one as that would insult your intelligence  steeped as you are in all my earlier real-time reviews: ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’. Here the shards have cracks and infestation. A symphony in amnesic athanasy. Priestian (Christopher) as well as Proustian (Marcel). An ill-fitting, ring-loose, orange-smelling honeymoon couple in an Absurdist Avant Garde Southend-Kursaal happening-in-words: with Magritte figures shading in and out of existence, including an athanasic Ingmar Bergman Knight-in-armour haunting the couple’s house: a cross between St George (note yesterday’s date) and the Man of the Mancha.  Funny, yes, but Horror, too, as I felt myself slowly going mad as I read it.  It’s as if my brain got infested via the words. Possibly still is. Always was? “Nothing in this world fits together quite right.” (24 Apr 12 – 8.25 pm bst) 

The Ballad of Boomtown – Priya Sharma

“I stand on the threshold of the past.”

On this very day, the UK has officially entered a double-dip recession: and Adam Smith (once author of ‘The Wealth of Nations’) resigns his position so as to create a political firebreak. And this story is a symptom of our era’s enduring financial  f**kbubble: here now taken literally as a bubble crime of both passion and omission, a crime that brings down retribution upon  the story’s female protagonist even from those mythic beings (The Three Sisters) who should support her.  With which I feel emotional empathy.  Like the first story, we have roots to and as well as from the past, turning ‘pastilential’ just as human motives and yearnings are subsumed by entropy. But where does entropy start, when does it end? Towards another ‘cold sore’-type of facial condition from the first story, & we are stirred by the effective prose that has its own roots in the paper on which the text is stained like tiny articulate shadows.  Here we truly inhale shadows. In the previous two stories, shadows inhaled shadows, perhaps. Then a bird, now an owl or horse.  Although humanity always reaches the ultimate endgame of encroaching amnesia, myths exploit a special athanasy. The Three Sisters. And tantamount to a type of Lady Macbeth, our heroine inhales the sorrow that always follows a false certainty. A debt crisis of the soul. Like starting to build a housing estate in the more positive sectors of a cycle only to be aborted by the boom’s busting…here evocatively conveyed.  And she will herself be turned to stone, no doubt, rooted to the earth’s core: potentially  becoming her own myth: a myth towards which future women  might return or seek out again and again through each feminine cycle of existence, an existence that is actually created by means of the thing that such existences originally  incubated (a thing that in this story is also seen to be unwelcome and invasive depending on context or consent), a thing that the woman here also brings into being by desperately (mindlessly?) unravelling a man’s belt (compare and contrast the almost  autonomous phallus in the first story). Just inferring. A great story, even without  such inferences.  Cycles of passion, as well as cycles of finance, set against the eternity of myth. Boom and big bang. (25 Apr 12 – 2.35 pm bst)

Pale Limbs – Daniel Kaysen

She would have wept at Wootton Bassett.”

Another treatment of a nagging amnesia, and an athanasy, this time followed by several layers of doubt in the self and what had caused the self’s near death experience and what he is now remembering, suspecting, imagining, feeling, fearing… The text itself has pale limbs. Plenty of white spaces, lean curtness, shortness of concentration, staccato sentences, tacit meanings.  It haunts like a picture of a text rather than a reading of the text itself. I glance to the side to check it out as I write this on my screen. Looking away from the page, it’s as if it was never seen. Looking back, it’s been already seen. Time and time again. I distrust it. A death that fails to cling. Meanwhile, the story’s pleasing other readers.  Daring not to please me.  But it really wants me to like it. Make it whole. Make me whole. As if I am its only reader after all. And without a reader, it will likely cause me to vanish into its widening margins or increasingly truncated text-lines. But… “There is a plot, as I first thought.” (25 Apr 12 – 8.30 pm bst)

The Messenger – Joel Lane

“…the only light came from faintly glowing figures half-embedded in a wall of packed earth.”

Here, now, the text is denser, heavier, but with Lane’s instinctual disarmingly limpid touch of clarity: i.e. fewer white spaces, no signs of attenuating memory: supplying a hindsight-considered coda to this whole set of wonderful fictions: the roots renew, the disease (here earth-rooted, Sharma’s stone myths and boomtown entropy (chemical industrial contagion) creating a “cancer cluster”  as if replacing the earlier larger-than-life ‘cold sore’), ‘pale limbs’ here becoming ‘pale mesh’ and ‘white cobwebs’ – all radiating from a splendidly Lane-like nugget of his own trademark boomtown to urban decay trope, of regret, and the “clumsy” but hopefully base-line effective messages of this story’s ‘messenger’ as symbolised by a rock group with the (ironic?) name of communicative, quicksilver ‘Mercury’. And the desperate yearning attempts at cultivating a curative amnesia paradoxically by means of the athanasy of fiction-literature itself (represented here by this Lane nugget of close-ordered text) — i.e. the attempts of a female protagonist’s first-person narrative in tantalisingly ‘heavier’-than-Mercury prose — are threaded through by Kaysen’s deja-vu or jamais-vu, and by the tenor of Sharma’s female protagonist, too.  Finally, by inference, from Beneath the Ground, the worm-embraced roots still fructify (or otherwise) humanity and its accoutrements above… “…things living under the wasteground:” (26 Apr 12 – 11.25 am bst)

END

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Black Static #27

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 27 (Feb 2012 – Mar 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 Press 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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Item image: Black Static 27

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 Gord Sellar, Jacob Ruby, Stephen Bacon, Simon Bestwick, V.H. Leslie.

NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com

===========================

Empty of Words, the Page – Gord Sellar

“Whitney breathed again…”  — “February’s bristling winds had come,…”

An accessibly but cumulatively sophisticated story about obsessional love for one of one’s students – an unrequited obsession utterly felt by the reader as well as by the literature-teacher protagonist himself via the skill of the writing – the story’s writing, his own writing. And the real-life-mingled overheard *sound* of the writing in books and notes as if the curse of word-molten ebooks are already audio-beating the burning books at their own game….  I am a sucker for any story that mentions Ives, Rachmaninov, Mahler, Debussy (even Salieri) as well as Pound’s Cantos, but I am a sucker for this story *anyway*.  It eventually becomes a relentless chain letter in which we shall all one day participate (Cf: the story ‘The Chain’ that I have just serendipitously read as part of a concurrent (“Derridean“?) real-time review of a story collection by another author.). “When his fascination with the w ebbed away, he looked up.” (19 Feb 12)

Perhaps this stunning story also resonates with the world’s first blank story (published in ‘Nemonymous 2’ in 2002)? (19 Feb 12 – two hours later)

The Little Things – Jacob Ruby

One of the books being ‘taught’ to the students in the previous story was ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley.  Now we have a very powerful and often repulsive scenario that seems to factor-in a detached monstrous life towards, say, a conceptual feel of Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ … here, further factored-in towards a historically poor-house-type, God-fearing ‘extended family’ co-responsibility. We share the tentative tussle of Cassie (who looks to be about 13) with the story’s reality of deadpan, taken-for-granted predicaments, as she tries to find her own self of emotions, the correct loyalties as well as the location of the street with sloughed-off familial connections amid the poignant searching for ‘care’ to give as well as to accept, for roots to watch unroot as well as take root again. Meanwhile, the mother’s own envisaged writing is factored into the story’s writing and – like the previous story’s internal writing – underpins a tragic sense of unrequitedness.  Spreading parcels of of word-text: reaching out for audibility: “This was not the first time the growths had come into the world with cries.” (20 Feb 12)

Cuckoo Spit – Stephen Bacon

“Sunlight was crowding the edges of the curtain. The clock ticked a comforting heartbeat. Timber was stretching within the structure of the building. The fridge began humming to itself, distracting her.”

[Stephen Bacon is a rising star of the Horror genre whose work appeared on three separate occasions within ‘Nemonymous’  from 2008.  So very pleased to see his work synchromeshing with ‘Black Static’]. An atmospheric, well-stylised, often effectively poetic Cumbrian tale of feral concupiscence — conveying a similar (but equally different) relationship between a daughter (Megan) and her mother to Cassie’s relationship with her own mother in the previous story, both relationships containing parallel senses of detachment by creatures or outgrowths or ‘were’-nesses acting as vehicles for humanity, and vice versa. The relationships here are also well-drawn and any metamorphoses are sufficiently subtle-haunting without allaying their head-on power as horror images.  No mean feat. And the cuckoo spit’s conceit as salaciousness is another subtle but striking momentariness of realisation.  And, arguably, the metaphor of the cuckoo as occupier is present here. Who is the occupier? The animal-human parasite/host symbiosis? Or simply Megan subconsciously assuming control of the house just before her mother’s ‘departure’? Not even the characters always know their own motives because, in my experience, any author is often powerless to help such characters’ eventual puzzlings-out of self (thankfully). And that lack of ultimate control works for me here, even if Bacon may not have consciously intended to relinquish any authorial control for creative purposes.  [Me brainstorming:- In tune with the chain of cause and effect: the empty page from the first story above: awaiting some unknown force to start writing upon it — so as to help alleviate those challenging tentative tusslings that most writers (old and new) have when beginning a story from scratch or claw. That unknown force is ‘occupying’, in micro, this portrait of Cumbria or, in macro, the fluid-glistening White Noise of ‘Black Static’ itself?] (20 Feb 12 – three hours later)

The Churn – Simon Bestwick

Two employees’d already been sacked for ‘churning’ – instead of amending a policy because details’d changed, you cancelled it and incepted a new one, in order to claim a sale.”

Not that I was guilty of it myself, I know all about that meaning of the word ‘churn’. But before today, I had not really related it to the word ‘chain’ – nor does this story do so explicitly, but the idea as used here certainly resonates with the ‘chain letter’ conceits above and resonates again – serendipitously – with my concurrent real-time review, I mentioned above, here: and the plot resonates strongly, too, with the title story reviewed there: ‘Nowhere to Go’. Meanwhile, it is an original plot here of a middle-aged lady who is subject or subjected to encroaching ‘Gaslight’ (Ingrid Bergman) or ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (Mia Farrow) types of paranoiac fear – in a very effective and shuddery way – cumulatively a masked ball to share your dreams. Occupied or occupier, mad or enmaddened, one never really knows for sure. (21 Feb 12)

Family Tree – V.H. Leslie

People shouldn’t be so scared of embracing their bestial natures.”

This is a telling outcome of the gestalt of ‘Black Static #27’ stories in the form of, for me, a hilarious account of the human-animal ‘chain’ in the sheer explicitness of reaching its own Bestwickian mid-‘churn’ of a “missing-link” – here upon the brink of some challenging form of ‘Cuckoo-Spit’ stickiness and symbiotic feral ‘were’-ness.  ‘The Good Life’ sit-com’s fashionable mock-sophisticated natural food and self-sufficiency – in family form – taken to the logically absurd gap-jumping along its chain of cause-and-effect, with the schoolboy protagonist (on the brink of going out with girls) coping with the reaction of his peers to the sudden revelation (after their ball is kicked into the long grass) of a highly  embarrassing incident in one of their regular “parent share” evenings at his own house (NB: the Jacob Ruby story’s own ‘parent share’ concept as an illuminatory comparison!). Yes, hilarious: potentially repulsive, too – but with a skilful sense of thought-provoking seriousness as it touches on ‘mental illness’ in a similar way to ‘The Churn’ and, familially, to the Jacob Ruby story with its treatment of bodily-change and family-links via a semi-genealogical ‘Tree’ of sloughed-off connections. The ending allows our protagonist to make a sudden absurd jump which is, in the context, perfect: making me, in a vaguely metaphorical parallel way, proud openly to read Horror fiction, whatever people think of me.  But does Gord Sellar’s ‘Frankenstein’ conceit come into it?

Another great statically dynamic group of blackstories. (21 Feb 12 – two hours later)

END

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Black Static #26

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 26 (Dec 2011 – Jan 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 Press 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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Item image: Black Static 26

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 Ray Cluley, Mark Rigney, Gary McMahon, Andrew Hook, Carole Johnstone.

NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com

===========================

I Have Heard The Mermaids Singing – Ray Cluley

My story will not need a firsthand account of mermaid song.”

A substantive story that the reader needs to dive deep within and not re-emerge too quickly – for best effect.  I hate films, so to say a story is cinematic is often not a compliment from me. But here it is and it is. As well as the evocatively personal-internal, I truly relished this filmic Nicaraguan ‘genius loci’ and brilliant cast-characterisations of a Lobster-fishing ‘sweat-shop’ – and the protagonist (complete with maternal back-story) who grapples with various forms of image-hyperbole or mild elephantiasis of the Lungs as well as (in his life, at various stages, coming together here as an accreting analogy or metaphor that one truly can see on the big screen of one’s mind) of Bodily Strokes, Aspects of God, Bends, MRI Scans, Wheelchairs, Lobsters, Lethal-Chambers (my expression adapted from R.W. Chambers not this story’s) – plus the many skilful Compressions of Counterpoint between TS Eliot’s poetry and the events in this genuinely classic story that will no doubt be anthologised several times again  – and of Mermaids. A fiction finger-holing the deck-bars of our own ship of reason from which we can swim hardly far enough?… (20 Dec 11)

The Demon Laplace – Mark Rigney

Causal determinism. One thing proceeding from the next, ad inifintum.”

Ad inifintum“, aptly working via some form of ‘casual’ rather than ‘causal‘ chaos-theory upon a mail-worker’s ‘tabula rasa’ destiny (here, in this story, tellingly, a “tabula rosa” one). I really enjoyed this story, as casual things became literally “causal“, indeed retrocausal, regarding a Faustian spectrum-of-importance from potato-peelers and bananas to love-life and the continuation of fate as a fruit of love-life into a continuation of life itself “ad inifintum“. Not only casual, “Most of it was banal.” But beautifully written and characterful. Seriously memorable story: a new O. Henry or Jerome Bixby? “…but he could not help casting back to how their blissful courtship had spilled itself out like some eager rolled-up carpet, as if it had all been pre-ordained.” An audit-trail of Fate as a tempting form of virtual watery-grave to go diving in with only makeshift breathing-equipment? (20 Dec 11 – another three hours later)

Remains – Gary McMahon

“She might panic and have some kind of episode. She was always having some kind of episode.”

A story with a lifetime or serial subscription in its midst: as if life needs the out-of-one’s-own-hand “hand of God” (compare and contrast: the Rigney) to renew, to allow it to keep coming back with episodic horrors. As if revealed by the MRI Scan from the Cluley, the bones show through. A classic McMahon, that takes place – with iPod – via an urban bereftness and, in resonance with the Cluley, via a mother as back-story, here with a poignant hauntingness that keeps on coming back.  Underwritten: subscribed. (20 Dec 11 – another 2 hours later)

Dizzy Land – Andrew Hook

“Funfairs and the promise of something illicit always went hand in hand, despite the Hook the Duck attractions for the little ones.”

This story’s California Sands, Norfolk, I imagine, is a ‘genius loci’ similar to Jaywick Sands, Essex, near where I live – so I can fully empathise with the nature of a new funfair being built there. The story conveys this brilliantly (in and out of the cold desolate seasons) with a number of strident ‘funfair’ similes or analogies of its own (like the breakfast fried-egg: the eye in Un Chien Andalou…) — I can’t quite believe, also – in addition to its own stand-alone memorability – the strength of its synergy with the previous stories, particularly the first one.  The Lethal-Chamber, now spinning; the Bends of the Heart both physically and romantically (cf the previous ‘female’ back-stories, here more in tune with the Rigney one); sinking or being sucked down towards this story’s version of Mermaids…  A truly great story, made even greater by its surroundings in this magazine.  Well, I’m a sucker for seaside funfairs, anyway.  Especially those that truly live, like this one, a fixture as brash symbiosis between the local council’s needs for local empolyment etc and the protagonist’s needs, inter alia, to fill the holes in his heart.  By contrast, travelling funfairs are here also explicitly related to the solar system: giving me a hint of astrological harmonics underlying all these stories, Hand of God or not.  A fixture like the Sun or those spinning round it.  (21 Dec 11)

The Monster of Venice – Carole Johnstone

I however was my mother’s son – in all ways, as it would bear out to my cost -”

More often than not, an anthology (or, say, a group of stories in ‘Black Static’) ends with a story that presents a telling or oblique coda to the previous symphony of fiction. Here, however, this last story is the culmination of the symphony, leaving us – in equal tellingness – bereft of any coda. You see, Pain has done its work. The ‘dying fall’ of Mahler’s Ninth as climax, not coda.  And Mahler brings me to ‘Death in Venice’: and its ending with Dirk Bogarde – well, you can all see what I mean when you read this story’s powerfully depleting (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) finale. This is 15th Century Venice (and it goes without saying with this author, masterfully done as a ‘genius loci’) – yet with the same commercial concerns as a Funfair in California Sands or the red “gold” of the Mermaids. This presents the now final accretion of the maternal back-story – and Pain as a living character itself. The protagonist even studies astrology to assuage it. And reaches towards, now, a ‘female’ front-story that he causes to “enfold” him by enfolding it (like the earlier lobster-sea or the lethal-chamber or the hand of god or the urban playing fields or the causally determined audit-trail). It’s as if this whole symphony’s arch of themes has come full circle but as an inevitable Wish-predetermined inversion of itself. The darkest possible finale to one of those overall gestalt reading-experiences you can now ‘bank’ and say to yourself: ‘there it sits’ … and, then try to get on with your life – and with the Christmas season as it happens to be as I write this.  Not Easter. (21 Dec 11 – two hours later)

END

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Black Static #25 – Fiction Review

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 25 (November 2011). 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 Press 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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Item image: Black Static 25 Cover

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 Alison Littlewood, Christopher Fowler, Ray Cluley, Nathaniel Tapley, Barbara A. Barnett.

NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com (25 Oct 11)

===========================

About the Dark – Alison Littlewood

“The tree stood in the centre of the school yard and its branches had been cut off to stop kids from swinging on them.”

A story of subtle emotional and sexual feelings between three almost grown-up school-kids who explore a cave when on truant, but those feelings are threatened by a subsuming by words (“Stories are for kids“) and by something else with more power even than the words, particularly for one of them whom you are cleverly allowed to dare inhabit as a reader-become-protagonist: and I have acted in a diversionary way by use of that initial headquote above from the story (I usually give such keynote quotes for stories I review): and here as an oblique (if, for me, uncannily relevant) way of avoiding a direct spoiler: a literal spoiler forming — or formed by — the words.  This proved to be a compulsive, suspenseful, spooky story: a story that is enhanced by the blacker-surround-sound print format of the first few paragraphs suddenly becoming, in utter contrast, a form of silent but visible ‘white noise’ as one turns the page while entering the blackness for the first time and for real and with greater effect by use of the print format: “You going in?”  (25/10/11 – ninety minutes later)

The Curtain Parts – Christopher Fowler

That’s when the real discoveries are made, when organisation collapses into chaos.”

Flat-sitting – rife with class and gender consciousness – this is an effective build up of neighbourly dangers for our female I-narrator as the mortice locks in an earlier story I reviewed by this author (“Locked“) [and the hotel-like balcony-apartmentation in another story (“The Conspirators“)] become different locks, different balconies: Sado-Masochistic neck-locks that only spatchcock scissors might prise free.  The school-kids in the previous story when they grow cynically older and still “bare-breasted” or peachy-testicled, still seeking each other amid the world’s darkness become themselves?  The tree in the schoolyard now Daedalus’ trojan horse? (25 Oct 11 – another 3 hours later)

The Travellers Stay – Ray Cluley

She gave the room key back to him so whatever it opened up would be his fault.”

…or the reader’s fault? Another lock to unlock like this magazine’s earlier neck-lock and please don’t forget those jumbo cockroaches in the previous story before reading this one. This fiction gestalt is a darkness of words – here now separating out into what I imagine would feel like pins and needles of roach words metamorphosing into exterior Kafkas rather than organic ones.  On another level, this is a very disturbing Motel story that has a a feel of the seedy Wild West but is probably just round the corner from where each of us readers lives.  Here the kid becomes the schoolyard tree himself with a bark-like carapace, no doubt…  I seem to be heading towards a gestalt within a gestalt, a Cluley one: my previous reviews of this author [“Beachcombing” “At Night, When the Demons Come” “Pins and Needles“] being vital parts of the real-time word-musician in me waiting to get out and perform live.  And many of the apostrophes in this story text seem to be squeezed between letters rather than having a space of their own (look and see) – literally. Like the smuggled mites of imagination encroaching… “He brought his arm out from under the covers to reach for her…” (26/10/11)

The Holy Spear – Barbara A. Barnett

What had happened to the man who could sing through the pain and play his role to the end?”

…attuning the rock musician in the previous story to the opera singer hereIn many ways a stock Zombie story, but it is better than that for me because I am a sucker for the new-found genre of ‘Classical Horror’ of which this is an example (‘Parsifal‘ also being my favourite piece of music) and because of the snapping ‘needle-pack’ as another separatable-carapace or neck-lock, and the earlier disfigured tree in this magazine now the holy spear – or the metamorphosis into monsters, yet not being monsters if they then kill other worse monsters – but, meanwhile, only the act of sacrifice-and-reward in our spirituality will answer that conundrum. Irrespective of these connections, it is a very thought-provoking story as a discrete entity of fiction. And a compelling Zombie one, to boot.  How I hate the word ‘Zombie’, though.  “Beyond the barricade, every man was a praying man…” (26/10/11 – another 2 hours later)

Best. Summer. Ever. – Nathaniel Tapley

“A family room Dave. One with a balcony.”

I spend the end of most of my real-time reviews stretching towards – then normally reaching – some coda. Ironically, in this edition of BS that is special to me for obvious reasons, you’ve caught me Natt Mr Tapley cockroaching into my last sock. Absolutely hilarious. And uncodifiable. (26/10/11 – another 2 hours later)

END

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized