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 20 (Dec 2010 / Jan 2011). 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 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: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.
The fiction to be reviewed: as written by Paul Meloy & Sarah Pinborough, Nate Southard, Norman Prentiss, Barbara A. Barnett, Ray Cluley.
NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its main fiction: – www.ttapress.com
For example, Peter Tennant’s continuously excellent ‘Case Notes’. In this issue, his reviews of Horror books are second to none, as ever. To cross-check them with my own real-time reviews, this issue’s PT reviews overlap with my own in these three cases: Remember You’re A One-Ball by Quentin S Crisp, Literary Remains by R.B. Russell, Lost Places by Simon Kurt Unsworth. (24 Dec 10)
The Compartments of Hell by Paul Meloy & Sarah Pinborough
“…but then who knew when this shit had started hitting the fan?”
It’s Christmas Eve and if this is Santa Claus’ present to me – it’s certainly a present to the world from out of the blue – a post-apocalypse “it’s the thought that counts” – as those who have cracked and spiked enough are protected from the most gruesome, brain-ripping images I think I have ever read. By a long way! And I would have spliffed and spliced what I just said with not only a prayer of thank you but also a f**king prayer of thank you. And I don’t usually swear. This shit hit this fan, then, when these two authors came together – and produced this gotterdammerwrung (sp?) of guts. It’s spilled all over Christmas. No exaggeration. (24 Dec 10 – two hours later)
(review to be continued here in due course after Götterdämmerung or Christmas whichever comes first or last)
Going Home, Ugly Stick In Hand by Nate Southard
It’s as if the characters in the previous story have, in extremis, downloaded Ian Dury’s Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick … or an early Beetles’ hit. This is another post-apocalypse (a potential one or in the making), well-written, skittering, chittering, Whovianly monstrous in places – but do post-apocalypses cancel each other out? An apocalypse with a different apocalypse’s post-apocalypse? Or f**king vice versa? Another dying fall. We wonder if resolution is possible or we are being left to wonder serially whether man or manster will beat the other, through drugs or the adrenaline of sheer bravado in ludicorous expected defeat.
Gratuitousness made purposeful because we never find the purpose but we hope purpose lurks somewhere….like life. A piece of avant garde contemporary classical music – and Nate’s story is just the second movement or entr’acte or premature coda? We shall see whether the percussionist’s bust his drumskin. (25 Dec 10)
The Covered Doll by Norman Prentiss
“Sometimes things happened that didn’t happen.”
I am excited about this story for three reasons (separate and overlapping): (1) It is a touching image of childhood, hauntingly written about the ‘possessions’ of childhood. (2) At first, I was reading this as delicate contrast to the previous two stories’ apocalypticisms, but there is a telling eruption in this story similar to Meloy-and-Pinborough’s various eruptions and eructations – but here the signs of birth pangs rather than death. A squirming mass, nevertheless. This echoes back with retrocausality. And then forward again to make this story even more horrific. Forever. Perpetuo Moto. (3) Serendiptously, there are even more telling echoes with concepts of life and death via the ‘containers’ of each – strong echoes that were demonstrated yesterday, here in the UK, by Christmas Day’s edition of ‘The Royle Family’ on high-viewed popular TV. Amazingly so. Phenomenally so. Undeniably so. Those who watched it will know what I mean. (26 Dec 10)
Four reasons! See my concurrent review of Crimewave 11 (the Ilsa J. Bick story). (26 Dec 10 – three hours later)
The Wounded House by Barbara A. Barnett
“I yanked the covers over my head. I can’t remember if I slept again that night, or if I had ever woken to begin with…”
Let me take this stage by stage. This is a haunting story of a girl’s relationship with a grandmother and grandfather, their house, its redolent nostalgia-in-wallpaper-and-carpets…
In itself, remarkably well-written. But I can’t judge it properly. How can I? OMFG, but its relationship with the previous story and last night’s Royle Family is unmistakeable and incontravertible. The ashes almost in the Dyson! What can have I opened? Seriously. OMFG. (26 Dec 10 – another 7 hours later)
At Night, When The Demons Come by Ray Cluley
” ‘It was f**king her?’ / The girl sucked in a breath. / ‘What?’ I reached for my gun. / ‘You said a bad word.’ ” [My asterisks]
I want to know if Meloy is harnessed to the back of Pinborough, or vice versa? This final story makes me ask that question. You won’t know why. Yet.
“They were born to the ashes that came after.”
“I learnt that Cassie had sixteen dolls and teddies…”
This story is very powerful, apocalyptic … complementary to as well as ‘containing’ the fiction cacophonies and adagios that preceded it. Words wriggling out like several little new-born puppies or not, but “We did what we had to when we saw what was coming out”… You see, only words can convey horror. Visuals – even with, or despite, today’s CGI effects – are certainly not in the same game. When words in fiction come together at their optimum (by design or serendipity), the nightmares are real, with new feelings injected straight into the brain forever via some indefinite sense that the reading of words facilitates and that watching or seeing never can. These ‘word-worried’ feelings are not forgotten, as a film of feelings often is forgotten when you walk home from the cinema or remove the DVD. And here, in these five tales, we have words unintentionally aimed from five separately independent angles of authorial attack. A mighty catapulting of serious demonic, eruptive forces that, with some quieter, darker moments, threaten your sanity and sleepfulness. It is up to you to channel those forces. But rely on no drugs to protect you. (26 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)
“But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye”
A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash
NB: Any writer whose single story or novel or collection is real-time reviewed on this site before 30 April 2011 is – inter alios – eligible to submit a story to ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’.