Tag Archives: Tim Lees

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

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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

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Black Static #24

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 24 (Aug – Sep 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 24

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 Simon Bestwick, K. Harding Stalter, Ramsey Campbell, Simon McCaffery, Tim Lees.

NB: There is much else of value for the Horror reader within ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction: – www.ttapress.com (16 Aug 11)

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Dermot – by Simon Bestwick

“He sidles up closer to the window and watches Salford glide past him in the thickening dusk,…”

An impelling, rather than compelling, build-up via some tacit simple prose about all-too-human policemen in their special room at the police station in interface with the recent riot troubles? – or, if not, with what? Indeed, with what?  But I have a problem. If I say that effective build-up leads to one of the most shocking dénouements it has been my pleasure or displeasure to experience in a work of fiction (so incredibly full, otherwise, of ‘stuff’ despite its relative short length) – then it may be a let-down or a relief when you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with me.  So I will merely let you loose in its words without my assistance – with your own psychologically hairless body and baby-mind as a metaphor for you as a reader of this fiction (possibly only like that till you finish it!) – and judge for yourself, if you’re not irreversibly scarred or simply changed, that is, by the story and, therefore, unable to rationalise about it at all!  Seriously. Even whether it is in turn a metaphor for recent troubles and the collusion and/or non-collusion between the various parties.  [What’s the difference between ‘implicit’ and ‘complicit’?]   (16 Aug 11 – another hour later)

A Summer’s Day – by K. Harding Stalter

“Yet I am told by learned men that the fault lies not in my stars, but in my cognitive architecture.”

I was spoilt for choice regarding key-note quotations to start this short exercise in appreciating the theme & variations of another relatively succinct fiction, one, like the previous story, packing an ‘experimental-laboratory’ power-paranoia, but this one is more an SF distillation of savoured-liqueur jabbing images rather than tacit punches.  But neither story is the lesser for that comparison.  The reader seems involved directly, here as a focal point of surgery – in Ancient Greece or in other eras of clumsily inward body-seeking… The crowning glory is not trepanning but some physical communion with an extrapolative formation of living communication-entities similar to nokias or, even, tweets – “…birds sing at dawn…” Or so I read it. (16 Aug 11 – another 3 hours later)

Recently Used – by Ramsey Campbell

“The address system must be overdue for maintenance; the receptionist’s voice was so splintered that the last words could almost have been the harsh cry of a night bird.”

There is much implicit in this story. But this reader is again complicit. Not only because, here, the story parallels the previous story with medical accoutrements in a medical place (here an English (I sense) hospital labyrinth I utterly recognise and have also become lost in), not only because it also parallels the previous story with the poignant potential of mobile-phonery, not only because I fully empathise with the protagonist and his wife (by dint of possibly being them for real by the accident of sensing they are a complicit couple even if this couple is, presumably, configured by fiction while we are not) – not only indeed because of many things, but also because it is genuinely (as someone else has already said elsewhere about this story) ‘heartbreaking’.  And when one is complicit, that is not an easy thing to put out of one’s mind, even if one wanted to do so. (16 Aug 11 – another 3 hours later)

Still Life – by Simon McCaffery

She could leave and post to all her Facebook friends what a sicko he was.”

Separate in itself, this story is an uncompromising word-photograph of an uncompromising war photographer, wars of the last 20 or so years. And of the synergy with his latest girl friend as they explore – in striking, searing detail – the album of his professional past, imbued with his personal present.  It echoes, too, the surgical ‘hospitals’ and intensive uncare of previous stories, with a power perhaps even the author of this story couldn’t have predicted.  A clinical irony of mass-digital communication that has been subsumed by its earlier prehensile darkrooms.  Capa, Callot and Carpenter. The prose is powerful, the ending even more powerful than the prose that contains it, an ending that emerges in the developing-plate of your brain. (17 Aug 11)

How The 60s Ended – by Tim Lees

I pointed out the whole aim in a fight was not to take your own medicine,…”

Although completely satisfying within itself, this threnody of an era represents, whether intentional or not, the perfect coda for this set of fiction.  The era? I suspect it is some 5 years later than my own core experience of the 60s in England (yet, instinctively for me, true in spirit as well as reality), and a boy’s school, and the playground emotions – then projected towards sex, loyalty (two’s company, three’s a crowd), hospital,  mobile phones, “mad spells“… And it is ‘heartbreaking’, too.  Yet,  uplifting.  Even though this reader conjures up the small human bones one needs to collect one day from the corner of an ancient classroom, if it hasn’t already been demolished. Or the corner of a police cell. A cancer cell. Or a charred corpse on a complicit battlefield. “My dad had fought in one World War, my grandad in another. / I’d always known that, when the time came, I’d have my own war to face,…”(17 Aug 11 – seven hours later)

This review dedicated to Colin Harvey, whom sadly I met only once.

END

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Real-Time Review of INTERZONE #230

 

I’m starting below another of my gradual real-time reviews. This time it is of the fiction stories in TTA Press’s ‘INTERZONE’Issue 230 (Sep /Oct 2010). 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.

There is no guarantee how quickly it will take to complete this review.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/

The previous real-time reviews of TTA’s Black Static linked from here:  https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/black-static-issue-18/

Item image: Interzone 230

 Interzone # 230 – www.ttapress.com

Authors: Tim Lees, Aliette de Bodard, Lavie Tidhar, Patrick Samphire & Nina Allan.

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Love and War – by Tim Lees

“…the oldest sixty-odd, sporting a thin, grey, military moustache.”

A power-dressed female narrator-protagonist facing a dual palimpsest of competing worlds, not parallel or alternate worlds, but intriguingly an intermeshment – and her relationships with the men in power (one in particular) as counter-adumbrated by caged jumblies.  It is an impressionist painting where I am left wondering what is worse: one’s friends or one’s enemies.  The style flows and then is staccato then flows again.  Punctuated by a distracting illustration in real-space (as opposed to real-time) of the female narrator’s face strobing page by page. I keep my powder dry as to how this story stores up a context for itself (in my yet-to-be-dreamed dreams) or for the magazine’s remaining fiction yet to be read.  Meanwhile, “ovals of Toynbeean history” is a strange phrase, but this story somehow evoked it.  Don’t ask.

“(Children are shot.)” (13 Sep 10)

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AGE of MIRACLES, AGE of WONDERS – by Aliette de Bodard

“Walking back from her children’s graves…”

A remarkable symphony of movements as if by Richard Wagner composing his Ring Cycle about a South American mythology rather than Norse, perhaps like that yet to grow up about the current plight of the Chilean miners.   It is a blend of E.M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ (effectively a fiction about the Internet and the World as a Machine-God published in 1909!) and a DH-Lawrencian vision of the Earth as a near-menopausal  but still bleeding grandmother.  It has Harmonics in tune with Astrology, a divine-less destiny controlled (synchronously, not by cause-and-effect) with the cogs and wheels of the Cosmos.  And  references to stoning for adulterers that religions can manifest.  It is a memorable Cyborg vision, that — with, inter alia, its ‘Heavens’ rather than ‘Heaven’ — echoes the multi-Earth palimpsest of the previous story. As well as the stories themselves becoming mutual palimpsests! 

Loved it.  Even the continued Philip Glass-like strobing of a face, this time a grim staring out-daring me to fail to like the words that surround it. (14 Sep 10)

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The Insurance Agent – by Lavie Tidhar

“We use names like shields. We use names to blend in.”

I was biased in two opposite directions before reading this story.  Lavie Tidhar’s first published story was nameless and in ‘Nemonymous’.  And my professional life was spent in Insurance dealing with Insurance Agents.  However, this all went out of the window with thoughts of life & existence compared to canoes on a river outshining any possible doubts about this story having a rare poetic truth – making the Alternate World boxing-matches, the living-room filled coconut and Garland’s ‘The Beach’ ambiance possess you with their ‘reality’.  It has a machine un-mining itself from the earth. And a crab in a top hat to match the jumblies earlier. This is perfect harmony.  Another palimpZest.

The face-strobing slows down and is a gentler face not now daring me to out-face the text but one enticing me to dream within it. (I genuinely had not noticed the artist is someone called Richard Wagner when I wrote my review of the previous story!) (14 Sep 10 – another 3 hours later)

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CAMELOT – by Patrick Samphire

“I never told her my name.”

On the face of it, a quite different story from the other three.  A more direct prose style and a simpler concept, a Whovian search through time for the narrator’s brother Jack lost at the end of the parachute in 2nd World War France. But, no, there is far more to this truly wonderful story – the interleaved tracing-paper(s) of Time, unrequited Toynbeean history and the loves and relationships within it.  It also echoes the earlier Wagnerian fire and brimstone…  So full of the harmonised music of the fiction in this particular magazine…

It is also personal to me. The narrator and his brother and their circumstances echo exactly my father and his own brother, in more ways than one. I was named after the brother.

Meanwhile, the strobing has now become a faceless coin, not an oval but a perfect circle. A panoply, a currency of war and doom in flight. Our Future History. (14 Sep 10 – another 2 hours later)

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The Upstairs Window – by Nina Allan

“I had read the novel in a samizdat carbon copy…”

A staggering story – that does not seem to stagger when you’re reading it. Not SF other than its slowly emerging Alternate World that only gradually takes ‘copy’ (like the journalist narrator) in an imprint like an ill-bled and disgruntled Xerox.   Or a painting that explicitly has Tidhar’s coconuts embedded. And the ‘face’-strobing of the female part page by page (Cf. – beware! – the image about a third of the way down on the right hand side here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Courbet ).

“…your role was decided for you by whoever got to write the history books.”

“…wrestling: two evenly matched opponents locked in perpetual stalemate.”

“The more I repeated a phrase in my head the less meaning it seemed to have.”

“If I tell you he looked like his own ghost…”

“World War Two gas masks…”

Just a few things that re-catch my eye after reading this intense London ‘roach motel’ as a ‘painting’ of a story.  

This resolves the Music of the Magazine of Fiction as a spy novel mis-carboned from a secret agent story: a paranoia stemming from this now wholly synchronised Alternate World.

 Palimpsest as Interzone – literally.

 “He crossed out liberally, making heavy indentations in the paper.” (14 Sep 10 – another two hours later)

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

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