Tag Archives: TTA Press

New Year’s First Grey Light


From this review just now:

What Grief Can Do by Stephen Bacon
“She clenched her teeth in an effort to prevent the rawness from spilling out.”
A powerful short short that deals with bereavement, misbegotten love and whatever else spills out, bursting through the dam of denial. A “funeral” that eventually becomes “feral” with animalistic sobs of shame as well as of grief, this way or that to exorcise life’s vile baggage. With the sky’s first light spilling out of this New Year’s Day, it makes me wonder if the world itself has a giant skeleton in its giant cupboard, a whole world’s reality with its own version of Nick’s tank under its floor?

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Interzone #247 – a GRTR

Interzone #247 (Jul – Aug 2013)


TTA Press

My gestalt real-time review of the fiction in this magazine that I received as a result of my subscription to TTA Press.

All my previous reviews of Interzone are linked from HERE.

All my real-time reviews since 2008 are linked from HERE.

The fiction in this issue is written by L.S. Johnson, Philip Suggars, V.H. Leslie, Rebecca Schwarz, Jacob A. Boyd, Russ Colson.

My review will appear in the ‘comment’ stream below as and when I read each story.


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Real-Time Regained

“Click on this image for my Real-Time Reviews: supporting the known and unknown authors of good imaginative literature in a ground-breaking leitmotif / gestalt fashion from Nov 2008 to Oct 2012.”

That’s something I wrote on my site last October, having decided to retire, around the age of 65, from what was becoming an onerous, if enjoyable and hopefully altruistic, task.

Having conducted, in recent days, this experiment in real-time reviewing of Nicholas Royle’s FIRST NOVEL and QUILT, I am having a ‘second wind’. I must have passed through this  marathon ‘wall’!

For this purpose, I have pre-ordered WHITSTABLE (Spectral Press) by Stephen Volk, TALLEST TALES (Eibonvale Press) by Rhys Hughes, JANE (Chômu Press) by PF Jeffery, DEHISCENCE (Ex Occidente Press) by DP Watt and THE LAST GOLD OF DECAYED STARS (Ex Occidente Press) by Colin Insole – and I intend to resume my regular RTRs of future editions of BLACK STATIC (TTA Press) and THEAKER’S QUARTERLY FICTION and anything else that catches my eye, but please remember I continue not to accept free review copies of books.

Eventually these new RTRS will be listed and linked here.

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Eyepennies – a novella by Mike O’Driscoll

This is my seventh post-real-time review after recently announcing my retirement from real-time reviewing following four years doing it.

Publisher: TTA Press

These are all forms of mental slippage, visions he has conjured up to fill the void into which his real memories have fallen.”

This is a story of a musician who has tenuous dreams (almost like short-lived night blossoms, my expression, not the novella’s), dreams with which to infect the reader (real, head-on infections you will find hard to escape, take my warning seriously, please), infections between comic-strip, otherwise discrete, drawn-boxes of sheer dreamy beautiful prose, (deceptively easy, lazy prose as if this is the only way to conquer writer’s block as well as a musician’s) — a near-death  experience sired by hyperkalemia: the words themselves suffering a form of petechia. A moving, unlinear panoply of this musician’s life and his ‘fear’ or ‘dread’ of infecting others he loved or was related to, as perhaps finally conquered by grabbing some inevitable nettle…

Crisp winter light falls weightlessly through the window…”

The eyepennies like Quentin’s youth-pangs or one-balls are imbued by Barker’s Nicholas Parkes (cf Captain Howdy’s barking) and by O’Driscoll’s own Rediscovery of Death and Unbecoming.

This is major work of felt literature – that deserves the highest praise but only after the most careful approach as to how it is read and by whom. Either you need the thinnest petechia-prone reading-skin to absorb it fully or the thickest rind to protect you so that you can report back as I have done here. Being between these two extremes serves no purpose.  But perhaps you will never know till it is eventually too late.

A dog barks outside in the street, but a moment later it seems closer, inside the room. It sounds familiar, almost human.”


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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

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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/

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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)



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