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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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)


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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 239 (Mar /Apr 2012).

{Received in the last few days in the post as part of my normal subscription.}

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, whether days or years.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

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

Item image: IZ239 cover

Interzone # 239 – www.ttapress.com

‘Interzone’ magazine contains a lot of material in addition to the fiction.

Authors: Steve Rasnic Tem, Jon Wallace, Suzanne Palmer, Jacob A. Boyd, Matthew Cook, Nigel Brown.


Twember – Steve Rasnic Tem

Time disruption, alien invasion, dimensional shifts at the earth’s core.”

[My previous real-time reviews of Steve Rasnic Tem fiction included here: Black Static #12 — Cinnabar’s Gnosis — Null Immortalis — Black Static #19 — Ghosts (Crimewave Eleven) — The Far Side of the Lake]

I can see the genesis of this SF story in many of the weird and horror and literary works I’ve reviewed or read by Tem in the past: but it stands on its own as a remarkable vision of ‘escarpments’ that arrive in our world like a cross between ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ constructs and unpredictable Tornados for Tornado Chasers or Watchers (literally to watch as one’s wrist-watch watches time): Tem has various other tantalising analogies for the phenomenon.  I sense, too, a cross-sectioning through various cross-pollenations of one’s normal life, past, present and future, as a form of poignant spirituality, loss, hope, faith, identity (that some garner from their own version of a cross symbol or transcendent moving of the Holy Ghost through their self). [Also compare: ‘Window’ by Bob Leman and ‘Little Lambs’ by Stephen Graham Jones]. There is much ordinary life here, too, and believable characterisations as they face the white noise, “faux snow” and infiltration by synthetic or alien material or new matter or old matter become new again, as these things come through otherwise normal existences like substantial yet ghost-like structures.  I’ve called kindred processes ‘hawling’ in the past. This story ‘hawls’ the reader in the same way with its words.  Also, I am wondering whether ‘Twember’ as the title and the word for a sort of ‘weather’-season or concocted holiday-celebration, constituted by these hawlers or escarpments, stems from a form of ‘Tem’ and ‘Twin’ (cf the mirror in this story), as well as the more overt betwixt and between. (22 Mar 12 – 1.05 pm gmt)

Lips & Teeth – Jon Wallace

“Time passes here in ages. This is the age of acceptance. There was also an age of despair, and one of hope, or maybe anger, before that.”

…and with that quote we segue seamlessly from the previous story. — This is an intriguing Political-SF-genre story (if there is such a genre) concerning redemption (where a sort of Messiah-ship is granted aptly on Christmas Eve by careful scrutiny of the dates?), but mostly concerning cycles of ‘ends justifying means’ as factored into a Toybeean ‘challenge-and-response’ view of history … all in a scenario which is, for me, a cross between the current North Korea and McGoohan’s Prisoner (here the prisoner is ’11 – 17′ which is minus six instead of Number Six himself) – where the protagonist has a terrorist power that only a gag neutralises: who also owns a talking pickaxe which is an ‘objective correlative’ that is still resonating for me as it it homes in towards a final meaning probably beyond the time I finish this review and then will not be able to alter it. The last intriguing thing, but not least: just try replacing this story’s “Dear Leader” with ‘Dear Reader’ and a whole new ball starts to roll… “I watch my face appear from behind the beard. I remember this face and I smile.” (22 Mar 12: 2.30 pm gmt)

Tangerine Nectarine Clementine Apocalypse – Suzanne Palmer

“Others of the black shapes are inching across the floor, like giant black static on the carpet,...”

This is amazing complex material, yet when allowing it quickly to flow over the dear reader without obstruction, a  rare understanding seems to dawn on me with a New Economy of ‘sharing’ between surfeit and scarcity: a bit like, as it says at its end: “…always saw too much, and never quite enough”. This is a zone of clones and uniquenesses, spores and spares, more than one Utopia, possibly more than one Hub, a place of fruit-sharers (like Tarot card dealers): a Nectarine for Neri, shoe-sharer, a Pomela for a Politician: cyclic with intrigue and pecking-orders, like the previous story and eventual Destruction through the very act of trying to stop Destruction, and with an Apparatus and a Node like Tem’s ‘escarpments’ or like an internet system (cf: EMF’s ‘The Machine Stops’) that here ‘hawls’ through  irreality with its own reality of tangible, tangerinible fruit and share-bartering etc.  A cyclic quarantine of a civilisation which has ‘coach trip’ travellers suddenly arrive to enjoy the risk of this encased reality as discretely uniform as a soulless spaceship or to enjoy bringing risk or soul to it by their presence, but then eventually facing something vaster, far more important, while our writer-protagonist called Echa who is Each of any  dear writers of fantasies, explicitly interfacing with the dear reader, as the black static that Echa releases, by words if not deeds, attacks his other creations that are actually print-shaped here by “spore-ticks” in an alternate or spare zone… [A story I enjoyed but not yet plumbed to all its depths (I’ve plumbed at least one depth so far, as reported above), but a real-time review, for me, is time’s initial reading and reacting to a whole gestalt of fiction or fictions as published in one place.] (22 Mar 12 – 4.25 pm gmt)

Bound in Place – Jacob A. Boyd

“You read a passage aloud, and things get done.”

…exactly like the protagonist in ‘Lips & Teeth’: the one that could only be stopped with a gag.  But, above all, let me say at the start here: this, in itself as a separate story, is a well-written, enjoyable, humorous story of a haunted house where you can control its ghosts like amenities. However, this seems more like a ‘Black Static’ story than an ‘Interzone’ one, amost as if the ploys of the previous story have actually succeeded… But, meanwhile, it seems to be a disarmingly unintentional gestalt-linker or gestalt-enhancer, that is thus itself, almost frighteningly from the author’s point of view, ‘Bound in Place’! — and, so, to add to the above quotation, some more quotations: “He grinned in a way that made Jolene think that he practised before a mirror.”  — Tem’s ‘escarpments’: “…how to become substantial without taking form,..,.”  and, later, the ghosts’ own Close Encounters ‘structure’ as they depart their haunting or ‘hawling’: “A high black box rose into the gray night sky. It gave them the chills, as if it had once filled the horrible cavity shape in their memories. A narrow chink in its surface glowed and dimmed, glowed and dimmed. The ghosts peered through the chink…”  (22 Mar 12 – 6.45 pm gmt)

Railriders – Matthew Cook

“…after waiting hours for just the right line of haulers.”

Pure SF railriders or stowaways regrouping, repopulating between the zones of this issue’s fiction: back-packing with their backstories through,  not a parallel or alternate Earth as such, but rather a colonised world in space that deliberately parallels (variously by religion or ethos) the Old Earth “corewards” with brief passing thoughts of another plot-turning bug-invasion ripe from the fruit story: unintentionally but explicitly, I guess, resonating with the Rim and Hub in that fruit story (here the fruit is smuggled food of dubious quality in their imputed backpacks): eg: a “New Athens“, God Forbid, I’d say, in the prevailing New Economies of this issue’s overall fiction gestalt and our own world today of sharing not fruit but sharing debts between nation states…!  This story effectively comprises an atmospheric, cut-throat narrative via a rappy, expletive-sown monologue by one of the cobra- or blade-running female railriders, a member of a well-characterised (almost Dhalgren-like?) group, with whom we grow in sympathy as they negotiate the trials and tribulations of crude chancers and chancey drugs in this New Earth which is perhaps a Tem-type ‘escarpment’ shading in and out of our Old Earth: while we, as readers, also ride the links (or rail points) through some “public ‘net” of blending in empathy with amenity-ghosts and chancers alike: luckily fixed for us here to aim at by actual, rather than electronic, print.  Poignant shrugging when you lose friends or loved ones – as you reach loyalty’s end of reading about them or spending selfish time with them. A good shrugging, and not necessarily an uncaring dismissal-by-shrugging before rolling onward upon “cold, steel rails“…… with “fauxgrav” not “faux snow”… (23 Mar 12 – 11.10 am gmt)

One-Way Ticket – Nigel Brown

Her joints protested against the howdah’s movement.”

A highly memorable story, I guess: if it were not a one-way-ticket away from my later being able to report back here whether it was memorable or not.  Haunting, too. Haunted by it during the single moment or the endless moments I am haunted by its memory. One certainty, though: very well written. And skilfully poignant: at least for me personally: particularly when it mentioned “motor neurone disease”. In my own words, it’s a tale of an alive ferry as a floating, howdah-toting grazer-creature carrying terminally ill humans along a form of the River Styx to a Jules-Verne-like, Lourdes-like  ‘earth’s core’ as explicit cliff-escarpment (cf: Tem) or sessilely-statically parthenogenetic gorge for a beautifully, almost unbearably portrayed curative-subsumation: [and if I may be authorially indulged, please compare with the process into Nemonymous Night‘s ‘earth’s core’, its hawler being its ‘howdah’].  All the stories – without being able to put my finger on it precisely or nail it with my cobra/pickaxe – contain a similar emotionally-charged journey within the “World Wide Site” as crystallised from print. A journey outside the prison of self to a SF Lourdes without the need of any God other than creative tangerinibility.  White Noise or Black Static, notwithstanding. (23 Mar 12 – 1.00 pm gmt)



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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)



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The Weirdonomicon and other reviewing point

I have now completed my re-appraisal of my original real-time review of the Reva-Menders’ massive WEIRDONOMICON (as I’ve christened it) HERE, and hence signed off the whole real-time reality-perspective of this endeavour on my part.


Quite separately, this is my general ‘nutshell’ view on reviewing fiction books that I posted yesterday on the interesting thread HERE:

“I think reviews divide into 3
(1) those that curve as far as possible to the positive to encourage reading in general (a la John Updike’s reviewing rules).
(2) Those that are negative.
(3) Those that are mocking or tendentious.

With (3), I suggest the review is not made at all or given to another reviewer.”

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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)


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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)



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2011 Big Brother (5)



Marion wrote:
The dog turned out to be Tashie, so no scare there.

I thought that was very effective. A yappy dog in a cage with a human face – startled me – and reminded me of the film ‘Freaks‘.

In fact the whole Crypt task should appeal to readers of ‘Black Static* (an award-winning Horror magazine published by TTA Press, the Host of this discussion forum we’re using for our BB comments). Some of it was very well done. Some not. The half-serious, half-absurd elements (certainly in the two crypt-kickers) were interesting if one is able to insulate some of the images and statements from the game-show ‘Reality’ TV of BB against which most people who read our comments are prejudiced.

NB: TTA Press also publish the acclaimed and long-running SF magazine ‘Interzone‘. The Dickian reality of BB is probably that side of things … and dystopian futures.

*a link to my own recent advert for the latest issue of ‘Black Static’ which has a personal significance to me, i.e. there is a photo of me on the cover! o:


Marion wrote:
What a scare you gave me with the Black Static link, Des – I looked and thought – oh, poor Des! He does look ill!
Then I saw your photo underneath the bigger one!
Such a relief…

LOL! … PREVIOUSLY (in BB voice over) and NOW. “Well worth a closer look”. (That tall lady in the Feeederm advert with the top-knot in her hair will have the latest Black Static in her hand TOMORROW).

BTW, Marion, your summaries of each BB episode are second to none on the whole internet I reckon. I think BB fans must be flocking here, because the viewcount of this thread still increases exponentially.


Marion wrote:
The three were then zombified spectacularly. They truly were quite shuddersome – Faye even managed a wonky sex appeal in her tattered dress and scars as she snarled out of her tomb.

Yes, some more effective Horror Genre last night. And a glimpse of Tashie the Dog again. All grist to the blood&bone-mill. And the stirring-mill of Janton – like those two ladies in an earlier BB, who, after watching secretly live TV of their other housemates, created the biggest fight in BB history when they returned to the fold.
And the film Dead Set – a Zombie film about BB with Davina killed gruesomely – came back to haunt the House. The semi-Celebrities attending the film show as the real Zombies in light disguise.

Jem to go tonight. She hasn’t transcended her newcomer status, in my book.


Marion wrote:
Very often, evictees seem much nicer when they come out of the house and drop the persona they lived in, but not Anton.

Anton left a nice message, though. A weak character trying to be strong. People like that won’t win – but he did for a time persuade me he had taken BB reality/irreality seriously in embracing the need (as a risk of either self-sacrifice or, like Nasty Nick?, self-fulfilment) for the catalytic role of House Villain. Too shallow, in the end.


I agree it was boring last night, but what was that Jay grin to camera over Louise’s shoulder when standing cuddling her? A signal of unreality in this reality show? Jay as corrosively instinctual belittling of the big in big brother…to appeal to BB cynics of whom there are millions who only watch BB to complain about it?


The rhythmic rowing-machines and Jem’s fruity warble of a voice both sent me to sleep tonight.


Marion wrote:
No, Faye is 19. Jem is 27 or 28, the Bossy Big Sister.

Sorry, I thought someone had commented that J looked older but F actually was the oldest. I still fall asleep when Jem starts her fruity warbling.

BTW, Marion, you needn’t have remote-controlled away to avoid Jay micturating – he just stormed off saying he couldn’t give an F.


It was Alex’s evening. The “rolling up” speech to Harry was repetitively redolent with emergent N-Dubzery. She has incredibly soft gauche innocence underpinned by streetwise steel and instinctively and deceptively articulate intelligence. Her head-to-heads separately with Harry and Tom were the most memorable events of this BB season so far.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the blah blah blah bumped and ground along the ground – hugely and tangibly dream-swagged with a slithy tove in the shape of an ancient god mis-laden with a transgressive motive-impulse and stained with a rippling N-Dubz skin-mosaic.


From what I can see, Tom and Alex are a match made in Chocolate Heaven.

Aaron shafted by Mum’s Net!

Intrigued by slithy Jay’s recounting all the synchronicities concerned with 9/11, via numerology, backward and upside down writing, astrological harmonics etc. At least the Tove has some heuristic ability to think beyond its tattoos.


The match made in heaven yesterday, then Aaron’s match and a thousand trees or a tree and a thousand matches tonight!

Meanwhile, the betting game was a flop. The chocolate ghastly.

Oh dear, I fell asleep in the last 15 minutes. What on earth happened?


Marion wrote:
Aaron played a stormer, wandering about like Hamlet’s father’s ghost murmuring ‘To leave or not to leave’ when it was perfectly obvious that wild horses couldn’t drag him out of there. I paricularly enjoyed the scene where Jay set about persuading Aaron that he should not leave. Aaron sat with trembling hand, hunched over a roll-up like something out of ‘A Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisvitch’, gaunt and drawn and trembling handed, allowing himself to be persuaded to hesitate about going.

And I also liked the way he is now treating his life as I do real-time reviews – ie. in 10 minute insulated bites. A good method of decisive indecisiveness. At least we can now tell the matches from the trees.


The Palmer sisters are an enigma to me. They strike me as businesswomen first and foremost. So I tend to believe all their moods and actions are orchestrated. They may be bad businesswomen and have misorchestrated their stay in the house, but businesswomen nevertheless (forging a wrestling compnay, not only wrestling with bodies but with minds, our minds as well as, subconsciously, their own?).

Tom and Alex did some side role-playing – delightfully threatening to ‘go’ – and then to buy a house called ANUAS. They both perhaps live in a land called REHTORB GIB or a new version of Psycho: AXMOTEL.

[BTW, does anyone remember Alison Hammond from Big Brother 2002 (according to Wikipedia she was the second housemate evicted and she broke a picnic table). I don’t recall her myself, but I noticed a poster when walking on Clacton pier today, and that she recently opened the new ten-pin bowling-alley there!]

PS: When I dance, I do it like Aaron did in the 90s rave last night.


Marion wrote:
Aaron was mightily teased by all the others for his dancing. He told jay that when he goes out he’ll see that everyone’s doing it his way now! He was a bit frenetic, true, but jay was like a zombie coming to life!

And the sock wrestling when they announced it, I first imagined they would be fighting with their hands in sock puppets.
Hope Jay goes tonight. Zombie or Slithy Tove, his voice is beginning to grate.

PS: Sorry, I forgot – Jay is still in!
Harry went – amid much sobbing. Nice lad.

COMMENTARY CONTINUED HERE: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/10/29/2011-big-brother-6/


ABOVE ARE EXTRACTS FROM: http://ttapress.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=182 where Marion’s posts are also shown in full.

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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)


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.



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Black Static #20

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/

Item image: Black Static 20

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’.


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GHOSTS (Crimewave Eleven)

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

And it is of the 240 page paperback book entitled Crimewave Eleven: ‘GHOSTS’ : TTA Press 2010.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

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 book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

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

All my TTA Press real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/tta-press-my-real-time-reviews/ (22 Dec 10)

Authors included: Dave Hoing, Nina Allan, Christopher Fowler, Mikal Trimm, Richard Butner, Cheryl Wood Ruggiero, Ilsa J. Bick, Cody Goodfellow, O’Neil De Noux, Steve Rasnic Tem, Alison Littlewood, Joel Lane, Luke Sholer.

This is the first time I’ve reviewed Crime Fiction, if that is what this book contains. And, if so, I must be very careful about spoilers. For my own benefit, I am not reading the Contributors’ notes until I’ve read and reviewed all the fiction. It’s a crime to know anything about a work of fiction other than the act of reading it.

I have glanced at the contents list, however, and I see the first fiction is split between being the first and last. A crime in the making?

Plainview: Part One: The Shoe Store by Dave Hoing

“…but the rest moved in circles her circles never touched.”

Drawn straight – by accomplished prose and dialogue – into this (I opine) Twin Peaks type scenario of a missing 19 year-old girl, her family, the police, suspicions set up, an e. e. cummings line of poetry intriguingly set to resonate (like the owls in TP?), a neat circular plot-line to Part One as a whole – and the exact time of year and weather serendipitously equalising what I’m experiencing myself today.  A neat searching for how the fiction shoe will fit?  And who will help me horn it on? (22 Dec 10)


Wilkolak by Nina Allan

“He loved the cleanness of digital…”

A substantial, compelling, skilfully written story about a youth and his camera, his ambitions as a forensic photographer, the still lifes (both animate and inanimate), the girl friend, the parents – in a guessing game (a mystery not completely detached from (or attached to) headlines yesterday about the Crossbow Cannibal)… where digital photography … and old-fashioned ‘waiting to see’ photography (with which I grew up and also appreciate more than the immediacy of digital) … paralleled by as well as parallelling the events here – giving a sense of the narrator empathising with the youthful protagonist who is also ‘waiting to see’ what happens. And not only the narrator, the head-lease author, too, genuinely ‘waiting to see’ and we readers, too, ’wait to see’ with our own ‘takes’ on the unfolding events. Not to make ‘snap’ judgements, as we may well have done already with the previous yet ‘unfolded’ ‘Plainview‘ story. 

Wilkolak’ is a genuine masterpiece of something. With its hints of the legend behind the story’s title, it may not be crime fiction for the purist (I wouldn’t know) but it certainly is fiction that will stay with you, whatever its genre. (23 Dec 10)


The Conspirators by Christopher Fowler

” ‘Then why not sell to me?’ Court walked over to the balcony…”

An interesting moebius scarf of a story … long-term business colleagues, the one who was the original mentor of the other looking “…like a game show host” … meeting in one of their plush hotels, and a call-girl called Vienna (“…like a character from a video game“) , and icecube-clunky bars – and the plot travelling from the heat of the Middle-East to St Petersburg – a Russian city I visited only a few weeks ago and where one would need the scarf, presumably… A neat story of high finance and high stakes. Don’t forget the red herring, if not in the story, certainly in this review.  Waiting for the end. In plain view? Or purl? (23 Dec 10 – three hours later)


INTERMISSION: One of the crimes upon fiction for which I have been accused is being more text-based than plot-based in my real-time reviews. So be it. What have these words in common: timely, lonely, allusively, sparely, rely, rarely, diffusely, lovely, comely, recessively…? (23 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)


Who’s gonna miss you when you’re gone? by Mikal Trimm

” ‘You’re a good guy, Des.’ “

Another unforgiveable moebius series of eely crimes forgiven by the family that is us, having, as readers (sharers?), been brought into the family proper of the one committing such crimes. Lived through, haunted, visionary, purged, trimmed, untrimmed, zipped, snagged and unzipped and rezipped and scrapbooked. Powerful rite of passage, where the device I’ve noticed in recent decades (since King?) of a protagonist’s internal thoughts italicized beyond the effective reach of even the head-lease author to control…. Here this device has been used to its maximum, better than I’ve ever seen it used.  (23 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)


Holderhaven by Richard Butner

“Rudy imagines all these objects, all this text, laid out in a giant matrix.”

A country house matrix, another ‘waiting to see’ journey as we take snapshots of past events, but where, in real time, Rudy investigates the marks in a secret passage, all conveying a sort of McEwanesque Atonement, a Reggie Oliver-type ambiance and haunting, or a Murder weekend in Cluedo as a cross-section of a house’s history, plus a neat echo of the previous story’s (un)zipping and a similar aberration if with a different gender… (23 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)


Eleven Eleven by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero

“How often do numbers stand in line like that?”

Children are often victims (in tune with the previous two stories). This, meanwhile, as a short backdrop, by retrocausality, to the earlier longer fictions in this book, is a magical tale of real events as filtered through the consciousness of a girl who is 12 years old today.  If we had experienced these real events in the same way as she did, we would have expected to wake from a dream or nightmare. But this is reality for the girl, a ‘waiting to see’ and never reaching the end of the queue (or audit trail) of events …. but we readers reason for ourselves in this crime fiction which was crime and which was fiction. The blend of the two here being religion. Or God? Or truth itself. Very clever tale. (24 Dec 10)

Zipped up in an itchy bag? Ready to zap? (24 Dec 10 – two hours later).

(review to be continued here in due course after Christmas)

Where the Bodies Are by Ilsa J. Bick

“…a featureless rectangle studded with graves and a single whitewashed, tumbledown mausoleum – a genizah – “

An itchy bag? I am amazed at some of the telling connections and coincidences serendipity can find.  Here between two separate publications. Please compare another story I’ve read today – ’The Covered Doll’ in Black Static #20 – with the previous story in this book and with this story: a story of child abuse in its most mysterious and motive-confused (Mother and new born baby). And the connections and coincidences between those investigating the potential crime and its safeguards for both parties in the crime, and the ‘waiting to see’ watcher of the graveyard, this story’s protagonist – all those interconnecting ways of ‘containing’ death and birth in containers. I also recognise this is a very well-written and thought-provoking story in itself, disregarding my personal real-time context of experience reading it. (26 Dec 10)


Neighborhood Watch by Cody Goodfellow

If this is a Neighborhood Watch badfellow, I don’t want to meet a good one!  Means justifying the ends with all the new surveillance gear. Another parent with its child-prey punished even before getting an end away. Getting a death away. This book its cuboid container-box on boxing day. Each story an end in itself, but feeding a gestalt that’s getting off on the biggest crime of all. Waiting to watch. Waiting to see. (26 Dec 10 – another 8 hours later)


 K Love by O’Neil De Noux

“…found the suicide note in a clear, plastic sandwich bag…”

A truly effective ‘waiting to see’, in post-Katrina New Orleans during that period when the inhabitants believed the approaching Rita would be even worse than Katrina.  And to this ironic background an investigation by a female detective into a gory crime – and despite or because of the story’s humorous-human ending (reflecting the sense of characterisation built up), is that more powerful as a result.

[And mention of a body bag and a realisation on my part that when storms attack a building the most vulnerable parts are the balconies.] (27 Dec 10)


Living Arrangement by Steve Rasnic Tem

“Old age was full of surprises.”

And I’m personally waiting to see what those surprises are, I thought, upon reading that at the start of the story. An old man in diminishing health (but with a well-conveyed hinterland of youth) lives with his daughter and grandson.  And the daughter’s latest rough-edged boy friend. This is a very clever crime story, I feel, in my relative innocence of this genre. A story with motivations I can truly understand but with some sense of surprise as it developed. If I told you how clever, I’d spoil it for you. Let me, instead, speculate on why this anthology of crime fiction has the overall ‘Ghosts’ heading. Or is it too early to tell, with three and half stories left to read and review?  I have wondered if it is to do with motives themselves being forms of ghosts that transcend the intentional fallacy…? Clues from victims as well as from the criminals that created those victims – now, in the future, in the past, clues imparted to the reader collusively by those victims and criminals themselves, accreting clues-to-selves that are the essence of ghosts haunting…? Waiting to see if I’m right. (27 Dec 10 – another 4 hours later)


4 A.M., When The Walls Are Thinnest by Alison J. Littlewood

“Waiting: I was good at waiting.”

This story from within prison is probably the best example so far of contained motives, contained and shared by the inmates, promises within, threats unfulfilled outside, even a librarian to keep the words contained. I found this story absolutely inspiring. Also, before reading this story, I probably was premature about speculating why this book is called ‘Ghosts’. I think I now know at least one reason, and not just because of its ‘phantom limb’ of a thumb-tip! Something far more intrinsic yet subtle. Bravo! This story ought to win awards.  And if so, it’ll be up against one or two others from this book, I guess. (27 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)


The Hostess by Joel Lane

But the victims weren’t talking even when their mouths healed.”

A short Lane-like piece that if I retold it my mouth would never heal! Suffice to say it’s atmospheric and about a crime in Birmingham and the contained community of criminals that incubate victims as well as themselves as criminals, and any purging needs to be broadly aimed rather than focussed to allow optimum resolution to pan out serendiptously … and for some of the earlier child victims in this book also to find voice as emblemised by the child here …. and its last line of text is genius and makes the whole story work. It somehow makes my whole ‘waiting to see’ theory on this book work, too, or simply click into its rightful context. So, if push comes to shove, this brief story was worth its presence here if only for that… (27 Dec 10 – another hour later)


We Are Two Lions by Luke Sholer

“Motive’s only important if it can affect the outcome.”

Like paid gigolos who meticulously plan to treat each matured woman as a special, never-the-same musical instument to play loud or subtly or whatever – hitmen, too, with their ‘victims’. There are other hitmen in this book (in the Fowler, in the Tem? etc.) – and this substantial, compellingly told, cool narrative seems to pepper itself with every ‘musical instrument’ of fiction in this book we’ve ‘played’ heretofore. Even the camera-bag container for a gun. Narrative snapshots of the protagonist hitman and the ‘you’ he meets and then actually becomes in a very special blending – first as a loving couple (so believably conveyed in the scenes of encounter between him and you), next where ‘you’ want to emulate him – later in a far more violent blending of self with self in rivalry. The hitmen’s Godfather – named Singer – treadles away as the stitches jab like bullets into the texture of the text.  And the waiting-to-see has become the tree rotting, and the “time wrapped in flesh“….  And, of course, all the recurrent balconies, where teetering vulnerability shows itself as all hitmen know…. (27 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)


Plainview: Part Two: The Blood Cools by Dave Hoing

“Take away the new cars and modern fashions, and Plainview could be a Polaroid of 1962.”

Whether it was the author’s or this book’s editor’s idea to split this story into two, bracketing the unfolding plain-views of fiction (tantamount to photographs with no filters other than the chosen frame or direction of shot) that now start, even as I speak, to grow into huge cross-sectioning memory-bases of cruel truth and mystery: and whether it was intended – at the point of writing – that it would always be thus divided into two … well, I shall never know by dint of ‘the intentional fallacy’, but, whatever the case, for me, it works perfectly. It makes it seem as if it were never written at all but simply happened. A rotting tree in fast frame here slowed down to match our cool pace of reading – and of living. Making us wait to see that we shall never know the ultimate truth only enjoy truth in media res … forever.  Merely left happy that I’ve managed to read and real-time review another book before my own slow never-endingness of death started. Whodunnit? Not me.  I wasn’t there.  Not my shoe. Ghosts don’t have shoes. Or the itchy body-bags of the past. (27 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)


Eleven Eleven: standing upright until a crowd-wave of fiction rolls through us…

Death is the crime of those who abort it?

All in all a stunning book. One I am pleased I bravely reviewed without really knowing what to expect . (27 Dec 10 – another 4 hours later)


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.


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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.


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)


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)


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)


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)


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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