BLACK STATIC #34 (May-Jun 2o13)
My RTRcausal of the fiction in this magazine that I received as a result of my subscription to TTA Press.
My previous Black Static reviews are linked from HERE.
The fiction in this issue is written by Nina Allan, Joel Lane, Ilan Lerman, Andrew Hook, Sean Logan.
My review will appear in the ‘comment’ stream below as and when I read each story:
The Nightingale – Nina Allan
“It never gets completely dark in Hainault Forest.”
I thought about reproducing Grace’s favourite painting, the Icarus one by Brueghel, but I thought that might be a spoiler for some readers. Or Szymanowski’s ‘Mythes’, or Messiaen’s birdsong, or a Giacometti sculpture or even the unmentioned Cantus Articus by Rautavaara – but I plumped for the one that represents, I’m told here, “a wire-walk across an abyss”. But then I noticed Heath Robinson is actually mentioned in the story-text and I wondered if this artwork by him would provide a lighter ironical grace note, if one were needed.
But no, nothing should replace, obviate or even attempt to enhance the essence of feeling left by our learning about wheelchair-bound Grace whose current precarious ‘ornament’ in her life is a mechanical nightingale for a Russian film of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story, with which task she seems perfectly attuned – via her intertwining backstories preceding and coinciding with this current commission.
Each backstory echoes her own broken body-story and often seems tenuous enough to hide between a wall and a wardrobe. The interesting characters involved in her today and her yesterday culminate in our reliving the ‘accident’ … and it made me think of the mixed feelings involved in needing people to depend on or people to depend on you…
I cannot do justice to the building up of this novelette’s ‘contrivance’ and the way it sings to the reader, via the prose on the page. A lament, or chaconne or ‘dying fall’ or, likelier, something that will become, by aftertaste, chirpily uplifting?
“I died a hundred times”
In This Blue Shade – Joel Lane
“…met by chance in the Nightingale a few months later.”
…except for me it was half an hour later, as Lane’s ‘meerkats’ conceit echoes the Giacometti sculptures and other thin things from the previous story.
It also starts with a keynote painting as the Brueghel was, but here a mysterious landscape on a Christmas Card. A tawdry heaven’s horizon beyond which some can believe there will be everlasting love rather than a stab in the dark. Indeed, the protagonist’s sex and drug deals take place in dangerous darkness and dereliction – no doubt many avoiding Facebook groups for fear of “getting in too deep with certain people”. A tranche of life that probably has deeper bass notes than life’s old blues singers, now older than old by being back to black, whatever their age. A crime story whose biggest crime is to kill its own ending by the open-ended equivalent of another ‘dying fall’, but I sure don’t expect this one to chirp.
The King Of Love My Shepherd Is – Ilan Lerman
“‘It’s what it was like for Edmund Hillary on top of Everest,’ I said.”
This story, for me, represents very powerfully what it was like to be a boy in a British Primary School in the 1950s, as I was. Not that every detail matches up to my experiences, but the essence is there. The separate playgrounds. Gender bemusement. The sense of God on High. The sense of the aftermath of the War as an immediacy. The Eagle comic. Gobstoppers. Bullying. My dad telling me to stand up for myself . Times Tables. Hymn-singing at Assembly. Nightmares, that come back from time to time even these days.
In this story there are insidious things going on – a mystifying dread of the interpenetration between the physical and the emotional, mingled with what I can only describe, now, resulting from my reading of Black Static today, as the Icarus feeling. Falling into Brueghel’s painted sea and hardly being noticed.
And peers and saints or gods that you trusted that should never have been trusted.
But there is also a sense here – from the mention of Everest and the Eagle – of soaring beyond this story’s ending. More than those hymns ever managed to do for me!
Bullet – Andrew Hook
“‘I’ve been thinking,’ I said. ‘If the tide is out on one side of the world does it mean that it is in on the other side.'”
An atmospheric description of a pistachio nut, a bullet and a lipstick as ‘objective correlatives’ that illuminate two antiscians in Bangkok, a man and woman seen to be an ‘item’ – amid “climbing spirals”, the tidal swell of tourists, and sexual temptations, and a fascinating literary conundrum centring on Kafka’s fiction….
Don’t worry whether or not that attempted summary makes any sense; it will at least begin to do so when you read this excellent story that I am sure will keep tantalising me long after finishing this review.
If a non-existent road can be printed falsely into a real map to prevent copyright abuse, then a phantom book can be read and a one-letter word changed retrocausally wherever it appears in another book. All done without magic or kindles!
Meanwhile, Rapunzel’s castle…
PS: One further enticing conundrum – the main insidious force in the previous story was a Mr Samson and the insidious ‘road’ in the map of this story is Samsen 5.5!
A new day. Everest day. I hope to read the final work in BS34, a novelette by Sean Logan, shortly.
Meanwhile, I have noticed there is a specific reference towards the end of the previous story to “the Tower of Babel”….
The Tower of Babel – Sean Logan
“He pulled the door open a crack and slid in;…”
There is a piece of music entitled ‘Parade’ by Erik Satie that includes an old-fashioned typewriter as one of the musical instruments.
This story, meanwhile, starts off with two pairs of man-woman couples on a foursome holiday in Italy – where, in tune with the couple in ‘Bullet’, their degree of itemisation seems both fluid and jealousy-provoking…
These characterisations are well built up and their journey compelling as they travel to an island near Naples which has been recommended to them… the island hotel is intriguingly strange, the outcomes even stranger as the main protagonist – who is a fiction writer with a block – faces some sort of catharsis or culmination at the top of a tower the rumoured occupant of which seems central to the earlier very disturbing procession or parade of locals outside…
Not a wizened male version of Rapunzel exactly with her own stuff hanging down to provide release but one with stuff hanging down from even higher up like a missing ceiling from where the typewriter ink pools down mixed with monstrous living shapes (as I infer but I would be interested in any other readers’ theories)… Like the Lane, though, I don’t expect the ‘dying rise’ ending (in contrast to all the previous ‘dying fall’ ones) to end up chirping or even tweeting, ….unless the Heath Robinson type typewriter starts singing like a mechanical nightingale….
A really intriguing work of fiction, where the nightmarish climax may seem too sudden, but like life itself, many of our endings are sudden not gradual. I hope mine is sudden.
So, I plant my flag into the apex of this set of stories as a gestalt and feel paradoxically elated that I’ve climbed them simply because they were there.
‘Black Static’ provides much else of interest, in addition to the fiction, for the Horror Arts enthusiast.
Meanwhile, an interesting snippet of a public reaction from one of the authors here.
PS: The part of my subsequent real-time review of Interzone #246 that is relevant to the Icarus references above: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/interzone-246/#comment-733
Pingback: Some thoughts; two reviews | ILAN LERMAN: Writer of Dark fiction