BLACK STATIC #37: Nov-Dec 2013
Stories by Laura Mauro, Ray Cluley, Ralph Robert Moore, DeAnna Knippling, Priya Sharma, Steven J. Dines.
All my previous Reviews of TTA publications HERE.
MY REAL-TIME REVIEW OF THE FICTION IN THIS ISSUE WILL APPEAR IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ EACH STORY.
When Charlie Sleeps by Laura Mauro
“…how can she even try to apply an idea as quaint as ‘coincidence’ to a sexless grey monster living in a bathtub in an abandoned London townhouse?”
An amazing treatment of urban-torn London and its squats and riots and broken relationships, whereby a creature that is tapped into the actual city drainage systems has some bearing on the nature of the London where the three women (whom we meet in this story) live and look after the creature in their squat’s bathroom. The prose and dialogue evocation of the creature and its ability to turn dreams on and off like electricity is wonderful. And the ending is as sweet as a swollen nut.
[If I may be self-indulgent for a moment, I have now placed (HERE: password – flickers) a copy of my short short DOGNAHNYI (first published in 1991) as suggested additional reading, not that it is in any way the same as the Mauro story, but it is, I feel, an interesting coincidental adjunct of subject-matter.]
Bones of Crow by Ray Cluley
“…, black with black beneath,…”
This takes the previous story’s inter-channelled food-chain creatures of the bereft city to a most memorable extrapolated vision as watched by this female protagonist from an urban roof above wherein she cares for her downfallen father, as she sucks on cigarettes, a vision of an apparent playground user down below that suddenly transmogrifies and soars into the sky, toward the massive eggs on the roof, eggs that belong in a high-rise nest of urban litter lifted there…somehow.
I first read Ted Hughes in the mid 1960s, I think; I first read Ray Cluley a few years ago, and I have read a lot more since then mainly hatched from the TTA Eyrie. One became poet laureate, the other, I confidently predict, horror laureate, judging by this Max Ernst-
William Blake hybridisation for modern times.
Wow. Thank you Mr Lewis, you’ve made my year already. I’m really glad you enjoyed the story.
That TTA Eyrie is, I think, in Ely. And your name ends with an anagram of ‘ely’.
All Your Faces Drown In My Syringe by Ralph Robert Moore
“Maybe it’s enough to just remember that at one point in our lives, early on, there was that time of unconditional love.”
One gem follows another. I am sure horror writers are working exponentially these days, reaching further and further in their art of fiction, one upon the other’s shoulders, old shoulders and young shoulders, dead or dying shoulders and shoulders still being born.
This story is a serial version of the single umbilical throughput entity of this magazine’s first story as well as a resonance with the normal restoring and restauranting life that feeds such exponentiality. This RRM story is a devastating one, sensuously conveying a young couple’s love life with a sense of passing along and exorcising — with the passive help of some mule-like creature akin to Cluley’s ‘Crow’ — the ghosts of the past as living forces within the child-bearing produce of their love. The ending is perfect and cannot be given away here.
“To get through life, you have to ignore so much.”
The Strongest Thing About Me Is Hate by DeAnna Knippling
“Because when people find out you’re weak you can’t trust them anymore.”
A darkly chatty letter – explicitly expurgated by impenetrable redaction or tantalisingly see-through crossings-out leaving the words still visible (the text indicates the latter, but its illustration possibly the former) – from a once taunted miscegenate girl now woman or something else, a letter written to someone younger than her whom she left behind after a bus crash – and the Hodgsonian pig monsters that somehow make who she is now questionable. Plain-spoken, raw but poetically haunting, as if all humanity hangs on such an animal conundrum of our life that might have affected each and every one of us should we be empowered to remember things past the cataclysmic or feral event that caused the earth-animal conundrum in the first place. Catalytic as well as cataclysmic that bus crash, I guess.
[The pig creatures remind me of this author’s recent story in my own publication, ‘Horror Without Victims’, a story which I review here: showing, reminiscent of the above expurgated effect, this quote from it: “We all change the story to fit what we think should have been,…”]
They were actually written very close to the same time 🙂
The Sunflower Seed Man by Priya Sharma
“…sheltering in his groin.”
I was wondering why I feel urged to find a gestalt or a meaning beyond meaning – and indeed this story of a nuclear one child family involving the touching treatment of the death of the husband and then the arrival of some Jack ‘beanstalk’ sunflower monster from the seeds he left behind is genuinely frightening as a straight horror tale and, if you can actually envision it happening, even more frightening. But then I thought of Pip the wife as a sort of seed name, the sunflower seeds, and the seeds around the testicles and then the very thought of the biblical umbilical ‘child’, the crow, the mule, the pig from the previous texts, and it becomes even even even more frightening by implication.
The Sound of Constant Thunder by Steven J. Dines
“‘Why do people say that?’ she asked. / ‘Say what?’ / ‘That you’re on your own with a baby. It’s contradictory. You’re never alone with a baby. You have the baby.'”
This is an incredible novelette, both on its own and in its clinching gestalt with the other stories, the dystopic SF and the throughput of RRM, Mauro, etc umbilical connection, here with my willow tree as, I sense, become the previous ‘mule’ (where syringe becomes tank-siphon (cf my recent review of the same publisher’s Crimewave Twelve)), symbiotic leitmotifs in this set of fiction which I could never have predicted. A litter-picker man protagonist as self-confessed gollum-troll, doggedly, stoically still following his job after some unclear nuclear urban-strafe, but it is not merely a post-holocaust scenario, it’s something much bigger, much more striking, with an Agra Askan (in my book) sexual sensibility between him and the met woman suckling what we can see of her baby and needing to reach the coast… With telling dark-Churchillian phrases peppered throughout the throughput like ‘it is only when we are nothing we become the same’ and ‘Never had so many with so little to say been quite so desperate, it seemed, to carve out the opportunity to say it’ and ‘Love is listening to someone else’s madness and not listening to your own’ and ‘Maybe it was time for the world to be grey and the people to shine rather than the other way round’ and many more such telling wisdoms. The rabbits and rats that remind me of the Knippling pigs, the eaters and the smells and Wi-Fi noiselessness or noise and the river threading through as a riparian-law audit trail of a throughput all lend themselves to this vast vision, and much more.
“The world suddenly filled with hope when it reached its most hopeless.”
And there is also much more in Black Static for the Horror Arts enthusiast in addition to the fiction.
PS: Syringe, Born to Drown, crow’s eggs, Ch 4’s Returned bus crash … the leitmotifs continue to flood in, after I ended the review above and probably will continue to do so!
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