Black Static #40

BLACK STATIC #40: May – June 2014

Received as part of my subscription to TTA PRESS


Stories by Tim Casson, Chris Barnham, Sarah Read, Stephen Hargadon, Steve Rasnic Tem, Paul Meloy.

All my previous Reviews of TTA publications HERE.


11 thoughts on “Black Static #40

  1. imageThe Crone at the Meadow Gate by Tim Casson
    “Keke was cooking a sheep-brain stew — a ewe’s head nodding in a pot of boiling liquid with threads of cabbage and a bubbling froth of yellow grease.”
    ….with its skull cooked to finger-breaking point – or to a softened strength as is this story’s own skull itself, cudgelled but not damaged, as the narrative effectively allows the deep portentous world stew to cling to existence and burgeon toward and overtake early twentieth century Russian history, to seep into the story’s words … and indeed into its named names. An ominous tale of feet shod backward or with toes stuck together, a shoemaker apprenticing a foundling, teeming with pregnancies of life’s challenge-and-response as well as its continuation through self-righteous cruelty and stoical acceptance of legend-steeped things that otherwise lie behind or beyond human nightmare. A ‘fatalistic indifference’ imbued with honest existential grit that threads all of us through threads of more than just cabbage. And frozen vodka.

  2. Ravello Steps by Chris Barnham
    “The way she hunched her shoulders over him, her head perfectly still, reminded me of the people you saw in amusement arcades, grasping the sides of the slot machines, absorbed in the spinning tumblers.”
    …to follow the previous challenge-and-reponse of history as an indifferently cold dance of motiveless fate, in this second story, this haunting story of an initially gentle Proustian encounter; there gradually mixes, by conversation in the hotel restaurant, time present with time remembered, time as an immediate past — the telling of past events and the present happening of the same events in tandem, conveying overall to us a precarious long-term romantic relationship as they holiday together in Italy, and their conversation now being used to heal any romantic cracks through some collusive rite or steps of a private dance of real or concocted memory – as if performed to Boléro?
    The tried and tested roles ravelled and unravelled time and time again from past to present, present to past. Initially gentle, yes, but, later horrifically disturbing…ending with an effective ‘dying fall’. Eventually gentle again? Toward eternity, like that dance?

  3. Golden Avery by Sarah Read
    “Small miracle.”
    A miraculously whittled small story that shapes and carves big small and small big, a preternatural transformation of two girls since their time whittling ‘rough branches’ into walking sticks at group teenage activity camp onward: a further switching, later, of emotions, crushes, bullyings, cruelties, even perhaps bodies, similar to that slow cooking of switched roles or skulls earlier in this set of fiction.
    Here an incisively cosmetic retribution of a memorably slow game in a fast fiction.

  4. World of Trevor by Stephen Hargadon
    “I bought the Beatles compilation for three quid, just to get rid of him.”
    Just occasionally, you read a story and you suddenly say ‘yes’ quietly, later you say YES a little louder, but, at the end, you utter a big loud YES… Not that it’s a world classic of literature (although I could argue a case for that) but it simply arrays before you a way of life that you recognise, may even have once shared, and the whole thing rolls along – real-to-real by cassette spool to cassette spool – but sounding at first like the perfectly graphically equalised CD, all of this depicting, in various ways, the ‘normals’ and, by contrast, those ‘drinkers’ in named pub crawls with regular drinking mates or often drinking alone, the specialist art of beer talk, and the odd character you sometimes meet who talks to himself, except here – resonating with the role-to-role switches of the previous stories – there is much more to the imaginary friend with whom this character crosses verbal swords in each pub setting. Perfect, as I say. No giveaway spoilers here. The whole thing is a brilliant life spoiler…or even life healer.

    [I know I have only just read the first few pages during my concurrent real-to-real review here of ‘Cold Turkey’ by Carole Johnstone, but our hero in the Hargadon tries a cold turkey approach toward halting his role as ‘drinker’ in pubs so as to become a ‘normal’, this being, I feel, akin to the fight against the smoking of fags in the Johnstone (there’s ‘fag ash’ in the Hargadon, too) and this sort of connection relates, I feel, to the ‘revelling in vulnerability’ ethos I have just mentioned in that other review, and the Englishness, too, the sheer stoical-chaotic Englishness in both works (at least as far as I have reached in the Johnstone.)]

  5. The Hanged Man by Steve Rasnic Tem
    “But to give in to gravity, to just let everything fall into its gravitationally-determined place, to give up and to give in, was more than satisfying.”
    An archetypically family-stoical Tem piece – another engaging Tem onion-song – that fits comfortably with my own indifferent fatalism and sense of dark wonder underpinning all our ‘dying falls’ of life. Those Avery weighing-machines now weighing gravity itself and the mechanics of the lopsided headedness (cf the nodding skull stew earlier) caused by hanging oneself in a moment of sadness, an act that somehow continues the dying fall in that slow game resonant with the Read story. The role-to-role of cassette to CD, now 2D film to 3D film, a palimpsest of subtitles, as he switches roles with his own son when the fall finally falls…?

    [My many previous reviews of work by Steve Rasnic Tem are linked from here.]

  6. Reclamation Yard by Paul Meloy
    I just don’t know how to describe this novellette-sized fiction and do justice to it. It is substantial and flows so quickly, so sweetly, yet so nightmarishly, I hardly noticed reading it, while equally noticing it deep down inside me as it fundamentally treats of a father and son relationship and of life’s susceptibility to what some call senile dementia, and to what others may call a discovered genius with a form of darkness as it own cure. This is a human theme that entails the ‘revelling in vulnerability’ again, as a positive vision. And other factors of good or bad heads nodding on our shoulders and the roles we play, the madnesses we feel, all now masquerading as the motley monsters, hard or soft, emerging autonomously from the head of this work’s imputed freehold author.
    The whole work is threaded through with Meloy’s Autoscopic mythos that, in hindsight, one day, is likely to become – especially with this latest work – the most significant literary or horror genre mythos of all time — and I earlier reviewed these two Meloy books here and here as part of that mythos, while I can confirm confidently that any knowledge of those two books is not at all necessary to allow ‘Reclamation Yard’ to be holistically readable from within its own unique and discrete vision.
    This vision, at times, involves the participation of a pair of comic archetypes from our communal past, a brilliant touch. It also entails things that will definitely haunt you and will probably out-nightmare any previous nightmares you have had imposed upon you or concocted for yourself. The changing textures of language conveying those nightmares are deceptively simple in their effectiveness, as well as delightfully tactile with phonetic redolence. To accompany the nightmares, there are inspiring or uplifting visions, such as perceived balloon trips and monsters that are more than monsters, at one moment frightening, then comforting. The whole panoply is incredibly involving, and I feel readers will take their own bespoke nightmares as well as hopes from this work and it would be difficult to describe all the separate triggers, hinges and handles that can be taken hold of or that may take hold of you. There is no point, either, in my saying how great this work is, as I run the danger of my review being seen as an ‘over-enthusiasm of the moment’. I just feel confident enough to leave the whole work to speak for itself by causing, with some justice, the many different emotions that I just felt in reading it also to be felt by you. The day I read ‘Reclamation Yard’ (today, just now) “was the sort of day where ‘nostalgia’ came from.”
    Remember: “Don’t touch the blackouts!”

    There is much in ‘Black Static’, in addition to its fiction, to inspire the Horror Arts enthusiast.

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