My subscription Interzone #255 and Black Static #43:
TTA PRESS Nov-Dec 2014
Fiction by Malcolm Devlin, RM Graves, Thana Niveau, Tim Major, E. Catherine Tobler, Jennifer Dornan-Fish, Tom Greene, Ralph Robert Moore, Usman T. Malik, Simon Bestwick, Annie Neugebauer, Andrew Hook, Aliya Whiteley.
I hope to real-time review the fiction in these magazines in due course as a single gestalt. THIS REVIEW WILL GRADUALLY APPEAR IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW.
My previous TTA reviews are linked from HERE.
Must Supply Own Work Boots by Malcolm Devlin
“How long do you think before the company ditches Mark IV for Mark V rigs?”
…as with this old iPad that I am using to write this review!
This is a poignant scenario or ambiance where workers at the dry dock need such bodily system updating with hard-wired ‘augs’ etc but the protagonist here is so utterly human, his nature as a rigged cyborg, I guess, is softened by his believably fathered baby he totes round… And there are such truly wonderful passages of prose in this story with their own soft ‘augs’ that I swooned at their power. This is indeed, a story to swoon at. A concept, I personally envisage, that starts with structure-clambering workers such as this protagonist so as to make ends meet and ends with their meeting as gentle twirling vanes like his baby’s toy windmill.
(Also appreciated the portrayal of the baby’s groping toward toddlerhood when compared to that of the adult workers striving toward adaptation into the mechanics of their work.)
“…towering asymmetric cruciforms, marking out the horizon like monuments.”
Bullman and the Wiredling Mutha by RM Graves
“Saddest number: 3207. Gladdest number: 5.”
I am constructively struggling with this Concrete Poetry, Meloy Islington (if not Camden), waking Finnegans, walking Riddley ‘short short’, that’s putting Devlin’s ‘augs’ into the text-sensitive part of my brain, thus changing the substance of the brain itself as well as its contents. Gang-poignant, kick-bollock-boxing, where numbers going up and down tell the story [of raw instinct, sex and emotional/physical survival] better than the words, and that’s no bad thing. A Wiredling become Weirdling? Muthafooka, I sure talk crap sometimes!
…but maybe we just need to learn each other’s language, Graves mine, and vice versa? I even need to learn my own language, sometimes, realise what it is that I say, seeming nonsense or not. Which seems an apt thought stemming from this intermission between two stories. Graves’ deep grunts beneath Niveau’s level…
The Calling of Night’s Ocean by Thana Niveau
“The long looping whistle tells who I am and where I come from, and the little trill at the end means I love to dive into the sky.”
A wonderfully limpid study, by use of two interactive monologues (if that’s not a contradiction in terms), between the 1969 of a man and a seemingly timeless female dolphin. This is perfect observation of the unobservable, and it becomes highly poignant as man, almost against his own wishes, stoops to experiment beyond mere anthropomorphism. I note the dolphin sees the man’s arms as ‘fins’, and I imagine her conception of ‘doll fins’? Also, there is hope at the end, despite man’s experimentation, hope stemming from the dolphin’s purity of soul? And it was aptly a composer named Bliss who created what he called a Colour Symphony… [I also see a telling comparison between Devlin’s adaptations by the human baby and those of the dolphin.]
“It’s like a symphony. And the colours are unlike any I’ve seen before. I never knew such beauty could exist.”
Finding Waltzer-Three by Tim Major
“‘Then I say no.’ / ‘Fine. And I say yes,…'”
Akin to Niveau’s ‘interactive monologues’ between man and dolphin, this short short conjures up a husband trying remotely to fathom, by spoken words alone, the nature of his wife’s compelling investigative journey by both deliberation and a throw of a coin into what she calls a ‘ghost ship’ of a spacecraft…
I sense a single crystallisation (like the billboard’s airbrushed ‘perfection’ of a moment in the Devlin story), a sudden vision or unconscious realisation that changed everything, but from what to what? Or from when to when? And for whom by whom? See what you think…
Oubliette by E. Catherine Tobler
“A comet’s tail brought sheets of debris through the ruined halls like rain.”
Although this must have been written before it happened, this story has the anthropomorphism, not only of Niveau’s dolphin’s expression of self — here the self as a craquelured ‘cathedral’ of a space station as woman — but also of PHILAE on #67P, as I expressed earlier here. Moreover, it echoes this author’s own CHASMATA where Mars as humanised trope has now become this impressively poeticised space station scenario (akin to this magazine’s struggling womanly expression of exploring Major’s ‘ghost ship’) and such scenario’s time-moving population of characters within it, as part of its very structure of its personality, one of these characters tellingly with ink on his face. Needs reading several times: a compliment, not a criticism. And, so far, I have read it only once.
Mind The Gap by Jennifer Dornan-Fish
“The end of humanity will be a death of a thousand cuts.”
…not ‘by’ but ‘of’ those cuts, I see. History’s endgame, where we humanity end by our cutting others or by others cutting us? This is the ‘dawning fish’ of Niveau’s dolphin as well as the reality-accrual adaptation by Devlin’s baby, facing the Final Solution, the language problem of Graves, while those — that we humans create with materials beyond our own bodily functions but still simulacra of them — ask knotty questions about our history as if our future may be absolved by our answering such questions. A synaesthesia of semen and menstruation, and a poignant mutual dependency between us and those simulacra (simulacra like the computer screens wherein we see our salvation?) – our unconscious legacy. Who survives whom?
A moving essay, with some dialogue.
Reports of cooperative human-dolphin fishing date back to Pliny the Elder. A Fish is also the symbol for Christ. Not that a dolphin is a fish.
Monoculture by Tom Greene
“Art made society better.”
A contrivance of this magazine’s monologue interchange, here between (1) those ‘Williamsons’ constructed by some historic clone-builder with their bots and (2) those of us who survived post-flu pandemic. Also the struggling between the two sides as to understanding each other’s words and culture, like entering each other’s ‘ghost ship’ of the past with Art as an idealistic proof of their humanity. I sensed from various hints that one of us in the monologue interchange seemed, via the ‘Art’ of this story itself, to carry both sides of it: physically as well as mentally? (I recalled the Tobler story in that context.) And that the word ‘predemic’ used throughout the story could evoke something like Pre-Adamic? “…they worked out how to grow food, how to fish in the lake.”
And that now aptly seems to solve the communication divide of all this Interzone’s fiction…
There is much else in Interzone to interest the SF enthusiast in addition to its fiction, i.e. reviews, accompanying artwork etc.
And below, later, to Black Static…
Drown Town by Ralph Robert Moore
“Fish were finding the faces.”
A long story, one where we waver between the manic short paragraphs of switching mouthpieces, and the more considered longer paragraphs of paternal backstory. This is a prison story, a Hannibal Lecter type of plot suddenly halted by the scenario having a dam bust above it making it a lake. This is so off the wall, I managed to escape by tearing my chains from their sockets. Just.
Varying between this review’s earlier Bullman type of communication problems, dolphin now trying its talk to man by all means of diving contraptions, where the manic street prisoner is told to sit on his childhood toilet training seat, and later a father’s mishandled attempts to communicate with his daughter with bread slices at the other end of his body, like balanced on his head. “…unresponsive to his different conversational overtures.” None of it works. And that’s good. For any manic reader worth his salt. Spit out the mouthpiece, I say. Vicarious rape, like shared air. Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey / A kiddley divey too, Wouldn’t you?
Ishq by Usman T. Malik
“…an alley believed to be the narrowest habitable street in Pakistan…”
Blown away, if not drown-towned out again, by this exquisitely heart-wrenching confabulation of disease, sexual and/or sororal betrayal — love unrequited for the living, but requited for the dead. The narrowest street, do just read about it in this story to believe it, the poetic traction of language blending, in its special way, nightmare and reality, as well as the deepest emotions possible, while its denizens, exchanging osculatory mouthpieces, as it were, to echo Moore’s story, fight for survival amid the biggest possible rain-producing flood (with dead fish in the sewers). A narrowest street, too, that serves, inter alia, as metaphor for explicitly ‘pincering’ cancers…
[‘Ishq’, ostensibly, is a real word wherein all I have tried to convey above is miraculously contained.]
Before I read the previous story, I did wonder whether ISHQ was an acronym for the headquarters of ISIS. But I knew Isis is a Goddess quite distinct from the encroaching force on the borders of Pakistan, Syria, Iraq…but it provides an interesting backdrop to…
Night Templar by Simon Bestwick
“‘Imran,’ he said, ‘have you ever looked at a curtain, or a carpet, and seen a face?'”
And indeed all the stories in this review so far have warranted a reader who can see such patterns, special readers… And here taxi-driver Imran, faced with a world of racism, calling him ‘Paki’ and other names, cares for his family and wants to stop all inimical forces, not only those of racism, within which forces he sees encroaching patterns, and by using a heritage from his forebears that he keeps under the floorboards he tries to stem the pattern’s tide. The ending however puzzles me. A brilliant ending. Is it the pattern of a new heritage of pain or of an emerging saviour Goddess about whom I alone can infer?
And aptly from that ‘fever-hot’ in Bestwick’s constructively puzzling ending to…
HIDE by Annie Neugebauer
“His skin was warm, almost fiercely hot.”
This is what I call the perfect horror ‘short short’. To describe its plot would spoil it. It is powerful and surprising, even conjuring for me, the earlier symbiosis of Niveau’s ‘dolphin and man’ and some other Interzone and Malik syndromes above and now reaching an inevitable mutually enveloping culmination.
“…the barely perceptible gilling in and out of her nostrils.”
Black Lung by Andrew Hook
“The decorator went mad with the aertex in this room. I was forever finding patterns and swirls unknown to me.”
I am usually a fan of Andrew Hook’s fiction but I’m afraid this one didn’t work with me. It has some striking moments like the elephant tissues and the Dream Archipelago-like theme and variations, but the info dump or two in dialogue and the confused imagery of The Engineer, coal mining and Black Lung from smoking et al only served to irritate me. Oh, but I did like the encroaching blend of dream and reality to parallel that of Malik above, and the concept of dreams of happiness but knowing that the happiness was to end… Does that make them nightmares not dreams?
Many-Eyed Monsters by Aliya Whiteley
“It was a love that came from looking at each other’s monsters, and being able to accept them.”
I loved this telling coda to my whole gestalt review gamut above – or should I say gambit! It is an Absurdist, often disturbing, but mostly engaging, vision of coughing up monsters, via what I envisage as a woman’s unctions and depilatory ointments of bathtime pampering – whereby I can even now sense the eyelashes of many eyes tickling my skin… And following Bestwick’s open-ended ending, I now imagine some great towering of self, reaching out and blending with fully waxed Goddesses or Angels (or Dolphins?) up high… “…the feeling of being part of something so much bigger and better than I could ever be.”
There is much else in Black Static of interest to the Horror enthusiast in addition to its fiction, i.e. articles, reviews and accompanying artwork.
[Aliya Whiteley had a story in Horror Without Victims and another astonishing story entitled ‘Songs for Dead Children’ in ‘First Book of Classical Music Horror.]
Pingback: 2014 Award Eligible Work and my Year in Review | Usman T. Malik
Pingback: Listen to Hide at Pseudopod | Annie Neugebauer