My real-time review of the fiction and poetry in the British Fantasy Society Journal – issue 12 (dated October 2014)
Fiction and poetry writers are: Beatrix M.G. Nielsen, Nigel Wilson, Deborah Walker, Stewart Horn, Jonathan Service, Lea Fletcher, James Dorr, Damien Kelly, Elaine Gallagher, Sarah Newton.
Editors: Sarah Newton, Stuart Douglas, Ian Hunter, Max Edwards
Snark Herder: Phil Lunt
Cover illustration: Howard Hardiman
This book was received as part of my membership of the BFS. As well as the fiction and poetry, there are several articles of interest to BFS members, and this paperback book comprises 137 pages.
My previous reviews of BFS publications are linked from HERE.
MY REVIEW WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ EACH WORK:-
There Is Nothing Keeping You by Beatrix M.G. Nielsen
“If you don’t stop keeping me back then I’m leaving.”
And beyond back, there is bark. This starts at Triss’s unequal partnership with oddly named Oddmund, but she suddenly enters a wonderland or chequered architecture of Alice, beyond another bark, where thankfully I cannot fathom the symbolism of the nice and nasty things discovered or the narrative purpose of the characters met. They just are. As in mathematics, there are relationships that hold a complexity that gradually comes out naturally as if it were simple from the start. Like human relationships, too. Especially the ideal one found in some fairyland beyond the sewer tunnel. A perfect equation. Eventually satisfying. Odd then even.
The Allotment by Nigel Wilson
And from the previous story’s Beyond the Bark, we have appropriately this one’s “Narnia is the watchword”, and a similar satisfying endgame resolution when the relationship equation is solved. Yet, there is a much more down-to-earth element (or ‘down–to–earth’ as the typesetting would have had it) to most of this story. And I am pleased to see that – surrounded as we are in our world (literally with the story’s allotment contiguous to a notorious park) by modern crimes, illegal highs and other ills – we have here something old-fashioned and artisan or working-class and good-hearted like growing vegetables (some explicitly called ‘phallic’ in the text), to cultivate one’s garden and so forth. The prose style is like that, too. And what is found under the allotment’s ground (like that smelly object found in the previous story) turns eventually, by some indirect serendipity, into an effective spectral resolution of a whodunnit murder as well as into that endgame resolution towards a finer future for those left living it. The perfect allotting.
Looking Good by Deborah Walker
“Attractiveness is a big industry with too many contradictory theories for me to understand.”
As an engagingly oblique variation upon an Ishiguro ‘Never Let Me Go’ theme, this tale of a girls’ school and a sort of religious genetic engineering is an effective satire featuring the ever-tweaking of some Facebook of the real face by ‘click-DNA’, here toward an extreme form of hologrammatic air-borne infection (or contagion by intimate contact alone?) as retributive sabotage. It is a ‘fabber’ fable with a moral, but one is left questioning whether the orientation of the central relationship is significant or a passing crush? I managed to ask that with a straight face. An unadulterated one.
(cf ‘The Armless Lady’ in the first story and her dealings with Triss).
Hell Bent – A Villanelle by Stewart Horn
A very powerful work in the strict obsessive Villanelle poetic form with a recurrently incantatory couplet of lines that, on their own at least, should make this become a famous poem. Very impressed. The straightened or straitened apotheosis of love being Hell Bent?
The Last Will of the Tyrant Rusana’a by Jonathan Service
“Rusana’a was magnificent, astride his horse, his lacquered armour burnished gold and black, the patterned green and white of the silk beneath peaking through the joins,..”
The word ‘peaking’ used instead of ‘peeking’ seems to indicate an act of tenting the material by something rising beneath? This is a horny story indeed, as thigh wounds are tended man on man, and conflict, almost ‘friendly fire’, ensues amid confused but redolent conspiracy, clear loyalty and a feel of Lord Dunsany (a review finished only yesterday).
“…particularising infinite potentialities into a single, rough, reality.”
The Last Man of Rowandale by Lea Fletcher
“‘Don’t be daft,’ Irin told him. ‘Your fight is my fight.'”
Resonant with swords and light sorcery, and with the previous story, as wounds are tended man on man, this is a touching, compelling ploy-for-good tale of assassination by spell as well as by destiny, as two men trick themselves beyond barriers to reach their target, to reach even beyond the barriers of each other, in the sense of a kiss of friendly fire amid a gender spell, too?… As Irin strives to “give Hanith that vital opening,…”
Flute and Harp by James Dorr
“Playing together, they syncopated, their melodies weaving. Trading crescendoes.”
…not exactly the duelling banjos in ‘Deliverance’ or the clinching love between fist-tapping warriors amid this journal’s earlier fiction, but more a feminine symbiosis of ‘augmenting rhythms’ within music and gentle love’s passion. This is a major work of some sumptuous substance that I enjoyed, combining previous Dunsanyan elements and, inter alia, the honest-to-goodness tunnelling of culverts reminding me of similar in The Allotment and Nielsens’s version of Wonderland, all from the point of view of a ratcatcher in this tractably believable fantasy world, where ghouls and tombs are the effectively gruesome backdrop to the two women’s love and sacrifice, and, yes, the music of words themselves as well as the conjured music that I believe I can actually hear within what the words describe.
My enjoyment of the language flow in this journal has so far been quite disrupted by the text’s en dashes being used both as hyphens and as en dashes themselves. This sounds like a minor point and I know that I shouldn’t be as irritated as I am, but it has become rather haltingly off-putting, particularly in this latest story I have just read.
The God Within by Damien Kelly
“You shouldn’t need a star to start the day, nor the moon to start a month. / You shouldn’t need a fire to start your life.”
I’m not sure I am on safe ground here, amid a confusing Confucian galaxy of names vis-a-vis the ancient Samurai and the natural love between such men, and the intertwining philosophies of fate and life’s purpose and personal responsibility (God within or without?) – and potential conspiracies of alignment and heritage. Suffice to say that I was inspired from absorbing this text, interested as I have been since the 1960s in the study of astrological harmonics and whether this derives from ’cause-and-effect’ or ‘as above, so below synchronicities’. Or, judging by this story, both?
I loved the precisely numbered fires (arson or otherwise) and the corresponding meteors in the sky, and I thought back to the mathematics I distilled from this journal’s first story and the subsequent ‘allotting’ and ‘click-DNA’ where such scientific strictnesses are synchronous paramours of love itself.
Rose by Elaine Gallagher
This beautiful threnody by enjambment evokes a tellingly broken slant on this Journal’s deliberate fiction gestalt, odd or even, even after death the male becomes female by blooming up from within the tomb in symbiosis with the bloom created out of a mourning above and, by inference, vice versa toward eternal life. (Cf the similar processes of Flute and Harp, Gina and Triss).
The Treeleaper by Sarah Newton
“The next time I saw the Treeleaper was the solstice at Yule.”
This exquisitely crafted work blends with the Dunsanyan quality of some of this Journal’s fiction, and then seasoned with sex. It is quite an array of winter chill and hermitage loneliness in the crux of ruggedness – a tale of this woman who almost meets herself as another discrete woman, a meeting as the culmination of her earlier thrusting cloven-man / woman relationship, a love that is preordained by some natural force not dissimilar to the earlier astrological harmonics…but now it is a new culminating ‘even’ love affair, I infer, without belittling the old ‘odd’ one. Because both loves are destined to remain, in different forms, but never surrogate. A perfect coda of orientation, by leaping between.
Leaping between distant words, bringing them close.
BFS Journal #13 arrived a day after finishing the above and my review of it has started here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/bfs-journal-13/