BFS Journal #13

bfs13My real-time review of the fiction and poetry in the British Fantasy Society Journal – issue 13 (2014, arriving with me today)

Fiction and poetry writers are: Suzanne J. Willis, Tina Rath, Allen Ashley, David Gullen, Robin Hickson, Sarah Doyle, S. Marcus Jones, Rachel Coles, Noeleen Kavanagh, Roy Gill, Marion Pitman, Rebecca Lloyd, Clifford Beal, Zoe F. Gilbert, Deborah Walker.

Editors: Sarah Newton, Ian Hunter
Typesetter: Stephen Theaker
Cover illustration: Howard Watts

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 192 pages.

My previous reviews of BFS publications are linked from HERE.


20 thoughts on “BFS Journal #13

  1. Sundark and Winterling by Suzanne J. Willis
    “…words are always enthralled by a good story.”
    …and that about sums this story up in such an amazing retrocausally shape-shifting way! An enchanted text soaring into a mind-shimmering, faerie-meticulous fabric of words (‘forgotten words’ as well as ‘language reformed’) actually to conjure this retributive sibling world surrounding a loved dragon turned into, for me, a sort of ‘[House] of Leaves’ as his past lover tries to exhume her love, with some hope, and with some help from wonderfully conceived ‘erutisi’ “small as children and nebulous as mist” and a ‘memory-box’.

    • Another quote from the above story, one that significantly resonates with one of the stories below, now having read that story:
      ” Forgotten language, muscular and elegant, rippled under her skin.”
      But if I tell you which story that may be a spoiler!

  2. The Unicorn Girl by Tina Rath
    A sharply evocative sonnet about unicorns in woodland, then in city, one that serendipitously echoes the previous story, especially in its last line, in its retrocausality as well as hope of words. A sonnet that has a horn sticking out typographically in that same last line, I sense. Or maybe not.

  3. William Etty 1837

    William Etty 1837

    Life on the Rocks by Allen Ashley
    “‘And you’re telling me this in Poundland,’ she mutters, departing.”
    This is an entertainingly amusing tale of a Siren called Dora who inhabits a sort of rocky outcrop on the North Sea, not dissimilar to those outcrops where I live on the Essex coast by the same North Sea, except there are more such outcrops now with all the new fishtail groynes currently being rocked-up as coastal defences.

    John William Waterhouse 1891

    John William Waterhouse 1891

    Dora is on the Internet and emails her sororal Sirens and visits Poundland as well as a shop with which she barters pearls in Ruskin Street. But, incredibly, this story is touchingly poignant, too – no mean feat – with her preserving her dead loved one in her cave, a painter called William. Serendipitously, again, this preservation closely echoes the preservation by a Siren-like female protagonist of a loved one in this journal’s first story!

  4. Schenectady by David Gullen
    “Dora had been pleased with her story when she first wrote it.”
    Believe it or not, a story featuring another Dora, to follow the previous one!
    While reading it, I believed this to be a plain, if well-written, story of a writer’s group, its rivalries, its writing jealousies, its romances, then introducing a gruesome monster in its latter stages… until I came to its absolutely brilliant last line that took it beyond the run-of-the-mill.

  5. The Apothecary’s Tale by Robin Hickson
    “For the letters, unlike their frosted surround, are transparent; carved like a stream across a beach.”
    This is a stunning piece of prose and it is written by an author whose name is new to me. I can only compare it to stories by Colin Insole (one of my favourite writers ever), and if you already enjoy one of these two authors, I am confident you will enjoy the other, well, certainly this story, at least, as I have no experience of other stories by Hickson. I shall certainly be seeking them out. Having said all that, I am not sure I am on safe ground plotwise, but yet, in a way, I am, because it has left many questions in my mind, which is probably its purpose.
    There was a ‘dodgy doctor’ in the Allen Ashley story above, one who prescribed medicines or drugs for Dora. Here he is called an Apothecary or, I infer, a chemist. The story’s ending significantly adds two letters to that latter word by which action it links much together in my mind. The fact that there is a recurring reincarnation of the Apothecary’s cat, there is, too, of the Apothecary himself, I guess, who calls himself ‘you’, when referring to an earlier self, or a later one? There is an element of guilt or shame at his sexual longings, and there is a gritty and/or phlegmy watermark threading or seeping through, like an inner palimpsest, the past and destiny and other characters in the Apothecary’s shop.
    The guilt and shame lead to the inevitable, perhaps. The prose is full of the viscous, the vicious, the crepitating of smoke and fire, as well as an incredible scene involving ice-making for sodas that the Apothecary sells. The words in fact act in the way that this Journal’s first story stated that words can act, as more than just meaning, but also physically and spiritually. Do read this story and tell me what you think. Am I on the right lines?

  6. image
    Precursor by Sarah Doyle
    “A beauty, yes — but shackled to the past.”
    This Journal’s second sonnet, another sharp one, there the unicorn’s horn, here the spinning-wheel… There retrocausal, here, equally exquisitely, precausal in the ironic sense of a death of sleep, like birth, prefiguring a yearning for life itself…?

  7. imageSummertime in Paris by S. Marcus Jones
    “I watch as the needlepoint pushes… […] The mother-of pearl spiral tip of its horn…”
    I am enthralled as this vividly myth-of-myth story (in a believable Parisian park) not only explicitly, if accidentally, conveys a tapestry of my nemonymal expression ‘veils and piques’ of yore but also undeniably blends this Journal’s previous two sonnets into one story deploying a filmic tableau or vision. Whether that was intentional or not, with the Journal’s poetry and fiction being edited by two different people, I am doubtful, but it is certainly a treat. In itself, without these connections, the story is a compellingly expressed enticement of a unicorn through a veil into our reality, with convincing girl characters as deliberate or inadvertent bait, one spread out like sleeping beauty, and the other as a jaunty modern scanty, with the intention of putting it to sleep with a needle-like dart. Sharp-things and Sorcery, with an end battle.

  8. Hell Is the Cooking Channel by Rachel Coles
    “The branches gouged into him and trapped his arms while their sweet fruit budded and grew next to his nose,…”
    Another piercing of the veil of myth, here with the sheer thrusting appetites of a god among many of us, I infer, and the main protagonist here suffers a lust for fast food, even for the flesh of his girl friend, as dream-clotted visions intrude from beyond that veil. I don’t think I have ever read such a substantive series of food descriptions and hunger for such food that concurrently make you feel very hungry and very sick. Amazing stuff.

    On a tangent, there is a very interesting and illuminating contrast between the ice-making and soda in the Hickson story with the description of the greasy fast food here, yet tantalisingly revealing something about the pure water later in the Coles story.

  9. imageStep Sisters by Allen Ashley
    From Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella, this is an engaging poem of five rhyming or assonant stanzas of five lines each. I wonder if one of the stepsisters is Dora the Siren as she has a “voice of an expired seagull” and also “She snores just like a dinosaur…”, with ‘dinosaur’ being one of this author’s favourite tropes (see my 2009 real-time review of a story collection by this author here).

  10. A Year in the Country by Noeleen Kavanagh
    “A spiked potato is not good to eat but sometimes when there’s nothing else you have to.”
    A sixteen year old in 2048 keeps a journal, her entries simply narrating a post-Collapse dystopia, with desolation, cold, fellow feeling, illness and finally death of loved ones, with a sense of fairies just beyond the most tenuous veil. It did not really enthrall me, but that’s probably just me.

  11. Parallel Prelude: Paw Prints in the Snow by Roy Gill
    I just tried to get into this, but I couldn’t. Maybe because it’s the middle part of a fantasy series. But I sense it was not something written for me, and it would be unfair to review it. I did exactly this once before in a BFS Journal real-time review, so this story shouldn’t take it personally!

  12. Night Out by Marion Pitman
    A stirring piece in free verse – that echoes some of this Journal’s earlier shape-shifting, but also seems to encapsulate the transcendence of such shape-shifting through the veil of myth as shown by the Rachel Coles ‘appetite’ story, particularly when the poem reaches its ending with such effective down-to-earth bathos.

  13. The Pantun Burden by Rebecca Lloyd
    “‘There are curtains still,’ she said, ‘but since Gloria died, he doesn’t use them; the chicken shit all over the windows is good enough for him.'”
    I loved this story of a curse-filter working both ways! You’ll know what I mean when you read it. This story of a simple youth being bitten with marks that turn to scabs when helping at the chicken farm, his mother, the woman they ask to help, is extremely haunting. Not haunting in the usual sense with veils and apparitions with round corners, but haunting in a more sharp-pointed way like the sharper stories and poems earlier in this Journal, making you want to itch, to look out for bodily incisions or cracks with seepage, to think of H5N1 and to want to see a Tod Browning film again, against all better judgement!
    (My previous review of a Rebecca Lloyd story here.)

  14. Cast Iron by Clifford Beal
    “…as if he was peering through gossamer…”
    A couple, through an estate agent, take over a possibly to-be-listed, 300 year old property, one with huge ancient cast iron oven, and they live there with their two year old son. The ending is creepy in a creditably striking way, but overall, for me, there was little that stood out to keep the momentum going through a number of pages of run-of-the-mill ominousness towards that ending. A story about a haunting, if not always a haunting story.

  15. The Manhattan Room by Zoe F. Gilbert
    “There was a yellow square, far too small to be a projection…”
    This is a truly classic haunting and moving story, of promised ‘connection’ for a girl with her mother after the latter’s death, the object cross-pollennation between a model railway in one room and a huge wallpaper photograph in another room depicting a Manhattan skyscape of apartment windows… If I tell you too much about it, it would be spoilt for you. It just is. Simply splendid. Personally, I thought of Proust’s famous little yellow patch on a wall in Vermeer’s painting of Delft, a remembrance of things past, a search for lost time, via the veils of object correlatives. A blend of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in Sundark’s house: a gestalt from the light-motifs conjured through this real-time spy-hole into the book?

  16. Aunty Merkel by Deborah Walker
    “The multiverse is so very, very large, and because of chaotic inflation it’s always stretching, like a loaf of bread, forever baking in the oven of eternity.”
    And this short short coda, with that, not only harks back to the huge oven in the Beal story (its oven as a separate entity) but also to the tenor of all the fiction and (multi)verses in this Journal. A tale of a wedding and an Aunty that goes to all of them… it’s not the doubtful people who say things that count but it’s the things they say that can bring ‘enduring love’. Words outlast whoever speaks them and little matters it whether we fully appreciate these words’ meanings, as long as we do speak them – from a book to the congregation of each other.

  17. I have now also read most of the non-fiction in this Journal, too. An achievement for Stephen Theaker in very speedily recouping someone else’s delay and I now discover on page 191 that he was the overall editor as well as typesetter. The Fiction and Poetry editors are named at the start of this review.
    Mr Theaker also interpreted and transcribed much BFS revealingly political and news stuff in the interesting articles that filled many of the non-fiction pages.

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