Black Static #51


Published by TTA Press – Mar-Apr 2016

Fiction by
Stephen Graham Jones, Mark Morris, Gary McMahon, Caren Gussoff, Stephen Hargadon, Norman Prentiss.

My comments upon this fiction will eventually appear in the thought stream to this post as I read each work.

There is much else in this magazine in addition to the fiction.

9 thoughts on “Black Static #51

  1. BIRDFATHER by Stephen Graham Jones

    “Those kind of feathers that soak up the light.”

    You may find this hard to believe, but, as is usual, when I receive a new publication that I intend to dreamcatch, I first set up the webpage to house my review, with just the title, publisher, author’s name and, usually, an object-enhanced photo of the publication itself.
    Today, I did this with Black Static #51, the above photo together with listing out the fiction authors’ names from the contents list inside, and then, later, looked further and started reading the first story.
    Perhaps, the style of the photograph above had been dictated to me by the object I used or by the osmosis of the magazine itself – or by both.
    I had no idea that the first story was imbued with an overshadowing non-descript bird, as the story turned out to be after I started reading it and, obviously, this had a major bespoke effect on me, an effect that might have deeper coloured my view of the work itself…
    This is an involving, simply-etched portrait of three brothers (two who see the youngest as a force of his own, all of them with inchoate emotions that the reader is allowed to empathise with), the death of their father by the Crash on the road turning, their mother, and the new man who comes to take their father’s place in the mother’s bed. And that bird’s imbuing via all manner of conduits of mind and place, the bird that had seemingly been involved with the roadkill that had tipped that Crash into being…
    It is intensely haunting as well as feeling RIGHT about these relationships, even though the gestalt was WRONG, a believable mutation of rightful boyish emotions that allowed a nightmare out that could only subsist as nightmare within sleep, I guess, but this story’s gestalt allowing it out into the reality of waking life.
    Well-characterised and synaptically abrasive.

    “When there’s bad guys around, you need to dial up your peripheral vision.”

  2. FULL UP by Mark Morris

    “…facing a wide-screen TV on mute, on which a group of cartoon penguins appear to be falling from an aeroplane and hurtling towards the earth.”

    A deceptively simple, eventually chilling narration of hauntings amid bereavements of time and place that can never be shaken off, across three well-characterised generations, and including a revisit by a human alive today to where she used to live much as imputed ghosts are said to do, too.
    I wonder about the stand-by remote’s pause of what was frozen in real-time on the TV screen releasing itself, having been left paused too long, much like those pervasive releases of the feathered ‘objective correlative’ in the previous story?
    Full up with memories – and with tears waiting to release themselves, too?

    (My earlier review of ‘Albion Fay’ HERE.)

  3. NECROPOLIS BEACH by Gary McMahon

    “…and disassemble our world, piece by screaming piece.”

    …as, by contrast, I try to assemble, not disassemble, this world, this story’s world, piece by piece, leitmotif by leitmotif, and here the light is gentle, the pilgrimage to the secret beach haunting, a pilgrimage to see the boneless ones debone bone by bone like would-be fish, while the couple we accompany (the particular) face the future’s gestalt cataclysm (the unparticular), by deboning their love slowly from long before till this epiphany of mutual farewell that is even stronger than the original love itself. All this and the word music for its own sake more than just compensates for the text’s apparently deliberate hackneyed horrorese.
    It as if this fiction ritual was set in the gentle soughing of a night beach long before it was written. And I feel, so far, that this magazine’s set of fiction has also been paradoxically assembled as if already disassembled — to fool the gestalt seeker or slow-motion reviewer — with its potential gestalt being defiantly deboned bit by bit.

  4. SPRING FORWARD by Caren Gussoff

    “I hated rush hour.”

    “Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead tonight,”

    I have reason again to say that there is something intriguingly disconnected about this set of stories, something slightly out of kilter, and, indeed, IF I had read this gently ingenious story NEXT Saturday instead of today (the Saturday in the week before), our British Summer Time would have come into being by advancing an hour during the small hours of tomorrow’s Spring morning not next week’s… as if I, too, as reader, need to spring forward instead of being left behind in slow motion inside this review.
    A story about a gold ring set with a diamond cultured from the ashes of a past loved one, a gem that seems pent up with the heat energy needed to spring forward. Stolen by a burglar with a conscience, I will leave you to decide about the ironic nature of this story’s gentle ingenuity that I claim for it and a touching bereavement. (Like Morris’s earlier ghosts springing forward with their past reality, rather than haunting the place in real-time?)

  5. “LISTEN, LISTEN” by Mr. Stephen Hargadon

    “Ghosts boast.”

    I think I have said before that Hargadon sounds like a substance some people take to sleep better, a thought that takes on a new meaning here. But, above all, Hargadon is the name of an author of whose work I have become a fan over the last few years by the stories of his I have read in Black Static. Having said that, this one does disappoint in the light of that high standard. The jokes seem weaker and the civilised old-fashioned Reggie Oliver [and Aickman (Maybury Clinic?)] ‘feel’ does not sit as well with the previous more abrasive Hargadon jokes and scenarios with with which I have become accustomed. Having said that, there are some great moments in this story, a text that’s been given a certain engaging old-fashioned publication style and atmosphere on the page. The main theme, of how one dies and what is supposed to happen after death, depending on whether one dies peacefully or while dreaming, is certainly original and I think I would tempt you to read this story for those eschatological delights. We have spontaneous combustion, regrets, guilt, collected toys, Yeats’s Byzantium, father-son relationship, life without dreams not being a life at all, workers-boss relationship, money-making, the nature of bodies when burning, telepathy, death as the most dramatic thing you ever do…
    This work is a goodish romp,


    This is an amazing fit with my own attitude towards breaking the slavish traditions of the past by the future of literary criticism as embodied in my gestalt real-time reviewing, despite the story’s upfront hilarious satirical approach towards such an attitude.
    But part of me reads this text as supportive, too, of such an attitude.
    It is therefore fascinating in itself, an amusing and half-serious account – possibly as a fable whose moral, like some filters, works in both directions of flow – about an academic literary critic, networking at a convention in a city with a two hour time difference, who is preparing to give a lecture on three Poe detective stories (the titles shown below in my own footnote), and lightly flirting in an attempted sexual fling with a woman attendant at the convention. Foiled in that latter endeavour, he is later, in his room, as if preternaturally given Poe’s own pen that flows by its own volition calligraphically, a pen that makes him alter his lecture for the following day, and the results of the “preternatural” — a word actually used in this text as if, to my paranoiac mind, it is knowingly making fun of my approach to reviewing — are mind-blowing and the resultant lecture, when he gives it to a real-time audience, making play, inter alia, on the word ourang-outang, is quite mind-boggling.
    A wonderful farce, wonderful wordplay. That ourang-outang punch-line is second to none and exceeds the power of the later seemingly intended punch-line of the plot regarding the eventual implied discovery about the nature of the pen at the story’s end.
    A cornucopia of connections and “complex textual reinterpretations” amid a gamut of stylistics and academic shenanigans, with many Poe references. More a social comedy than a Gothic horror, more scatology than eschatology. Absolutely loved it.
    “He still had a handful of job…”

    My own real-time reviews of Poe’s ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘The Purloined Letter’ and ‘The Mystery of Marie Rogêt’ appeared HERE.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s