Black Static #52


TTA PRESS May-June 2016 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)

Stories by Carole Johnstone, Damien Angelica Walters, Robert Levy, Michelle Ann King, Ralph Robert Moore.

When I real-time review these stories, my comments will appear in the thought stream below. (There may be some delay in starting this review.)

6 thoughts on “Black Static #52

  1. Compare the LENA of ‘Wetwork’ with that in a different publication’s story that I happened to read and review HERE yesterday, a story written by the author of the story (as yet unread) that FOLLOWS this one in Black Static #52 !

    WETWORK by Carole Johnstone

    “Coffee and cherries and the pages of your shallow, sloping words flapping in the breeze, tickling my skin.”

    A doughnut or a meringue? Wow! This novelette sure needs working at to start off with, but your work is half the battle towards something great. The Glaswegian dialect dialogue needs to be transcended but half its power is its direct meaning which is eventually easy to absorb, the other half being some intrinsic indefinable horror-bitcoin of meaning-and-sound-in-the mind’s-ear — almost Joycean with its ‘brontide and hybernackle’, ‘coo-branks’, ‘ill-tricket’ together with incantatory refrains and startling homilies that bite at you again and again — evoking an extended vision of, say, dystopic tower-blocks, chemical protection companies, sleepers like zombies, perhaps aliens, mafia types and law enforcers like the well-characterised couple here, Cal the ground-breakingly unreliable narrator and Lowry his boss, who work off each of other with crude naivety, ‘paperwork and wetwork’, dealing with the nefarious bar-owner of the Brew Dog… And much more. Nothing can do justice to the onward extended compulsion of the whole story but particularly of its closing scenes with Lowry’s ENDLESSLY repeated question to Cal of ‘where the fuck you taking me?’ Or words to that effect.
    And the end-revelation, too, is devastating. And the end-quote I dare not quote here.

    Go to it! Work at this work! And it will work hard back at you, with grinding relentlessness.

  2. DEEP WITHIN THE MARROW, HIDDEN IN MY SMILE by Damien Angelica Walters

    “You didn’t say the rooms were off-limits, but they were all museum silence and sharp edges.
    Kind of like you, honestly.”

    In complete and mood-breaking contrast to the mighty ‘Wetwork’, this work is a truly haunting second-person threnody, expressed in a simple prose of some depth, if that is not a contradiction in terms. It tells of your Mom, after the death of her husband and your Dad, marrying a widowed man also with a young daughter of similar age if not temperament, both of you only children, and all four of you now live in his house…
    There is something achingly naive about you and your step-sister. A unique story which it is impossible to describe further than I have done without spoiling it. Even if I can remember enough to describe it at all?

  3. THE OESTRIDAE by Robert Levy

    “And just when I think I’ve finally run out of hope, one last drip of it leaks out to ruin everything.”

    Another haunting and well-written story, one that is in tune with the oestrogen-transfer of the previous story, a vaguely feminine version of Dorian Gray or Jekyll-Hyde, this time telling of a brother (trainee surgeon) and sister in a Pennsylvanian family house among the trees and mountains, still looking for their missing mother, when someone turns up calling herself an aunt, their mother’s sister. Here the Oestridae or botflies (the latter word strangely and tellingly like a computer virus to my mind) represent an objective-correlative within the increasingly disturbing process towards – as well as against – a leaching or burrowing identity.

  4. MY SISTER, THE FAIRY PRINCESS by Michelle Ann King

    “The fairy princess and the delinquent don’t belong in the same story.”

    But in this one, perhaps they do. Two sisters come home and meet at their childhood home amid a desert of buried bones, but not to bury but cremate their recently deceased mother (so poignant as today is only a week’s distance from my own such bereavement and its on-going aftermath). There is a sense of bereavement in each post-Wetwork story, and here to “sign the paperwork” of bereavement’s inheritance, this home truly non-wet in its environment, as part and parcel of previous stories’ leaching between siblings or step-siblings, here with an inferred rhapsody of tentative reunion and mutual support, to the extent of one of them saying “I miss my wings” on or around what I assume to be their once childhood swing, and then I am sure the other one says exactly the same words? Who the fairy princess, who the delinquent? The ending is delightfully open-ended. A story with a happy ending for the fairy princess, of course, whatever the paperwork says? Very telling, very complex in its aftermath, despite – or because of? – this story’s relative brevity.


    “The manufacturer doesn’t sell coffins for their dolls.”

    A truly startling story with quite an unpredictable audit trail, where section-breaks work along with plot-breaks until there is no section-break at all at the biggest plot-break imaginable, a plot telling the story of an ex-boxer man at the doctor’s suffering, one guesses, more than just a trivial illness, who befriends the doctor’s receptionist and her young daughter named Jasmine, a daughter, precocious for her age, a girl with a doll.
    I could go on, leading you through the plot’s audit trail, the man’s physical affair with the widowed receptionist, the imaginary games of his relationship with the daughter. You would not believe any of it if I told you. But you DO believe it when you read it in the accretive context of this story. About the semi-cremation as mock healing and later burial, as perhaps prefigured coincidentally by the previous story’s planned cremation and its buried bones in the desert. The later discovery of paperwork such as the ex-boxer’s high school diploma and copy of his will, and the wetwork of his goldfish aquarium. But that tells you only part of the surface plot and its potential meaning. Only the text itself will suffice to take you deeper. A question remains: who leaches into whom, the woman-the daughter-the ‘cancerous’ doll, and their own battle-scarred action man? You will hopefully discover your own answer, as I think I did.

    “He used to love swimming.”


    This collection of stories is another optimum Black Static experience whether you take it at surface level or deeper than you may care to dive.

    There is much else in this magazine to interest the Horror Arts enthusiast, in addition to its fiction texts.

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