Black Static #53


TTA Press Jul-Aug 2016

Fiction by Steve Rasnic Tem, Priya Sharma, Stepehn Hargadon, Harmony Neal, Kristi DeMeester, Danny Rhodes, Charles Wilkinson.

My readers may be wondering when I’m going to consume this edition of the always dependable Black Static? Well, it’s a slow motion tussling with time and trouble, but sooner or later, my comments on its fiction will appear in the thought stream below.

My previous reviews of TTA Press publications HERE.

11 thoughts on “Black Static #53

  1. INHERITANCE, or The Ruby Tear
    by Priya Sharma

    With archaic typology and deadpan gothickness, this multi-chaptered story is, for me, a lost Matthew Gregory Lewis classic of monstrousness-for-its-own-sake beneath a noble family’s niceties of lost-and-found inheritance. I sense that Priya Sharma is just a conduit for this story. Or, though I pray not, it is a conduit for someone else with her name?
    There are moments here of goriness and cliffside sublimity all the more powerful because of such disingenuous artifice. Even to the extent of making us believe it is not artifice at all.

  2. My links to authors show their previous reviews by myself.

    BREATHING by Steve Rasnic Tem

    “He comes to believe that the rest of the world is breathing with him,…”

    …as, somehow, I do, too, while hawling fiction dreams towards gestalt.
    Like this story’s Charlie, I, too, have slept in the same wide wifely bed, now, in my case, for more than 45 years, and, along with Charlie, I empathise with the breathing echoes that, in my case, might one day be left, but for which one of us? This beautifully written text is almost unbearable to read, unbearably right, too, and, like breathing, it is a toing and froing of ghostly truth and trust.
    In tune with the previous Sharma story, where loved ones became animals or vice versa, or worse, we also have here perhaps a more oblique animal ‘objective correlative’ or metaphor, a clinging to one’s own objectified pain. But whose?

  3. DARE by Harmony Neal

    “Personne ne m’a jamais donné tout crédit. J’ai quatre points putain oh. Je suis descendu du Père putain d’archéologie.”

    At first, on some surface that this set of Black Static fictions so far spreads for us, we have the destructive alter ids of the Sharma women Gothicks in real-time, Charlie’s wounded self come into his garden to nuzzle closer, and here three older teenage girls in a truth and dare game with their own footnotes. Here, on this story’s own level, it is possibly the most genuinely horrific thing you will ever read. Very cleverly done. It is its own wild, but believable Chien Andalou of the soul. On a more personal level, its black sewn thread connecting the posed portrait of the three girls summons for me the audit trail of interpretations derived from the Manet and Degas paintings in what is an entirely coincidental and still unfinished real-time review by myself of the Color Plates HERE.

    “Francesca stroked the flowers in the the Waterford Lismore vase on the table — the red roses, white lilies…”

  4. THE RIM OF THE WORLD by Kristi DeMeester

    “…and she kept saying over and over that something had gotten inside her, and she couldn’t get it out.”

    As others earlier had things inside… And this story’s shark’s tooth is just one thing that seems to multiply, too, in the Sharma and Neal ‘women’ from Inside, if unspoken, and not a smooth harmony but a sharp one as gestalt? Here, we have a married couple returning to the memory-haunted place where they both lived when teenagers. Remembering her Grandma and that Grandma’s sister, his sister, too, all near subsumed by the thinness between them and what lies rimless beneath. As if there are now nemonymous nightworlds beneath the thinnest veneer of sand and dust, teeming to test them from and through their own skin. As from the face on the front of this Black Static. I felt the lightest DeMeester touch here, waiting for weights far too heavy for it. Perhaps a soul’s heaviness can only be conveyed properly by hinting at its impossibility to move through to us without an undersurface beneath the sand pile of our past. Then, just as one example, the fleeting fortuitously random mention of Neal’s razors, unintentionally dared forth as a telling harmony disguised as misharmony, and the weight has been magicked forth. A gossamer, diaphanous weightiness of meaning…

  5. TOHOKU by Danny Rhodes

    “He dreamed of her perfume scent and the feeling of her breath on his neck.”

    This, for me, is literature’s perfect storm about the tsunami when Akio lost his Mizuki, and where a shrine bespeaks of the thousands of others lost that fateful day. His diving and encounters with, inter alia, versions of DeMeester’s lost souls through the skin of the earth, almost with her light touch, but one that here hangs deep with grief. Also echoes of the blending of Charlie’s earlier breathing with the world’s breaths, including that of his lost wife, a Tem now as Time by dint of Akio’s finding a clock at the bottom of the sea where thousands of such connections perished on that single day. And Akio possibly finding Mizuki’s necklace is a resonating with Sharma’s earlier necklace conceit, thus lending even more strength to its presence in the Rhodes story of such poignant strength about a historical moment we all remember learning about. (On a personal note regarding this necklace conceit, I cannot resist linking to a work of my own which was published in the early 1990s reprinted on the DOWSE site in the early noughties HERE.)

  6. MITTENS by Stephen Hargadon

    “The years go quickly but they arrive slowly.”

    …as my real-time reviews attest! I can’t believe I have been revelling in Hargadon stories so long. And revelling is the right word. But perhaps it should now be a ravelling not a revelling, after this story, or an unravelling of the skeins? I simply LOVE Hargadon, the nature of Hargadon as projected by his stories, not that I have ever met the man. Being big-headed, I often visualise myself as Hargadon’s review impresario, revealing him to the world – revealing or unravelling him. As ever, this Hargadon is crammed with stunning turns of phrase, wise saws, suppurating homilies, witty, but down-to-earth, conceits… And here the central conceit of the variety act in question (bringing to mind some acts I have seen recently on TV repeats of the Good Old Days shows of yore) is too good to spoil or unspool in a review such as this. And the well-drawn characters amid the freaks and variety acts. And its staggeringly disturbing finale has to be encountered cold to be fully appreciated. No giveaway here, no unpicking of its casting-on.
    (As an aside, I have assumed that this story must stand on its own, with no attempt by me to cohere a gestalt with the previous stories, as would be my normal wont. And in many ways, it does. But in its unbundling of inner creatures, with needles et al, the penetration of the thin veneers of an otherwise civilised body, almost a self-harm, a paradoxically light touch within a mass of earthy humour, almost a self breathing within a self, in tempo with Tem, DeMeester, Neal, Sharma, Rhodes, all the previous acts of this show now able to stand even more revealed or unraveled by their subsumption somehow out-inside this Hargadon, I contend.)

  7. IN THE FRAME by Charles Wilkinson

    “The benefits of a digital detox: a few wrong turns bringing a fortuitous discovery and he will have an excuse to use the word ‘serendipitous’ when he arrives.”

    Hargadon is Hargadon. And now we have Wilkinson, another of my favourite literary writers, after first discovering him in the SF/Horror genre small press a number of years ago (in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, to be precise, and his most recent story, SEPTS, in that magazine, having, for me, an important Ancient Briton link with this latest one in Black Static).
    There are several other richly imaginative audit trails and leitmotifs in this relatively brief gestalt of a text. I shall just choose one audit trail for my purpose, the one of seeking signposts to resume a friendship via oblique invitations to an art gallery in an obscure backwater town, after that friend’s sister broke some rule of suicide by inconveniencing others (mostly strangers) through that very suicide. We follow this unmapped soul via supermarket and bowling alley, via an exhibition of blank nemonymous paintings depicting “absence”, shading into a light touch that is noticeable behind the blankness or whiteness, a touch reaching towards an eventual meaning of shapes in the later paintings. Then within the gutter itself of the bowling alley… To reach beneath the skin. Skittled out. Needled out. One gutter of directive significance chosen, while many others then prick out the more one allows the text to haunt you.
    “We collaborate and then exhibit anonymously.”
    ….as do all these stories, without truly knowing they collaborate.
    But each story is labelled with a single autonomous name. Absence then presence in each frame. A few wrong turns, but suddenly a wonderful serendipity.

    There is much else in Black Static to entertain the Horror Genre enthusiast in addition to its fiction.


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