Black Static #55


My previous reviews of TTA PRESS publications HERE.

Stories by Stephen Hargadon, Lisa Tuttle, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Simon Avery, David Hartley, Jeff Bowles.

When I review the fiction in this magazine, my comments will appear in the thought stream below…

8 thoughts on “Black Static #55

  1. McMARA’S ROCK by Stephen Hargadon

    “You’re wise not to have a television, Michael. The news is just murder and more murder and greed and war and one sick perversion after another. The make-believe stuff is no better, it’s more of the same, with an extra dose of perversion.”

    So says Mrs Dolan, a honest-to-goodness Irish woman, now creaking with age, hoping to get her daughter hitched to Michael. Michael and Jerome are brothers and they …damn, how can I rehearse this plot for you? Just believe me, when I say it is a classic worthy of your attention as a horror story lover and worthy of the consideration of any awards organisations in ANY fiction genre, well not ALL, but most! It as if John Cowper Powys translated all his Dorset and Somerset mystic madness and human hyper-eccentricities to the wilds of Ireland, and let it be recast by another author at least half-Irish and born in Canvey Island! But that does not do justice to its originality, ironic hilarity, and sheer brazen shocking events, its mighty image of a split rock, and a gestalt of cats and thoughts and a brain that is that rock, or a brain that is the earth we live in or the dreamcatcher itself… or a brain that is simply Michael’s. And the characterisation of the two brothers is to die for. The myths and legends behind the rock, too.

  2. A HOME IN THE SKY by Lisa Tuttle

    “It was like being in hospital, she thought, where existence could be concentrated on the span of a single bed, screened off by curtains beyond which other dramas played out on and around other beds, unseen but not unheard.”

    Cara, because of the housing crisis, returns to her parents, to help herself save more for a deposit. The family house has shrunk in her adult hindsight, but her parents somehow increased in size. Some effective claustrophobic touches in this relatively brief account of her later seeing – then, on an impulse, visiting – an advertising showhome seemingly erected in the sky on a new development… like the possible mixed blessings of spending time within the split of McMara’s Rock? The difference between a quick passage through or a longer sojourn?

  3. PIGSKIN by David Hartley

    “The farm is blasted and hell-blown. The farm is rusted and gut-sown.”

    A literary revelation of a down-to-earth prose-poetic theme-and-variations on Animal Farm – at first reminding me of what was done to the goat by a human in McMara’s Rock, but it takes off into a scenario of ready-dressed culinary animals, who interact with pot-bellies as morphed men and with actual men, women and children (being taught where their bacon comes from!)
    Not so much a fable about the way we treat animals (but it may be that as well) as an atonal gratuitousness of a feast of words.
    (It also makes me think of Tuttle’s dark-shrinking home in the sky as a pre-slaughter cell in a battery-farm for humans.)

  4. SOMETHING DEADLY, SOMETHING DARK by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

    “It was the sort of creature you can’t see well if you look at it. The kind that requires you to look away, to see it from the corner of your eye.”

    Like this is a cousin to a story. A well-characterised music trio on a gig tour visits one of their cousins, too, in the Land of the Dead, a corner-of-the-eye type genius loci that has grown up since the so-called Encroachment, and it echoes the previous story’s animals, and the symbiosis of goat and man in the first one, but here the morphing between humans and pets is via trees being planted above their dead bodies. The treefruit yearning of the characters for some sort of life’s meaning, and don’t inhale when you pass the cemetery. And don’t take any of the fruit of the dead with you, when you leave. The story will stay with you nevertheless, but it’s only a few minutes since I finished it, so what do I know? I failed to understand the encroachment of Trump and Brexit.


    “It was being chipped away from him gradually;”

    A very Lanely one, too. But that does not mean this work is unoriginal; it is highly original within the parameters of connecting into the rich seam of lonely, Lanely Birmingham and its seasoned Diaspora of yearning souls (as I call it) who have been conjured like sculptural memory-filled scintillations of our “Soon it would be December” as it is in this story and as it is In my own real-time. Tom misses his friend Julian, now dead, but who is it answered the phone in his empty house?
    Tom misses his wife and daughter, now a family with a different man. He follows up clues and follows the path of Julian into a realm of bandaged figures – after all who really needs to be healed, the presumptuous healers or the ones who simply feel they need healing?
    There is something positive towards the end as if that death of Julian has allowed Tom to seek out all our constituents of the Diaspora (of which his own wishful-thinking memory-filled scintillant was part), a Diaspora to become its own gestalt, a gestalt of personal gestalts.
    There feels to be something important about this work. Beyond the desperation of just humans as animals, but something they can create if only they can transcend the artificial shallow yearnings, with which this set of fiction so far is pervaded and promises to transcend. Even if you have only so far got a broken off part of it to go on.


    “And all the love will come gushing out. It’ll splash over the whole world like oceans of cow gore.”

    A serendipitous coda for this symphony of fiction works as well as a fine ostensibly Powysian madcap standalone story telling of a man who seems to be on the edge of becoming a stigmatised saviour, but if I tell you the exact circumstances it would be like telling you this brief story myself and spoil the effect. Meanwhile, his feet are his pets, his fused appendages of his thoughts like Michael’s cats, whose cross was a split rock, the scintillants of Avery, the gratuitous animal words like Hartley’s. Hard to explain, but read all these stories and see them fused here like Stufflebeam’s trees. Mad-mystic, the only way to face out the something deadly and dark of our days, our morphing world. And women in the cupboard as if in a Tuttle home.

    There is much else in Black Static to entertain the Horror genre enthusiasts….

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