Interzone 270 / Black Static 58


My previous review of TTA PRESS publications HERE

Stories by Jonathan L. Howard, Wayne Simmons, Nathan Hillstrom, Emily B. Cataneo, Christopher Mark Rose, Malcolm Devlin, Shauna O’Meara, Mark Morris, Helen Marshall, Joe Pitkin, Gwendolyn Kiste, Tim Casson.

When I real-time review the fiction in these two magazines, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

15 thoughts on “Interzone 270 / Black Static 58


    RUSHFORD RECAPITULATION by Christopher Mark Rose

    “Time and space seemed to dilate around the moment of birth, as they always do.”

    Interspersed with lists of our new young, perhaps, one can see this as a satire on our world’s shoddy values. But it is far more than that. On one level it is a striking absurdist fable, where the moral is still evolving. Taking place in a town called RUSHFORD, this perhaps tells us obliquely that we need to slow down, to take stock, to somehow retrocausally track down our own evolution in piecemeal inverse gestation or gestaltion (here called ‘recapitulation’) of the things we have created. It is also about phylogeny and ontogeny, as the text itself more than just hints. In many ways, shocking and depressive, in others, igniting a new starting point of hope. Meanwhile, words themselves are like objects we’ve delivered to the bottom of a dam-sided lake, words like “a barn door of an old lesbian.”


    HOLIDAY ROMANCE by Mark Morris

    “Was this run-down little seaside town really the location of his happiest memories?”

    I must be an expert on British run-down seaside towns, having lived in one for the last twenty plus years (and earlier born in one at the end of the 1940s and lived there for seven years as a child) and this story darkly radiates it seepily. Brilliant.
    A return of a man Skelton to a place where he and his parents spent holidays, seemingly reliving his own unrequited holiday romance when aged 14, thirty years before. Even the same bedsit, the same geography of seedy rooms and people in them. I found this plainspoken tale more compelling and uncanny than it should have been, given the otherwise contrivance of events, a development of a Skeleton with the attrition of losing its body parts, and, as in the above Christopher Mark story, like giving birth to retrocausal memory artefacts, ones that even police DNA tests in the Mark Morris story make them seem like objects rather than bodily appendages now dislocated, a recapitulation of self via such artefacts, artefacts through words that make up a whole lifetime.
    A time to switch off whatever made you tick.
    A sad, attritional journey, where people telegraph ahead their own plot of self.
    A hauntingly accomplished work, despite itself? A popular text with a fecilitous facility of style that makes me convinced it is written by someone who knows what he is doing, even if it isn’t him who knows it.
    I sense it is a convincing work that didn’t convince itself, at the end. But it did convince me!


    LIKE YOU, I AM A SYSTEM by Nathan Hillstrom


    As well as a remarkable story in itself, of awakening consciousness within a wildly but ratiocinatively extrapolative electronic or mathematical existentialism, it is also synchronously the apotheosis of the separate selves and their radiating appendages in the two off the Mark stories above.
    It also seems to me to be a crazy inspirational accidental prophecy, amid various land bases like Tbilisi or Tel Aviv, of someone lately in the real world who’d radiate or exradicate themselves with nuts and bolts – but for hate or love?

    “: even the way your cityscapes creep, spire and peacock is impossible to extrapolate from rules. Almost magic. Your patterns have complexity beyond any double helix.”


    THE PROCESS OF CHUDDAR by Tim Casson (and HERE)

    “There is also an installation by the artist Miya called The Curse. I imagine you think that’s just a coincidence.”

    In many ways a workmanlike narration, even pedestrian, as if you are being told it painstakingly by a sociopath who has no ease of expression. And in many ways this is the Process of the Process that gradually grows on you. Literally ‘grows’ on you and literally ‘you’! You are in this story being clumsily ‘charmed’ by the storyteller as narrator not author, a true story of his boyhood lobster fishing for his roll-up smoking aunt. If indeed you are you or he is he, or even she? The discovery of the backstoried old man Garvey in his pungent symbiosis, and the cells multiplying into an eventual successful business of that cheese-like symbiosis of fungal substance, alongside the glimpse you are given of the art installation of visionary monstrousness, in a single lantern-lit sea-girt basement. The story grabs you in the same way. Like a mulch, the millions of cells reminding me of this gestalt review’s earlier scatter-gun process of self.
    And Miya – a mycological sort of ‘my’ and ‘I’ and ‘you’…

    “I was made to practise knots all evening. The night I dreamed of tying bowlines blindfolded.”


    DIRTY CODE by Wayne Simmons

    “It’s a face,” he says.
    “I like it better than the last one,” she says.

    Somehow, I am not surprised they message through cells, here, in the Simmons, bearing in mind the dirty fungal sort of Process cells in the Casson story.
    A Process code that now is a computer virus. A dude who is a code douche. Body’s bad codes pungently retoucherised.
    A neat blend of Chandler and Bladerunner, with some of Rose’s Recapitulation, cell and cellphone born, Morris’s strewn body parts revisualised, and Hillstrom’s computercidal stürm und drang, and a slice of what I guess is the unicity of Simmons. Singing along in the shower.
    Put me on the short blink, too, can you tell?


    NONESUCH by Joe Pitkin

    “The world was too much with him, he had felt a long time.”

    Starting as a seemingly lost car driver in a strange TED Kleinian outcrop of land near Neck Road, having no ‘cell coverage’, with a dammed river of salmon harvested by naked hippies, surly grizzled long-bearded locals in the place’s pub, still keeping his city job, and this soon reaches beyond such a potential lost driver cliché to a threaded moon of the reading soul, where apple tree harvesting grows a spiritual tactility, trees with apple varieties such as Willis Nonesuch, Micmac and some other such, all to be mulched and blended as his cider business, his escape from the world. A ‘glorious folly’, sixty apple trees for $60000, eleven of them dead, but child-envisioned apples, ‘creeks of raw golden juice’, ‘liquid bird song’, ‘doughty tuns’, and whether it all turns sour, I’ll leave you to read. More to this memorable doughty story, though. Life is not binary. Nor just a mass of crushed cells? Or buried villains of configured history? Cox’s Pitkin apples?
    (This story uses the uncommon word ‘doughty’. Yesterday I reviewed a text here debating the meaning of this very word.)


    Roman CaltorpENCYPHERED by Jonathan L. Howard

    “He knew the teapot lay in a shallow grave by what his father called ‘the humus pile’ in the shadow of the garden shed, a place where vegetable shavings and depleted tea leaves were thrown to mulch down.”

    All serving to encipher this story for you, as any solution to its plot would spoil the pleasure of decrypting it. Or them, the tea leaves. This is a satisfyingly cerebral story, of actuarial tables, Peter and Jane reading books, “Disinformation deployed”, Simmons’s dirty code made oncological, if not ontological, or Mark Rose’s phylogenic, ontogenic, and the correct names for various code-making and code-breaking methods (if code is the right word).
    “the secret to keeping secrets secret.”
    Above all it is the poignant life story (hidden in plain sight beneath the words’ semantic codes) of a boy, then man, trapped by his own secrets. Marked too late or stigmatised too early by death’s two-sided anchor points – in spite or because of a last minute body-swerve.


    SURVIVAL STRATEGIES by Helen Marshall

    “And that underneath every story is a pivotal moment when things changed. I wanted to know what that looked like.”

    …and in our own world, too, even the gestalt I had been building with these stories so far, now side-stepped as a new body-swerve around the caltrop of death or a new pivot of literary history? This work stands slightly aside of our own reality while being part of it, with, explicitly, telling references to Trump and Brexit by name, and, less explicitly, Barron St. John as, arguably, Stephen King in the world of Horror publishing (or some other horror writer closer to that name in an even more distant alternate world than the one in this story?), all seen from the female narrator’s viewpoint, embedded in that publishing world as she is, and amid her associates over the years, her relationships, the ‘story’ she seeks about what really went on, who wrote what, including some scoop of writerly history, but dare she write that story (she just has!) and how the world has gone on, is actually going on as we speak, our world just one slight triangulation adrift from its own pivot, whereby we read horror stories but dare not look at the news. For Paddington here, read Manchester. The ultimate Overlook, making my previous attempts at gestalt making seem puny by comparison.


    THE NEW MAN by Malcolm Devlin

    “You don’t think you see much of yourself unless you’re looking out of the wrong face.”

    The narrator, still seeing himself as himself if in a new body following a lethal or near lethal accident at work, rejigged, sent back home to ‘you’ (cf Hillstrom’s ‘you’), that ‘you’ being his wife (and his two children); the secrets still JLH’s earlier secrets like the poems this narrator once wrote but no longer fully understands (cf the secret ghost-writing in Marshall?), and it is mentally agony-tantalising for the reader to imagine he is still the same person but not so, as I head into dementia slowly perhaps, as I sometimes feel I am. “Whatever’s left of you up there? Treasure it. Make it count.” As I do by writing this review of something that heals and damages at the same time.
    “Again. Context. Brick by brick.” Gestalt, too, the new gestation of self?
    Casson’s CHUDDAR, maybe. “‘They percolate,” the doctor said. “Like coffee.”‘ The cut and paste of memories. And Simmons’ dirty code and Mark Rose’s phylogeny.
    Mixed with today’s concerns about AIs in the workplace.
    Just as with Marshall in the previously reviewed story, where I say: ‘but dare she write that story (she just has!)’, Devlin just has, too – to replace the narrator’s poetry?
    “We used various methods to ensure the correct connections were made…”
    Plainspoken, but incredibly complex and true, this story. One where you can’t even remember things now left by gaps. But you are still you.

    “We call it walking the load.”



    You have given me another 'you' story, this a simply haunting inference of a 17 year old girl whose Mom, after a fatal illness, becomes a tutelary ghost, but your younger sister and father can't see this haunting and I suspect friends say they are also haunted by your Mom to impress you. Different songs are listed, topped and tailed by David Bowie, as accompaniment to this ghost, even to exorcise her for her own good, to make her be where she should be after death not here in the house. There is honest love and naivety here that works. And I wonder whether destinies are changed for good or bad by things said or left unsaid by others who become ghosts and leave their songs behind. Thought-provoking, unsullied by gestalt. A musical interlude, but much more than that, too, because music seeps into what is around it. Context can work both ways.



    “Then, the summer when we were eleven, the bottles started washing up on shore.”

    And indeed the previous story does fortuitously seep into this one, and vice versa, filters working both ways. Another ghost – here another tutelary figure: a distant lighthouse ever on the brink of being reached – and more evocative naivety, more paths of destiny to be chosen, altered or spurned, and two girls, from a tender age, having an intermittent friendship at the seaside, at one moment loyal to each other, the next fearing that verities do not last forever. Can one ever reach towards the end of the alphabet, as someone once tried and failed to do in ‘To The Lighthouse’. Here the letters form fortune-telling messages in bottles, sometimes to stiffen the sinews towards a fearless goal, the next to bottle out before you reach it. Until the girls grow up, the feisty, shell-loving Evangeline, and the narrator who reaches only what seems a second best. But second best to what?

  12. MEMORIES OF FISH by Shauna O’Meara


    I predict Twitter will be teeming with that hashtag, should enough people read this work. Seriously.
    It is one that took me by the scruff of a perfect coda’s neck. As if I have been its Tourist throughout this overall reading experience. A girl co-opting a Goggle Tour drone and we follow it through exotic angles and shots, a trend out-trending all trends. Is it to show us a boy playing a cello? To give us those smells? SMELL THEM! Or to witness a snuff movie that moves you beyond measure? I think this is possibly one of those stories that will grow on you. I honestly can’t praise it enough, its dirty codes, its caltrops of naive fate, its girlish ambitions, its inevitable Trumpish tweet that out-Brexits, I infer, even the most poignant moments of literature. An overweening real-time passion of the moment? Or my merely saying this is a good enough story to end this review? Or a truly great story full stop? Read it and I know you will know which I mean.
    And I reviewed a work simultaneously yesterday with this review, about bird-hides being imported into fiction… This story has explicitly mentioned ‘bird-hides’ in a fiction about cyberspace. A double truth as a fabrication of fabrication. Be who you are when you are.
    The proof of the gestalt pudding lives or dies in the chuddar.


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