My previous TTA PRESS reviews HERE
Fiction by Carole Johnstone, Tim Lees, Ray Cluley, Stephen Hargadon.
When I review this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comments stream below… (My reviewing queue of purchased publications is growing longer and I don’t expect to catch up until late October).
SKYSHINE (DEATH BY SCOTLAND) by Carole Johnstone
“It’s the word for ionising radiation emitted from a nuclear or medical facility that indirectly reaches the surroundings outside the facility.”
I took the indirect radiation within me (as part of my lists of impractical worries or achievement goals) beyond such a facility not a million miles from this author. And now it taunts and haunts this lengthy, absorbing story narrated by a compulsively believable Asian girl in Scotland, later London, treated with a cognitive drug, all part and parcel of Govern-Mental exploitation to sweep aside the mentalism dogging (or donkeying) their statistics…till the human lemmings reach the catchphrased cliff-edge, or literal roof-edge of their thinking-of-suicide as made real brinkmanship. An eventually empty drug. A classic, long-term important evocation of today’s real and electronic-virtual places and times, I infer, one that ranges from men flashing on upper decks of buses or those actually repairing flashing on roofs. And this mind of one victim whose cognitive edge is transcended by belief in ‘trying’ to reach beyond our society’s impossible power to cure. With memorable denouement. And telling portraits of the relationship between medics and patients,
THE SHUTTERED CHILD by Tim Lees
“The canals were high and there were times we seemed to travel through a landscape of dreams, as if the wheat parted before our bow and closed behind us.”
It is also as if the wide white-shining eyes at the end of the previous story are now rooted back in time in how they were first cognitively sewn up. How our world has reached the dead-end times we see around us, but wish we didn’t. Leaving the 27 other countries buried like the 27 dead children? This is a deceptively powerful work, with more than one interpretation. The revolution of 1968 as a student, as I was then, fighting European battles of young idealism, and an oldster’s tale in a foreign cafe, a refuge from those battles, as if an older self, you today, tells a disarmingly horrific tale of idealism sewn up, the foreignness of alienage taken back to the future and to Britain. The idealism abandoned. Taken separately, that oldster’s tale (an oldster who was a young soldier in the First World War) is incredibly horrific, yet believable in it being told within an even viler, if more acceptable, context.
THE SWANS by Ray Cluley
“, and it left her with the feeling that they’d stepped aside for a moment while the rest of the world carried on without them.”
I always got that feeling on Narrow Boat holidays in the old days. But now I feel I am back on one of them, complete with its general anxiety, and not only with the anxieties of steering against the grain and of windlasses laid upon locks. Here a single mother, missing her husband, on a canal holiday with the anxious care of Charlie her small son in such a precarious environment. The added anxiety of swans, one that I don’t recall, but here snaked and near naked, a flurry of duvet, pillow fight and cursed breakage of white wing or lock or human arm. A sense of salacious outrage beyond childishness or fear of swans. I felt anxiety building up even beyond itself, beyond Angst/Anxman…and beyond Aickman. My own word-games but word-dread, too, beyond unexpected palindromes. The story is simpler than I am making it sound, but the reader’s induced anxiety is far more complex and expected to be longer-lasting, too. Well, mine, anyway. Not sure how it works … nor how it fits with the previous two stories. Oh, other than with Roshni’s List of Worries.
Just noticed that the quote I happened to use for the Lees story above involves canals!
LANGWELL SORROW by Stephen Hargadon
“, giving way to wrinkles and creases, the eyes ever more frightened, more alert, too sensitive for the world, and then becoming dim,…”
I have long lived with the truly remarkable Stephen Hargadon canon of stories in Black Static, and this one I tell you is that canon’s latest apotheosis, beyond which I cannot conceive of a greater apotheosis. Except I expect there may be one. I put nothing past this author, least of all a goal. Here, we have pub talk as a sort of religion, pubs as scatologically and eschatologically worse than even one’s memory of them, one’s living in them … and better, too. Football, too, as soccer puppets of the darkening soul. I imagined stigmatised bodies hanging from those chanting outstretched soccer-scarves to the Sorrow. I cannot do justice to this text packed with wise saws, homilies, unique locals, the strangeness of suburbs of a city that are ordinary to the people living there but an alien land to you, like life and death themselves. The good-hearted winks at sometime bad bonhomie, a rough cut mix of rarefied Quentin S Crisp and something overwhelmingly and completely off-the-bar but true. Achingly on-the-wall big screen rolling news big heads on those with booted feet. And the narrator himself is a real character and a half. Full of anxieties as well as hidden hopes.
I also think the editor has put together here four works for Black Static impossible for me to gestalt. Another worry to add to my list.
There is much else in Black Static in addition to its fiction. Including fine artwork that accompanies the stories.