PLANET X PUBLICATIONS 2017
Edited by Duane Pesice
Introduction by Michael Adams
Work by D.L. Myers, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., H.S. Graves, William Tea, Ron Gelsleichter, Philip Fracassi, Sarah Walker, Ashley Dioses, Peter Rawlik, S.L. Edwards, Brian O’Connell, Jill Hand, Ruth Asch, Pete J. Carter, Sean M. Thompson, Scott Thomas, Nathan Carson, Frederick J. Mayer, Candace Wiggins, Frank Coffman, John Claude Smith, Scott J. Couturier, Rob F. Martin, Adam Bolivar, Don Webb, Russell Smeaton, Matthew M. Bartlett, Cody Goodfellow, Stephen Mark Rainey, K.A. Opperman, Duane Pesice.
When I review this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
THE STARS ARE BLACK by D.L. Myers
“All around me, great arms of black undulate and serpentine like sargasso in a nocturnal sea.”
Make sense of these Ligottian stars and concomitant words as you will. A short short shorted by a TV …not vanishing to a white dot as all turned-off screens once did when I was young in the 1950s but to a widening blackness instead…
THE WOMAN IN THE FORGE OF SATURDAY NIGHT by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
“Susan missed the grainy activities of evil astrophysicists with special plans ready to confront and destroy civilization, missed the soft-blur of the crab-clawed blobs and the eerie shambling of the robot demons from the Insanium of Professor Terror.”
The jury is still out whether Professor Terror turns into Dr. Wald at the end, when dream-Susan meets Susan under the gaze of this shrink, a shrink employed by her parents, perhaps, who’d thought they’d hired a genteel daughter, not someone like Susan who relished such monster and creature zone pics after they had gone to bed, and Susan was disappointed when black and white noir was hitched to the cock-eyed screen instead, but always broke down into the eponymous Test Patterns anyway! A relentless ricochet of Susan in her PJs watching the TV channels, the repeat screens of itemised credits and her sexual yearning for a man called Jack she drew into her imagination from such credits. This is vintage, unmissable Pulver, a blend of Twin Peaks Third Series, Matthew M Bartlett, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (that I have also gestalt real-time reviewed), with cross current references to classic SF like LeGuin, Dick and Leibowitz…sonatas by Francis (La Voix Humaine) Poulenc, and paintings by Chagall. Hey, this was a real treat. Still resounding through my head. Even the story ends with its own ironic subjection to its own TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES!
My previous reviews of Joe Pulver: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/joe-pulver/
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EVIDENCE OF ABSENCE by H.S. Graves
“Cape Effin is a particularly rough piece of geography to negotiate.”
…this muscularly written tale about tales, too, at first – a campfire tale, with the Colonel listening, too, someone who suffered Vietnam attrition, I gather. A campfire excursion where orneries do the hard work for the maroon-party or overnight picnic – and the wives and children called to enjoy it, too, later, so no complaints, politically apt if not correct… Tales homing in, particularly one told by a big fella who teaches algebra and apps, one of his rough-street students having taunted another ornery, an ornery Devil without a horn and was mistaken for a Russian bomb, by which the taleteller’s student blown off the surface of our attritional planet for the sake of a candy bar? The overall telling aptly pattern-tested like a bespoke or arguably adhoc camping-tent.
I AM BECOME DEATH
by William Tea & Ron Gelsleichter
“I know because I saw their shadows.”
I found this a most moving and disturbing work, arguably something that will become a standard depiction of America’s use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, through the eyes of a soldier who was employed to take photographs of the aftermath, as told through primary sources of his photographs and interviews with his shrink.
Another ‘Evidence of Absence’, too. Whether or not intentionally printed after that story.
Test Patterns, indeed.
THE JUDGE by Philip Fracassi
“In so many words.”
This reads so beautifully smooth yet so frustratingly, one wonders how it was done. A deterrent to hope, and one imagines whether — with those people seared so indelibly by such a sudden event depicted in the previous story — one could have already predicted the pattern here of ultra-ultimate fracas even before it was tested. A young man called Chris, one regularly counter-producing girl friends for himself, thwarted at every turn of his life, finally exchanges telephone numbers with Jen while waiting in the Jury Assemby room of what seemed to me to be a rather ill-organised or Kafkaesque court of law… and we all hoped, whatever the prospective deterrent, that he had done it at last, made a date with his ultimate sweetheart after so many years of being thwarted. But then the author as would-be judge abruptly tried to make sure Chris hadn’t managed this at all!
You know, Fracassi is increasingly becoming an author whose work I am seeking out and he is half the reason I bought this book. My previous reviews of his work are here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/philip-fracassi/
And how was it done (to go back to my wonderment above at the start of this story’s review)? By long streams of consciousness in eloquently understandable tranches of Chris’s life, as if James Joyce had been taught to be a bestseller. I am the judge, I am the judge.
THE SNAKE BENEATH MY SKIN by Sarah Walker
“Sometimes what is beneath the skin is what defines a man. And yet sometimes the skin itself is the answer.”
A quite effective tale of an American drug mule in Mexico, and his eventual fate. Thought-provoking with themes of death and rebirth. Felicitously reminding me a little of when I real-time reviewed Under The Volcano (https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/under-the-volcano-malcolm-lowry/) and my reading soul is again flayed and flensed. But drunk rather than drugged?
THE HANDS OF CHAOS by Ashley Dioses
A four line, rhyming verse. I would have used ‘fey’ instead of ‘fae’, to resonate visually with ‘fiery’ and ‘Ashley’, but what do I know about testing such poetic patterns? it may have been written BY the hands of chaos as well as ABOUT such hands!
THE NOMENCLATURE OF UNNAMABLE HORRORS by Pete Rawlik
“It is immensely helpful, at least for literary critics, to be able to track down potential influences between one writer and others,…”
…whether those influences (or synchronicities as I prefer to call them) are deliberate or undeliberate, and I think most are undeliberate and thus preternatural according to the findings of my gestalt real-time reviewing since 2008 and of Nemonymity as a branch of namelessness before then.
I must say this Rawlik work is a revelation to someone like me who has been a conscientious lover of Lovecraft ‘fiction’ since 1964. A Rawlik work with some beautiful nomenclature new and old as well as a Lovecraftian provocativeness as to our place within the cosmic horror of which it tells us. It also tells of the anagrammatic Merci C. Noonon, a woman who, whether sane or insane, is vital for our world, I judge. And those in this story who exploit her knowledge, keep her safe.
I loved her “ragged conglomeration” of papers, her “pseudo-taxonomy of literary monstrosities”, her “Cthulhidae, alien squid gods”, her concept of “malevolent gestalt consciousness”, and much else.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/autumn-cthulhu/#comment-7130
GOLDEN GIRL by S.L. Edwards
“Women liked his eyes, but rarely they had made him feel this unsure about them.”
This is the story of Kevin the student taking his younger autistic brother to a puppet show. This otherwise straightforward tale is so well-visualised, expressed and characterised, the puppets and their female puppeteer not only subsume Kevin gradually but also the tale’s readers like me. I shall certainly seek out more work by this author.
Shades, also, of this book’s gestalt of erstwhile creative ‘technical difficulties’ and ‘test patterns’…
SCENES FROM A FORGOTTEN DIORAMA by Brian O’Connell
“There seems now to be something sad, or lonely, in her aspect — but — this is impossible, for the expression has not changed.”
I am a sucker for the sort of literature represented by this ‘story’, and so I hesitate to call it a masterpiece in case I am biased by my own taste. But here goes – it is a masterpiece. It is a series of ‘anti-novel’-type descriptions of tableaux of – are they dolls or real people with dollish features or lack of some normal human features? – in a loose progression of insidious or potentially carnal events, with a play on en or em dashes and mock emoticons in the categorised titles of each tableau’s photo or photo of a photo, a play, too, on paper doilies, toy blocks, art installation snowflakes and much else. What you draw from these descriptions is up to you, but I have a definite story in my own mind that may differ from yours. The ultimate test patterns, again. Meanwhile, I can’t resist drawing your attention to the artwork by t. Winter-Damon in 1993 for ‘The Best of D.F. Lewis’ book published by TAL, as shown at the top of the page here: https://etepsed.wordpress.com/best-of-df-lewis-1993-dagon-1989-midnight-in-hell-1991-weirdmongers-tales-1994/ These do not represent, of course, the above O’Connell photos that were discovered on the internet recently (as confirmed at the end of the ‘story’) but they are oblique companions to such photos, I feel.
“His right hand holds some type of long, thin pole, while his left is reaching over the table, fingers spread wide, like the hand of some dark, unnamable god.”
Eventually to be named by this book’s earlier Merci C. Noonon?
Thanks for taking the time to read the book, and for the kind words.
YOU CAN’T GO WRONG WITH GRASS-FED BEEF by Jill Hand
And you can’t go wrong with an honest-to-goodness Pan Book of Horrors tale, especially one as well-characterised as this one and with a potentially ingenious and original twist but a twist that, in hindsight, I found amazing had not dawned on me before it was revealed. A hilarious satire, too, on certain walks of life in America, I guess. But what do I know? I do like spicy rubs, though.
ABETTOR by Ruth Asch
A tantalisingly inscrutable poem about a boxer with a half-smile abetted or aided or, rather, etymologically baited like a (boxer?) dog by someone hiding half their own face…
I creatively misread the title initially as Abattoir (probably in view of the previous story!) and saw also a possible reference in the poem to Pan (where the flank steak might have been cooked!)
A WORK GROUP by Peter J. Carter
I am not sure I fully understood this story of the future, but I found the whole thing by turns witty and hilarious, especially the bit about a man accused of ‘rape’ by having taken someone’s arm to help them up after they had fallen over. And it also made me think I ought to eschew, in such a future, my well-intentioned but possibly wrong-headed use of the word ‘gestalt’.
THE CLIFFSIDE TAVERN by Sean M. Thompson
“You’re not going to want to touch me again, lad. Things don’t go well for people who set their hands on me.”
A bit like the previous story’s ‘rape’? Seems a gestalt that one cannot fight against! Anyway, a plainspoken tale, another gratuitous Pan Book type Horror Story, as a holidaying couple, Greg and Tony, out in a storm, spot a tavern they can’t subsequently find on google. With an increasingly strange owner! (Strange is my euphemism for him, by the way.) And a strange connection with the previous story’s Bathroom Act, especially in view of the rather basic toilet in the tavern. Meanwhile, at least part of me wonders if the ultimate fate of this couple was meant to be seen as deserved? A mistake, perhaps, to take a gratuitous horror story too seriously, I guess. But I enjoyed testing its shared patterns.
ONE EVENING IN WHITBRIDGE by Scott Thomas
“, all that is menacing and malicious gathered into a monster with midnight for a heart and broken stars for teeth.”
An atmospherically evocative Autumn in a “gray and faded” town with uncaught passing trains. A widowed man and his young motherless son work erratically together to dust things up as a welcome for a flighty woman with chemical flowers as perfume, this woman being Dad’s date in the unkempt house. But there is something nasty in the woodshed. And there is a genuinely moving ending. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes.
And, as an aside, it seemed appropriate that the boy twice cried ‘No!’ to a ‘scarecrow’ in a Japanese Noh mask….
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/autumn-cthulhu/#comment-7112
THE VELVETEEN VOLVO by Nathan Carson
“He was having trouble controlling the horizontal and the vertical.”
As I do, getting in this story and trying to drive it. Constructively so. Des-trucktively, too. Except it is not a truck, the old Volvo from our day, the one Chip hijacks in our future to drive to stop his girl friend’s mother from hauling out his belongings, and it is now a recurrent Evolvo, a shuttling déjà vu, with flight capacity… and I stormed along with nosebled Chip till it stopped. “That total grandpa” thing, that’s me rocking along.
OUTRE NON-LIMITATIONS by Frederick J. Mayer
Swirl of poetry as if written by the painter Fra Angelico.
THE KUMIHO QUESTION by Frederick J. Mayer
“see that it’s an organic two-way highway and one must give as well as take.”
A substantive wordfest, a blend of William Gass, James Joyce, Lawrence Durrell, MP Shiel, Mike Philbin/ Hertzan Chimera and no doubt in essence Mayer. Sexual hokum, with this book’s earlier Transgender Bathroom Act having complex codicils added to formalise multi-permutations of forbidden sin and artful culinary practices, making ‘gestalt’ more akin to a sexual orgy than a Jungian term or a Literary theory. Though there are many local legends and so forth interwoven to give it academic credence. Local? Yes, also exploiting (or actually CAUSING from the past when it was written) today’s news about Korea and a dicktator’s sister with a letter for delivery in the capital Soul. Any stuffed tits, notwithstanding.
A rich, tantalising tour de force. May be too rich for some.
I’VE LIVED IN THIS PLACE A LONG TIME by Candace Wiggins
“Here is the this about that.”
After the previous richness, now a suffering attenuation. Having just now experienced the relentlessness of this relatively short story, I genuinely feel I have driven within it forever, not as if in that earlier Volvo story, nor as if even wandering about in Scott Thomas’s equally “gray”and “fading” place, but as a reader dropping unseen into some background, unable to tell you, a future reader of it, about what I have become. Whether I be a tried and tested horror trope in itself or a real modern anti-natalist with unwanted immortality from a Ligotti township. Ad infinitum. Attritional to the nth degree.
THE WHITE TERROR
A Weird Tale of the Victorian Age by Frank Coffman
“I have never even heard of such a thing or had any nightmares that come close.”
Indeed, and gorge-risingly so.
A well-told tale of soldiers by one of those soldiers in an Afghan war facing something that if read about then would have been depicted by the reader’s eyes being agape with horror and hair sticking up. One of the eclectic patterns tested out by this book. And decidedly passing muster. It may also be akin to its own internal grenade within the composite body or gestalt of the others stories. With arguably faint, historically racial implications. Not for the traditionally faint-hearted, though. (And, as an aside, what’s going into – or, for that matter, going out of – the eyes on the front cover?)
Internal agenda, as well as internal grenade?
SYMPTOM OF THE UNIVERSE by John Claude Smith
“The dog’s left eye, the only one Martin could see, was opened wide with terror.”
And a larger creature that one sees with one’s eyes, the creature universe itself, synchronously transposes its “salivating maw” from out of Coffman to a mere day’s outing by a dismal couple still trapped by their own dismal marriage to meadows that add themselves as constituents of that maw. A telling interface by such a marriage with the meadows’ reedish environment, threaded through with poetic passages thus to reed or to be read as deduced from a longer cosmic gestalt of prose poetry by, say, a reincarnation of Plath or Dick. As attritional as this book’s Wiggins and Thomas. I feel sorry for the couple’s dog. An innocent spear-carrier for solving the conundrum of belief in reality as symptomatic of truth.
My earlier review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/phantasm-chimera/#comment-10424
SUSTENANCE OF THE STARS by Scott J. Couturier
“Apparently shit still smells like shit, whatever galaxy you’re from.”
This is a highly reprehensible story, but equally as well-written as it is reprehensible. Do not read it lightly, unless you are acclimatised to beautifully constructed tranches of mind-tactile prose with concepts that need thinking AROUND – mixed with a gestalt alien race we can tap into, amid cannibalism and rape of young flesh. There is so much more I can quote that would give you a stronger taste of this work. It is so damned, so damned effective, because it is done so well. But if I did quote certain passages, many would wonder why a man of my advancing age is bothering to read and critique such a text. Maybe it is because I am part of that gestalt that caused me to create it before I became a part of it. An ouroboros empathy with a hive mind? And this is fair warning to somehow nip it in the bud? Nipped in the bud or crucified by one of my own gestalt reviews (conducted now over ten years)? A necessary catharsis.
But I now stand aside, regain my untainted self, and let you decide whether it is you instead. Because it is not me.
“…I’m finally talking to you, to someone actually in control,…”
ALIEN SHORE by Rob F. Martin
“Something happens in your heart when you watch another person die.”
I found this work cast its own shadow, one beyond and more real than its virtual reality goggles, a girl’s rhapsodic and moving story and interweaving backstory of her travel by motorised solo ‘wagon train’, as it were, towards a rarefied America via a conceptual Mexican fence gap soon tellingly to be filled at least conceptually by Trump, I guess – travelling with her Mamá and others, minutemen intervening violently but with the wonderful saving graces in mind of a visionary myth or legend equivalent to a dual blend, for me, of a world floating on a Great Ocean (buoyed by a turtle or here a lizard man?) and the spirit of the image on the front cover of this book. A saving grace. But is she saved? Beautifully done. Alien or Ashen Shore? Full of colours. And beset by those filming it all? A Plato’s Cave to remember and whence to harvest hope. A Pyramid and an Eye.
Cross-referenced this review today with the Philip Fracassi novel here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/the-egotist-philip-fracassi/#comment-11660
YE HERMIT’S LAY by Adam Bolivar
“Old Hex to some it known,”
This poem has neat rhyming quatrains. Better than many Nursery Rhymes.
Inspires me to write –
Rumpty Bumpty, Trump
Brexity Vexity, HEX.
But don’t blame this poem for that!
“New Albion indeed.”
A Tune From Long, Long Ago
by Don Webb
“It even contained the Hexelied or ‘Witch’s Song.’”
Maybe with its new words set to this tune by the previous poem?
This is a nifty earworm story, with a bridge between an ancient gestalt seeker called Mueller – a gestalt seeker like me and like that hive-gestalt in the reprehensible Couturier work – who managed to hear and record this Hexelied in some way for posterity and a music theory student in more recent times who seems to have it humming on his lips, his flat mate who heard it then putting it in a well-distributed computer game or suchlike. Woe betide the world, in view of this soon-to-be-spread dread of an extended earworm with dark and purple visions fit for this already fitting book’s contextual preparation for its own recording of it by dint of word-osmosis. With implications from history, including considerations of the First World War and the narrative expendability of certain races or religions that makes this story in itself or, rather, some of those in it, already inherently inimical!
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/don-webb/
BALLS by Russell Smeaton
“…breaking first the silence and then wind to prove his point.”
At first I thought this author must be some sort of smartarse, but then I saw it as a telling fable of two brothers in a petrol garage toilet not unlike that in the Cliffside Tavern, ending with a provocative dilemma of whom to bring back to life if and when humanity returns after humanity had first ended – to be known as the Red Button Syndrome or Ball-Test Pattern. As well as it being a theme-and-variations on Fawver’s orange balls which may have come first or last. Or both.
Or maybe it’s me who is the smartarse?
CALL ME COREY by Matthew M. Bartlett
“‘All,’ said the driver, ‘is as it seems.’”
Another smartarse ending, but in a different way. Bartlett’s way. Corey is his old biddy on a passenger-van with other transitionists like her, on her way to the doctor to look at her feet. Another old biddy gets on and sits opposite Corey, willing to wield the heavy-lifting of old womanly chatter. And a driver with more significance even than driving the whole kerboodle in the first place. Possibly Bartlett himself. And the local details seen out of the van’s window are unforgettable dark literature in apotheosis, as is Corey’s sudden heavier lifting of the old womanly conversation from her past, much to the shock of her dumbstruck interlocutor. Makes the van heavier.
I bought this book in the first place because Fracassi and Bartlett were in it. Thankfully the book’s gestalt itself has turned out to be as good as them. With only a few more to read, this vehicle is now surely impossible, like the van, to turn around.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matthew-m-bartlett/
Call me Cody… not a smartarse but a good fellow, no doubt.
HERO MOTHER by Cody Goodfellow
“We decided to do this, instead.”
Wife or midwife? An interesting take on the political violence and machinations surrounding the logistics of childbirth in a society that only gradually becomes clearer if not ultimately clear to you, with eugenics and surrogacy, abortion and caesarean zips, medals and incriminations. It becomes even more interesting when the mid-structures of mother and child gradually evolve into ‘evulsions’ beyond the Test Pattern that this story was presumably meant to help keep in motion for this book’s gestalt vehicle now steering towards its end Test Patterns. As an aside, I also wondered about the nature of how a mother’s waters broke when, elsewhere, she gave birth to her Frankenstein’s monster…
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/cody-goodfellow/
For me, an amazing coincidence; a few hours ago, someone posted here: http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?t=428&page=19 a reference to my appearance in ‘Deathrealm’ magazine in 1993. That was before I read the next story below in TEST PATTERNS (which I have now done), a story written, as it happens, by the editor of ‘Deathrealm’ all those years ago!
REDEYE by Stephen Mark Rainey
That word is a whole paragraph in this work. A man working in Arkham organising bespoke flights with bespoke travelling partners in flights across the world for those passengers who need to eschew sunlight. The current flight he organises between Bucharest and a suitable landing in UK. But one must now take account of the one rare mistake he made in the past in such matching of flights, a flight now come home to roost…
I always thought it was unnatural for man to fly in any event. My wife and I never do.
SÉANCE by K.A. Opperman
“And fingers push the planchette here and there.”
Another poem with neat rhyming quatrains. Everything that is meant to happen happens. Except for secret sins.
And except for the ever-emerging surprises of gestalt real-time reviewing? At least equal to a crystal ball.
LOOKING FOR GHOSTS by Duane Pesice
“The song goes on forever but the words remain the same.”
I know this is a touching story, even if I don’t fully understand why. Touching, even if it is a wrecking-ball, one that does not quite hit square on. A nostalgia for things we did not live through, like Twilight Zone and other test patterns of the front cover’s version of the crystal ball. Old things never die because we can see repeats for the first time. A sense of those characters in Mexico I once reviewed in Lowry’s Under the Volcano, with a determination of still living beyond actually being here. To outlast the competition. You see, Groucho’s jokes always come up new. Every time.
The last two sentences in this book – from PROSAIC, a briefest of shorts, by Duane Pesice – say it all!
I dare not quote them.
The book itself, with vertical headers and footers flank-staking the horizontal text, has been a well-handled companion for me over the last two weeks. I really do think it has got something special. It needs something special to acknowledge that fact.
Reblogged this on RetroGrade A and commented:
“There’s a pattern to everything. You just need to look hard enough, and it will emerge.”
Des Lewis has completed his Real-Time Review. He thinks we’re on to something special. We knew that all the time.
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