Black Static #62 / Interzone #274


TTA PRESS Mar – Apr 2018

My previous reviews of this publisher HERE.

Stories by E. Catherine Tobler, Jack Westlake, David Martin, Kay Chronister, Michael Wehunt, James Sallis, Antony Johnston, Julie C. Day, Michael Reid, T.R. Napper, Alexandra Renwick, Eliot Fintushel.

When I review these stories, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below….

15 thoughts on “Black Static #62 / Interzone #274


    EFD7607D-774C-47DD-8936-C51CDE0BE8D8SANGUINARY SCAR by E. Catherine Tobler

    “…how sometimes to save a thing you have to cut pieces of it away so that it may heal into something entirely new.”

    Who would guess that the cover depicts one of this story’s “veils”, but, in hindsight, that seems wholly appropriate. A sort of Handmaid’s Tale refocused with a deeply dripping ominousness and in powerful overdrive, where DUTY is paramount, where one man called Mantock needs to renew his dead son Lyric in some cross between a maze and labyrinth, a place half-drowned by its dystopic seas or chequered with old blood. Sky bridges and tunnels. Rowboats and rowers. And Arden, masturbatorily ardent till she meets her match at the end, is the daughter of Mantock and central to this story, long having been submitted to his relentless obsession to use all manner of others’ enforced sexual unions to recreate his Lyric, even close family incest, Arden included, and the attritional panning out of such repercussions is this plot. A Shakespearean ending to end all such endings. I feel as if I have been made to wear a welder’s helmet. I feel done in. Suffocated, not swaddled. And I mean that as a positive. Quenching a now perceived need to sacrifice myself, as if with a hindsight hairshirt, scar-branded with muck and blood. A man needs marking, too, I reckon.

    My previous reviews of this author:

    by Jack Westlake

    “It’s like wearing a headguard in a boxing match.”

    Not ready for Lidl or Aldi, the narrator – of this mightily powerful literal nerve-tugging crunch as a short-short’s test of the reader’s own forbearance – uses the less cheap Sainsbury’s alcohol aisle to help lift his addiction.
    Effectively a telling study in various comparative theories of addiction, with the ultimate culmination of contamination between them and the people thus addicted. It is also a perfect follow up to the previous story and its ‘veil’ with welder’s helmet as headguard, plus the grinding attrition there, and now here the narrator’s tall near-albino mate Dwight “light enough to blow away” … indeed himself thus like a veil. And I won’t look at broken glass the same way again after this experience!

  3. THINGS BEHIND THE SUN by David Martin

    “Fear, whatever its root, can make you do anything. And that’s what a ghost is – an effect looking for a way to become a cause.”

    This is a horror story’s horror story, an honest, linear, emotionally plainspoken, if sometimes melodramatic, perhaps over-extended account of the power of music, here closely weaved with the narrator’s backstory and love life and intrinsic sense of doom and abyss, through hearing a record, by the eponymous rock group, a secret message of things personal and things cosmic. I can imagine many readers loving this work, simply for what it is, an epiphany. I feel attached to it by its embracing coincidences as part of its plot, a preternatural rock symphony of synchronicity and gestalt. And, indeed, in the last few days, I have myself real-time reviewed a novel with references to Kurt Cobain ( and a separate story about seeking a rare insidious rock music LP (Goat Songs: I also somehow sense a retrocausal track from vinyl to computer upload, from helmet to veil….

    by Kay Chronister

    “I shut my eyes and saw the veins snaking across your forehead, the veil slipping loose.”

    This is a story of veins (felt or seen as part of the unrequited young love exchange of near cousins, in Marseille and elsewhere): and veils (with a retrocausal birthline of vampiric death and a taking of the veil as a (sanguinary as bleeding?) nun that both resonate ironically with the earlier Tobler) and I counted several uses of ‘vein’ and ‘veil’ throughout the text, plus ‘half-veiled’ and ‘unveiled’. It is a lush Proustian work with tea and teacups and hyacinths instead of cattleyas, a work that I have relished as another epiphany. This work actually used the word “epiphany”, and I also feel my mouth sucking and probing words like “nascent” and “abject”. And it also made me want to pick up my copy of CLARISSA to reread it but I can only currently find PAMELA (volume two) and that sort of defeats my purpose. But who wrote which letters to whom, pretending to be who? I shall reread this story itself. It seems to be calling me. And is slightly shorter than CLARISSA.

    “a lifted vein”

    by Michael Wehunt

    “He thought this was another metaphor, one that held hands with the first.”

    All stories hold hands with others. And I am pleased to report that this substantive work in three parts is a worthy addition to the mighty Wehunt canon. Also, it deals with metaphors as veils (although that word is not used explicitly). And such have always been an essential ingredient of my gestalt real-time reviewing or hawling (a savouring of words and the odd change in a letter, here CORSE (corpse, course, coarse) as we were told to savour ‘nascent’ and ‘abject’ in the previous story, and somewhere here in the Wehunt I noted, for example, ‘treat’ used instead of ‘teat’) – metaphors to which I often refer with the TS Eliot version of metaphors as ‘objective-correlatives’, and here it is the Robert Frost version, defaulting towards us in the margins. The story has ‘gauze’ for wounds, ‘milky grey’, ‘milky gloom’, photos that first appear as ‘gray squares’, ‘a dim stripe of non-color, but a dark blurry bar’ defaulting to an antlered shape, ‘colorless gray sheets like lost ghosts’, ‘delicate symbolism’, ‘stripped of its textures and literal meanings’. So much to link this story to the others above, hand in hand, baptising, marking, an unrequited bereavement… it tells of a man whose five year old daughter was killed in a mass killing by a pastor of a Baptist church, and he is now haunted by or randomly, preternaturally drawn towards such churches, ones with the word CORSE in their names, and he is using a stray dog as objective-correlative in this quest, a dog perhaps aptly he calls Grace, while both he and his separated wife are texting each other about their own versions of conduit or exorcism. The visions seen through these word-savourings and metaphors engulf the reader, are frightening but strangely leading to some comfort. The ‘tending of pastures’ under the auspices of an antlered God as God or as the Devil. And, finally, as I said above about the first story, perhaps a man needs marking, too. And here in this story that we hunt together: “Would you be marked, something asked him, something far from a voice and more like a woolen texture in the air,…” Woolen, not wooden. See my own original photo above at the head of this review.

    “The story wrote itself on the shore with a great pause.”

    My previous reviews of this author:




    “Carefully matching the speed and flow of other cars on their way upstream,…”

    A change of gear, a new road, to emulate adventures we had in jalopies in the old days, a potentially long journey’s short short, told from the POV of the driver and the nature of his music-driven customers past and present, the ultimate journey of adventure blending in and out of the pre-taught traffic rhythms and the random glitches of traffcom, an experience that the red Koyaanasqatsi lines above, as I sense they are, draw you into the lanes, but with constructively stalling words sticky with white print on black, a tantalising tactile brain reading, and so I now sense the face speed-unskimmed (or unveiled?) from beneath the face you once had, toward its optimum, as if one’s last excited or terrified face is a premonitory version of one’s heaven or beautiful quiet hell? Or perhaps there is no exit at all from the roaring freeway? Better Glass than Fado.

  7. 5CBEED45-8901-4FCB-87BE-46A0BD87C71B
    SOUL MUSIC by Antony Johnston

    “Only a few people knew how to zig and zag just right,…”

    No H in the fore-name nor E at the end of the sur-. But that may be the only link with the word-play in Black Static above. Though we do have Cordwainer Smith type masks here that are not masks at all. And a bridge to the previous Interzone story, even if the bridge (symbolised in Florida in the last few days) collapsed leaving this community of neologisms as souls or snorting souldust alive in a cut off alien world of music streams and printing 3D as nihilist 3Darks (sometimes a word that looks like Daleks to match the Whovian guitar and smashing it as The Who once did). If I say so myself, I did understand the whole of this story — its plots and man-woman type relationship hiding ploys and decoys of avant gardens and deployed gigs, and machinations in this bridgeless world, its hang-ups and theories, even its many to-your-eyes neologisms of meaning, and that is because I have learned how to zig and zag in tune with the driving in the previous story above, to fit into a literary work’s traffic flow — simply because I have spent ten years doing these gestalt real-time reviews! I have brained up my own guitar, as it were. But I cannot PROVE that I fully understood this story. But I did. The story itself has helped me along to zig and zag even better, I’d say and I can give it no greater compliment. A Faaro for Fado? “Mob backing, more likely.” A ‘Noise Music’ I have learnt in my own life from a daily Webern. “when the bridge collapsed” The Quiet and the Closure. “kudzu of lights” the previous story’s “buffering stream” the cat Face unveiled, “the role of art in a dead world”…

  8. SCHRÖDINGER’S by Julie C. Day

    “We were molecularly isolated, a peep show in quantum flux,…”

    This sheds a new light on ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking – that you need to be IN the box to do it! The title imputes the CAT at the tail-end of the previous story, while we ourselves as readers in the know, as it were, have our brains further niftily tickled with thoughts we would otherwise not have thought. A solving of the world’s problems, its future-encroaching smoke and physical ricochet of war including the then recent trouble at the Mexican border, all divertingly subsumed within a strip-club concept of quantum possibilities, and holding that possibility in your mind against all the odds. A sort of pole-dancing with all manner of unimaginable sexual baubles. All revolved and centred around some believable well-characterised women strip club ‘businesswomen’ who leapfrogged Dragon’s Den and went straight to the Science, and applied its findings for all our ultimate welfare, each of us potentially living in an optimum example of one of those possibilities created outside of the box from inside it. ‘Blue’ sky thinking at today’s bleak event-horizon of veils and piques. I feel it working already.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  9. NEVER THE TWAIN by Michael Reid

    “I won’t die in a box.”

    …which is at least ironic in view of the previous story!
    But, intrinsically, there is no irony within this story’s own box of shared timelines, unless it is an irony of fate and disease and some control between them that is left unsaid here, but perhaps an even deeper irony represented by this Muslim central character and his or her sister’s niqab veil, and the misguided racism of those who do not understand religion let alone irony. I say ‘his or her sister’ advisedly, because we also have trans-gender trans-timelines, and one of the most emotionally freighted moments in literature, I suggest, where a character half-dies because he or she does not want to contravene any protocol by lifting a cure for pancreatic cancer to his or her earlier timeline, from over 600 years beyond 2018. He or she is a ‘twain’ and this text is about a twain’s utter gestalt “twinge” (a word otherwise used innocently in the text). Not even Dr Zoo listens, and I cried. I laughed, too, at not mixing “eras” as a cryptic clue, in view of earlier ‘noise music’ in this now even more appropriate real-time review. A twinge of crying and laughing. “Like being awake with one brain, while having a nightmare with the other.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

    [As an aside, here ( is a blog post in 2006 which quotes something I wrote to be included in Brian Keene’s now legendary ‘Jobs In Hell’ column in 1999, including the pretentious passage below!
    “I even collaborate, in effect, onanistically-utilizing old unused pieces from the different think-world of an earlier, discrete self, mix-and-matching them with my current brain cycles. And talking about brains, mining a brand new story from fresh ore is also like collaborating if you’ve got two brains, as I have!”]

  10. B33024B2-3A50-4A94-8D9C-A0D7526D4D83OPIUM FOR EZRA by T.R. Napper

    “Just enough sedatives to stop the creeping claustrophobia, the paranoid fear that the world wasn’t real.”

    A constructively staccato with drugs, bots and people, one or all of them involved in a futurist oriental war, a real war or Lennon/Lenin IMAGINE, and somehow smoothly accretive realisation inside-the-box to create outside-the-box thinking (“Blue sky, forever.”) and this box is an Eromanga (tellingly in view of Julie C. Day story?) tank as a titan of war and its (or that of its inhabitants/driver/ squad) receiving red-streamed messages amid a “guitar lick intro” etc of an approaching unexpected meeting with what I assumed all the way will be this story’s plot twist or rationale, or even irrationale. It also has the front covers of this Black Static and Interzone at least adumbrated: “Troops nearby burst into flames. Little Roman candles running around,…” and the niqab veils ironically again something like “Sleek black armour, opaque oval helmet […] cracked visor”]. Whether stereotypes, caricatures, “obedient characters” or real people, the reader is not you but Ezra, and this story is its own drug transcending the 19th century opium of any steampunk travesty.

    “The fusion reactor wound up, making a noise akin to young girls screaming.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  11. “When it came, he’d float in the womb, inside a whale, inside—“
    – from above T.R. Napper story.

    baleen, baleen

    by Alexandra Renwick

    “…drawing aside the shimmering velvety curtain.”

    This is a very impressive work for me, especially also as a culmination of this double-review’s ‘veil’ gestalt. I was utterly captivated by it and I would also highly recommend it as a stand-alone rhapsody or rapture of drowning as a creative force (not so much having one’s life events flashing before the mind, but more slightly or significantly changing the ingredients and humans of the world that you left behind for good or ill, when you link back to it as a retrocausal or quantum force as also adumbrated by the previous Reid and Day stories above) – but there is far more that only reading it will tease or worry out from the threads, that wool in my original photo above, an itchy wool now explicitly made into a blanket to dry off on when you re-emerge, and “ratty gym gear”, a trawling, a hawling, with weights and pulleys, a gestalt review of one’s life with, as I say, a retrocausal force, a force that is welcome or not? It also has the “sexual eagerness” of the Day. And Napper’s own baleen whale, “all pinged and jounced away”.

    My previous review of this author:

  12. My gestalt real-time review of the cabinet or box in THE MADNESS OF DR. CALIGARI anthology: and what’s in or out.

    “; seeing his empty body dangle limp as a puppet on cut strings with its lifeless limbs weighted toward the darkness below wasn’t at all the same as looking in a mirror;” — from the above story by Alexandra Renwick.

    ZEN by Eliot Fintushel

    “What’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ to such as you, zen man?”

    Here we arrive at the ZenCore. if not Cone Zero or Dr. (Cern) Zoo, and this, for me, is also the coda to my double-review’s hoped-for symphony of meaning and extrapolation. Not Ezra’s opium but “the raptures and crapulence of zoot.” Delilah, whose position on the multi-crewed spacecraft is felt by her (and her alone) to be infiltrated by alien Xesans, whom she decides to kill by killing her own self that, she believes, effectively crafts them as a mutuality — thus to save Earth from these aliens, amid much other mind-tickling of the reader about their alien nature, notwithstanding Lord Buddha, the Butterfly Effect and the Stockholm Syndrome. It could be the ultimate Renwick-type sacrifice along with Day-Napper-Reid causality. But which is the puppet dreaming or controlling which other puppets, the reader and author included as well as Delilah and the Xesans themselves.

    My previous reviews of Eliot Fintushel:

    Thus ends my review of the fiction in both these magazines that also teem with other things.

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