Black Static #64


TTA PRESS Jul-Aug 2018

My previous reviews of this publisher HERE.

Stories by Simon Avery, Seán Padraic Birnie, Jack Westlake, Phoenix Alexander, Tim Cooke, Sam Thompson.

When I read this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

8 thoughts on “Black Static #64

  1. SOMETHING TO BURN by Phoenix Alexander

    “You might say I am a kind of an angel.”

    An angel as Pillowghost or Poltergeist? Who takes us back to our earlier “bawling” and “howling” when it is necessary to save our later selves from suicidal acts. But who sleeps best on a pillow? There are even memorial pillows in stone, I guess, to mark ashes as well as embalming or untreated remains. A moving reciprocation of a story, that makes its heading and its page numbers swell and partially fill up. We all need to write things out, not the electronic lists of trivial choice that social media encourages, but to curate real billets-doux of memory-exchange between us to help outlast death’s bonfire of pillows. Half measures as a positive means towards whole ends. A saving grace as Zeno’s Paradox.

  2. OUT OF THE BLUE by Seán Padraic Birnie

    “The notion of hauling the deadweight of his body up into the attic filled me with horror.”

    Each chunk divided by smaller chunks, all to be taken step by step, until, by dint of Zeno’s Paradox, we reach its ‘cusp’. This is haunting, disarmingly hypnotic, deadpan material that, despite its hindsight absurdism, one wholly believes in, as one reads it chunk by chunk. The return of the narrator’s dead father after the funeral, as a rather amenable deadweight to push around, silent and unsmelly, anechoic, as Cage would put it, but the cage here is eventually beyond the hatch of the attic, kept out of the way of visitors. And there is also the narrator’s wife (on the cusp pregnant with a future character in this story) and she once kept her own mother in a hutch, not a hatch, or have I misremembered something? This is attritional stuff, and it also deals with the sanitisation of death and other related social concerns. “In time we can grow accustomed to the most extraordinary things.” The easiest lies being those people want to believe. And the story’s ending is a shocker, despite still being deadpan and methodical. Also resonates with “The Man Who Wore His Father’s Clothes” by Andrew Apter, combined with the loft in M. John Harrison’s “Cicisbeo”, and much else, as this story’s time’s worth of years passes by. Arguably, this Birnie work (not ‘something to burn’!) is a ghostly classic and a semi-comic masterpiece. Time will tell.

  3. ASYLUM by Tim Cooke

    “I wanted to make the familiar strange, to take things — objects, natural features, buildings — that I saw every day and twist them to life, to tilt my world askew.”

    A pareidoliac story, with which I found myself in photographic tune. Then Polaroids, today Facebook statuses. There is surely no coincidence in there being a seismic shift at the end of the story following that earlier tilt? Neither was the snow forgotten at the same story’s end when, earlier, children, by convexity, were seen tossing orange balls in the snow outside the Asylum. Link those items of snow and children and this otherwise throwaway, yet stylishly well-written, tale (now disarmingly ceasing to be throwaway) becomes a truly haunting tale of the woods that hold the dereliction of that once working Asylum, a tale of the narrator (a haunter himself) addicted to the horror-pareidoliac and other substances, who once visited, as a child, his grandfather at the Asylum, the narrator who now somehow believably returns…. to save the patients, as Phoenix Alexander’s angel wanted to do, from suicide?… his grandfather now still alive there like the man in Birnie’s box room?

  4. “This is the monstrosity in love, lady, that the will is infinite and the execution confined; that the desire is boundless, and the act a slave to limit.”
    Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare.

    “The effort of explaining, even of expressing himself, had become, with the years, more and more terrifying to him. Whether from laziness or from inability to find the right words, he had developed almost a passion for silence.”

    “What a fool she was ever to have imagined that there might be some place in the world where she could sink to the earth with the knowledge that there were people round her who understood, who perhaps even admired and loved her! She was fated to carry loneliness about with her as a leper carries his scabs. ‘No one can do anything for me: no one can do anything against me.’”
    ― François Mauriac, Thérèse Desqueyroux


    ‘Thérèse Desqueyroux’ is mentioned in….


    “…I saw she was the same person she had always been. There was something unpleasant, almost something monstrous, in the idea my Amy was still in there.”

    An imminent future to near future tale of a seeming Platonic relationship between a Wanderer through the centuries, with hints of vampirism and lycanthropy and Amy Semper who lives in the usual real time span of life while sporadically crossing paths with him. A poignant series of glimpses at mortality and immortality – and their attempts to transcend their apartness… and the inimical forces around them.

    It felt almost as if the eternally laid-back amenable father who transcends death in the Birnie has now awoken to the narrative force within the Trojan Horse of the Wanderer….or the wandering Alexander angel has now come to ask for a list of our various pros and cons of the nature of human love.

    “She would be sixty-eight years old now.” – a quote from above Sam Thompson story.

    My earlier review in 2015 of THE KNOT OF VIPERS by François Mauriac:

    where I quoted this from it:

    “Fancy waking up at sixty-eight. Fancy being reborn at the very moment of my death.”

    Dwell on that synchronicity for a while, I dare you!

  5. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  6. THE BLOCKAGE by Jack Westlake

    If you want to read about moving to a new neighbourhood and the most dreadful drain blockage of ‘fatberg’ proportions that you need to shift, and the increasingly sinister neighbouring couple who poke their nose in, one or both of them with ulterior motives that come clear…. the half-drawn picture of a dear pet in the Phoenix Alexander comes to mind, and the Zeno’s Paradox of an accreting gestalt. Gallumph! Like a mucky calving (in or out). I half-barfed when reading this rather classy Pan Horror.

    My previous review of this author:

  7. WHY WE DON’T GO BACK by Simon Avery

    “Sometimes you have to meet a hundred people or more to find the healer in someone.”

    At least a hundred stories to find their core gestalt or wraparound gestalt; the sample is too small in a handful. Yet, here, in this selection we have an immanent force, a statuesque amenability, the need to act as saviour by sacrifiction, to clear that blockage, transcend that memory, ignore that insidious nagging doubt about motives…
    This Avery novelette weighted itself in such scales. On first impression, it is a somewhat melodramatic, often (constructively) naive, sometimes clumsily point-of-viewed audit-trail of a life-damaged man as narrator wanting to be such a saviour of a single mother and young daughter living downstairs, against her ex and eventually against her half-brother priest, all mixed with a diamond heist, Salisbury Plain’s own maze and that of Chartres Cathedral transposed as a religiously hard-core, sacrificial, confessional Maize Maze. Yet I was completely compelled by this work’s disarmingly onward plot-drive and worried by that insidious nagging doubt I mentioned above – here, with regard to subtle inferences of the narrator’s feelings, as if in denial about such feelings, his hidden feelings about one of the other characters …
    An amazing readerly maze, as have been all these stories.

    My previous reviews of Simon Avery:

    As ever, there is much else in BLACK STATIC in addition to the fiction. In this particular issue, I was sad to see that it contains the last CASE NOTES of Peter Tennant. He is Horror’s and Fantasy’s greatest fiction critic for many more years than I care to remember! But hopefully for many more years to come wherever he chooses to exercise his skills.


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