Black Static #68

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TTA PRESS (Mar – Apr 2019)

My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tta-press-interzone-black-static/

Fiction by Stephen Volk, David Martin, Amanda J. Bermudez, Kay Chronister, Tim Lees, Tom Johnstone.

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

12 thoughts on “Black Static #68

  1. 03B92BFE-1C67-4830-84F9-63850E4EE4E0.jpegUNCHAIN THE BEAST by Stephen Volk

    “The imagination is the most wonderful playground in the world.”

    Two Mexican boys, their carved backstory, their filming from scratch, firm friends, reaching onward till cinematic stardom for one and artistic collaboration by the other, then National political ambivalence for both, liberal and right wing politics as essentials for each other, both treacherous, even as this story is liberal as well as treacherous, as well as finely intentioned, as well as gorily impelled. The two men falling out, falling back in, absorbing the howl of the monster they created together, absorbing it as a suspension of disbelief on both their side of screen art and the other side’s equivalent treacherous reality, or vice versa, until year dot’s eventual full stop? My own playground as review. Unchained. Unchanged.

  2. IN A DRY SEASON by David Martin

    “Because somewhere in you there’s a dark little room where a scared little boy still lives, and I still see him peeping out of the windows sometimes.”

    …the little boy you once were, as the little boy absorbs the howl of the monster, a monster as the man he was to become in the previous story.
    Here, though, it is as if a woman named Emily — your ex (is she dead or simply has abandoned you?) — is narrating the whole story of ‘you’, as well as her haunting you with words you actually seem to hear her say to you, the thumbscrew of a wife or lover who still knows, even in her absence, your weaknesses. This is an older man’s story as he, as ‘you’, regathers his life, writing a semi-autobiography, and settling scores, now settled in a community of older folk abandoned by the young. A place in the country with a single pub, where the overbearing heat has stopped short so far of becoming an apocalypse but bleaching the wheat fields. He meets one man about my age, early seventies, a man into conceptual art, like me. It is as if I have met my own pretentious counterpart, and self-recognise his weaknesses, too.
    A highly felt, strongly couched story as a wordy thumbscrew of ‘found art’, as weaknesses conspire with weaknesses, with a brutal outcome, in an exhausted social desert, as the burning apocalypse becomes a true apocalypse more real than dream as part of a gestalt collective, – “in deepest England’s deep time.”
    A counterpart, too, in mutual synergy with the Cyberstar, that I read yesterday here, in the counterpart magazine to Black Static, arriving recently together – through the letterbox of my own ‘little room’.

    My previous review of this author:
    https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/black-static-62-interzone-274/#comment-11914

  3. TOTENHAUS by Amanda J. Bermudez

    “Dead bodies, of course, tend not to heal.”

    A highly compelling Poetick of prose about one who guards the dead, in historic times of much death, whether French or German spoken, where bodies – as well as souls? – tangle together… Some awakening, even when left alone in state? Like this man’s wife, darkly, tenuously beautiful, her heel/ heal test-cut for life …
    Potentially the heel howl heal of this magazine’s fiction gestalt so far. The hawl towards collective catharsis, as I would personally call it. The toten itself?

  4. ROILING AND WITHOUT FORM by Kay Chronister

    Need help? Those well-formed letters like typeface in a book.”

    A message to me, as well as Molly? As if I, too, do not know the difference between ‘ravish’ and ‘ravage’, should I read those old-fashioned romance novels she has been given. Molly who seems to work in a hotel in the heart of darkness and swamp, with a ‘mother’ who is really in charge but to whose room Molly holds the unique key. At first I believed this was some haunted enclave where normal guests sometimes turn up as if it is a real hotel, where Molly is being kept back from normal life beyond the swamp, a swamp that divides a Conradian heartland and the normal world. Until one realises with utter fright that there is no normality left to rescue you. Or, at least, that is my interpretation among the even more frightening realisation that it is one of many possible interpretations. Probably the least frightening interpretation I could have possibly made! Subsuming colours, the devious nature of words, suggested edibilities, alien invasion, shape-shifting, bodily cleaving (in both senses of the word ‘cleave’) and much more.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/black-static-62-interzone-274/#comment-11920

  5. THE STOP-TAP by Tim Lees

    “He had a new game on his phone — cartoon mice would scurry round the screen, and he’d bash them with a cartoon mallet, squishing them like old tomatoes.”

    Tomatoheads and a Tomahawk missile. This work plainly affected me deeply …. not only in itself as a unique glimpse of a boyhood friendship, today with Netflix and cartoon phones and Maths become Math, yet with the feel of those epiphanic moments equivalent to my own 1950s experience of them … but also in its strange, revelatory, inadvertent mutual synergy with a story ‘The Hideaway Man’ I read here yesterday, both or at least one of them with a paradoxically incredulous, but believable would-be monster of a boy eager for girls and having a fatherhood question, also in synergy with the boyhood echoes in the Volk story earlier in this magazine. The epiphany of this Gestalt, too. As we follow the main boy protagonist, his endurance of the other insufferable, physically tousling boy, his loyalty despite love-hate of his own sister, and the final eponymous static peace he finds in the dell after the last school bell. But who was the monster, who do we believe most? The vital question of all past boyhoods, especially mine. A wonderful evocation. And to match the earlier Flamingo hotel…another Chronister of black static time… “There was a plastic flamingo on the lawn.”

  6. My previous reviews of the next author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tom-johnstone/

    THE BEAST IN THE PALACE by Tom Johnstone

    “You mix things up down there, they starts to mix things up above ground . . .”

    There is something topsy-turvy about this work, with a modern woman investigative story told about – or from within – a marvellously stylised story about and within 1829, with elements of Swinging between alternate worlds. With anciently crafted, eccentrically physical characters as if this was written in 1829 (astonishingly, I could truly believe it was written by a great author at that time with a then old-fashioned Swiftian feel and an explorer’s beast brought back from exotica and Tristram Shandy’s Sterne, but those writers take it back topsy-turvily even further back than 1829), but all imbued with a modern style of mutated imagination. A story about Brighton Pavilion gardens and a gardener Caleb “born with a caul to go with his club foot and crook back”, and his cowl as prophylactic against seeing his facial ugliness (a weird premonition of a face that turns up later!) And the tawny lad lurking in the gardens, an imported slave from warmer climes, who turns out to be a girl. This is gratuitous and disarming material, especially the nature of the ‘man’ who falls in love with the girl, not the ugly frog as a potential turncoat prince of fairy tale lore, but a man or beast for whom the earlier quote above in the text about gardening might have been written as gender-gardening! I loved this story for what it is, and I relished its cocky refusal to allow me to use it in my own usual brainstorming toward literary gestalt! Oh, except that its surprisingly abrupt ending, without further extending the stories within stories, does seem as if the stop-tap was suddenly turned off, or is it suddenly turned on? And, like Johnstone’s chronicler, Chronister seems to be a good word in itself for something or other to describe mutual elements, while all the fiction in the latest Interzone and Black Static seems to be reaching somehow towards an absurd God as well as a seriously spiritual one, in mind-stretching tides of fantasy and horror.

    end

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