Vastarien: A Literary Journal Vol. 2 Issue1

Grimscribe Press 2019

Jon Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

My previous reviews of Vastarien:

Work by Forrest Aguirre, Matthew M. Bartlett, F.J. Bergmann, S.E. Casey, Gemma Files, Fiona Maeve Geist, Sepehr Goshayeshi, Rhys Hughes, Gwendolyn Kiste, Carl Lavoie, Lia Swope Mitchell, Harry 0. Morris, C.M. Muller, K.A. Opperman, David Peak, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, Michael Sawecki, Farah Rose Smith, Natalia Theodoridou, Toni Tošić.

21 thoughts on “Vastarien: A Literary Journal Vol. 2 Issue1

  1. I will give my thoughts below on this journal’s fiction, as well as mention the other items it includes.

    The leading black and white picture is by Charles Lavoie and entitled ‘
    ‘Shhh, Watch the film’ – with pointed finger, as if into the forthcoming pages as well as the screen at which it points, through the doors and rectangles….

    And the next picture is even more attuned to the first story below, a picture by Harry 0. Morris who also created the artwork on the cover.


    VENIO by Gemma Files

    “, the queen of pants versus plot, always pumping out stuff in seemingly unrelated chunks before stringing it together afterwards and telling people her characters told her how to do it.”

    Not always a bad method, for example about an hour or so ago I reviewed, by coincidental chance, Kiernan’s excellent ‘Hydrarguros’ here. VENIO, meanwhile, is an effective work of real-time (ouija board like) synchronicity of words, event and place towards a gestalt of story. A method that four people, with ex-like relationships and other romantic or friendship considerations, employ to help their creative writing of fiction, by drawing doors or rectangles on paper and imagining what is beyond them. Of tulpas and other occult, sometimes tragic, factors. The reader is himself involved, by the story warning against reading it! Too late, perhaps even if you have already only started reading it…but far too late for me.

    My previous reviews of Gemma Files:

  2. Artwork by Harry 0. Morris

    B9932AC5-27D2-418E-9875-5F388C7B95A7THE LORD IS AN ACTIVE SHOOTER by Fiona Maeve Geist

    “—we have made weapons. They predate agriculture.”

    You can never be the same again as you reach the end of this story when, for the first time, you realise something you should have been warned about at this point of my review before you started. God as Gun. In many ways, this story is even more like the previous one, that once you have read it you cannot unread it, whatever the consequences. However powerful it is, and it IS powerful. Perfect for this Journal, however much this Journal might later regret having ever published it, unless it is a Swiftian Modest Proposal as well as being a one-sided Socratic Dialogue in a cafe, the listener a loner who has come to this cafe just to be less of a loner. A talker who sits at the loner’s table, covering many of human history’s imputed events and cycles, Toynbeean challenge and response, the penetration of guns into religion, civilisation, sex, eating, chemistry, and the legal as well as the intrinsic nature of Americans themselves, amid the deep pan, deadpan shooting with collateral damage that the cafe endures throughout…
    (later edit) SPOILER: The most frightening thing is that the story’s eventual real-time gestalt suddenly, now, makes one realise that there is no irony here. This story is what it is. Not a story at all. Any collateral conflation, notwithstanding.

    “; all drawn together as if by some thread of fate.”

  3. THE SISTERS, by F.J. Bergmann, effective free verse about two sisters in adjacent houses surrounded by a plain of grass, seeming prose with enjambment, a twist in its tail as if surrounding it with straight borders would have smoothed out the broken lines, made them appear necessary.


    HORROR RELIGIOSUS: The Dark Passions of Mark Samuels
    by David Peak
    A non-fiction essay

    My previous reviews of David Peak:
    My previous reviews of Mark Samuels:


    “All the while, Zurvan had continued to grab at the moon in a puddle, his hand shriveled from the cold water. His eyes were frenzied.”

    As I started reading this fine work — an eventually startling religious parable of three Persian magi travelling to Bethlehem — not surprisingly I empathised more with Zurvan, the oldest magi, rather than with the youngest or middle-aged ones. My trying to grab the moon strikes me as represented by what I see as my real-time reviewing or hawling. All three of us – a mutant religion’s audit trail of a Holy Trinity Gestalt – are depicted here to represent fatefulness, stoicism, jest, nihilism and hope … all preoccupations of the Ligottian. From “Time makes fools of devils and angels!” to “I am the Vivisector of Indivisible Time.”

  5. Artwork by Toni Tošić.

    “Life is made up of marble and mud.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

    AHARESIA by Natalia Theodoridou

    “She overtook an old, open truck loaded with rusty fishing gear.”

    A youngish couple, Sammie and Nathan, she who has rescued him from the past’s equivalent to nude modelling by getting him his clothes after a life study model stint in the art class she attended. His family home, the eponymous place, Google maps don’t agree with his memory of it. Aphasia or amnesia? They both go there after a long drive, via memory’s pancakes and pretty fine coffee except the coffee tastes like mud and his Mum is called mudskipper and mud turned to a rock in his mouth, twin peaks or two brothers, one with drowning rocks in his pockets. But are the muddy lake-bottom sculptures at the end he dances through like a fish flicker made of marble? A deceptively plain-spoken work about life and memory. Its equally deceptive aphasic density still playing at my mind, even though I thought it wouldn’t do so at the actual time of reading it. Or so my memory recalls.

    “No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne


    A “cosmic deluge” that does not create the mud of the previous story but a sort of exterior physical dysmorphia within the solipsism of the narrator, then eventually an empathy of solipsism with others! Many outwardly evocative and inwardly haunting visions.

  7. ORCHID ARCHITECTURE, a fine rhyming poem of ten lines by K.A. Opperman, “…soon, how soon”, their petals whisper.

    Artwork by Toni Tošić, followed appropriately by…

    ALL THE STAGE IS A WORLD by Forrest Aguirre

    “Leftovers from the dark ages, somehow desperately holding on to the academic Cliffside, even though the enlightenment should have stomped those fingers and sent the lot of it plunging to the rocks below. I wondered what kind of arc that would describe . . .”

    This story has the irony of being in itself beautifully baroque as well as revolutionary in ‘happening’, happenstance and role-playing, while told by a character who believes that Diderot’s Enlightenment should have swept away such things. Involving a theatrical performance, sexual-attractiveness transiting by word of mouth as well as strict academic deadlines. Some thought-provoking material here, evocatively couched. And reminded me felicitously of what antics and happenings I used to get up to, as part of the Zeroist Group I founded at University, such as, inter alia, acting Shakespeare backwards! And Rameau’s Nephew.

    “Maybe if I explained myself convincingly, I could get an extension.”

    My previous review of a Forrest Aguirre collaborative story HERE.

  8. BURGER SHOP by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    “hijabm […] skullcap […] especially the om and the swasthik.”

    A meditation group (or a chanting mob with premeditated halal cuts?) meets in various places, here their latest venue in this flash fiction of a flash-fried, typo-headed blurb of a burger shop, and I may have misinterpreted it but it keeps me thinking that this world is full of thinking of things and misinterpreting them according to some tunnel vision of faith (here multifaith as real-time gestalt?), with other deliberate typos meaningful in hindsight or meaningless with synchronicities of social-media flashmobs kickstarted and crowd funded.

    My previous review of this author:

  9. RAT KING by Lia Swope Mitchell

    “Everyone’s got secrets.”

    …lies, too, and this powerful story is about a swipe of lies and secrets between confessor and confessed. A swipe across the chest that needs these things got off of; a swipe, rather, between two coupling chests, whether mutual subsumption or synergy. Knot to knot, like ligotti are knots. A cathartic purging. Another flash fiction or, rather, flash truth.

  10. Artwork by Harry 0. Morris, leading appropriately to…

    VANPOOL by C.M. Muller

    “, components of a collective carapace.”

    Car apace or van apace? Constructively reminiscent (especially with the ‘glyphs’) of some Mark Samuels work (upon which there is an essay earlier in this Journal), we have here a story that tantalisingly and expressively opens the concept of a recurring van’s arrival and departure, a van with assiduously cloying exhaust humours, arriving in the drive of the house to periodically take away a boy’s father, and then return him, doctored by smart-suited men. All seems to be taken for granted by his mum and dad. But the boy seems to need to struggle to sustain his father’s identity as body and mind, in life’s shared or pooled ride…

    “…a few paces to the border of the drive,”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  11. THE AGELESS AGELASTS by Rhys Hughes

    “Outwardly your jokes will look the same, the mechanics will be identical, but no one at all will laugh at them. Not even you…”

    I suspect that ignorance will help prevent what I am about to say from being a plot spoiler. A student in the same triangulated coordinates of living space as the classic author he is studying is thus haunted by the latter’s ghost that acts as an abderian to warn the student of vampire agelasts. The student then changes his whole patten of humours in life. The plot made me think this was a way of saying that Ligotti is indeed the jester who intended his expression of Anti-Natalism to be a practical joke, like putting a door down a well, instead of a water-trap above a door…(a conceit I just pinched from the story.)
    Another wonderful Rhys Hughes classic for all abderians and other lafferties.
    Earlier in this Journal: ‘All the Stage is a World’… and here “For all the world’s a stage, apart from maybe the sea and active volcanoes and the insides of nuclear reactors…”
    We all have our profit roles, I guess, somehow.

    My previous review of this author:

  12. 0124B014-BDA0-499E-9C58-0F3A4864B197Artwork by Toni Tošić, followed by…


    The artwork looks like me bemused, along with a new photo of a black hole as an eye, showing me with my inability to grasp this text, another rare defeat in my life of real-time reviewing. It was as if I understood all the words without understanding anything they said when strung together. I think I understood ‘your’ (the author’s) creation by this fiction of your own victimiser and stalker ranting at you with your own dreams and nightmares. And ‘mendeghast’ as someone’s crucial password to open all their important sites. A sort of excerpt from a novel and characters’ names with which I should already be familiar. And monsters and visions that should already be tested by my own dreams. Clutching at such critical straws, though, I have been given word-sickness by this text. As a septuagenarian, I surely must need to experience my own encroaching senile dementia before this dementia fully takes me over by erasing itself from my knowledge of it as dementia. Too late, perhaps, as I can now judge by reading what I have just written above. Yes, too late.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  13. My previous reviews of the next author:


    Ho w would I sur vive. In. The Busine Wor

    The narrator – after a feisty description of God – gives us wonderful Bartlettian thumbnail word-portraits of this narrator’s theme-and-variations on Ligottian Corporate Horror employment under the thus portrayed supervisors whom are kept as effigies, by the narrator or is it God, perhaps both as one. The Lord’s Active Shooting now with the potentiality of suicide? And the rat-king reference at the end now synergises with the Swope story.
    As writers we all have our Corporate Horror gods, ourselves. Venio.

    This brain-sparking Journal has the baby Jesus eaten, too. No tarot cards to randomly determine what was in it, and pretend it was intended as a divine gestalt. You only have the chief editor to blame, I guess. Or the gathering vanpool collector. Or the gestalt reviewer himself, more like.


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