Interzone #282 – Black Static #70


My previous reviews of this publisher:

Stories by Storm Humbert, Erica L. Satifka, N.A. Sulway, Timothy Mudie, Gregor Hartmann, Kristi DeMeester, Ralph Robert Moore, Steven J. Dines, Jack Westlake, Cody Goodfellow, Steven Sheil, Natalia Theodoridou.

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

15 thoughts on “Interzone #282 – Black Static #70


    I WRITE YOUR NAME by Ralph Robert Moore

    “Only you and I know about that.”

    I consider myself to be a long-seasoned reader of RRM fiction. No mean feat, to have read so much red meat of fiction, culinary plagues as recipes of sex, soft cock or uncooked hard, or rare, and shape-shifting almost on a whim. This RRM needs handling with care, possibly the reddest rarest meat yet. Take my advice, you probably read this story in a previous reincarnation sometime in the future, but you won’t remember you were actually once part of it as the parsley or cilantro. Seriously, you must let it all flow over you as you read, don’t worry too much about things you will later understand in a different life, don’t be fazed, keep your eyes close to the paper of the pages, as I just did, as I always do with RRM fiction, without your glasses on, if possible, the page numbers here conveniently large enough to read them without glasses. The words themselves WILL soak in, regardless. If I tell you more, it will spoil it. Especially about Mr Eye Hand. Don’t peek ahead. This is probably RRM now coming into your room barking, as you finish reading it.

    “It was like he had fitted together the border of a jigsaw puzzle, and now just had to fill in the big pile of interior pieces.”

    My previous interior pieces of RRM:

  2. A CROWN OF LEAVES by Kristi DeMeester

    “All that melancholy wrapped up in melody…”

    An exercise in retrieving Proustian memory with all five senses. About narrator Opal’s older sister Maribel, their missing Mama, Massachusetts pines, eating RRM’s raw meat (brained by a rock) because there was nothing to cook it in, and Opal’s refusal “to acknowledge how my mouth has flooded with the taste of something growing.” To complement that taste, a powerful tactile, olfactory, auditory, visual trip back to their girlhood home of surrounding trees to find their Mama, to both absolve and solve the eponymous mystery of Mama. As a perhaps wild aside on my part, The Crown has an older and younger sister, too. The former loved music, I guess. The latter became a queen. All abandoned palaces are dark, their rooms shrunk smaller? Beyond any memory’s sixth sense.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  3. PENDULUM by Steven J. Dines

    “a story that can never be unwritten”

    My review of it also a stream of consciousness, “connected moments”, yet I knew straightaway, confirmed by all of it, a genuine classic use of the pendulum as trope, and more, the marriage, broken, the bullied birth-marred son with a different name to whom the marriage gave birth’s broken waters, via ventouse, all streamed or narrated in staccato thoughts by the caring mother here, the boy broken finally by an inset screen side-glance from his estranged father in a computer game called Fortnite, or one like it, though, Fortnite is mentioned explicitly here in this Dines as well as a “golden ticket”, in contrast to the crown of leaves — an observation streamed or factored alternately into and from my personal faith in the synchronicity of literature, because the world news is today full of a boy winning a million dollars playing this game competitively! I had never heard of it till today! A fact now so ironically relevant to this story, which you will realise when you read it. And half an hour ago I happened to mention Fortnite in another review, one of Tolstoy, here, before reading this Dines potential masterpiece, yes, let’s call it what it is, not potential at all, but a masterpiece. As with real-time conclusions about life, they are only temporary pause points towards another conclusion. The gestalt is never reached. It has grown to be realised like that even as I write it down in my own streaming, but I have hidden it away in the lower body of this paragraph so that, as inspired by this story, it will be missed by most of those who only read, if at all, just the absolute ends of all my reviews. And like the pendulum of text, the most important part is possibly at the pause point between falling and rising again in the opposite direction, the swings and roundabouts of fartherhood (sic), never to be unwritten nor unbirthed. “We scream when they come into this world, we scream when they go out.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

    • “It is an inverted pendulum, prone to oscillations of ever-increasing magnitude. If we can only keep the pendulum vertical, there is no need for subsequent correction.”
      – from the part of the Chiang Exhalation book that I reviewed today, a book earlier mentioned in the Westlake entry below.


    “She exhales.”

    I am currently reading Chiang’s new collection ‘Exhalation’, Chiang’s ‘feel’ of fiction seeming to be a suitably oblique backdrop to this intriguingly disorientating story about a man who cumulatively sees the commuters around him and others, appearing to have doll-like porcelain faces edged up to the surrounding flesh. There is an OCD feel to this situation. He tries with his fingers, with some difficulty, to pry one face off a homeless man… His wife stays immune at first, but everyone, including his coworkers in the Ligottian-like office, are otherwise oblivious of their own porcelain faces. Or are they? The ending stays with you.
    Cf the Wordplague in this author’s Pomegranate story. And as a further aside, based on my research, the connection of the cowrie shell that gave porcelain its name and the pig is a perceived resemblance of the shell opening to the exposed outer genitalia of pigs. The pigs as men as in George Orwell? The barking dog as self and sexual-culinary dining references in the RRM story above (and in his other fiction), I feel, are psychologically associated with these pink ‘masks’ in Westlake. And the ventouse’s prising out in the Dines Pendulum. She exhales.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  5. MASSAGING THE MONSTER by Cody Goodfellow

    “…the junctions of the ribcage, to loosen each gritted rictus of intercostal muscle, like prying loose the jaws of a defiant dog.”

    Jocasta recognises her massagee for what or who he is, some erstwhile cruel dictator now old. Not exactly does she chiropractice on him, delving within the most exquisitely imaginable description by Goodfellow of such a process you are ever likely to meet in any literature, but this is more than just chiropractice: it is also akin to Westlake’s prying off of flesh-embedded porcelain masks…. “a deep-tissue technique” as part of Dines’ ventouse … to find RRM’s dog within, while digging amid the tiny flickering-black crosses like the ants in an anthill of letters from words, coming from his being, each to tell of a past sin, including one sin personal to Jocasta. The “flattening lungs”, too, of Exhalation…
    I personally imagined the POTUS under her potent fingers.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  6. THE TOUCH OF HER by Steven Sheil

    “as though a smaller mouth were growing out of the ruins of the larger one.”

    “But his house was the other direction from the direction in which he was running and the thought of turning around […] was too much to face.”

    …those and the rocking of the train, combined with “some massive, undulating organism, just a muscle or a tendon, interlocked” with all of us, give due vibe to the rest of the preceding context of other stories as well as to its own story’s preceding obsessions, as we are made to empathise logically and compellingly with Mark — helped by incredibly well-written, if matter-of-fact, passage after passage of the text. You, too, become obsessed, like Mark, with a waitress in a café, with his jealousy of another man’s attention to her. And Mark stalking her with your own felt justifiability, his triggering of some other items of mayhem, towards that gestalt or organism, one single touch by you on a single human being evoking a massive touch of today’s, albeit polarised, organism around and upon you. To frequent our soul even more frequently, like mass strobing pendulums at each of our pause points?
    Massively powerful.

    My previous review of this author:

  7. THE SUMMER IS ENDED AND WE ARE NOT SAVED by Natalia Theodoridou

    “, their young first coming out of wombs deformed – a human mouth on a foal, eggs filled with ashes, a lamb being born weighing much more than it should…”

    A tantalising short coda to this Black Static’s recurring pendulum, beads, cherries, a series of the small back rooms, a man with his latest girl (the narrator), moving between the communities and the blights they or, rather, he arguably causes, but always with hope between. We all have our own small rooms. A crown of leaves; he comes and always leaves.

    (Cf Tem’s ‘small room’ that I read a day or so ago here)

    My previous reviews of this author:

    The end of my review of these stories. There is much else in Black Static.

    Interzone stories will follow in due course.


    VERUM by Storm Humbert

    “I wanted to access a real-time scanner so I could record the mix working on my brain.”

    This is the real-time story of the duel of mixes created by two drug-pushers, like disc jockeys used to do with mixes of music, still do, perhaps — a sophisticated exploration of creating capsule lives with special mixes of their brand of the eponymous substance, worming into you. Verging and uniquely extrapolating upon my preternaturally synchronous reading of Chiang’s new collection here. Philosophical dilemmas and dubious motives, as we ponder the possibility of reliving such lives as a prelude to a fulfilled death. 05F0CBA0-C998-451F-8853-F97790C948EDThe magic of the moment expunging the misery of real-time. A gestalt to be worked at. As I do. But did I read this, or did I dream it, or did I actually live it for real till the very edge of its black hole? The fireflies and coyotes et al. The characters of the two drug-pushers, and their interface of motives, are compellingly told. Part of me understood it, part of me didn’t. I wonder which part wrote this review! At each. pause point of the pendulum of mixes. The smells come first (better exhale, instead). Déjà vu, if at all, always too late. And not even one dragon sneaked in.


    “She’s completely gray and totally dead. Even more so than before.”

    This has a brilliant plot germ with many clever ideas of a favourite children’s TV series being kept going as a morale booster at the world’s endgame (because of a gruesome virus) – by keeping the original children alive even when they are dead. The characterisation, even at this short length, is believable. Far superior to robots or avatars, ‘Open Sesame’, a new form for this real-time review of an on-line world as revivified flesh still rudimentarily with its erstwhile mind? This should have been a novel entitled GUMDROP ROAD, one that might be/have been even greater than – and uniquely different from – Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  10. Possible plot spoilers.


    “From woman to frog to man.”

    Atrazine frogs and iron deposits in rivers … this is a tantalising pre-Raphaelite visionary fairy story, a Verum journey, too, plus a steeped post-death story by Satifka’s weasel virus, frog to Prince, a Proustian memory where memories are involuntary muscle twitches, Marienbad hotel to cheap take-away restaurant, transgender another journey of self’s orientation. Not fighting fantasy, but fantasy fighting, alongside which we choose our own path to faithfulness, whatever else impinges. They are not plot spoilers, because the sheer reading experience outweighs whatever is seen to be in it. Different things by different readers. Some things the same.

    My 2015 review of Nike Sulway’s Rupetta:


    “‘I do not eat,’ the robot says.”

    The Judgement of Solomon stretches here tantamount to Solomon himself being the robot split in two, rather than the disputed baby who, being split, would become two dead babies as in Satifka’s Gumdrop Road — a robot to be shared or split between those who use him and Kaya who begins to love him. Kaya who has started involuntarily vanishing the real people or real animals she sees in her daily life, simply by seeing them. And, so, she is a given this robot with one large facemask eye that eventually turns into a face with two eyes, a robot like our Alexa, except its name to be addressed is Mr No-Name not Alexa. A telling fable for those of us today who sometimes feel they are being spied on by the robots who serve us. Meanwhile, I extrapolate that to vanish a whole enemy army in one fell swoop would first need the splitting of an atom. A serum as venom.

    My previous review of this author:

  12. HEAVEN LOOKS DOWN ON THE TOMB by Gregor Hartmann

    “Wrong move. It reminded him she’d witnessed weakness. Dr Wong’s anger returned.”

    Heaven in the title is our moon and the tomb is Earth. Far future novelette where colonies on Luna send missions of Collectors to the overbearing heat and heavy gravity of Earth, where small heights are dizzy anxieties (“There was a collective sigh”, or exhalation?), Collectors with bugs in their guts (“crapping on command”) as scientific experiments in themselves, a group graded into a pecking order of chemical enforced intelligences, or lack of. Several conspiracies, germ weapons and spies of science and control between Luna and Earth, with here developed characters, a main woman protagonist, including one or two characters whom we identify with or recognise that we don’t identify with. A consuming narrative and I enjoyed it, despite not being the sort of SF that normally appeals to me. And it was Dr Wong I somehow identified with most, but I don’t think that was intended! Him and “the fogger.” The ‘philosophical dilemmas and dubious motives’ of Verum, too — again serum as venom? Someone else’s overflowing jockstrap, notwithstanding.

    My previous review of this author:

  13. FiGen: A Love Story

    by Kristi DeMeester

    “You were already asleep when it popped up, and I was deep in a trashy Internet hole, following link to link with stories about absolutely nothing, and there it was.”

    Yes, there it was, actually a very engaging and compelling love story or well written chick lit – with a tinge of SF – a story that I can imagine being published anywhere, and duly awarded for what it is, a great story with a great idea. Involving well-characterised tastes in love and sex. And an internet’s intervention. And an academic world portrayed with unique words said to be spilling from students’ fingers. Culinary matters associated with sex, too. And, yes, a crown of peonies symbolising a reprise of this review’s identified meta-pendulum?

    “Always, you were the ghost sleeping in my body.”

    “You disappeared behind a book, as you so often did,”

    My previous reviews of this author:

    The end of my review of these stories. There is much else in Black Static and Interzone in addition to their fiction.

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