TTA PRESS Sep – Oct 2019
My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tta-press-interzone-black-static/
Stories by Stephen Hargadon, Sarah Read, Steven Sheil, Daniel Bennett, Seán Padraic Birnie, Robert Minto, Lucy Harlow, Fiona Moore, David Cleden, John Kissel.
When I read the fiction in these two magazines, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
DIXON PARADE by Stephen Hargadon
“I walked on, a tourist in my own imagination.”
My wife left me to go on holiday, or she will one day. Bit late now. Fifty years anniversary coming up. Meanwhile, this novelette is of another insular man, a drawer of machines and contraptions, but that does not even begin to tell you what he draws. His wife left him for a another man, and he wanders in the place where they used to have holidays, and buys a painting, of the unknown eponymous parade, a row of shops etc with a flat above, and things that he imagines moving behind the flat’s curtains. Memories of chicken feet contraptions provided by the butcher, when a boy. Do they have shoe shops just for children’s shoes, I wonder? His old drinking mate – everyone has such old mates in Hargadon – finds out for him that the painting is of a real place. What happens when he goes there will probably haunt me. Like looking into my own eyes to see all the workings clicking behind them. Another of this author’s works now safely inside my brain. Thanks a bunch.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/stephen-hargadon/
DIAMOND SAW by Sarah Read
“There had been at least twenty men dad called his ‘right hand’, but now I’m both his hands.”
…which in itself has significant resonance with my co-reading of ‘Sennin (Immortal)’ and ‘The Tree of Self-Knowledge’ here and here. And the fact that this woman has her cancer-dead dad inside as a gestating baby (thus his continuing to control his erstwhile crime circle, via his daughter, who is acting as hitwoman or prostitute) is strong enough a conceit to make this a brutal revelation of a crime story, but the eponymous saw itself — in synergy with the inserted blade and blood on the wall in the ‘Hargadon’ (who probably saw this saw in his own drawings of contraptions and when writing about ‘clockwork foetuses’) — makes it even more effective. Dixon to Diamond.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sarah-read/
RESIDUE by Steven Sheil
“His smell — sweat, smoke, the cream he combed through his hair — all intermingled, all with that underlying base note of sickness.”
A base-line story too, no pretensions, just a well-written story of a woman clearing up the house of her dead brother, tackling the over-frozen fridge, with mixed memories of him in her mind. I seemed literally to smell it off the page, coming to embodied life. The thumbnail was like a tiny saw. You wonder what was turning around in his head all those years, when his sister never visited…till now.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/steven-sheil/
A particular synchronicity for me – someone I know cleared up after a loner brother died recently and accounts told to me about this had many parallels with above story.
A PRESSED RED FLOWER IN THE ABANDONED ARCHIVE by Daniel Bennett
“I’ll admit that at the time, I was of an impressionable state of mind, and consequently I was susceptible to any kind of coincidence.”
I can assure you that my postscript above about a coincidence regarding the previous story was written before I read this Bennett story, a disturbing and inspiring story of how the narrator’s life and career is interwoven – literally within the text itself telling us about it – as an alternating stream of a computer glitch or virus: a computer’s ‘system file’ with different items of phrase – exemplified by the apparently gratuitous form of the story’s title – items apparently randomly and endlessly generated, but gradually seeming to form a gestalt real-time review of the narrator’s past and possibly future experiences. A bit like the earlier ultimate coincidences above in my own gestalt real-time review of yourself in the window-eyes of Dixon Parade, and of your progenitor’s life now inside your womb to give birth to yourself?
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/05/16/black-static-69/#comment-15872
OTHER HOUSES by Seán Padraic Birnie
“, as if I could see the mechanisms at play within the black boxes of her eyes.”
“…muffled voices heard as if through the walls of terraced houses.”
It seems sacrilegious to even think that I might be able to do justice to such a major reading experience with an attempted summary, let alone the creation, as is my usual wont, of connections with the rest of this set of fictions. So be it, for the very first time since I started book reviewing, I won’t do any of this. A novelette that will haunt you forever and one that will be anthologised many times into many futures. It now has a unique place in my heart as a work of literature.
“The calculation of infinite probabilities […] a rainforest of events, of lives and lifelines and unexpected destinies.”
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/07/19/black-static-64/#comment-13251
THE WINDS AND PERSECUTIONS OF THE SKY by Robert Minto
“Air, he feels, shouldn’t be like this. It should circulate decorously from vent to vent.”
I was rather exhilarated by this story’s disarming simplicity and disguised complexity of concept, good hygiene at the bottom, breathtaking sky seen through the cracks of windows amid the bad hygiene at the top, a skyscraper with vines and vents, an amoral aviation of obviation and vitiation, and the rites of passage between these two levels, the temperaments of each ascender and descender well characterised, as obliquely evoked by the unhygienic hair of a Rapunzel figure, a character that produces countless ricochets of meaning in this work I reckon! …. Time will tell whether this is a landmark or airmark story. Probably both.
Cf Dixon Parade’s window-eyes. “…a tourist in my own imagination.”
OF THE GREEN SPIRES by Lucy Harlow
“It took with it the memory of the city and wound itself around remembered contours, imagining spires and domes and columns and packing them with cherry stones and thistledown.”
Botanophilia-evocative angiosperms — a vignette of the vines upon the outside of a skyscraper in the previous story, brought to the streets of Oxford’s Jericho district, shaping out the antipathy-towards-rapprochement of two sisters — shaping out, too, the palimpsest of a genius-loci with all sorts of fruit stemming from alien starthistle lighting upon the gym-fit sister’s dropped banana. Don’t go there!
In fact, DO.
Additional recommended reading:
Thyrsis: A Monody, to Commemorate the Author’s Friend, Arthur Hugh Clough
A POEM BY MATTHEW ARNOLD
JOLENE by Fiona Moore
“It just seemed like the case would never leave me alone.”
…which is ironic bearing in mind the two meanings of ‘autology’, the more usual one and this story’s own! A logically crazy portrait of a world beyond driverless cars, an autologist asked to investigate and hopefully heal the break-up between country & western music specialist McBride and assonantly named Friday (aka Jolene) – a man and his truck. And the implications for a dog and McBride’s wife, and the laws pertaining to mutual behaviour between humans, animals and vehicles. A sort of proto-antrhropomorphemic rodeo in my mind. Not sure why.
Not sure, either, why it is an interesting accompaniment to the two autological models of converse levels in societal hierarchy and mind-botany that preceded it in Interzone.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/interzone-278/#comment-14521
THE PALIMPSEST TRIGGER by David Cleden
“Perfect concealment for a palimp’s nest.”
This is the sort of story, one of novelette length, that sort of creeps into my mind and then is triggered remotely by its author. It has the feel of the Lucy Harlow story and its explicit palimpsest, an overarching art, cilia now replacing the fruit, art for its own sake, the pilla (carrier of that trigger) — although looking like a turd — works rather similarly to the main driverless vehicle in the Fiona Moore, here now used as palimpsest by the intrinsic hierarchies and “pulley-wheels” below that are in turn akin to those of the Minto story, memories wiped out only to reveal that I understood this story all along, my dead sister still alive, after all, as this cilia-of-Cleden’s human protagonist finds out amid an intriguing scenario of human-brainwashing religions in churches run by cordonista and involving competitive characters with names like Bethesda and Socrates. It was the palimps with the cilia after all. All curdled cilia now and other marks and too much trox shot into my reading veins. Left me quivering, the remote trigger finally pulled by the author before reaching the end of my review of his work — in hindsight if not in real-time! A completely different story on top.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-cleden/
FIX THAT HOUSE! by John Kessel
“Sweat equity was one solution.”
A straight-faced account as a vignette not of vines but of verandahs, where a professional couple overhauls a pre-Civil War house on Chinaberry Road, by exploiting the fruit of labour of those down with Minto pulley-wheels below, even “poorly educated Irishmen”. An alternate world antebellum to avoid seemingly impossible roadblocks. Well, not alternate world any longer in our alternate world where any alternate world can seem real.
TWO WORLDS APART by Dustin Blair Steinacker
“Say you’re a translator, and you come across a pun in the source material. What do you do?”
This strikes me as a hyper-imaginative Ted Chiang to further nth powers of imagination. Language to language, confederated group of space races arriving on a planet without a sun, to solve their equivalent to our global warming, finding a cultural altruistic-selfishness on that planet rather than communal synergy – and somehow getting them recruited to help us help them, or vice versa? The characters are depicted wild and woolly and I found my own brain consumed, specially when factored into by the earlier mind-frazzling of the Cleden story and its own ramifications from the other stories this Interzone. I loved the main character Dr N Ana Varhely. And there is still a numb tingling inside my head. I never got a pee aitch dee. And I am 71. So please excuse me.
“‘This is a vacation, right?’
‘If this is how you vacate, I’d hate to see you at the office.’”
There is much in Black Static and Interzone in addition to their fiction.
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