TTA PRESS Nov-Dec 2019
My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tta-press-interzone-black-static/
Stories by Matt Thompson, S. Qiouyi Lu, Emily B. Cataneo, Tim Lees, Jack Westlake, Sarah Read, Joanna Berry, Tim Chawaga, Natalia Theodoridou, Timothy Mudie, David Tallerman, Daniel Bennett.
When I read this fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
THE STRING PEOPLE by Matt Thompson
“I know what you’re after.”
If it’s UTTER GRIM and NOVEMBER GREY you’re after, then you have it here in spades. Or on strings? Even if the story itself perhaps takes place in snowy January. It also seems at least obliquely appropriate in a revelatory way that it takes place around a protagonist from Grays, a place I knew quite well having dared drive through (even broken down there once) in the days of yore before the M25’s circle was fully complete. The same Grays that was more recently in the news about a container lorry with, inside it, 39 dead bodies, a lorry being found in a Grays industrial estate. On his way to work, our man sees groups of the string people, a new greyer version of the homeless, and you will need to read for yourself about the unforgettable nature of these people, the emotions of guilt and defiant cynicism, the humiliating bartering for donations and the enforced voluntary cross-infection, the greyly depleting synergy of blood, involving people worse off even than yourself, utterly worse off however badly off you feel yourself to be. And whatever side of the string-line you are, we all have our fallibilities, and presumptions, as they do, too. Who the Jekyll, who the Hyde? And it features a way-station as a hotel even grimmer than Hyde Hotel….
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matt-thompson/
THE LONGEST NIGHT by Emily B. Cataneo
“She also sold strings of licorice from the jar…” towards the story’s beginning. This sprawling, weatherly tactile-evocative, fish-trading, vodka-imbibing, believably ghost-ritualistic story of the Icelandic community Fiskurfjörður, and the few well-characterised girls to whom we are introduced and who grow into women there during the course of narration. Their differingly respective development of beliefs in the coming of the inimical prevailing Ghost and the supposed antidote ceremonies – involving animal skulls, spoons spinning and fish dying – form the telling backdrop. Shards of skulls to be judiciously placed and fingers to be stuck in skulls, and much more, as the Ghost, just as one example, passes one of the women “sucking on licorice,…” toward the story’s end.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/emily-b-cataneo/
THE HOPE CHEST by Sarah Read
“The page Grandma held open to her had a black line drawing and a greyscale photo of something that looked both slimy and stringy.”
A moving portrait of Hannah and the loss of her Grandma to illness and supposed quarantine in a hospital. I felt particularly moved as my own grandma once used an ancient sewing-machine and made clothes with her needlework most of the time, she BEING such things and here, to perhaps divert a mother in need of anger management, Hannah remakes Grandma as such BEING in the ‘dress form’ from attic to bedroom to bathroom, with many a slip between stitch and vocal cords. And not without a pricking pain of its own. A quilted slice of ritual time and how never to forget how to remember those we love, whatever the painful revelation of the matriarchal generation thus leapt. As if the hope chest is also a vault? — (I somehow predicted a similar lady with my previous instinctive photos at the head of this review?)
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sarah-read/
DON’T COME LOOKING by Jack Westlake
“I am going to try to explain.”
If you find this otherwise plain-spoken story still in this Black Static magazine and if you follow me into the story, its “thick dark lines” or its “daddy long-legs” kicking, do think twice. Or perhaps I followed YOU, as I have had this magazine quite a few days before reading it, and it is open for anyone now to warn me not to do so. Whatever the case, the compelling matter-of-fact narration — of two partners, having bought a HOUSE of Leaves or Eves, as it were: the narrator (as me) and Lisa, both being helped to move into this house by our respective fathers — makes me no longer want to be the one who leaves, but the one who enters by choosing which route to follow after entering the dirty yellow door that sporadically appeared leaning on the chimney breast as an entrance to wherever … and it dawned on me who I was and who you were and why I was so cautious and why I chose to read it again or to narrate the story again, so that nobody will try to force us, just for their kicks, to demonstrate our love for each other. Nothing to see here. Or, at least, nothing to see BEYOND here. Did I succeed?
AS DARK AS HUNGER by S. Qiouyi Lu
“In the end, she’s still in the same place: facing a door and unable to read the sign.”
A stunning mermaid panoply. Combining the nature of the sexual connection of Eve and Lisa beyond the door in the previous story, here Ellen and Stella, beyond the hymen of scales in mermaid surgery and their market eugenics, which in turn, staggeringly, is in mutual synergy with a story called Unburied Animals that I read and reviewed today here just before reading this one. The discovery of a mermaid in the hot steaming rot of this tale is the catalyst for such Sapphic surgery and synergy of both lust and combat. And a generational mermaid surgery of flay and flense and bifurcation that will stay with you. And when they talk about ‘docking’ in this work, it is not only docking of a boat — “trying to string together a sentence,” as well as with knots and hair and roots and wound-stitching and rigging.
“But the rest of her says want and need, says give and crave.”
WATCHING by Tim Lees
“He slips the keys from out of his pocket, swings them on the lanyard. Counts to the fifth door.”
It is as if this story has been watching the previous five, being their instinctive coda and gestalt, blending, for example, the grim hotel in the String People and the flaying of the mermaid, the abuse of those in such rooms with doors – here abuse of boys by men, men wanting new lanyards? – watched by one already with memories of being thus abused. A telling staccato of deadpan irony. Seeking a wholeness withered, a final gestalt gone.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-lees/
THERE IS MUCH ELSE IN BLACK STATIC IN ADDITION TO ITS FICTION
I am afraid I failed to get any handle on the first story in INTERZONE:
THE KINDEST GOD IS LIGHT by Joanna Berry
I may try to read it again in the future, outside the scope of my reviewing processes.
My previous review of Joanna Berry: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/interzone-277/#comment-13766
SHE AND I AND WE by Timothy Mudie
“This is the woman I’m going to be become.”
For me, this will become a genuine time travel classic story. And if I tell you why, that will spoil it. Suffice to say it’s ostensibly narrated alternately by both parties of the same self. It also has Time as the door opening for the woman to woman love preluded above by Black Static. A tattoo upon a tattoo, in scales of flesh that only Time can flay? Or such tattoos’ palimpsest as the birthmark of a third? To be and become.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/timothy-mudie/
DENT-DE-LION by Natalia Theodoridou
“Maybe that’s what miracles are: Accidents.”
Where cosmically Occident and Orient meet, the orientation of Accident?
On one level, a genuinely compelling, well-described SF tale of a woman, the first human (or not?) on a planet seeking a plant cure for a human sickness. “We used to name viruses after their cause; I guess it takes real desperation to start naming an illness after the thing you hope might cure it.” And finding what she was looking for as an alien plant but a hybrid with our dandelion. Together with the backstory of her wife back home and the man who hovers above the planet helping her remotely. All factored into, on another level, a more tantalising dream-like backstory of flower origami, a memory of a lake, spacecraft doors or ports being opened in tune with the dandelion teeth of parallel time, the single but hybrid self in the previous story and the implications for a Sapphic love beyond such a door as was in Black Static.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/natalia-theodoridou/
PARASITE ART by David Tallerman
“My eyes — what I think of as my eyes — can differentiate more shades than that sullen red star should allow: pastel violets, oranges, and yellows.”
This turned out to be an important story for me, especially having renamed this website The Literary Parhelion in recent weeks. The balance of book and reviewer, which is subsuming which? Here we have the Aesthetic equivalent in painting. It also resonates with the symbiosis of selves already adumbrated above in this review, now here a man on an ugly-seeming planet and an alien co-spirit whose memories and dreams he shares, as he paints — and as he survives on this planet actually by means of this co-spirit as well as its vestigial body around his neck, too. The story is also rhapsodic and entrancing in itself as a stand-alone. As he reaches some crisis with this co-spirit, and a woman he knows also with her own co-spirit, her own co-alien like his. The co-existent logistics of Aesthetics and human emotional or physical pragmatics.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-tallerman/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/real-time-review-of-tqf-37/
Note: my first encounter with Tallerman was in my personally significant review of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #37 in 2011: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/real-time-review-of-tqf-37/
“The balance of book and reviewer, which is subsuming which?”
Pingback: Tallerman’s Parasite Art | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews: A LITERARY PARHELION
THE DUCHESS OF DRINKE STREET by Tim Chawaga
DREAM OF THE HIGH MOUNTAIN by Daniel Bennett
For instinctive reasons beyond scrutiny, and as a rare exception to my usual reviewing processes, I decided to read the final two stories together before attempting to review them.
The Chawaga story, ironically, is not inauthentic and I just needed to read something else to neutralise its Taste. It is a provocative portrait of reviewing processes that here are applied to food and restaurants, but can be applied to any review. And my review above of the Joanna Berry and my reference above (stemming from the Tallerman) to a previous book review in my own writing history take on a new light here, a revelation, as it were. The Chawaga entertainingly deals with a city, New Lagos, let loose on the ocean as it were to take account of trading routes. “Better to ride the tides”. There is no way I can describe the full nature of it here – the natural evolution of culinary businesses and how they depend on a certain woman’s reviews. One business man whose cupcakes devastatingly achieve a one word review from her: “Inauthentic.” Their relationship thereafter is fascinating and how that relates — inadvertently but organically — to the spiritually rarefied Daniel Bennett story…
…that is part of the revelation, and again cannot be described but simply FELT. Bennett’s hotel retreat on a precarious coastline, with prescribed hallucinogenics, including random italicised lines for some DNA ‘egg’ of poetry thrown into space to take you as humanity beyond Terran apocalypse, a man who also sexually colludes with a feistily contra-opinionated woman, and he also has a daughter who once worked for the Chinese in Lagos…
The Soul or Mind as that launched poem but the hotel’s slippage brings things to a head. We are our work. When you write something you launch yourself as spiritual DNA of a new self (cf the co-soul in the stories above in this review) and reviews can destroy the self-authenticity of the creator in that light. Yet, as a Bennett character says, “Just because you’ve retreated from the world doesn’t mean the world stops feeling your influence. There’s an intimacy of connection which I think you don’t understand.” Gestalt, I say, in real-time. Dream of the High Mountain by the once “pale financial worker” described at the top of page 72 who once was me.
My previous reviews of Tim Chawaga here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-chawaga/ and Daniel Bennett here:
THERE IS MUCH MORE TO ‘INTERZONE’ IN ADDITION TO ITS FICTION
Just dawned on me – I am 72 this coming January!
Cross-referenced the Daniel Bennett with Dead Astronauts here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/12/05/dead-astronauts-jeff-vandermeer/#comment-17506
Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews: A LITERARY PARHELION
The two separate references to Lagos above replicated here a few days later: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/12/06/vastarien-a-literary-journal-fall-2019/#comment-17520