SYNTH #4: An Anthology of Dark SF


Edited by CM Muller

Stories by Mike Adamson, Forrest Aguirre, Donna Scott, Daniel Marrone, David Gill, Vicki Lindem, Steve Toase, and Jay Caselberg.

When I read this publication, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

9 thoughts on “SYNTH #4: An Anthology of Dark SF

  1. Naevus by Mike Adamson

    “It seemed the world was only looking for something new to tear itself apart over, and this minor mutation was the spark that touched off an inferno.”

    The Europa Bug creating a stripe down the face of half of us who are susceptible to it makes me believe that being a remainer is like being a leaver in the first place. A thoughtful piece that everyone will use to defend their own position in whatever dichotomy emerges. We are all lepers not leapers, I guess, whatever half we end up in, whatever we keep, whatever we shun. Hope the stripe is benign to human flesh, though, and not divisive to the self itself. Time to delve deeper like a mole?

  2. 56ACB7FE-59F8-4C75-B2E9-A91DB54DF5BC
    Creatures of Breathtaking Beauty
    by Forrest Aguirre

    “It will be okay. We’ll live among stunning colors so bright and cheery they’ll chase the night away. Inside, we are all creatures of breathtaking beauty.”

    …but an intensely imaginative work towards the greater beauty of whiteness, and I could imagine it as a blank story eventually transcending John Cage, Arvo Part, Merleau-Ponty as philosopher, Ligeti’s Amosphères (that evolved in sound within Kubrick’s Space Odyssey), and this is indeed a story about Astronautics, picking up the Alien ‘virus or blessing’ theme (earlier represented by the stripe in the previous story), blending in the feisty femaleness in the occupation, of Astonautics, the female narrator and her hospitalised grandmother who was thus afflicted or blessed by the ‘craziness’ of the so-called virus…

    “To their pure white universe, populated by microscopic colorful beings whose primary purpose in existing is to connect all living things in a circle of love and light. She thinks that they live inside her head and that she’s some sort of conduit for their message.”

    A father daughter relationship, too. And Antarctica drops. The narrator’s name is Lieutenant Li. Ironically, the tenant Li of lieu as place not space . I am still working on this CRAZEE poignant story. Towards my own Nirvirusana.

    Whiteness versus contamination of it from beyond Neptune. But superimposed within a white soul…

    “…she might be describing life as lived in a Yosuke Ueno painting: vivid colors superimposed on white, surreal, almost comical characters in a lilting, laughing world of child-like saccharine happiness. She was rarely unhappy.”

    My previous reviews of this author: and

  3. Toast by Donna Scott

    “That was odd . . . all the flowers were purple now. She’d wanted Hyperreal, not Fantasy-Blend, what a pain!”

    Matty reminds me of what Lieutenant Li experienced, and vice versa, although quite different women. This equally remarkable story tells of Matty and her various roles in life as if ascertainable on some ‘cloud’, but mis-synchronised at one point by her father when the toast burnt, or did it? The colour of pyjamas as a young child and the cryology tank (?) of time travel (?) and when In old age (cf the senile dementia dealt with by the Tems here today, earlier, before I read this Scott.) And I loved it, although I might have mis-understood it, or at least synchronised my reading of it at the wrong age, or in the wrong era!

    “, her vision fogged with thick violet-tinged liquid as she caught the light/ dark shapes…”

  4. In the Garden at Gethsemane by Daniel Marrone

    “…death was within kissing distance, immanent and inexorable.”

    Both immanent and imminent. A priest and a younger man escape the invasion and the horrific nature of the invasion is conveyed in meticulous textured honesty of prose that conveys it better, I would say, than any other means of virtual reality or above ‘cloud’ omniscience. Escape back to the priest’s own house where a key still fits a room for refuge. Both rue their respective loved ones from a lost past. But there is some eponymously hinted redemption here, even a reclamation, for the main narrative protagonist alongside the two separate mis-synchronous or omniscient glimpses we are allowed of the younger one’s point of view, too. Beyond abandonment of self or suicide. Immanent and imminent … inexorable endlessly.

  5. Everything Happens for a Reason
    by David Gill

    “Plants with faces. It was like people who saw the Virgin Mary in slices of toast: you really had to use your imagination.”

    Other than that bit, this story itself IS pareidolia rather than being about or including items of such classic pareidolia. Imagination is probably useless, then, because the characters — a couple, the woman pregnant, but pregnant with what? — are not allowed to deviate from an overall plan of some ‘dongle superstructure’ of alienage, not unlike this book’s erstwhile ‘omniscient cloud’. When she misses her appointment for the set time of her childbirth process, she is fetched by the authorities. The couple, heretofore, have been creating a mandala like a jigsaw, one of grubs and cultures as an oblique part of this plan. This story was not part of my foreordained ‘unexpected shit day’, as the alchemy of this fiction in itself not only turned my shit into gold, but also allowed me to associate its own ‘storks’ with the miraculously synchronous quest for a ‘house of storks’ in the story ‘Dürer, The Idiot’ here that I happened to read and review today just before reading this one!

  6. Static by Vicki Lindem

    “The Mnemonic ad taunts me, reminding me why I’m here.”

    I admired this story and I liked its style, but did I fully understand it? Probably not. I am 72 and possibly have Alzheimer’s creeping up on me. Who knows? I possibly did understand it, though, by osmosis or by this book’s erstwhile ‘omniscient cloud’ themes, themes of gestalt here used for mnemonics and gangsterish conspiracy (possibly porn and gambling business) role-playing, as a girl who can empathise having balls by her osmosis skills and possibly gets her woman in the end. All tied up with Alzheimers and analog music providing the traction over life’s too easy digital. Know what that means! Never static, whatever age.

    “It blocks those pesky remorseful morsels from rearing their heads,…”

  7. From My Rotting Body, Flowers Shall Bloom
    by Steve Toase

    “They were territorial, rarely straying to other sections of the vast cadaver.”

    Somehow ravens embedded in those words. And rap here:

    “…one many-limbed lump of scrap metal.
    Stefan rapped his knuckles against their skin, an echo returning.”

    This is a rap, a tour de force, that prefigured and later becomes a ‘Companion Folder’ for Dead Astronauts. Read it and see. Read both and see. A fox near the word ‘bruises’….an origami fox. Without knowing each other till now, both works came out concurrently in honour of the Literary Gestalt we all now seek as a means to an end for our times. To fashion a way against mankind’s sins by such a rotting ore of fire.
    A story of a metal and flesh virus, feeding off a metal crane’s tumour, one to the other and back again, we hope, and the ability or not to ‘return’, along with rot and stench. Counter jib and counterweight. A wonderful reading experience that transcends reading itself and one that will make you inspired as well as sad. Only reading it will justify the experience of so doing.

    “Stefan watched microscopic bruises erupt on the surface. The folding continued until the fox rocked from side to side, each foot on point.”

    That balcony cliff, that last balcony…

    “On the balcony he pinioned the first origami fox over the railing,…”

    And there is also the DNA…

    “And you? Who will return you?”

    “Stefan had no memories of his creation,…”

    Not forgetting the swan.

    My previous reviews of this author:

  8. She’s Ultraviolet by Jay Caselberg

    “My window stared out over lean, unclean streets and alleyways. ‘Mean Streets’.”

    Some nifty phrases here and nifty story-telling until the second half of the story. Echoing sounds that we heard overnight in our heads in real-time… “Sirens, choppers, other sounds, thrumming and drifting, hanging for a moment then fading into the darkness, stirring the civilization soup…” with “slime and grime”, the well-characterised narrator, amid piecemeal infatuations, reaching out amid the cycles of Toynbeean challenge-and-response by gestalt humanity: technology, communication, human separation, togetherness again, countryside again, city again, technology again — reaching out for this book’s ‘omniscient cloud’ in the shape of his loved one called Susanne as a face in the clouds amid the sirens and choppers of Bladerunner-type mnemonic ad hugescreen time… I was less enamoured of the story’s dating-agency denouement. Without it, I feel, this would have been a more organic story and more in tune as a fine coda to the viral synthphony of this whole book.


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