TTA PRESS Jan – Feb 2020
My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tta-press-interzone-black-static/
Stories by Gregor Hartmann, Julie C. Day, Daniel Bennett, Andy Dudak, John Possidente, Stephen Volk, Keith Rosson, Maria Haskins, Jack Westlake, Gregory Norman Bossert.
When I read the fiction in these magazines, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
SICKO by Stephen Volk
“Alfred? It didn’t matter.”
This novelette is a real page-turner, one about a woman tempted to abscond with money from where she worked and drive off in a car world where people talked about I LOVE LUCY and DESI. A clever theme and variations on a story from an improbable but possible way of mispronouncing SICKO, creative chips off the old block, as it were.
“Expected it to be a shower – shower, ha! —“
Some very nifty descriptions here and I wonder – with an astonishing last line disguised as a throwaway one – how many places she had actually stayed in till she had hit the lucky jackpot.
“…she thought everybody could see that she’d had sex…”
A potential classic.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/stephen-volk/
And there is another ‘Block’ later below…
YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE by Keith Rosson
“Can’t we just, like, pull water up from the ocean? Like a bucket shower or whatever?”
Another one I really liked, not necessarily because I have been listening to the latest Freak Zone as I read it, a radio show full of folk horror rock, nor necessarily because this is a story about a Swedish doom band and I recently watched Midsommar where, in a Swedish commune, all 72 year olds were terminated at that age; I am 72 in the next few days. We get to learn of the well-evoked interactions with a cruise ship manager of the three characters making up the band and between themselves, having been hired for the ‘island’ commune of a cruise ship so as to entertain and create therapy for Children of Pre-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (my underlining.) As the cruise ship cruised the group were only allowed to play choice, ‘uncussing’, suitable songs for such children, with disagreements about political correctness tellingly emerging, while the world outside the cruise ship is being attacked by alien monsters. (My underlining.) The latter phenomenon is most effectively conveyed, and the ending is just perfect.
Cross-referenced the Rosson with Ralph Robert Moore’s Career Opportunity: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/14/breathing-through-my-nose-ralph-robert-moore/#comment-17927
CLEAVER, MEAT, AND BLOCK by Maria Haskins
“Look ahead. Make the best of things. That’s what people say.
What they mean is, forget.”
A striking cleaver, one that is clever, I guess. With a satisfying heft and weight, as well as possibly its own autonymity. This is 14 year old Hannah’s cleaver, given to her by grandparents for her working in their butcher shop. And it is as meat we start, and meat we end. [Look ahead. Make the best. What it says above about forgetting. But during the cleaving polarity of Brexit, a Leaver stays the same inimical force forever, even after Brexit’s done! My theory, not necessarily the story’s intention to convey.] Here it isn’t Brexit as such but more a Plague and the township where her grandparents’ butcher shop was one of the few that were relatively unscathed by the Plague and the polarity of Raveners versus non-Raveners. Similarly, the ‘island’ commune in the previous story did witness a monstrous scourge of invasion from afar. And, now, one Ravener, Pete, a youth sniffing around Hannah, cannot forget the rending and riving he once did. No Plague cure fully works, I guess, and the implications of such intense and rawly meaty repercussions are compellingly described in this story.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/interzone-280/#comment-15152
WE DIDN’T ALWAYS LIVE IN THE WOODS
by Jack Westlake
“It felt like anything could be out there, looking in.”
I often mark marginalia with pencilled smudges or sidelining to aid my real-time reviews. Today this had already been done for me, as if I had been here already, but forgotten. Listening to birdsong in Rautavaara music, by chance, as I read this work today. Waiting for midsommar’s midwynter to bring the onset of a tree-like growth to claustromorphise me, my long-term pareidolia or apophenia to come in the shape of what I have long called the Yieldingtree to take me away from my contribution to life’s couplings. This is what went through my mind as another islanded commune (whether big or small) for this set of fictions here tells of watching the shapes of alien forces outside the farmhouse, earlier outside a cruise ship or a village or an early 1960s car, the onset of some Birnam wood to Dunsinane that the fallibility of those within the enclave need to synergise to combat. Even only a single loving couple one of whom, through apparent weakness or disloyalty, has allowed the alien forces thus to begin impinging. Weakness is only a misplaced strength that the gestalt eventually needs, I guess, a gestalt or gaia of all of us, whatever the give and take of nature as pantheistic protector or inimical monster, a give and take that build or weaken us, as we build or weaken them.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/jack-westlake/
From internet in 2016: “Now the Birnam Oak, which aged at least 500-years-old is the only tree to survive from Shakespeare’s time, is in danger after being damaged by flooding when Storm Desmond hit last December.”
Cross-referenced with THE CHUNNER here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/14/allus-cold-by-matt-leyshon/#comment-17897
THE HEARTS OF ALL by Gregory Norman Bossert
“Fallow tried to summon more of the Browning poem, but it was Dante who came instead. ‘But tell me, if thou know’st, what shall at length befall the citizens of the divided city,’ Fallow asked the horse.”
This is an amazing piece that is still working hard on me as I write this. From, inadvertently or deliberately, Browning to a feel of King’s Dark Tower, then to this whole symphony of Black Static fiction for which this becomes the perfect coda, with the Realtor echoing the Reality/Realty in ‘Sicko’, the divided city quoted above of earlier Raveners and Non-Raveners, the islanded commune with outside inimical forces now possibly winning through or being destroyed (“It was hard to believe anything outside survived,”) e.g. the fires that beset our planet, can a candle create such destruction from a candle or a dream of a candle, or was it a backhoe on a gasline or another Chernobyl? Or Gaia destroyed by mankind itself, the act of lying fallow forever — whereby reality is simply a property/realty leased from non-reality that eventually outdoes us all in complexity — being due punishment for mankind? Even King’s OY or a human-like dog or horse, innocently caught up in the suburbs’ flames and ashes, from which is ironically or absurdly manufactured glass sculptures of human beings? And much more I cannot adumbrate here. Or at least not yet. A fine visionary panoply of words. Our only hope, such poetry.
My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/07/11/the-best-horror-of-the-year-volume-9/#comment-10221
There end the stories in Black Static. There is much else in this magazine to enjoy in addition to the fiction.
Later cross-referenced the Bossert with my review of Dead Astronauts.
In due course, I will be reviewing the stories in Interzone below.
EACH CELL A THRONE by Gregor Hartmann
The title continues the Black Static themes above of an insular commune versus the odds outside it. Here it is a commune as your single self (instead of involving other selves) against the odds of attrition or entropy that are trying to destroy you from outside your own island of flesh as self. Involving an intellectual tussle between a woman commissioned by your wife to stop you effectively committing suicide (as she maintains you are doing), i.e. to stop you becoming part of a cybernetic ecology as a means towards immortality, a form, as she might put it, of Null Immortalis. The arguments she makes weave through philosophy (eg Cartesian ideas etc.), biology (eg the interweaving of flesh and self) and religion (eg the Pathway that I think we have met in Hartmann before.) Turing Test, et al. Satan as a virus. You are a very old man, currently maintained by exoskeleton and other wild means, and being 72 tomorrow, I at least begin to empathise! Except he is rich! She needs the money from this commission to maintain her mother in a nursing home, or so she maintains! Her mother a body without a mind. The old man to be a mind without a body. There are vast stretchings of mental ability needed to absorb this highly sophisticated virage as an exoskeleton of words, and I am not sure I managed it. But I think I understood the twist at the end. That last wrested vestige of motivation on her part. The algorithms of algae, too. Involving fish oil, perhaps.
“She’d even invoked a religion she didn’t believe in.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/gregor-hartmann/
FLYOVER COUNTRY by Julie C. Day
“Our futures — memories — lives — the plunder of this purloined age.”
Again, there are vast stretchings of mental ability needed to absorb this highly sophisticated virage. And, again, I think I got it, but with no possible way of making you get it without you reading it, absorbing its contrails across the sky of your islanded brain or self, a self, here, called Immie, who owns a bra, as well as a brain, and who calls a lover Sam ‘they’, as you do, till they (Sam AND Immie?) come back as promised, come back SOON, aligned with memories of a girl Immie grew up with, Marigold, but Immie today is planting purple pansies, mowing grasshopper nymphs, and AeroFix, for whom Immie works, is a sort of overpower like Facebook in the far-near future that controls that sky I mentioned with those contrails, whatever the rashes induced by spray zones. “Logic illness”, “job-modified bodies”, a “viral apocalypse”. Immie is the groundworker for an airfield, often alone, and is visited suddenly by flyers, including Sam. Viral transformations and degradations, backhoes to dig the mown grass, porta potties. I actually LIVE the “daisy chain of connections” wrought this time in my own brain, not Immie’s, by this elusive story, but a “MISSED CONNECTIONS” section, too. “Angel pathways”, though, not missed as a connection with the Hartmann above. Insect exoskeletons, too. Aiming towards cyclical perfection. Or towards Null Immortalis. Immie. I’m me.
“Not my images. Not my imagination. Not me.”
My previous reviews of this author and their works: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/julie-c-day/
FRANKIE by Daniel Bennett
“It seems to me that grief was the one remaining decadence of these days. It was almost a treason.”
…almost a reason, too. And somehow I was induced not to worry that I did not seem to understand this story, although I remain confident that if it were understandable I would have understood it. Or at least received understanding via a subconscious osmosis. Meanwhile, I infer Frankie’s brother travelling to see the shack where Frankie had died, meeting their mutual sister, too, Frankie now become a sort of cult figure or messiah owing to his regular blog, poetic sections of which we are shown in italics, although the last section is in italics too. But that may explain how there is a refrain of dated incantations of “ah death” as if Frankie was, and still is, in a state of this magazine’s Null Immortalis. The eternal pain that kills.
All of this amid the prevailing of an attritional near-future war. And a Proustian return to memories. Perhaps I may understand it better once I have read the two remaining stories in this magazine. Not that I believe there has been any writerly collusion. Only preternatural connections yet to be discovered.
“Painkiller memories. The kill that pains.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/daniel-bennett/
SALVAGE by Andy Dudak
“Aristy is no voyeur, but she can’t help a brief audit of the virtual shack and its contents.”
Frankie’s shack? Well, yes, and more, inadvertently and in tune with the viral transformations of this magazine’s fiction so far. Bending my mind, as I try to cope with all the names thrown at me, and as before I think I get it by osmosis and by preternatural connection. For example, by connection with the Murakami book (that I am reading and reviewing at the moment here) and with Murakami’s Don Giovanni statues, ready to upload. Aristy, an older woman, is among statues and salvaging them, as I have just salvaged this novelette, for my own inspiration, salvaging this novelette itself from potential confusions, diaspora denial and turning inward. A quantum Zeno effect resonating with my own 72nd birthday observations here a couple of days ago: and Zeno Paradox effects throughout my gestalt real-time reviewing for the last eleven years, a process and a phenomenon at keeping, I hope, with Aristy’s fight against an ancient dictatorship by uploading and punishing the dictator involved and uploading claimants against him (one claimant being the Night Soil Collector) by hacking them back to life from Pompeiian-like statues. Complete with Murakami’s prayer bell ringing, a humming-bird drone, alien forces as underclocking Curators, being up to code — and Bogle-Men. Humans and Murakami’s dolphins. The overall plot and its characters are far too complicated for me but I got something significant from it somehow. It is not fundamentally anything like the Murakami plot but it is in viral transformation with it and with the previous stories in this Interzone. All of this Dudak finely SF-wrought separately and independently but coming together after the event, like Aristy’s mission itself? The cloud forest above.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/andy-dudak/
Cf the status of statues
– and the quid pro quo of stoicism in Null Immortalis above in this review of the Interzone fiction so far.
THE DEAD MAN’S COFFEE by John Possidente
“Everything is far away in space.”
Gestalt-resistant, without connections to anything else but itself, yes, completely discrete, but also completely discreet (see Rule J-175 to prevent anyone putting their foot in it) — a gratuitously enjoyable description as if by an inferred, supposed judiciously redacted, monologue issued to us from a flaky journalist in a future retro-café situated on a microgravity planet, where feisty Mollie who runs it does not give tabs to freeloaders like him, where unloading or dumping personal waste is rather stinky, with coffee to idolise and differentiate, a juke box, and the eponymous dead man with enviro-difficult facial hair, dead because he is as good as dead judging by what is due to happen to him…and much loose talk about “greenies” as a racial insult and sharia law (but there Rule J-175 now comes into play again even for those writing fiction reviews as well as breaking news about a Chinese photovore virus)…
There end the stories in Interzone. There is much else in this magazine to enjoy in addition to the fiction.
Above Illo for Possidente by Richard Wagner
The dead man with coffee, the dead men earlier standing, null immortalis…
And today, newspaper articles about: ‘Maths experts zero in on secret to perfect espresso’
And now read today in the Murakami book mentioned earlier above:
Later cross-referenced again, this time to a ghost in a coffee shop!
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