Black Static #74

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TTA PRESS Mar-Apr 2020

My previous reviews of this publisher: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tta-press-interzone-black-static/

Stories by Matt Thompson, Christopher Kenworthy, Andrew Reichard, Ray Cluley, Ainslie Hogarth, Seán Padraic Birnie.

Covfefe permitting, I shall review these stories in the comment stream below…

19 thoughts on “Black Static #74

  1. BLACK STATIC

    .
    MEMORIES OF THE OCCUPATION by Matt Thompson

    “Viktor turned away, suddenly fearful of contagion. Clotted phlegm gurgled in the back of the man’s throat.”

    So as to grab hold of it and its characters properly, I don’t know whether I am meant to read this story twice. Indeed, so as to plumb its intensely dark scenario of a city suffering a plague or whether our own plague today has garbled my mind against ratiocination. Whatever the case, I did follow Viktor in a society of competing forces and their religions, one of which religions is a veritable plague of frenzied prostration in prayer at the altars, and another religion that attempts to martyr or sacrifice young Viktor for having tipped the seemingly already dead martyrs of the other religion into the river. If you ask me, the whole powerful panoply is of a spiritual and physical plague subsuming ALL the characters and even ALL the readers! It certainly did me! Worth reading for many aspects, particularly the overwhelming sight of Zviv’s church spire across this city.

    “Some believe this plague is a punishment.”

    My previous reviews of Matt Thompson: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matt-thompson/

  2. SHATTERING by Christopher Kenworthy

    “…some sort of daft voodoo.”

    “When you feel safe, like something is predictable and can’t ever go wrong, it goes wrong.”

    Any idiot could have seen the connection. Why does that ring a bell, a co-resonance of stuffing someone’s mouth to death and elsewhere it happens again, due deserts? This is the story of a narrator and another boy called Liam in a dark grotesque village that is more serious than the already dark slapstick of a village you might have in mind when I said that. A sort of brigade of mutual boyish martyship to match the previous story above. A sort of growing gestalt of cruel accidents caused by deliberate actions elsewhere, a phenomenon that is, I feel, so at one with the circumstances around us today. How can such a short story do all that? Well, that’s what I have found to be the interconnective power of fiction. THIS fiction that someone must have written out as if by a would-be superman transformed from some Clark Kent of synchronicity? Makes you smile. One step towards the real Dad above? My own dawning dementia leading me with some degree of deliberation that is poised between a tipping point of clarity and confusion… the shattering evidence is loaded into this magazine…
    “Forgetting would be the same as if things didn’t happen.”

    Yet, I seem to remember that my stories once appeared thirty years ago in two books edited/published by this author. My previous review of his work: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/sullom-hill/

  3. THE NEW YOU by Ainslie Hogarth

    “Dad shrugged, immersed in a serious leather notebook spread across his lap: ‘Ian’s Rules of the House.’”

    I desperately want to share some of the details of this story’s plot with you, but I soon realised that anything I divulge will spoil what I genuinely believe to be a very special story. So utterly well-written and inadvertently driven as a mutual synergy with what I happen to be reading here as Honeybones, both works having just been newly published separately in recent days. They are so different, but they are also sisters, creating the Annie here and the Anna there, after the endless ‘cottage’ here like the House of Mirrors there — and after funerals, and involving computer-game and shopping-scan projections of characters from earlier traumas, here little yellow-pollen forgeries and game projections as people, and there in Honeybones who-yet-fully-knows-what as I am only halfway in reading and reviewing it. The two literary works are now sisters who will soon find each other at last, I guess: “Legs entwined, chests pressed together, strong as a talisman, bound by their coding, their helices,…” THE NEW YOU, meanwhile, as a discrete story, is something seriously unmissable by all genre and literature readers. I don’t often say that.

    “, how so much nature survives by hiding.”

  4. A quote from HONEYBONES, a TTA novella that I just finished reviewing here:
    “And when he spoke, his voice made me feel like I was choking on feathers and dust,…”
    And so, from the Cully King to the Cluley one…

    ***

    IN THE WAKE OF MY FATHER by Ray Cluley

    “There’s a tiny gap between the stories we tell ourselves and those we tell others and that’s where you’ll find the truth.”

    “My responsibility that day was mostly to backfill, stopping up gaps with smaller stones… […] My father’s job was to place or reposition the through-stones, stones that would hold the wall firm over the years…”

    Using the memorably effective metaphor of dry stone-walling (unlike stone-walling as a different metaphor, one depicting the ‘in denial’ of life’s fallibilities until you understand them as Jake does here) this is instinctively artistic Jake’s telling us about father-son relationships, his with his own arguably dodgy father. And, as a twelve year old, helping his father build walls on the fells – and later Jake’s own unsatisfactory life as a petty criminal. All this, with another metaphor that is too real to be called a metaphor at all: an intensely gory image regarding a dead ewe that Jake sketched close to where they were dry-stoning, and what erupted from the body’s innards. As it does later, it seems, from within his own father’s chest during what must have been an unbearable prophecy of an oldster among many oldsters who are direly hospitalised today…

    “I look at him now, withered in his bed, and I think of his lungs, black as a crow’s wingspan…”

    My previous reviews of the Cluley: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/ray-cluley/

  5. THE TURN by Seán Padraic Birnie

    “— she did not think she had ever heard such silence before: […]; only her breathing, which in the dark might have come from someone else’s lips, breaths drawn from a stranger’s lungs.”

    The desolately haunting story of Marie as her car dies on an unlit country road near Lewes, with thoughts of what she now considers to have been a crazy mission to see someone to whom she sounds very attached called Anna (the Anna from Honeybones?)… as this unfolds powerfully, with her fears of another car on this lonely road crashing into her stationary one, and she meets not Anna but another woman with the petrol she needs… but is it? Did she have a petroleum car and this was diesel, as it says at one point, I wondered? Even though it seemed to power the car onward for a nonce, I wondered if I was learning about deeper and prophetic meanings towards a gestalt here of our still open-ended predicament in real-time today…

    “…the world was a system of black boxes nested within black boxes like Matryoshka dolls and how powerless she was when things broke down.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/sean-padraic-birnie/

    • Re the Matryoshka dolls above…

      “Much remains to be known about how these two particular viruses affect human health, while many viruses within parasites — and perhaps even within viruses themselves — are likely yet to be identified. We may come to realize that many parasitic clinical conditions are like onions: they have layers.”
      — ‘Viruses that Infect Parasites that Infect Us: The Matryoshka Dolls of Human Pathogens’ (from HERE.)

      [cf the Dreemy Peeple dolls in Honeybones.]

  6. “They could see the lighthouse shining on Quarantine Island,…”
    Quoted in my very recent review of the Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield here.

    WHITE CEDAR, WHITE BIRCH by Andrew Reichard

    “He thought about Veldyne sitting on the cot in the quarantine barracks that Corey had designated for such a purpose and how it wasn’t fair anymore to subject someone to loneliness for the safety of the rest of them.”

    On one level this is a compelling virus story (with zombie apocalypse implications?) taking place on a striking genius-loci of a quarantine island and its atmosphere and horizons, with interactive character interest. “In the spring, they watched like meerkats the mainland.” However, I am not sure when this story was written, but I can hardly believe that it would have been before the outbreak of the Wuhan virus in January and the circumstances we find ourselves in today. Yet, in an engaging style, the other level of the story truly resonates with all of these factors. Is Corey, for example, short for Corona? And there are themes of quarantine as “solitary confinement”, “stockpiles of food”, “Some people, it seemed, were built for doomsday”, “Only islands like these are truly safe anymore – truly cut off”, not knowing how the virus spreads, “a physical sinus-sting that caused Corey to cough”, “he didn’t understand breathing. Not that he didn’t catch the mechanics of lung and heart” …….. and with the story’s title a certain hope after “Some analytical and retaliatory part of his mind wondered if the Earth, if nature had somehow manufactured the virus to destroy the species that was destroying it”, which brings me back to the quote about ‘punishment’ that I showed above in connection with the first story!

    There is much else in Black Static in addition to its fiction, a hope beyond imagination.

    end

  7. Pingback: Third World War As An Unseen ‘Cloud’ | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: Books as a Merging of Wood, Metal & Stone into one Block.

  8. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | THE DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS: Books as a Merging of Wood, Metal & Stone into one Block.

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