TTA Press Nov-Dec 2020
My previous reviews of this publisher here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tta-press-interzone-black-static/
Stories by Steve Rasnic Tem, Philip Fracassi, Shaenon K. Garrity, David Martin, Françoise Harvey, Eric Schaller.
When I read the fiction in this magazine, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
THE GUARDIAN by Philip Fracassi
“The tight-lipped woman, who had introduced herself on the dock as Karyn (‘With a Y,’ she’d explained as if it mattered.)”
Everything matters, or nothing does. This is an utterly page-turning series of scary events that happen to three young heterosexual couples, landed by fervent and handsome Manu upon the most secluded beautiful beach in the world, with possible promise of a lū’au. Or a wedding ring. If I tell you more, it would spoil it. Suffice to say that it will be a long time before I go on a beach again! I’ll stay among the trees.
As an aside, I note that ‘Calathus fracassii’ is a species of ground beetle.
Who needs the guardian, the reader or the author himself?
My many other reviews of Philip Fracassi: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/philip-fracassi/
Cross-referenced with ‘The White Cat’ here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/11/02/best-british-short-stories-2020/#comment-20304
THE DEAD OUTSIDE MY DOOR by Steve Rasnic Tem
“The world of the dead was every bit as unequal and unjust as the world of the living.”
Outside the door, so, beyond our own lockdowns today, ironically. And, usually, till now, I feel practised in revealing stories recently published that are instinctively prophetic about our situation today, but were written before this situation actually started. This work, I somehow sense, was written after it started, i.e. written during last Spring? It is a truly wonderful evocation of ‘zombie apocalypse’ fiction, a unique form of it where the dead are akin to gradually desiccating kites, and where the protagonist, Jay, wonders if the condition is airborne or not, but he keeps his attic flues open, with spring foliage climbing up the lower walls and windows. This work explicitly differentiates between ‘waking dreams’ and ‘sleeping dreams’ and, so, I feel this is a co-vivid dream that now resides commonly for us all between these two types of dreaming, this dream couched in pure classic Rasnic Tem, a dream that conveys feelings about our predicament today, conveys it with the poetic truth of fiction without which such feelings could not exist.
My many other reviews of Rasnic Tem: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/
“There are so many dreams beyond our nights,…”
THE RABBIT: A MEMORY OR A DREAM
by Françoise Harvey
“And I can list those elements of reality; all those pieces of the picture that do not quite fit together but are, instead, as a collage in a frame, building an indistinct whole.”
This inspiring literary work, one that somehow makes me want to fit together things that don’t otherwise fit together, so much in tune with what is in the air of my own autonomous thoughts, and presumably of yours, too, ranging widely, today, out of control in the open fields like wild rabbits to be triangulated into that co-operative vividness adumbrated above with the previous story. This Harvey is a telling portrait of a woman dreaming memories, or remembering dreams about her girlhood and what she did to a rabbit, methodically listing out logical motives and poetic ingredients as if to pattern things might give her exoneration. About her mother and sisters, too. About latent dementia. It made me think, too, that pet is one letter short of pest. And a pestilential virus of rabbits from the 1950s that I recall: a Myxomatosis that here mixes this minx of memory with the milder mind of Morpheus? And as with the church spire metaphor in the other work of this author that I have read, the downside of everything being viewable from the height of one’s own oneiric oneness is that everyone everywhere can equally view that once secret oneness from below. So, on second thoughts, not a downside alone, I guess, but an upside, too. Each of us, perhaps, with our own bespoke thought-out listings, together generating the triangulated coordinates of guilt’s reconciliation? A mixed collage as gestalt.
My previous review of this author:
See also BACKBONE by K.J. Orr: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/11/02/best-british-short-stories-2020/#comment-20283
From the previous story’s initial need to ‘find the edges’ of itself, to the next story’s several references to its own various “edges” where the edges of the printed story itself also partially block the page numbers…
FOSSIL LIGHT by David Martin
“Politely, but relentlessly, they are gathering around our front door, ashy flakes like the wings of moths. I slip between them and rattle my key in the lock.”
I literally whistled with complete respect for this story upon finishing it. It is something truly special, a specialness that is enhanced more, if that were possible, by the context of the fiction so far and by this publication’s artwork designs. It has the similar ‘dead outside the door’ of the Rasnic Tem, but it also has them inside the house where the narrator with a pierced tongue has found a gaff with a boy friend who is still obsessed with his ex. A town of cliff face terraced housing, spliffs, and rooftops where the lonely ones perch and either gaze at the rest of the town so beautifully and darkly spread out before us or at the cosmos beyond where the stars are already dead. The narrator is truly believable as a cinema projectionist upon the edge of being digitalised out …haunted in the projection booth by a shape of a presence not a million miles from the shapes outside the front door of the house, the booth whence the shining films can be viewed, via the dust motes (in my day it was smoke)….
The narrator’s name is Jessica Ruth Hodgson. And am I right in detecting at least a husk of hope in her eventual decision by the time we reach the final edge of her story here?
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/david-martin/
I sense that Jessica’s booth in the previous story often projected the classic film of Frankenstein, and now there is, in the next story, the “unfinished skeleton” of a railroad towards which Jessica’s train might have headed…
THE BRIDE by Shaenon K. Garrity
“You could take your shoes off, walk on white sand, let the water kiss your feet. But it’s so hot.”
I sense the soul of all the female protagonists in any of the other stories I have read in the last few days, linked to and from this real-time review, share a soul with the woman in this
ingenious Garrity work, the woman herself a mad scientist’s refrain of serial women, radiated body to radiated body, your own story, as a woman, becoming a self-confessed autonomous story with a Zeno’s Paradox “as time halves itself into infinity.” You can climb on or off this story wherever you like, whether it be an airplane or a train or, as here, a car you drive through the slick modernity of America towards Florida Keys. Towards the white sand where, I infer, even the earlier fracassii “edge away as she walks the beaches.” Although this is a true story where it is said the mad scientist got away with what he did, I wonder if the story will eventually allow you to reach its final edge, and discover whose body is hot-rotted away by the event horizon.
HELL AND A DAY by Eric Schaller
“…to rip aside those cobwebs of memory. He knew that porch.”
The front door that had gobbled her up. A story by an author whose works I have loved for some years (my reviews linked from here), and this one is no exception. Somehow recommended by Amazon Prime a film where he finds the characters boring, but the house where they lived seems like where he used to live twenty years before. An old Victorian house which he now seeks out. A detective investigating his own past. With our today’s themes of morphing dreams of memories – or memories of dreams – and one of them is a woman (?) whom he used to find in his own bed making up to him. And the cat. The story as well as his repeat watching of the morphing film from popular straightforwardness into something more arty makes this feel very creepy. Dust in the film, pollen, or hyphae, and seeming disassembling or fading humans as the dead desiccating in Tem. An invisibe Guardian Angel as in the Fracassi. And that tabby cat sitting on the yellowed linoleum finally becoming this story’s much earlier “explosion of fungal spores”? Connections always happen. Corrections of time, too. And this is one of the best, even if unintended!
There is much else in ‘Black Static’ in addition to its fiction.