Vastarien, Vol 3, Issue 1

A Literary Journal – GRIMSCRIBE PRESS 2020

Work by Dean Paschal, Samantha Bolf, M. Christine Benner Dixon, Deborah Bridle, Jill Winsby-Fein, Avra Margariti, Elliott Gish, S. L. Edwards, Ramon Elani, Amar Benchikha, Pete Rawlik, Wade German, Christopher Ropes, Daphne Gem Host, Todd Keisling, Adrian Van Young.

My previous reviews of Vastarien: HERE

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

15 thoughts on “Vastarien, Vol 3, Issue 1

  1. How little did I know!
    I confirm that I posted that photo above before I read the first story below!

    MORIYA by Dean Paschal

    Paschal’s Wager is to throw his wrench into the works rather than a spanner. And the result is crepitating. This works FEELS to me like a classic fiction that has been multi-anthologised. But even if this is its first printing, it has a monumentality of endlessness — of Ligottian dollhood, ironIcally not as an anti-natalism of the spirit, but so as to transcend Ligottianism and give birth to oneself from within something already dead but clockworking and ticking with onward existence, wielding a highly sprung but slow motion flirtation of sexy sensuous epitomisation of one’s own soul. The clockmaker God having given him this gift, the girl that every 14 year old boy wants to undress slowly in a curative fashion, then to enter its niches and examine its shafts, explode like a bomb within it, fondle or examine its ivory bosom, its intrinsic nudity becoming obvious as its raison d’être. Its endless living soul as such a hybrid of you. ‘Its’ as short hand for ‘his/her’. YOR I AM.

  2. “; a clock meting out time, ticking, trickling.”
    from the next story forms a serendipitous segue with the previous one…

    THE QUERENT by Samantha Bolf

    From a ‘seance’ to a ‘sconce’, I believe this is the narrated story by adolescent Elizabeth, daughter of the medium as mother, mother as medium, who is visited by Theodora, an uninhibited woman, as part of some Sapphic paranoia that becomes the daughter and visiting woman almost embodied as one. Visions of men and other forces of darkness not a million miles from Crowley are engendered as staggering co-vivid dreams for the reader to soak in as if in a giant mouth as a bath. With a prose style to match! It seems to evoke Katherine Mansfield as filtered through Melanie Tem (see my many reviews of both authors), then even out-apotheosised by Bolf. Feathers and fears, God with a magpie’s head, yellow wallpaper et al.

    “: an alien lifeform bleeding and vomiting and shedding different strains of illness, an ever-creeping stalking thing that someday I will finally clean and devour.”

  3. A highly felt poem by M. Charlotte Benner Dixon (TO HER LORD, THE ALMIGHTY, UPON THE REVIVING OF EZEKIEL’S BONES) addressed to a ‘colossal braggart’ God, a modern day Donne, with arguably screaming mandrake roots uprooted and all.

    followed by an academic article…



    The reader’s tactile compulsion to read and infer this woman’s backstory while she suffers menstruation as if every gush is the same earlier miscarriage! Or do I exaggerate? Misremember, as I misremember whether Moriya had blood when the adolescent boy got within her. Anyways, this is indeed an inward push of needed memory to call the mechanic – but perhaps not for a mechanical doll? Whatever the case, we follow her trail to find a trail but a trail to or for what, out of the wilds of where she is now living. With a dog whose name is unknown, and like, her, I am suspicious of dogs. But back to her backstory – is it significant that menstruation starts with ‘men’, or stops? Cf the envisioned males in the Bolf.
    I loved reading tactilely, too, of the found plants she uses as poultices for wounds or for needed food like the melon she finds growing on an old compost heap. Ironic that compost is is the only sign of other people we meet on her fuzzy audit trail (or do I misremember again?) And the chunks she cuts without any blood at all.

  5. Effective free verse from the respective viewpoints of a cat and mouse as predator and prey entitled MUS MUSCULUS — WET SPECIMEN, FELIS CATUS — FULL-BODY MOUNT by Avra Margariti
    Which the most avaricious?
    An Iris can be colourful-flowery as well as inflamed. I have found this from a lifetime of sporadic iritis.
    If not Margaritis.

    followed by

    JUDAS GOAT by Elliott Gish

    The young eat the old if you let them.

    Or today if you expose them by your actions instead of shielding them!
    A telling and darkly engaging work of a female taxi driver on an unbusy Tuesday night, picking up a surprise fare, a girl – or is it a boy? Younger than her, even though the relatively young driver had only recently noticed a slight ageing in herself. The fare’s destination turns out to be down a long dead-end road where the houses peter out towards woodland. The outcome is like being taken into old age by the eponymous pre-taster of food to give you confidence in eating it.
    The fare’s hand’s twitching – I am sure it was a girl,not a boy – reminded me of how I might imagine one of Moriya’s hands behaving prior to tempting along the path of those it wants to tempt.

  6. AD01024C-E9D8-449D-A5D7-34A11165030F

    A solid silver Gnostic Abraxas



    A mercenary bounty hunter, once sheriff, hired by mercenaries to visit on his horse a (god)forsaken place in the Bleaklands that was once the centre for mining silver. A Nostromo with hollow puppets shockingly mutated from the humans they once were, vessels that God had not, after all, forsaken but filled with Himself as He does every empty space. A Ligottian or anti-natalist tour de force, with striking variations on this theme. But I remain with hope, as God, whatever God is, has allowed this story to be written and published. He knows perhaps that we can eventually cope and constructively act as conduits even with the horrors in this human creation as mined from powerful human words — a truth alchemised out of such story-making’s crucible. A test for our good? A silver lining beyond zombie reach? Hunter’s horse screaming as a fine wildly atonal bounty of music? Another Judas goat as pretaster? Or a silver trinket’s mis-mechanical glitch? Whatever, we hope and trust.

    “And in the silence, a song.”

    My previous reviews of this author:

  7. An academic article upon Peter Wessel Zapffe by Ramon Elani entitled THE WAY OF SILENCE

    followed by

    THE BOOK by Amar Benchikha

    “What if God had made it so that this book would fall into his hands.”

    A benchmark, a truth — and, if so, this work conveys to me the truth of fiction and my own lockdown’s self-absorption in books and their almost autonomous radiation inward and outwards to you as a series of synchronous, potentially holistically mutual connections. Also, as this story’s lonely old man did, he anagrammatised author’s names, as I, another old man, if not so old or lonely, tried again to do so above in this very section of my review! And as I often do in my gestalt real-time reviews. This, a seminal work for me.

    My previous review of this author:

  8. 681A47D5-1E0B-48E2-9CFD-196C95A35439THE MANIA OF THE UNFORGOTTEN by Pete Rawlik

    Just as a dream balanced between more than one person can more readily maintain its truth as reality, so do the readers of this story balance itself as co-vivid sharing friends in hopeful stasis of belief. A densely ‘elder eldritch’ in the inferred language of Brekekex coaxing frogs takes you apace despite its Lovecraftian density of journey’s sloth. A journey back and forth to madness as the mission of maintenance is passed on to each of us, a maintenance of faith that this place and time await us all beyond mania. Befriend this story and it will befriend you, I dare claim. The more the merrier of us in gestalt’s triangulation. However attritional the journey through the canopies of willows.

    “Unguent applied; now speak, thou well-embalmed!”
    Darkly tantalising poetry centred on a Chorus of Crabs.

    followed by

    THE PRETTIEST GIRL by Christopher Ropes

    “As the years went on, she became ever more beautiful, while I became ever plainer.”

    A truly haunting tale told by one girl about her strong mutual friendship with the eponymous girl following when the narrator’s father allowed her to have this guest overnight in the house… a sleepover become some insidious changeover, one crush crushed by another crush? Not to speak of the cat, this journal’s erstwhile ‘Felis Catus – full body mount’…

  10. 681A47D5-1E0B-48E2-9CFD-196C95A35439THE ASPEN WRETCH by Daphne Gem Host

    “, eyes ticking like clockwork in the sterile glow that scrolled down my face.”

    Hi! from on high.
    A miraculously prose-poetic act of relationship with every part of one’s body and gender, every age from birth to death, through, say, surgeons working on you or some form of spiritual reverse-ventriloquism of the vocal cords in tune with this journal, plus self-perception, and synaesthetic perception of others outwards — and comparison with animals, say, a snake or yellow perch that I call a tench. A mutual flensing. An epiphany of words. Too much to quote as quotable quotes to last a life time, so as to do full justice to it. Amazingly or preternaturally meant to be, it also resonates with a story I read only yesterday: ‘The Sorting Out’ (here), both stories with an explicit reference to Donne, there the ordered disrobing of his mistress, now seen here in the Host more as a cathartic methodical delving of ones metaphorical fingers into self as each divestment is made.

  11. 37BDD449-3504-4DA7-BEA1-FCF2D1682386Many of the works in this journal are accompanied by such brilliant artwork by DAN SAUER, including the front cover image.


    A story of the eponymous dereliction of a variety house building so intrinsic to this community, a building now rumoured to be levelled under “planned eminent domain proceedings” and in a disarming matter-of-fact narration by one such community member, gradually we are deceptively transcended by some immanent anxiety and fear as well as a sense of wonder, the exchange of the building’s mannequins for the community members, and the narrator’s own epiphany and eventual rediscovery of his erstwhile model-making skills. The magicking charm of life built into childhood models and the exponential wonder engendered by these words, matter-of-fact words that also gradually become effulgent with a magically adept in-built style. The inner domain of sewing-machine noise, too, with its process imminent as well as eminent.


    “Those of us who had children who couldn’t and couldn’t, we saw at last could do and did, and we watched them grow old, powerless to enjoy it, though we pushed with our hands and deserved with our hearts.”

    …pushed the swings, we multifarious fathers, for our children’s up-swings and down-, and we could and did come closer to them, till they swung too high for us, we guess. And we too low. A telling incantatory prose refrain that will haunt me paradoxically with Ligottian as well as hopeful sway. Even though there are girl-children involved here as well as boy-, this serves as a distillation, too, of … this erstwhile book by Owen Booth. We are all owed such booths. The swings, even more so, like the rhythm of this journal’s inferred pendula in its laterally meaningful clockwork-life that triggered the rest that followed. Each push an unreversed ventriloquist’s.


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