TTA PRESS 2021 (my previous reviews HERE)
Stories by Alexander Glass, Tim Major, Lyle Hopwood, Daniel Bennett, Cécile Cristofari, Matt Thompson, John Possidente, Lavie Tidhar, Shauna O’Meara.
A lovely colourfully designed book. See the face on the back cover?
When I read the fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…
A HOLLOW IN THE SKY by Alexander Glass
“But I cannot tell you what it is, other than to be part of the whole. My thoughts are a fragment of the Gathering-mind. My hands are its tools.”
I am over-awed by this fiction, if fiction it is and not a new awareness of a religion that has somehow always existed. A fiction as a real process. An “impossibly vivid”, yet tantalisingly inchoate, process, a process separate from any suspension of disbelief, a process still transpiring as I write this about it. It has granted me the position of a node or stowaway or envoy or reliquary wasp from the vespiary and it feeds me messages, some empty or holy hollow, some teeming full. One may even be a virus hidden now in my head. It ekes out meaning to me, and I sense I have been gestalt real-time reviewing for the past 13 years just to be able scratch the surface of its Gathering, its Borers and Limpets, its wasps that make the paper of these smooth surfaces where the story is printed, and its above/below synchrony. No crude cause and effect. And the sort of sporadic romance of its two central characters. Sacrifice and fulfilment alternating when treading the rarefied paths set out by these words. One character with the Abbot’s psalter as an anchor. And I worry whether my own approaching gestalt with whatever is out there when I otherwise die is one that is ‘subsumed’ or one that is ‘concatenated’ — an eye-opening distinction for me. Whatever the case, at least part of me has genuinely had an epiphany reading this work. “Almost as if the whole thing had been planned.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/alexander-glass/
It is a brilliant story. It made me think a little of Timothy Morton’s ‘Subscendence’, a chapter from HUMANKIND: SOLIDARITY WITH NONHUMAN PEOPLE…
‘Shelley forgot to add: not just in an empirical sense having to do with bodies you can count, but in an ontological sense having to do with the structure of how things actually are. We are many all the way down, because we are wholes that are always less than the sum of their parts. We don’t just combine into multitudes, we contain multitudes, as any self-respecting stomach bacterium will tell you.’
‘This is because humankind is a fuzzy, subscendent whole that includes and implies other lifeforms, as a part of the also subscendent symbiotic real.’
Pingback: Holism’s Single Eye | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews
THE ANDRAIAD by Tim Major
“Such a complex machine.”
…as is this ever-resolving story, itself, to match the machinations of a whole new rarefied universe of amorphous borers in the previous story. But here it is with simple hard-edged crafts of manufacture. And indeed this Major one, even if complex, is of simple folk and simple emotions, the creation of a man by his own daughter, to fill the boots of a dead father who had been a lesser man than himself yet he is still containing the dead one’s self, even if not all that self’s faults. Read between the lines of that, I say!
A simple land of organs played as a simple accompaniment to religious hymn singing and of minepit workings, all with their potential, sometimes lethal faults that make perfection from imperfection, as if however good one is there can be misalignments, and false stoppings to avoid nodding on forever as a null immortality, or to stop keen boys getting their fingers crushed when the piano tuner purposefully mis-created by this story-weaver of costs and assets lets the lid down too soon.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-major/
PACE CAR by Lyle Hopwood
“‘Cure was surely worse than the disease.’
‘You have to thin out seedlings if the mature plants are to grow.’
[…] ‘Five billion dead is not a “thinning”, it’s genocide.’”
Another story that over-awes me but equally feels utterly meaningful. Somehow a unique hybrid of the first two stories in this book above, the interleaved world view of the Gathering et al in the Glass and the comparable world view of simple hardcore crafts of mankind in the Major. What I called above the latter’s ‘null immortality’ now here in Hopwood “an eternal stasis of homogeneity”, this work’s geared ‘entropy’. A hybrid world made pessimum if with some hybrid humans’ adoption of animal smells as optimum, following the sowing (by invisible forces or aliens?) of Gates throughout a craftily crafted post-apocalyptic world where, here, in this pinpoint, California, there are quaked dead-end roads in the desert beyond the streambeds, often invisible gratuitously do-gooding helpers, helping with fuel replacement for empty tanks, plus foot-roving mechanics in kilts, their tools elsewhere but reachable, all these being optimal hybrids themselves except that the narrator called Alisa seems to me to be pure human, without a trace of un-human animal, and whose prized Pace Car needs doctoring toward an undoctored nostalgia as a vehicle rarity from the past, a nostalgia to thin out, or should I say, thicken, the entropy. Nostalgia as a ‘vaccination’. The hybrid mechanic she finds she has hired and herself begin a slow motion mating dance?
The necessary imperfections-toward-perfection, and the engine here snarled but settled into a purr. A perfect purr? Like a thinning of humans toward a ‘totem tribe’? Only organic stuff allowed through the Gates; anything inorganic, unless token or totem, being ground away. The ‘sintering’ of gaskets (I did say already that I was over-awed by this reading experience, which is short-hand for being ‘meaning fazed’), all blurring, running away, with the Gates stopping real human endeavour to pass between. But any optimum reading of a hard-rarefied work like this needs its misunderstandings by the reader to make the reading truly optimal, I say. Truly imperfectly perfect.
I could be happy with this story. Like a man with an elephant brain, and a goat’s balls. Spoiler: This work is a unique artefact, not mass produced, after all.
Pingback: Null Immortality | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews
AN ISLAND FOR LOST ASTRONAUTS by Daniel Bennett
“There’s a moment when you feel it happen. The person you were. The person you become.”
From a “stasis cell” to the islands, out of East City, to the flood defences like, ironically and paradoxically, the previous story’s Gates, “those high walls which created the edge of the world”, a world here which has the poetic essence of what I earlier envisaged Null Immortality to be. An evolving hybrid between The Dream Archipelago / Dead Astronauts and, above all, this unique meditation itself, a musing upon a world of vanishing islands, that were created by floods and now destroyed by worse floods! The roaming astronauts, once heroes, now angels or saints or merely cast-offs, who’d been guinea pigs in various transformative histories now lost. One of these the narrator calls Fisher. There are so many teeming images of such moving stasis of existence in this relatively short work, so I can’t hope to convey its power by means of a review. Simply to evoke its White Ship in passing and its “gestalt of quotidian routines”, a myth become commonplace, and the cow carcass in a shipping container, crime as well as forgiveness within that gestalt, and this review as writ by a member of “the cult of the death blogger.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/daniel-bennett/
From the null immortality of abandoned astronauts as angels or saints to the somehow equivalent version of residents in an old people’s home and one of its angels…
A STRAY CAT IN THE MOUNTAIN OF THE DEAD by Cécile Cristofari
“…my heart feels like a wasp trapped inside my chest and the edges of my vision disappear in a blur of yellow and green.”
A poignant narration by Fethia, a worker with an ill-fibrillated heart in a timelessly Cécile-Cézanne old people’s care home, a so-called sanctuary for its Zeno-paradox-dying residents, each of them in turn marked by a stray trope with nine lives within its own care to share… or not. The residents’ backstories are movingly adumbrated, including those of a past war and a departure of the death train, and a mountain on the horizon where the Japanese abandoned their own human null-immortalities. Also a sense of these residents’ uncaring younger relatives. My own knowledge of such old people’s homes has now been exquisitely, if painfully, apotheosised by this work and I have been through several competing emotions while reading it. Luckily, here, today, at the edge of my own null immortality, I have no pesky cat to sit on my lap, though one does seem to cross my back garden from time to time.
“Don’t worry, dear. Angels have amazingly long lives.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/cecile-cristofari/
Amazingly — at least to me — I subconsciously appended this ‘Marked to Die’ photo to my subsequent review of Mark Samuels’ POSTERITY here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2021/07/07/posterity-or-posterior/
NEMESIS by Matt Thompson
“Stray thoughts flitted and darted, refusing to coalesce into anything she could grasp onto.”
Nemesis, the sun’s twin dark SISter, Ne Me, not me, but You, depending explicitly on the reader as Yu in the last sentence to sift truth and mission from sluggish paranoia or other moods of identity? A metaphor for our own mass in-denial today, here of cosmic forces closing in from behind the cometary clouds, an in-denial as sifted in this story by a personal consciousness of shifting identity.
A specific mission or simply vagueness of slow nullity? The story of Hari and her wife Alex and the former’s treatment by drugs and personal slowly recurrent regression therapy by a man with Dr. before his name and a sporadically encountered Chinese woman called Yu with a complex tattoo of our solar system upon her — a near- or further-future story that has elements of earlier stories above, ‘stray thoughts’ choosing whose fateful, fatal lap of consciousness to sit on, “chimera” as hybrid self, “hollow, absurd glossolalia that whined around the kitchen like metallic bluebottles”, and, yes, the soul of this book so far: e.g. a lasting low-level migraine, “air was still, stiller”, “a vague feeling, clawing at her”, “long-dead light traces”, drifting consciousness in “sluggish, ponderous stages”, “illusions dissolving into nothingness”, or not?
Somehow, this was a compelling, page-turning, refreshingly clear story about non-clarity! in paradoxical contrast to its slow-moving moods of identity.
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/matt-thompson/
THE MISCHIEF THAT IS PAST by John Possidente
“Loneliness won out over paranoia this time.”
A talking head with a monologue for us with potential rich characters and their dialogue, even family and friends as ‘shadowy forces’, where quarantine was for surface gravity and not necessarily disease, and wheelchairs were a fashion accessory — to slow one’s life down, I wonder, from otherwise enjoyably slick and chatty monologues like this one about conspiracies of brain transmitters in 19th century treks north to Canadian cryogenics and ice cream parlours, with yoghurt flavours! And a brain transmitter gone rogue. And contact with alien life in deep space. But now is now, this talking head’s shuttling between Earth and Humboldt Station, a paranoiac journalist, between exes and between conspiracies and explosions and family gatherings. I felt I was treading on edges of complexity, never to know the whole gestalt, as my own old mum once told me, too, would be my lot in life. Accidents of coincidence or serendipity. Getting confused where I should be most wary of hull punctures when firing a gun. Of Organisations or Individuals. ‘Speed of light’ or wheelchair travel. All for the sake of a pun we never get? The rest I am keeping to myself, as a talking head of a book reviewer, not a journalist at all, so as to make you want to read this slick, perhaps dangerous rambling of ‘bosom buddies’ vying across space if not time with a ‘buncha Brits’, and to learn “the only way for two people to keep a secret…”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/john-possidente/
Unaccountably, by chance, just before reading the next story below, I needed to read my review from a few years ago of story called EGG ISLAND (here) and without reading the story itself again, it seemed a satisfyingly appropriate accompaniment with the refreshingly innocent yet literature-fraught array of sand castles and eggs in the next story below for which I hope to be a doorman…:
THE EGG COLLECTORS by Lavie Tidhar
This story’s Mona Lina, as if a unit, but two different adventure-attuned sisters (one more wanderlust than the other) — sisters called Mona and Lina who have put a metaphorical smile on my lips. But a smile fittingly and fleetingly not perfect enough, a smile more like a ‘Titan kiss’? Firstly, by reading about their wild ballooning across the methane seas and airlocked oases of Titan, a vision imbued by religious words or undercurrents from human history, and from the sisters’ own surrounding Conversation (or Glass’s Gathering) of collective unconscious, spread by their idea of the other places of the solar system to which they have visited and can or perhaps will visit, as presaged by the woman’s tattoo of the solar system in the hinterland of this very book, and this book’s earlier Nodes and Limpets and Borers, here akin to this story’s own nodes, spiders and eggs, and to this book’s other stories’ pre-resonances, as if the book itself is the Conversation that contains and illustrates it, indeed is the sisters’ hinterland, as well as other literary places like Carcosa and Kadath. An idyllic story, of balloons or billions of hells, that has inspired me, insmiled me, too.
“‘Nothing we can’t handle,’ the door said.”
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/lavie-tidhar/
The ever-slowed down Null Immortality of all these stories now apotheosised — and its eggs become, to match the earlier stowaway reliquary of a wasp, sea dragon eggs — and the plans and the people enacting such plans constantly changing by deliberation as well as evolution during the endless voyage of existence — and those cryogenics I already somehow mentioned earlier in this overall review above…
WITHOUT LUNGS OR LIMBS TO STAY by Shauna O’Meara
“But not all fish who crawled onto land became mammals.”
Despite my being over-awed by this substantive work, I somehow sense, in my reading gut, that it could very well evolve into being an SF classic given the synergous evolution of readers alongside it, readers that happen or choose to read it in the future. A work that all of us should today factor into our thought patterns. It has that feel about it.
It is indeed so utterly poignant, telling of a ‘generation ship’ slowly plunging into the stars with its cryogenised crew being used for other purposes of body exploitation without waking them up as originally intended, that is, exploited by the ‘living’ crew that are themselves evolving beyond the original intentions of the voyage and the ever-changing conditions of survival within the ship, ever onward into space, like a Zeno’s Paradox.
When one of the cryogenised called Chrissie is woken up as an experimental need of curiosity by one of the ‘living’, still evolving crew, it is almost unbearable to watch this fitful, wounded waking up and potential dying of Chrissie alongside our watching videos of her life and her interactions with other people and hopes and reasons for embarking on this voyage as filmed just before the voyage commenced….and so much more I can’t cover in a short review. A Pace Ship.
I am sure this story is an experience you will never forget during whatever ‘Gates’ of future evolution as a living being you journey through, especially in the context of all the fiction in this beautifully handleable book as INTERZONE journal. A book also with SF articles and fulsome and sensitive artwork illustrations throughout the fiction.
“; but watch enough frozen people over the years and you get the sense that water isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
— Shauna O’Meara
My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/shauna-omeara/
Pingback: Without Lungs or Limbs to Stay | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews