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Black Static # 3 - February 2008

01/02/2009. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

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bi-monthly magazine: UK publisher/editor address: Andy Cox, TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2LB. Price: 3.99 (UK). ISSN: 1753-0709.

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The third edition of dark fiction magazine 'Black Static' sees editor Andy Cox moving closer towards the graphical style that really defines later issues. Dark, indistinct images behind the text unsettles and alarms, setting a great mood for the stories hidden within.

I'm still unconvinced by the non-fiction, which due to its 'anything goes' remit tends to be rather hit and miss. Screenwriter Stephen Volk's musing on the art of making a script remains the highlight of the essays. The book and movie review sections are as solid as ever and this issue features an interview with Sarah Langan, Stoker Award Nominee for her debut novel 'The Keeper'. Peter Tennant's author featurettes combine interviews with reviews and overviews of the authors work and the set-up works well.

The stories are solid. I find with many 'Black Static' selections that the mood and tone is fantastic, often inviting the reader in despite little obvious hook. Sometimes the reveal, twist or development of that good beginning fall a little short or silly, however. Alexander Glass' 'The Pit' is a good example where the mundane parts of the story are more interesting than the speculative elements. Even so, this is a good analogy of depression and adrenaline with self-harm.

'The Mist Of Lichthafen' by Seth Skorkowsky is a solid fantasy about two thieves with a dark horror twist. The writing is solid and evocative and the thrilling climax is very enjoyable. Tony Richards' 'The Sentinels' follows a man stuck out in the desert pursued by implacable foes. I found it well-written but a little empty.

Ian R. Faulkner's 'The Difference Between' is my favourite story in this volume, a fantastic tale of tommies in the trenches of world war one with an eerie otherworldly influence. The action is fantastic and the supernatural element is well integrated into the real world, probably the biggest flaw of the other stories in these pages.

I liked the Scottish elements of 'The Morning After' by Carole Johnstone but felt the horror plot was a little predictable. The penultimate story 'The Fantasy Jumper' by Will McIntosh is a dark Science Fiction story about virtual reality suicide, readable but forgettable.

Writer and star of 'Garth Merenghi's Darkplace', Matthew Holness is well known for his bizarre humour, which appears here in the final story, 'The Toad And I', a bizarre tale of a sculptor returning to the toy company he worked in. It's uneven and messy but has some great moments.

The Faulkner story is a lot better than the other stories in this volume but as ever 'Black Static' provides an interesting palette of dark fantasy and unsettling horror.

Tomas L. Martin

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