01/12/2009. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
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.
check out website: www.ttapress.com
Another issue of 'Black Static', the UK dark fiction magazine, brings another fine selection of short stories. Selected by editor Andy Cox and his team, issue seven is probably the best yet in terms of story consistency and nuance.
We begin after the news page with a very short short by the multi-faceted Bruce Holland Rogers, who seems to have a knack of turning up in all kinds of magazines writing all kinds of genres. Here he goes for unsettling and creepy without doing anything overt. 'The Reason for the Season' is a light bite but for its length, it is an effective little tale.
The columns by Christopher Fowler and Stephen Volk are getting into their stride now and are just as compelling as the fiction they interlude. Fowler talks about fashion and the 'alternative' whilst the ever readable Volk writes an interesting piece about censorship, both enforced and societal. The fascinating first part of a column on 'how can a poor (genre) writer stand such times and live?' by Mike O'Driscoll does a great job analysing the problems genre writers have making a living from short fiction that pays barely more than what authors received in the fifties.
There's also the usual gamut of book and movie reviews, comprehensively detailing all the latest releases and interviews with Leisure editor Don D'auria and author Tim Lebbon. I find Tony Lee's effervescent movie reviews more enjoyable to read than Peter Tennant's competent book review section, but as more of a fantasy and Science Fiction reader I think I was bound to glaze over the large numbers of horror book reviews.
The rest of the stories are great, too. The final story, 'Bait' by David Sakmyster, about a diving crew that finds a body beneath the water feeding the fishes, builds wonderfully in tension and creepiness to an ending that doesn't quite live up to the action beforehand. It's still worth a read, though. Similarly, Alison J. Littlewood's 'The Deep Walker', which has some great description and dialogue in its haunted holiday beach tale, but comes off a little flat at the end.
'The Blood God Blood' by Eric Gregory and Trent Hergenrader's 'The Hodag' are both mood pieces, tales that really get your insides crawling with dread. 'The Hodag is probably the better of the two, telling a story of a young boy finding a killer creature stalking the outside of an old town.
There are two really exceptional selections from this issue. Daniel Kaysen does extremely well with his taut clean prose to tell a chilling story many writers would need much more words to do justice to. Anna is a young girl with a power - due to a harrowing experience in her childhood she can read people's fear - even those of dead bodies. Wanting to give up the life of a professional murder-watcher, she tries to quit, only to find her best friend kidnapped by one of the grisly serial killers. This is a top notch story, paced with precision, with excellent sense of timing and characterisation and really should find a home in a few Best Of anthologies.
In 'Pages From a Broken Book', Tony Richardson spins a yarn about a middle-aged newly single man who finds what appears to be his match on an on-line dating site. However, his experiences with the girl of his dreams get weirder and weirder the more he meets her. I saw the twist coming, but the feel of Richardson's writing kept me reading to see it satisfyingly concluded.
Another issue, another successful display of some of the dark fiction talents currently writing. This is one of the better copies of 'Black Static' I've read and Daniel Kaysen's story is probably worth the admission price on its own.
Tomas L. Martin
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