01/04/2010. 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
The winter 2008 issue of 'Black Static' offers more of what we expect for this dark fiction magazine: eerie, uncomfortable horror and dark fantasy, focusing on making you uncomfortable rather than jumpy. There are six stories in this issue, as well as the normal opinion pieces, book and movie reviews.
We open with 'At The Gates' by Patrick Samphire, a grisly piece about a girl with an abusive stepfather and a strange lodger, Mr. Uri. She finds a sick dog and begins to get strange, dark voices in her head. I found this story to be well-written but lacking in punch. The ending was unsurprising and weak and the pacing uneven.
A lot of the stories in this issue are similarly vexing, promising tone and language, but ultimately unsatisfying. Lynda E. Rucker's 'These Things We Have Always Known' is set in a vaguely otherworldly town where a man's carvings come alive. When his brother arrives and his daughter goes missing, he doesn't do that much. The story has a nice serenely strange feel to it, but the plot and characters are frustratingly passive. Steve Rasnic Tem's 'Noppero-Bo' is another mood piece with only arbitrary attempts at plot but its depictions of a foreign child in a Japanese classroom is deftly done and the tone is enjoyable.
Later stories improve on this lack of plot a bit, but I still found it hard to pick a favourite from this lot. James Copper's 'There's Something Wrong With Pappy' is the only story to truly embrace its speculative fiction edge and is much stronger for it. A boy and his young sister struggle to deal with their father's mental decline on an eerie moor, whilst the girl becomes stranger herself, making papier-mâché models of the house opposite. It's a neatly driven story with a good blend of creepy and jumpy and is probably the pick of the issue.
'The Book Of Ruth' by Steven Pirie is more real-world horror, as a girl finds a book in the charity shop she works in talking to her. As she tries to navigate around the lecherous advances of the shop manager, things get a bit weird and the ending makes little sense. The last story, Gary Fry's 'Taking On Life' left me cold. The social commentary of the poor boy dating the rich girl is insightful but the dark elements of the piece feel a little forced in and the ending seems a little trite.
Overall, I think this is a weak issue of 'Black Static', which has been fairly reliable up until this point in its run. Maybe I'm just not the target audience, but I found a lot of the stories here were nicely written and used interesting language but never actually got round to saying anything. The opinion pieces are all reasonably interesting, but I'm not sure this issue is worth picking up.
Tomas L. Martin
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