1/01/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Immediate Direction Publications. 56 page magazine. Price: £ 3.80 (UK), $11.00 (US), E6.80 (Europe), £5.50 (RoW), three times per year).
check out website: www.midnightstreet.co.uk
As is the case with many a small press magazine, the editor of 'Midnight Street' has announced that issue #13 is to be the final print edition. Future issues will be in PDF format, but there will also be an annual anthology of original stories not seen in the electronic version. Good news for lovers of the kind of dark speculative fiction that is the speciality of this magazine. It's a publication with a definite feel to it: a very British, often pessimistic air that experiments with the edges of reality in a subtle but effective way.
The cover story is 'Under Glass', a weird and inexplicable tale by Joanne Shemmans. The entire episode takes place in a university canteen where a young woman feels sorry for herself and starts imagining things through the darkened windows. There's no doubt the emotions and atmosphere are well developed, but the problem I often find with horror is the lack of reason for the bizarre happenings. It finishes on a suitably macabre note however.
Nik Morton takes us on 'A Gigantic Leap' as he re-imagines a piece of Soviet history and wonders what might happen if the American paranoia about space-born germs had been justified. It's a gently told story, narrated by an old man who has seen too much in his hard life. Then in the last few paragraphs, the stress and alarm build up nicely. All of the international panic and national security issues occur in the background, though, so as not to spoil the calm flow of the story. It's nicely done.
Somewhere in the third world, a poor family struggle to improve their lot in Nik Jackson's 'The Rope'. What could be a depressing and moralistic tale is given a magical air by the inclusion of several elements that push the setting somewhere out of our own experience. It's a touching and satisfying story.
Ian Hunter's 'Calling The Past' is written in the form of an automated voicemail system, directing the caller through a re-run of a life of trauma and pain. Whether prose or poem I couldn't say, but it's an effective little piece.
We all know that zombies are on the rampage throughout the pages of speculative literature and many would say they're far too prevalent at the moment. In 'Unplugged', Gord Rollo spins an interesting angle, though, showing us a different viewpoint to normal. This brief story makes zombies interesting again.
The longest story of the issue is 'Nobody I Knew' by Ralph Robert Moore. It's the depressingly long story of a woman's wreck of a life as she lurches from one relationship and disaster to the next. All the time she continues to build a model village - a place where she can imagine a better life. The idea is good and the conclusion effective, but by then I felt as weary of life as she did.
A mother's revenge is the centrepiece of Gary Couzens' 'Splinters'. It's a darkly disturbing story of the traumas of life that capture the events of a brief and unpleasant night in Scotland.
My favourite story of the issue was 'White Wall' by Tim Nickels. It tells the story of a lone figure who heroically persists with his mission to paint a seemingly endless wall white. The setting and reason are unclear, but as the painter interacts with himself to keep entertained he develops into an affable and sympathetic character. It's a story with a touch of the bizarre that I truly enjoyed.
'Apartment 17' is Jeani Rector's creepy contribution to the 'insects are taking over the world' sub-genre. What makes this story especially effective is that the initial character is a bit of a cleaning freak, so we're led to believe he's just being paranoid about cockroaches. By the end of the story I ended up feeling paranoid about cockroaches and I don't think they even live in this country! There are a couple of itch-inducing scenes of arthropod mayhem, but the scenes that end with subtle suggestion are just as pointed.
Finally, the morbid inhabitants of an old people's home are the players in 'The Wick Effect' by Andrew Roberts. Over games of chess and stilted conversations, we gradually learn about the fireplace that seems to have a life of its own. The two old men are described with warmth, compassion and self-deprecating humour. It's a bleak outlook, but well told.
So what will the future bring for 'Midnight Street'? More gloom, fright, insights and moments of magic I'm sure. It's what the magazine does well.
Gareth D. Jones
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