01/01/2011. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
bi-monthly 66 page magazine: Black Static # 10 May 2009. UK publisher/editor address: Andy Cox, TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2LB. Price: GBP 3.99 (UK). ISSN: 1753-0709.
check out website: www.ttapress.com
Christopher Fowler is a writer with a good grasp on suspense and mood and his opening story to dark fantasy magazine ‘Black Static’s tenth issue is a good exhibition of his skills. ‘Piano Man’ shows us a glimpse at the dark heart of the storm-ravaged jazz capital of the world, New Orleans. When a journalist begins a study of jazz players in the broken city, he finds himself in a more horrifying story, that of a piano player, his otherworldly wife and a world of dark, haunted terror. It’s a satisfyingly suspenseful tale with a good gory ending. Fowler follows it up with his regular column, where he talks about British ‘B’ movies with gusto.
‘The Chair’ by Gary McMahon is a little piece about a young boy trapped in his own home, forced to take unspecified pills by his demanding mother. It almost works but the reveal came a little too late and a little too vague for me to really have an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. Later in the issue, Maura McHugh tries a similar setting with far greater success in the chilling ‘Vic’.
We’re taken into a dark warzone where local women haunt your dreams in Scott Lambridis’s ‘Washer Woman’. A visceral insight into the minds of soldiers cracking under pressure, the descriptions are raw and apt and the story wraps up in a subtle but satisfactory manner. James Cooper’s ‘Because Your Blood Is Darker Than Mine’ is another story about a child in a twisted home and has an extremely good sense of rising, eerie tension, with a satisfyingly grisly ending.
‘Fast Lick’ by Shannon Page is the last story in this issue and it’s another kid in high school featuring, this time, a younger girl just starting puberty. This is the best of the lot though, with a nice crisp tone and one of the best characterised protagonists I’ve seen in this magazine, which often suffers a little from rather placeholder lead characters. ‘Fast Lick’ is a classic coming of age story in the ‘Carrie’ sense, with great real-world conflict rising to a more unnatural conclusion.
In this issue’s book review section, Peter Tennant focuses on the work of Charlie Huston and a few horror novel partnerships between two authors, as well as interviews with Thomas Ligotti and Ellen Datlow. Tony Lee has his usual round-up of the latest in shock and gore DVDs and there are intriguing editorials from Stephen Volk and Mike O’Driscoll, with the latter’s attention to the state of British television bringing a number of strands of recent ‘Black Static’ editorials into one coherent whole.
It’s a decent issue, but I don’t really think the similar themes of most of the stories helps the cause. It makes the better school-age stories like ‘Fast Lick’ and ‘Because Your Blood Is Darker Than Mine’ rather overshadow the remaining selections. That said, the latter two stories and the Christopher Fowler story at the beginning are very good.
Tomas L. Martin
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