01/03/2011. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
Black Static # 13 - October 2009/November 2009. bi-monthly 66 page magazine: 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
Another issue in my quest to catch up with my reviews of the UK dark fiction magazine ‘Black Static. This time I’ve been reading issue #13, adorned with the typically characteristic gory and creepy artwork throughout. I don’t always comment on the art and design of every issue but it is always cleverly designed and never fails to be unsettling and creepy, exactly the feel appropriate to the content of the magazine.
Issue # 13 opens with the superlative ‘Cuckoos’ by Tim Lees, a subtle and underplayed exercise in creepiness with a really excellent underlying theme that gives extra meaning to the main story. A man meets a Canadian woman in a British pub and they strike up a conversation that leads to quick desperate intimacy and a series of confessions, mostly revolving around the woman’s past work as a social worker in rural Canada. The darkness of this story sneaks up on you and the way Lees brings it all together with our current economic troubles is very well done.
Kim Lakin-Smith’s ‘The Shadow Keeper’ is also excellent, a historical tale of a schoolmaster who buys a teen-age giant girl to work in the noble house, only to find her a haunted and troubled child. Like Lees’ story, the horror aspects of the plot are only gradually introduced and the restraint adds greatly to the dark mood that settles by the end.
‘Dead Loss’ by Carole Johnstone grabbed me less than the first two stories. Written well with exquisite descriptions and nautical detail, this story of a fishing trawler’s encounter with fantastical denizens of the deep in the middle of the ocean didn’t quite leave me feeling fulfilled. The action builds well enough and the sea creatures are suitably disturbing, but I didn’t feel a strong enough connection to the characters or a feeling that there was any point to the story that left it a little lacking compared to some of the other stories on offer.
Joel Lane’s ‘Some Of Them Fall’ is another hit, an urban horror recounted a man’s grim experience as a teen-ager, when he and some friends made an unpleasant discovery when they sneaked into inner-city woodland to experiment with drugs and sex. Honest and gritty in its depiction of the lives of British teen-agers, the otherworldly parts of the story add just enough to keep the main themes of the characters moving.
As well as contributing a story, Joel Lane is the featured author in the book review section, with a lengthy interview alongside the usual book and movie reviews from Peter Tennant and Tony Lee. The columnists continue to be interesting, Christopher Fowler discussing the films ‘Moon’ and ‘District 9’, Stephen Volk ruminating on ‘shock’ storytelling like Lars von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’, and Mike O’Driscoll looking at recent alternative history fiction such as Dan Simmons’ Dickens novel, ‘Drood’.
The final story of the issue is ‘My Secret Children’ by James Cooper. One of the stories with several dark strands running through it with no real central plot, a young boy overhears a number of illicit and uncomfortable conversations and experiences unseasonably nasty encounters such as his father taking him to some brutal dog fights. The description is excellent and the mood is hauntingly grim but this is a story a little too vague in reaching its point, but still worth a read, completing a rather successful issue of ‘Black Static’.
Tomas L. Martin
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