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Black Static # 9

01/01/2011. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin

Buy Black Static # 9 – Feb 2009/Mar 2009 in the USA - or Buy Black Static # 9 – Feb 2009/Mar 2009 in the UK

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bi-monthly 66 page magazine: Black Static # 9 - Feb 2009/Mar 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.

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This issue of Andy Cox’s British dark fantasy magazine, ‘Black Static, opens with a crackerjack of a story, perhaps the best story I’ve experienced so far within the magazine’s first 9 issues. Aliette de Bodard is making waves across many short fiction markets, but ‘The Lonely Heart’ is a truly special short story that needs to be read.

Chen is a Chinese girl scraping a life in Sichuan, desperately trying to earn enough for a flat that isn’t in the future flood basin when The Three Gorges Dam is activated and their home is drowned under the new lake. When she runs into Xia, a young prostitute and her disturbing, otherworldly pimp, Chen, is unsettled. When Xia appears on Chen and her husband Liwei’s doorstep, they try to help her escape the terrible situation. But after Liwei and Xia don’t come back from the police station during a catastrophic storm, Chen steps outside to find that Xia is not a simple helpless girl and their situation is far darker and more terrible than she thought. A beautifully written, terribly sad story of demons in modern China, I felt this story justifies the price tag by itself.

Tim Lee’s ‘The Plain’ is less impressive, a vague tale of an academic going mad that was far too muddled to be involving and the reveal far too vague to be satisfying. Roz Clarke’s ‘Haunt-type Experience’ has some stomach-churningly chilling dream descriptions, but doesn’t quite deliver on the rounded experience it promises in places.

Daniel Kaysen, on the other hand, nails it with ‘The Pain Of Blue Eyes’, a sparse, evocative thriller of Brian, a young picked-on schoolboy, who begins hanging out with blue-eyed Richie, a bully with dark, abusive tendencies, and his equally dark, equally blue-eyed girl-friend, Anna Lee. Brian finds himself tumbling down a less well travelled road to crime and murder, with a very unexpected few twists before the end. Written in clean, simple prose, this story is chilling and very readable.

I found in Al Robertson’s ‘Changeling’, another story that had some interesting prose but it left me cold and unengaged. A man lives in a large manor with his wife, children and disturbed sister-in law. When the sister-in law seduces him, the wife and kids abandon the man to live with the faeries of the nearby forest. The resulting chaos is a little too ambitious for such a short story and feels rushed and lacking in character.

Columnist Stephen Volk has the final short story in this issue. ‘Fear’ is a short tale set in feudal Japan, of a fearless samurai driven to despair by a haunted city. It is well told in a classical style and effective for its length.

Also contained in the magazine’s pages are the usual collection of editorials and reviews. Christopher Fowler makes a great point about film and the lack of speculative drive in British film in particular. I agree especially with his critique of the disappointing end to Danny Boyle’s ‘Sunshine’, betraying a failure to look beyond a certain narrow realism. Stephen Volk talks candidly about Harold Pinter and Peter Tennant focuses on Shaun Hutson and Tony Richards in his review section with an interview with the latter. Tony Lee has the DVD reviews and Mike O’Driscoll calls for a new wave of horror in the wake of the end of fear-full George W. Bush’s reign. All in an issue’s work for ‘Black Static’, but the stories by Aliette de Bodard and Daniel Kaysen are well worth locating and reading.

Tomas L. Martin

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