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Black Static # 16 April-May 2010

01/03/2012. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy Black Static # 16 – April-May 2010 in the USA - or Buy Black Static # 16 – April-May 2010 in the UK

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pub: TTA Press. bi-monthly 66 page magazine: UK publisher/editor address: Andy Cox, TTA Press, 5 Martins Lane, Witcham, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB6 2LB. Price: GBP 3.95 (UK). ISSN: 1753-0709).

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Magazines are constantly evolving and changing to meet the desires of those who wish to buy them. Once upon a time, a genre magazine would be almost entirely fiction with an occasional factual article or column airing the views of the writer. These things are to be found within ‘Black Static’ but alongside them are reviews of books and DVDs and interviews. It is also a showcase for artists, four of whom have provided illustrations for the stories – the fifth does not have credited artwork.

As this is a magazine that caters for the horror market, it can be expected that all the stories will venture either into the dark side of human nature or into the supernatural. Here we have some of each. Although all the authors are competent, none of the stories is perfect and none are exceptionally outstanding.

‘The Overseer’ by Tim Casson (illustrated by Ben Baldwin) has an indeterminate setting, though it has the feel of the 1930s when men queued outside factories in the hope of a day’s work. Activities within are supervised by a man wearing gas mask, presumed protection against dust. The narrator inadvertently kills him and dons the mask as a disguise, only to find that he cannot remove it. There are allusions to the Egyptian underworld but this story cannot quite make up its mind what it wants to be.

‘Extreme Latitude’ by M.G. Preston (illustrated by Chris Nurse) is a story of the narrator slowly descending into madness in the isolation of the months-long night within the Arctic Circle or is there really something with him in the cold and dark. The flaw with this is that the diary of the narrator stays remarkably coherent even as death approaches.

‘One Last Wild Waltz’ by Mike O’Driscoll (illustrated by Robert Dunn) tells of a man returning to the family home for the funeral of his brother. He had fled to Australia to escape the bullying of his brother but finds that he is still menacing him from beyond the grave. This is a story that begins in a mundane way and gradually gets darker.

‘The Empty Spaces’ by Alison J. Littlewood (illustrated by Dave Senecal) is about memory and grief. The two old men who share the house have been friends for a long time. Their wives were sisters. Gradually the spaces in memory are filled in as we discover what happened to the women, just as the missing spaces in the decaying mind of Laurie are filled with illusions. It is a psychological horror story and the behaviour of the characters is well observed, though the story itself doesn’t feel quite complete.

‘The Moon Will Look Strange’ by Lynda E. Rucker is also about grief. Here the main character, Colin, has fled from the situation. Unable to come to terms with the death of his daughter, he ends up in Spain. When he meets a man who says he can bring his daughter back, he is desperate enough to believe him. This is the only story of the five that is written in the third person, the other four being first person narratives. In some cases, this choice makes the unpleasantness befalling the character more immediate. At the same time, the narrative becomes subjective and the doubt as to how much the character is in touch with reality creeps in.

This issue also contains the regular columns. ‘White Noise’ is the news update, though at the time of reading, this would be nine months late. That does not necessarily mean that it is irrelevant just that the news is no longer hot off the presses. Stephen Volk’s ‘Electric Darkness’ in this issue is an entertaining rant against the treatment of writers in the film business while Mike O’Driscoll’s ‘Night’s Plutonian Shore’ is a discussion of evil in fiction particularly as portrayed in James Ellroy’s literary trilogy. Christopher Fowler’s ‘Interference’ discusses the need to return to real horror and away from the phenomenon of teen vampires. All three of these columns are well worth reading being both thought provoking and informative.

The rest of the magazine is filled by reviews. Tony Lee’s regular trawl through the latest film releases on DVD and Blu-Ray seems to be intent on giving equal weight to the best on offer as well as the zero-rated. There seem to be a lot of horror films out there that do not appear to be worth considering that it would be better to flag up the must-see offerings instead. Peter Tennant’s book section has a different format. This edition’s focus is on Sarah Pinborough with a detailed overview of her horror novels to date followed by an interview with her. Most of the other books reviewed this time are either anthologies or collections. A little more information about the titles would be welcome as they are not all published in the UK or are small press editions. A website to help the interested reader locate them would be useful. Tennant does not ignore the novel or non-fiction with his overview.

As a source of stories by up and coming horror writers, ‘Black Static’ is somewhere to consider looking. It also deserves supporting because magazines are an endangered species.

Pauline Morgan

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