“Very few other enterprises quite have as great handle on this aspect of horror writing as this periodical, and though there are the usual insightful columns, and reviews and interviews, it is the fiction which stands out in a publication full of highlights.”
Horror is fast becoming a genre with very few set boundaries. It could be argued that it never really did, and that it is a mode of fiction which, more than most others, has evolved and changed with changing aspects of humanity and society. It has space for the most basic, derivative works, and those with the loftiest, literary ambitions, and often these aspects coexist in the same space; sometimes the same pages. But a case might be made that the best horror, the purest and most ‘worthy’, is that which seeks to use the tropes and imagery of horror to illuminate aspects of humanity and the societies we inhabit (as is the case with most other forms of fiction); but beyond that, literary horror seeks to shine a light on the darkest aspects of our existence, and the darkest parts of our natures.
Which brings us, once more, to that bi-monthly dark literary magazine, Black Static. Very few other enterprises quite have as great a handle on this aspect of horror fiction as this periodical, and though there are the usual insightful columns, and reviews and interviews, it is the fiction which stands out in a publication brimming with highlights.
Opening proceedings are articles by Stephen Volk and Lynda E. Rucker, both writers of a literary bent themselves. Volk’s piece deals with the use of violence in horror (and other places), and argues a case that it should be used not merely for entertainment, but with thought and context, while Rucker shines a light on the roles female characters have tended to play in horror films. Both are interesting pieces, but also provide a stepping off point for further discussion.
Now, the first piece of fiction is the novelette, ‘Perspective’, by Steven J. Dines. It is a tale told from—at least—three points of view: first person from Emily, who has lost her sight due to significant stress following an episode of stalking (throwing up unwanted memories of the time she was raped as a teenager); third person concerning her weary husband David; and second person about the person who raped Emily and may or may not be the stalker. It’s an ambitious narrative, and works very well due to complex and subtle the threads Dines weaves together. The prose is spare but illuminating, and we are given a very real sense of Emily’s blindness. It also conveys the differing emotional states of all the players, and is one story where the title could be interpreted to mean many different things in regards to the unfolding events. A dark, emotional, kitchen sink drama which has small flashes of the fantastical, but uses them to propel and serve the story.
‘A Pinhole of Light’, by Julie C. Day is the shortest piece here, but is still of reasonable length, and tells of Geir, living with his young daughter, Jenny, and his cousin, Peter, in their grand old family home. Geir has the ability bring forth spirits of the dead by developing photographs directly onto his skin, though the process leaves him exhausted and injured. He wishes, above all else, to see once again, his deceased wife Veronica, despite that she told him before he passed not to try. Jenny also wishes he would abandon this enterprise, as she is tired of hearing the whispers of the dead; to this end, she is engaged in creating a mural with Peter which may somehow divert Geir’s attentions. It’s a gorgeously written story, one which melds aspects of magical realism and a southern gothic flavour to beautiful and immersive effect. Ultimately, it’s a story about obsession, love, loss, and sorrow, and would work just as well as an even longer piece; indeed, the level of detail and wealth of invented mythology virtually demand this.
Ralph Robert Moore’s ‘Not Everything Has a Name’ is a dark, noir-flavoured story with a slightly disjointed narrative that nevertheless pulls the reader along. Despite its length, it feels like a much shorter read due to its pacy writing. It’s one of those stories that is difficult to ay to much about for fear of spoiling, but it shifts and twists as its story plays out almost with a hint of stream-of-consciousness. Moore is one of those writers who seems to be able to throw out the basic rule book of writing (three act structures, show-don’t-tell, clarity of character viewpoint) ad yet manages to make it work far better than devout adherents to those ‘rules’. Another excellent piece, moody and descriptive.
Finally, ‘Dogsbody’ by Malcolm Devlin. This another difficult one to review, primarily because it is such a unique and interesting concept, and any attempt to distil it might take away some of the wonder. Instead, suffice it to say that it a well-written story of the violent and aggressive nature of men, an examination of pride, machismo, and social mores with regards to differing stations in life. And at its core, is one of the best concepts surrounding the werewolf trope there has been in a long while. Like ‘A Pinhole of Light’, this one is absolutely deserving of a far longer story.
And, of course, there are the usual interesting reviews, both fiction and film, and a lengthy interview with rising star of the dark, literary scene, Damien Angelica Walters, whose wonderful collection Sing Me Your Scars, and beautifully dark novel Paper Tigers, get reviewed in detail.
Another fine addition to the Black Static roster; a very strong issue, indeed.
Publisher: TTA Press.
Paperback: (96 pp)
Release Date: 12 September 2016
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