Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Autumn Cthulhu

Autumn Cthulhu

Autumn Cthulhu8b
Lovecraft Ezine Press 2016
Introduction – Mike Davis
The Night is a Sea – Scott Thomas
In the Spaces Where You Once Lived – Damien Angelica Walters
Memories of the Fall – Pete Rawlik
Andy Kaufman Creeping Through the Trees – Laird Barron
There is a Bear in the Woods – Nadia Bulkin
The Smoke Lodge – Michael Griffin
Cul-De-Sac Virus – Evan Dicken
DST (Fall Back) – Robert Levy
The Black Azalea – Wendy N. Wagner
After the Fall – Jeffrey Thomas
Anchor – John Langan
The End of the Season – Trent Kollodge
Water Main – S.P. Miskowski
The Stiles of Palemarsh – Richard Gavin
Grave Goods – Gemma Files
The Well and the Wheel – Orrin Grey
Trick… or the Other Thing – Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
A Shadow Passing – Daniel Mills
Lavinia in Autumn – Ann K. Schwader
When I real-time this anthology, my comments will appear in the thought stream below.

23 thoughts on “Autumn Cthulhu

  1. THE NIGHT IS A SEA by Scott Thomas
    “Local folklore maintained that the apples tasted like blood and that they contained human teeth instead of seeds.”
    A workman-like, quite well-written yarn to tell around the Halloween campfire, but I found it confusing and melodramatic. Some nice moments with them apples and what is inside the pumpkins.
    “…the episodes of my life that I like to believe are (relatively) shaped by choice, will power, and intention might actually be connected dots governed by some great unknown is terribly unnerving.” — so, this story also leaves me with a fateful trust that urges me further onward to do such dreamcatching in this book, a book with such an enticing overall title that made me buy it in the first place. (HERE are some of my findings regarding Autumn as the gestalt of the whole of the WEIRD genre…)
  2. In the Spaces Where You Once Lived by Damien Angelica Walters
    “….and wind rustles through the trees, turning the leaves to a rippling fan of orange, red, and yellow.”
    A haunting, touching, sometimes unbearable, portrait of Alzheimer’s in the husband of Helena. Remove the He and you are left with Lena? I wonder.
    “I do.” Does he remember?
    Telling interaction with their daughter and grandsons. Hiking tracks in the woods, a doe, a deer, with fur falling like the Autumn leaves. Simply told, but with a complex memorable oscillation between decisions at the end, between sad and happy. To do or not to do. And were those odd forces with which he communicated healing forces or otherwise? A very satisfying read.
    For me, an Autumn Ode transcribed in simple prose with its own strophe, antistrophe and epode.
  3. Memories of the Fall by Pete Rawlik
    “The pie was heavy and the filling thin. It ran across my plate, spreading like a glob of orange slime that had seeped into the world from some nearby hell dimension.”
    A pumpkin pie, made from pumpkins in the Scott Thomas story?
    A relatively short Autumn-ripe essay upon the self as a writer of cosmic horror, a captive within the very school where he is sometimes allowed to teach creative writing to the twelve year old children. A captive of his own madness, too, a madness that he recognises for what it is, unlike the previous story’s Alzheimers husband. Or is that vice versa? But which is which, who is whom? Teaching the young to own their own madness, until we cease to recognise such madness and see it as an accepted norm of real cosmic horror – by having been such tutored and fallen young once ourselves?
    Tellingly provocative … until the already shaky reading-ground I find myself standing on is snatched away by further reading in this fell book?
  4. Andy Kaufman Creeping through the Trees by Laird Barron
    “Everybody loves me and everybody else hates me. I know who’s who—”
    A rather clever literary exercise with a blonde taut young woman cheerleader as narrator, filtering an Updike or Roth mentality, as she tells of the trampoline accident that puts paid to her activities, the backstory with her father and Machiavellian mother – and now we have a momentous character: the nefarious Steely J (a mutant version of her childhood imaginary companion Jesus?) who plans a consolation meeting with a favourite famous actor for her now cancer-ridden Dad. With the onward thrust of Speedy Gonzalez, this story, with many neat turns of phrase and knowing transgressions of wholesomeness as in a Losey film, reaches an arthouse conclusion of “patronising contempt”, cruelty and horror.
    All is copacetic.
    “Rage makes a beautiful painkiller.”
  5. There Is a Bear in the Woods by Nadia Bulkin
    “…manically thrashing his head in the dark as a clump of hair and tissue tried to chew its way out of his neck.”
    There is something richly elusive about this textured portrait of politics in today’s world where many feel that one needs to grasp the nettle, become almost evangelical, radical solutions (Trump or Corbyn?) needed as there is nothing to lose – here seen through the eyes of a young woman called Cass and her captivation by Rick and his new fringe politics movement, to take control of the world's "fishtailing car." But this story itself knowingly fishtails itself, as the readers feel they need their own evangelism to triangulate its meaning, and perhaps they never do. As the characters, with their idealistic thrust and, for one, a token of moral support like a forebear's athletic gold medal, entering territory of lobbying for votes among seemingly even more evangelically fringe parties within a maze or odd circle of some theosophical quest, I infer. The story itself, instead of DESCRIBING Reagan's bear in the woods, actually BECOMES the bear that we are trying to transcend. I found the whole vision disturbingly irresolvable, tantalisingly a personal confirmation for me as well as a defeat.
    (Brainstorming: 'Pro Patria!' upon the life-death seesaw, but at which end?)
  6. THE SMOKE LODGE by Michael Griffin
    “Not one of us is poet enough to name the loss of Karlring.”
    “Earlier we took risks, stared demons in the eye. Suddenly thirty years have gone, spent typing, vision wrecked from computer screens. The edge gone dull.”
    The bear in the woods of the previous story transmogrifies here to old bear Karlring, a story that seems an apotheosis of nostalgia of oldening horror genre writers, male and female. under the posthumous post-humus smoked meat jurisdiction of he who now radiates his influence from the smoke lodge. You must visit the smoke lodge as conceived by this story. A vision that you can sense seeping into your skin, then into your bones, a tale that is itself a walking talking yellow or golden Autumn as many remember Karlring, himself in the real world, the last time they saw him, outside this story, supposedly, they thought then, terribly ill, but now in hindsight ripe with a risen Fall – and I know know why we, he and I, once chose anchovies!
    A story of utterly pungent power.
    “A dream remembered is not the dream itself.”
  7. Cul-De-Sac Virus by Evan Dicken
    “Above, shoals of starlings circled beneath a flat, cloudless sky.”
    This tells of a man, about my own age, I guess, and he has lost his wife, and has visits from his daughter and son-in-law. Dealings with the neighbours, still able to muscle up to digging a fire-pit, crossing swords with a curmudgeonly neighbour and his dog, watching new neighbours. And a concept develops, somehow, almost autonomously, although it is put into one of these character’s mouths, about all these houses that ribbon our communities and who lives in them, or what.
    In tune with this book’s earlier spaces of the doe, I recall a phrase I have often used since I was a young man: “You live a day a day to put life in.” Here, Alzheimer’s is called “creeping senility”, and I am honestly spooked by this creeping story. I can give it no greater compliment.
    “The darkness didn’t absorb the light so much as ignore it,…”
  8. Pingback: Real-Time Review of Autumn Cthulhu – GriffinWords Edit
  9. DST (Fall Back) by Robert Levy
    “…and it soon became clear I was traveling in spoked circles.”
    And the circle notched Into place suddenly with the meaning of the acronym DST in the title dawning on me. A circle like that in the Bulkin story.
    Surrounding a stock romantic relationship triangle, including a very well constructed observatory contraption in the woods, in the story’s terms, constructed as if by a Prophetic Heath Robinson, as if, too, an attempt at a ramshackle triangulation of cosmic coordinates, like this review. And tied into a disco record the playing of which once, years ago in the relationship’s backstory, spanned all these factors with its own prophecy. A workmanlike cosmic vision, one that did not personally inspire me, despite my admiring some of the descriptions.
  10. The Black Azalea by Wendy N. Wagner
    “Something from beyond the bottom of that hole…”
    I loved this story instinctively. A genuine blight story resulting from the extraction of an azalea from a widow’s garden, an action that results in a sink hole and stench, with the sound of somethings monstrous chugging nearer. It literally seeps Autumn amid the mulch of the garden and this woman’s own Autumn of her years, someone who recently nursed her husband towards inevitable death via his own sinkhole of pancreatic cancer. The whole story lives and breathes – and suppurates. Healthy horror.
  11. AFTER THE FALL by Jeffrey Thomas
    This is an important story, not necessarily for a nephew’s funeral wake as a Halloween Autumn tale (including the resonance with Fall and the concept of humans gathering to celebrate one of their own dead), but for the amazing vision that arrives in the world’s sky after a strange storm, like a Sistine Chapel ceiling, like fossils of elder gods, or something far more intrinsic. That vision in the text is extended and quite awesome – and the feat of describing it and its “maybe-faces” is staggering. Above all, its potentiality. A seminal work, I feel, with many implications for this type of literature and, dare I say, for our world at large.
    “How fragile, humans. Like bugs crushed in an instant under the steps of vast, unthinking forces… neither of which could really see nor fathom each other.”
    “Hey, they’re the only gods we have evidence of. Maybe that’s how they died… fighting over who was going to be our god.”
    Scott Nicolay quotably said recently: “Lovecraft is the fossil fuel industry of Weird Fiction.”
    I said in reply: “Maybe Lovecraft is Azathoth still lurking at the Earth’s Core, I wonder.”
    I think we may be both wrong.
  12. ANCHOR by John Langan
    “This way, when he runs up against it, we’ll have the earth helping us.”
    A story overtaken by the bear of a longer work, a work that transcends story, novel or novella, as it seems to expand beyond as well as within poetry, bromance, cosmic horror, Blackwoodian combat with a monster worldwide, a tranche of time spanning a character from 12 to 50 sown and sewn with internal bold texts intended to infodump, and a sense that this is a story that is highly personal to everyone involved, especially its freehold author, and it gives off a sense of inspiration. A deadly determination to get all this off some bear’s chest, Richard Adams Shardik’s chest, Aslan’s chest from Narnia, as well as Yeats, Eliot and Cormac McCarthy. That bear in the woods from two previous stories in this book. The tumult of Tumnus. Wielding a ‘do’ like this book’s earlier ‘doe’. A father-son symbiosis via the spear of Martial Arts, Reassurance but don’t tell distaff Mum. The Broken Circle. Ardor, as they say in America. The nature of literary celebrity. River monsters. The tug of the bait baiting you, as you struggle with this ever elongating text like a river monster itself.
    “It’s been a while since a work of fiction has affected him this profoundly. During his visits to nearby creeks, part of him remains inside the narrative. Or it remains inside him:”
    “Both of them had it, though, a… a fire for language, for what you could do with it. Sometimes, I imagined Dad’s work as a great library, like the one at Penrose, all Gothic revival, its windows ablaze with light. And sometimes, I would picture Carson’s work as a bonfire roaring in the center of a forest clearing, its light falling on redwoods a hundred feet high. They recognized that flame in one another.”
    The fire of flu. The fire along treetops. The unfamiliarity of water. Vast visions that hit and hit at you. You can’t put this down, like a King work. But on it goes, on and on. Relentless, irritating, but rubbing its inspiration off on you.
    “…to know that there’s animal in the reeds, keeping pace with him. He isn’t certain what it could be. A deer?”
    Crucially, though…
    “You know, there are times you begin work on something, and right away, you can tell, this is going somewhere. There may be some bumps on the road—let’s be frank: there may be blown head-gaskets, and washed out bridges, and sudden thunderstorms—but you can just about see your destination at the outset.”
    I shall now eat this work. Literally. Seriously.
    But the final vision of the lion man still pervades me. Like Blackwood’s Centaur does.
  13. End of the Season by Trent Kollodge
    I, as reader, through the pareidoliac eyes of the well-characterised love-damaged summer worker protagonist, also feel as if I am one of the “lingering summer people”, while the “intimately connected” locals upon this tourist Great Lakes island regroup following the island’s “season of drunken days and inebriated nights, and now the autumn came, stripping the tourists like so many leaves.”
    The descriptions are wonderful, and the vision of the Islanders’ hidden village as microcosm (or Langan ‘anchor’?) of their passions, sorrows and dark truths is hauntingly memorable, together with the entity that may be as large or small, as monstrous or sublime as I wish, should I see it.
    Another cosmically significant story for this anthology. And by “prognostication or command, cosmic intent or happenstance, this was the way things were going to be.”
  14. Water Main by S.P. Miskowski
    This is a both a hilarious and poignant portrait of a woman, from her own point of view, of her relationship with a live-in man friend, with marriage in mind, and he reminds me of myself at least in his poor d-i-y skills (particularly plumbing) and with his head in the whale-shaped clouds! But I can’t see myself wanting to watch blobby cartoons! Such a description – with its wittily sharp turns of phrase concerning character and bureaucracy and about the place where they live together – is, however, only one aspect about this story.
    There are darker, more cosmic and more thoughtful shades that fill this believable woman with disarming visionary power. Her stoical wandering, seeing from afar the place where hippies go to die (utterly haunting), and suddenly encountering a building of apartments that is reminiscent of an ocean cruiser. There also seems to be a fearfulness about life, a fearfulness that stems from affectionate memories of her father and of his tale to her during childhood of a giant’s accretive vibrations that he concocts to disguise an earthquake’s horror – but now, today, there is a parallel accretion of “slow leaks” of infant terror-visions in the ocean cruiser building into which she is tempted almost in rebellion against somethings she’s leaving behind – leaks that no plumbing can stop, leaks building up into a frightening grown-up flood of images…
    An entertaining fable but with an amorphously indirect moral that, for me, has more force than if the moral had been direct and confidently clear.
    “Maybe everyone should be a little bit afraid of the things we can’t explain.”
  15. The Stiles of Palemarsh by Richard Gavin
    “The openness of the lane, the visibility of the cloudless sky was too immense, too open.”
    This is an honest horror story with its exponential openness, honest inasmuch as its horrors are perfectly pitched to cause terror, and any literary nuances are in the darkly evocative turns of phrase and the sense of love for horror words and soundfest constructions for their own sake, and honest in the sense that the reader is not fingerposted through this outlandish Welsh village, as the Canadian protagonist named Ian is both confused by this place and squeezed by a remarkable concept of a squeeze-stile, crossing a step-stile, too, via the various styles of squeezed fear and missed steps. Honest, too, in that we cannot have sympathy with this protagonist, based on the implications of HIS words, that he had jilted his own stile-squeezed bi-polar fiancee at the altar, with him now come to Wales whence her family derives and unforgivably attending the planned honeymoon holiday alone, the honeymoon he alone aborted. And no wonder the demons that pursue him are inchoate as all fears are, as all squeezed depressions are, and we admire his honesty at admitting by clear implication that he is no horror story character with whom to empathise or sympathise or cheer on towards safety, a safety, without dishonest fear of a plot spoiler, he does, however, reach, despite our not caring whether he did so. And the one he abandoned at the altar, as it were, is now possibly just one of several monsters (so utterly nightmarish in themselves) shambling after him in an honest horror story. And I let out a deep sigh as the two sides of a story’s character are finally brought together by his own vice. But none of that takes account of what is envisaged transpiring in the possibly on-going plot after its claustrophobic text releases us from its captivating style, releasing us into the open. Unspoilt and endless.
    “…and though their thick eyelids remained closed, Ian was sure they were seeing him.”
  16. Grave Goods by Gemma Files
    “Put the pieces back together, fit them against each other chip by chip and line by line, and they start to sing.”
    In the same way as I make stories sing, I hope.
    But this story, for once, defeated me on a first reading (all my real-time reviews are based on first readings) but it defeated me in a good way. I understood none of it or I understood MORE than it meant. Nothing in between. A number of women on an archaeological dig, couched in a stunning literary style that seems to have been engrained in the very ground where they dug. An obstreperous group, debating the ethics — of preserving the bones where they lay or taking them back to the lab for further dismantlement — surrounding the sanctity of human beings or of less (or more?) than human beings that they dug up. Skeletal structures as that very debating point, even to the extent of one of the so-called woman archaeologists found to have a questionable anatomy herself – or himself?
    I was entranced by the scientific terminology, while floundering somewhere in a no-man’s-land sense of Lovecraftian horror as a cross between, from earlier in this book, Wagner’s dug stench-hole and Gavin’s creature with breasts and a comically small, stubby penis.
    “these people were barely binocular—”
  17. The Well and the Wheel by Orrin Grey
    “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a habit of opening books to the back pages first.”
    A story of the theosophical circles or wheels of existence in Bulkin and Levy – and, hopefully, the Broken Circle of Langan. It is also an intriguing and disturbing tale of a daughter entering for the first time her father’s house where he had lived divorced from her mother, a house like a shed, where the evidence of his nefarious habits seen to scream out at her, until she climbs down into tantamount to Wagner’s hole in the ground, to understand his battle on her behalf against the fate she once herself set in motion and now frighteningly irresistible…
    Cosmic Horror has the essence of retrocausality, I propound: something one learns from the whole of this landmark book … so far?
    My Forever Autumn: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/forever-autumn/
    My Perpetual Autumn: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/perpetual-autumn/
    Perpetuo Au-Tumnus
  18. Trick… or the Other Thing by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
    “No, you don’t. And you are out of future,…”
    “Every minute or so, Atticus can see Nyarlathotep, hear him, walking in circles…”
    This is a top lathe yarn or a vice one like the Gavin, crazily jamming with various pieces of metal squeezed together and shriek music style, but I dream most here of jagged Jagger. Lots of good nightmares and screeching vocatives. Curling off the shavings of viced wood into mutant Halloween pages.
    This is the book’s coda, two stories too early, the wildest one to go out with. So, I guess I should have started from the back after the previous Orrin Grey told me to do so. The Pulver he is a master of such crazy jamming, and always trying to trick me or the other thing. Till some Fell Baron disguised as Nyarlathotep decides finally which it is to be?
    “Somewhere in it was the bull of rage.”
  19. A Shadow Passing by Daniel Mills
    “…but the alleys swarmed with them, hundreds of them, with bodies made of corners so you see them only where they block the light.”
    Another coda for this landmark book: a marvellous dream of childhood’s despair, a delightfully poetic rhapsody in prose as well as vision of the monsters on the landing outside a boy’s bedroom disguised, I imagine, as shadows or aunts – a work stemming, for me, from a blend of Truman Capote’s early work and the protagonist Proustian boy’s unrequited love for a mother whom he awaits awake, as if eternally, yearning for an unspoken goodnight kiss to allow him an unbroken circle of sleep. Here that kiss is to be, I infer, a dreadful curse, a fairy-tale betrayal….?
    “She extends her hand to him with the palm open, a tea-cake nestled in the thatch of wrinkle and bone.”
    (This author also had DE PROFUNDIS in The First Book of Classical Music Horror Stories)
    Lavinia in Autumn (Sentinel Hill) by Ann K. Schwader
    A short poem as a perfect coda in itself for this optimum AUTUMN CTHULHU.
    Yeats eat your yeast out. Or your heart.
    “….for she
    Who traced their patterns…”
    My wife’s latest quilt is still taking shape, one she has been working on while I have been reading AUTUMN CTHULHU

Sunday, May 29, 2016

After The Fall

From HERE.

AFTER THE FALL by Jeffrey Thomas

This is an important story, not necessarily for a nephew's funeral wake as a Halloween Autumn tale (including the resonance with Fall and the concept of humans gathering to celebrate one of their own dead), but for the amazing vision that arrives in the world's sky after a strange storm, like a Sistine Chapel ceiling, like fossils of elder gods, or something far more intrinsic. That vision in the text is extended and quite awesome - and the feat of describing it and its "maybe-faces" is staggering. Above all, its potentiality. A seminal work, I feel, with many implications for this type of literature and, dare I say, for our world at large.

"How fragile, humans. Like bugs crushed in an instant under the steps of vast, unthinking forces... neither of which could really see nor fathom each other."

“Hey, they’re the only gods we have evidence of. Maybe that’s how they died… fighting over who was going to be our god.”


Scott Nicolay quotably said recently: "Lovecraft is the fossil fuel industry of Weird Fiction."
I said in reply: "Maybe Lovecraft is Azathoth still lurking at the Earth's Core, I wonder."
I think we may be both wrong.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trying To Be So Quiet – James Everington

4 thoughts on “Trying To Be So Quiet – James Everington

  1. A hardback book, signed by its author, copy numbered 59/150. About 60 pages.
    I await reading this book with deep anticipation, as I experienced a bereavement a week ago, something that may delay starting my reading it for a while.
  2. Trying To Be So Quiet
    This being today’s note, it is addressed to everyone except the book’s author. The Dreamcatcher review below is, as ever, in fusion or symbiosis with a hyper-imaginative fiction. A NO SPOILER POLICY OPERATED THROUGHOUT. But on rare occasions such reviews can accidentally reveal too much…
    Pages 1 – 26
    “They were just building their dreary little spires up into the sky.”
    There is Marie in TS Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, but no Lizzie….
    This is the bereaved aftermath of the accountant’s loss of his wife Lizzie, one where’s the text itself and this aftermath’s environment that it describes are linked, page by page, by an accreting craquelure on the walls of the house where the couple lived, a device like Gahan Wilson’s wall-stain in Again, Dangerous Visions. There, explained, but here, just there. Rotting up. Totting up like a balance sheet, where the numbers always add up to zero.
    I am highly disturbed as well as enchanted by the accretion not only of the design but of the nature of this bereavement, its assumption of pointlessness, the building of spires in a daily office akin to the work on ancient cathedrals, work that often spanned more than the lifetime of those working on them. But Lizzie was always right when she was alive, leaving just a pause to prove that her forthcoming answer was wiser than he could ever be. All this elusiveness blended with an artful construction of the two main characters as backstory, together with his office life that he quickly resumes to help heal the bereavement, yes, all this adds, like a column of effects, to the sheer power of what I feel when reading this. And I thought I would stop here, halfway, briefly, then hurry back to work on it as soon as I post this first of two impressions, just glimpses of what the dead might leave behind, say, in bathroom mirrors, or shadows on the wall, or in remembered discussions they once held on eschatological matters during their backstory.
  3. Pages 26 – 53
    “He longs to go and hold her, the effect is so lifelike. He wonders which would be worse if he did — touching nothing or touching warm skin.”
    I wondered, too, as I reached into the text, having flipped ahead cursorily, without yet reading the words, seen for whatever reason that the craquelure turned from black to grey towards the end. I wonder, too, how this might work in a vacuum as with digital text, rather than, as here, on paper. The text here holds any ghost true like a memory of the place where you first met the person whose ghost it is, and I reread the backstory’s beginnings in the first half of the text. The text’s backstory complete with craquelure is indeed the ghost, and, in hindsight, I may perhaps have given the wrongly shallow impression when just referring to Lizzie’s widower (the story’s protagonist) as an accountant, especially when we revisit with him where they first met in Oxford as university students. Amid all those dreaming spires that Matthew Arnold first identified.
    There are many other moments you will encounter in this text that I cannot cover here, but one of them strikes me as possibly the most powerful for my own recent circumstances of bereavement (not a wife, but a mother), something I hope is not a spoiler, and that is the concept of the latent Death Scream, one that is owing for release to any dead person who was muted by palliation whilst dying.
    And as I began with ‘The Waste Land’, I now sense, with the universe’s forward rush slowing, near the end of this book, a shade of Byron’s poem, ‘Darkness’.
    This work felt both devastating and uplifting to me. But how can that possibly be?
    And a great ghost story, to boot. Trying to be so quiet.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Interzone #264


Interzone #264

TTA PRESS May-June 2016 (my previous reviews of this publisher HERE)
Stories by Tyler Keevil, Malcolm Devlin, James Van Pelt, Rich Larson and Gwendolyn Kiste.
When I real-time review these stories, my comments will appear in the thought stream below. (There may be some delay in starting this review.)

5 thoughts on “Interzone #264

  1. STARLINGS by Tyler Keevil
    “One of those words that is just so much better in Welsh than English.”
    A methodically gentle novelette as a vehicle for a report by a mother to ‘you’ as her semi-genetically prepared baby son, born from herself and her husband, a child created among others (not slavish copies of each other, but with distinct characters, as his fight with another child later proves) to migrate like starlings from our squandered Earth towards a new outer-space base of onward human life. It is, beneath it all, heart-rending with self-sacrifice and faltering self-justification, alongside the slips between cup and lip where she nearly aborts her son’s ‘mission’ by taking him, with her husband, on a road trip to Mumbles, in this believable future Swansea. With references, inter alia, to Macbeth, Kipling, Ancient Greek Drama, Saint-Exupery, this is a compulsive study of a woman’s love for her semi-engineered offspring, a love in conflict with difficultly reconciled duties. A possibly crazy scheme resulting from Hadron’s CERN Zoo…bubbles and butterflies, eggs like coffins, “white blood”, and I was enthralled, but ended wondering whether this, your mother’s report, if you actually receive it, will effectively prove to be a version of your own Judas or Brutus.
  2. BREADCRUMBS by Malcolm Devlin
    “She thinks of the way birds congregate on building sites and rooftops. One loud noise, she thinks, and everyone will fly away.”
    …like those earlier starlings? This is a girl called Ellie who eventually asks of herself, after many rites of passage and her own brand of waking-dreams: “How could she have forgotten how her mother once fed her worlds?”…
    This is a fascinatingly efflorescing and vegetatising of a Cinderella morphing (in reality or by leaking dreams?) into a Rapunzel, amid her neighbours in a city apartment block, her parents and brother, she dreams, having already gone to a ball without her, or was it them leaving to attend not a ball but an aunt’s fall? One never knows, and it is a constructive never-knowing, with her waking-dreams as telling objective-correlatives for the growing soul of a fifteen year old girl, a girl who seeks the seeking of her by a Prince. But she is not really a Damsel in Distress, but rather a visionary chrysalis for our own dreams, I feel, with each of our bodies eventually to become a husk: a constructive thought for me, particularly in recent days. Beautiful material.
    “It would seem impossible that this tiniest of changes in Mar’s luminosity would make a difference,…”
    This must be the most optimum story that could be subject to such dreamcatching as this review of it. If optimum can have a superlative? I think it can. And that makes me think of the most optimum path of events, one that is what it is, whether that be a cheating path or a sincere one. It can only be what can be, susceptible to – as well as paradoxically beyond – the power of chaos theory or the butterfly effect, or here the ladybug-upon-the-iris effect (Iris, my mother’s name). This is a most beautiful bijou portrait of such effects, and relates, for me, to my life-long interest in astrological harmonics, and to the gestalt in literature, a gestalt here linking a mother’s death (perhaps in elusive tune with the previous stories), a cheating psychic, a private detective, a dust mote in motion on Mars, and ERB’s Martian books… to mar or to mend.
    “You know that everything connects to everything somehow.”
  4. LIFEBOAT by Rich Larson
    “…you can’t call it a fleet, not really, not any more than you’d call a bunch of birds flying together a fleet.”
    This story is a lifeboat, or you are its lifeboat because you are under its control and it wants more coverage with you aboard it or it aboard you. And I need a lifeboat, because this is the most mind-frazzling story I think I have ever read, like being immersed in Van Pelt’s ocean gestalt, testing me more than Finnegans Wake ever did. Where I try to run null and do a feely at the same time. Let the words flow over me, the miners on planetary sources, and colonists, their mendicant religions, Allah being a bit old-fashioned, and two characters with cryo and other body gloves whence to slip in and out relentlessly like sexual traction – meeting a pregnancy bump in one female character, as lifeboat or bomb or cyborg implant, with, alongside or later, synths and blinks, gelscoops, sodomy and gomorring, the headbutting of a gnashing drill, like riding the bronco of this story and forgetting you are actually quoting it instead! A Lazy Susan or another mother with one of the Starling fleet inside her, another dead mother-to-be, one who will die not in childbirth but in abject trust. Life as a One-Way War.
    It feels like us now projected into some (God)forsaken sump of some mad poofy gray brain. I loved it, but at my advanced age, I still don’t exactly know why. Give me a break. Still running null.
  5. THE TOWER PRINCESSES by Gwendolyn Kiste
    “I tell myself the wind swallows the paper, or a mama bird stuffs my handwriting in her nest as fodder.”
    Tower princesses reminding me at first of the earlier Rapunzel-like Princess called Ellie – but soon becoming, here, a deadpan taking-for-granted that there are some girls in Mary the narrator’s school, girls who are within towers like burqas, I thought, but not really burqas at all, but the very thought about burqas does resonate with the earlier Allah version of mendicants in the Larson…. No, these are like vertical shells, of different materials, and Mary strikes up a relationship with one of them, via the slits of the girl’s tower. The story also deals with bullying as well as incestuous rape upon Mary. This work I treat on its own. Startlingly provocative, enough.
    “She’s a mosaic, and I have to cobble together the pieces”
    But the Kiste also conveys the rite of passage of a young girl as the Devlin does, each tower princess left alone at home like Cinderella but inside her own bespoke mobile home, having become the princess through fitting this body shell (cf the body gloves in the Larson) as Cinderella’s foot fitted a slipper. But once out, what do they become. Born from themselves as mother shed to become child, so as to migrate…and then the shed tower to be used by others for incubation like within Ellie’s earlier chrysalis husk – or like the cyborg trigger within Larson’s Marina. Build up your own brainstorming in the comments below if you have been excited, like me, by this clutch of stories, each awaiting its own further migration.
    This collection of stories is another optimum Interzone experience whether you take it at surface level or higher than you may care to fly.
    There is much else in this magazine to interest the SF enthusiast, in addition to its fiction texts.