Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Crabian Heart – Erik Hofstatter

2 thoughts on “The Crabian Heart – Erik Hofstatter

    “If you want to keep your love safe—stay away from the crabs.”
    It feels like the expression “Crabian heart” has always existed with some sort of inherent instinct. Meanwhile, I absorbed this story of detained immigrants to this country of mine, people first parked, as it were, in Dover, till their case is heard. A mother and her 13 year old son. I felt there was something ‘knowing’ about how they felt, as if entrapped by someone or something that had entered the texture of words to obviate any doubt about the bookish platform upon which these words sit crabwise. Also to obviate such uttering weirdness of words about the boy’s love for Enola, a girl he meets on the beach.
    The purple colour, the crabs, the nightmarish evocations of pig hearts as well as Crabian ones. Embattled by an antagonistic foreign country that is also perhaps the intended reader’s own UNforeign template of a home country, the characters endure stoically an oblique metaphor for something far more frightening than just the normal concerns of abuse, danger or racism as a cancer of crabs. Not knowing, even through the central trope of Dadaistic instinct that this work engenders, how to differentiate what might bring despair and what might bring hope. And who or what is one’s biggest threat? The threat is you, dear reader, whoever you are, however you the reader interprets this never-ending quest for righteous meaning from such a bleakly visionary, sometimes unhealthy, often disarmingly plain-spoken swirl of gratuitous horror for horror’s sake, amid the competing forces working upon young love in an alien universe.
    “Humans are born alone and they die alone. Don’t you think that’s sad?”
  2. This publication also includes a shorter story by the same author that I read and reviewed last June, and this is what I wrote about it then….
    Fountain of Drowned Memories   by Erik Hofstatter
    “That feckin’ material, what yer call it? Why can’t I remember?”
    Insulation cladding?
    A very powerful portrait of a man suffering from dementia in a care home, where he sees his sink as a fountain of drowned memories.
    A fountain, though, usually flowers like attractive features of life, I thought…
    Yet, I see this man suffers from his overgenerous urine outtake as if fed and stemmed upon pure asparagus diet. A throwaway line with a million meanings.IMG_3432
    All close to home for me, with my own prostate, and I expect one day my own son will come to visit me to decry the fountain until we both do sink into it, one by one, over time? And THEN I remembered – Marcel Duchamp’s famous work of art of a pissoir was called FOUNTAIN, wasn’t it? And I smiled.
    Dreadful death will come later following my final Avant Garde smile, after all, I thought.
    A moving work, in more ways than one.
    Dada, my son said.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Red Tree – Caitlín R. Kiernan

Friday, November 24, 2017

Interzone #273

8 thoughts on “Interzone #273

  1. LOOKING FOR LAIKA by Laura Mauro
    “Pete had always thought the end of the world would be a lot louder.”
    A truly limpid tale of a five year old girl, naive with wonder at the bespoke fabrications of fiction concocted by her 13 year old half-brother, while they are on holiday on a caravan site with their shared grandparents. This is potentially a classic SF tale evolving before you, as you tie together your hidden knowledge of the boy’s panic attacks with her constructive gullibility, and how Cyrillic became a way of getting to the very bone of all our fears and hopes, and quaint gullibility beyond the stars and beyond mankind’s misdeeds. If I told you more, it would spoil it.
  2. My previous review above: “…our fears and hopes, and quaint gullibility beyond the stars and beyond mankind’s misdeeds.” But now have they already reached beyond, instead of waiting? Milton said they also serve who only stand and wait … and wait.
    AFTER THE TITANS by Rachael Cupp
    “The spirits are everywhere, and there is one born this moment, very rare and very splendid, which lives only in this kiss.”
    I tchah at the need above for ‘very’ in each instance of meaning, but it’s more beautiful to hear read aloud with ‘very’ reinstated. In fact this whole work is a lingering poetic nebulosity of spirits, gods, narrative youngmother becoming oldmother, Vine the Shepherd, Little Flute, Beetle, titans and, I assume, humans, and the interactions between such entities. Better read aloud or told to self within? I would need to read it again, this time aloud. And as you know, all my real-time reviews are based on my first reading of a work.
    “This is how to bleed the fruit.”
    “I am cursed. I am cursed to have caused these things.”
    “Wait and wait and wait and wait.”
    “How can we have anything and we choose this?”
    For me, a telling SF portrait of Brexit (sorry, I am obsessed), “the country had spoken”, where gestalt ‘might’ becomes granular ‘mite’. Still, it’s intriguing enough to put both sides of nostalgia, health & safety and self-frying fries in salt. E-numbers and mites. Also links for me with the chipped-beige Brexited Wetherspoons and casual relationships and ‘mnemonic rape’ of the Humphrey story I reviewed here earlier today in the concurrent Black Static, in fact so far generally co-resonating the fiction in both magazines… they also serve who only stand and wait. Happy Meals, notwithstanding.
  4. THE BIG SO-SO by Erica L. Satifka
    “It was a bad day, even if I did live in Utopia.”
    A so-so Brexit (I attempted to make the aliens a symbol for the promise of Brexit, an imputed brainwashing that caused it, and the symbol worked, almost, so far. What do you think?)
    Meanwhile, a strong tale in itself (more subtle and tantalising than I can give justice to here) of Earth invasion by aliens who sift us by various means of brain examination as a guide to our pecking-order of usage to them, and of pleasure-juice leading to an eventual realisation or outcome, all told via the story of feisty Dorcas in rebellion and trying to co-opt the pleasure-juice from the aliens, told by her friend as narrator, a woman who is asked whether she loves Dorcas…. And a dysphonic band that I am glad I did not hear! And ravelling and unravelling, by the way, mean the same thing. Themes from Laika and Titans and Nostalgia Capitalism in telling backdrop.
  5. D83DFB88-F9B9-45B2-AD31-0B6FB436EBE1THE GARDEN OF EATING by R. Boyczuk
    “From within Snake’s mouth a little Snake emerged.”
    An intriguing world for me of today’s news of Zimbugabe in “regime change”, also “state sponsored terrorism”, scarce resources side by side with tutored ‘imaginings’ or realities of a land of plenty, where the eternal Eden myth is still played out, a Garden of Eating as an assonance of Eden and Brexiteers’ Playground of Eton, where Boris spies hid in plain sight, surrounded by a maze of niches, subways, hidden coves to other lands good and bad, an adventure with ‘weapons of mass instruction’ as well as real fiery ones, as deployment of this allegory – a world that stands alone, too, as a striking non-didactic SF vision, where things ARE and called by and called as their Proper Names, even the author Boyczuk (Czar Uk) as ‘Boy’ the central character in ambiguous interaction with his Garden’s equivalent to Eve called Amerigun. Atom and Rib in the myth. I am still thinking about this work as it rolls on beyond its ending perhaps forever.
    Above section of this edition’s cover artwork is called 417h3r105 v6 by Dave Senecal. Not a Proper Name but a password to be entered in Google?
    • JAMES WHITE AWARD WINNING STORY: ‘The Morrigan’ by Stewart Horn.
      Being published in Interzone as one of the prizes of being chosen as the winner by an International panel of judges. I am afraid this story had a certain style that I could not get past. Obviously, my fault. Seemed to be about gang warfare in Glasgow.
      There is much else in Interzone to interest the SF enthusiast in addition to its fiction.


    Thursday, November 23, 2017

    Black Static #61

    Black Static #61


    My previous reviews of TTA PRESS publications HERE

    Stories by Ruth E.J. Booth, Ralph Robert Moore, Georgina Bruce, Andrew Humphrey, Carly Holmes, Mel Kassel.

    When I review these stories, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

    8 thoughts on “Black Static #61

    1. FOR WHOM THE DOGS BARK by Ralph Robert Moore
      As a 70 year old myself, on the coming cusp of feeling as old as Hans Zitter feels in this story, and having a few years ago taken my elderly mother for cataract operations on her eyes and now cataracts maturing in my own eyes, and having seen men in my garden pretending to be barking like dogs, and having memories … wait, I did not go to prison where I was violated by other men, my memories do not include beating up someone who was harassing my family, nor following a girl at the seaside, but at our age others’ memories somehow seep in from elsewhere and become yours, or should I say, mine. A very effective and frightening and shocking mélange of memories, and things happening now, this precise moment, things that are about to become memories, I hope, because, when you are without memories and you are nothing, even bad ones are welcome. Memories that are me. Me the only gestalt of everything left. “My name is Hans Zitter. I live at 513 Humming Drive.”
    2. THE BOOK OF DREEMS by Georgina Bruce
      “That inky black lake in the centre of her head, sucking at her memories.”
      …and she eventually and paradoxically uses it to write out this consuming fury of a story, in which uncharacteristically for me I include an author bio at the end of a story as an intrinsic part of that story. Strange how this author’s work often makes me change my critical ways. I actually fear its spate of images or felt nightmares (so many here to spend in this work that still crowdfund my mind and to which I cannot do justice or give free rein) will either escape my grasp or turn on me like one of the previous story’s ‘dogs’ if I do not do justice to its inchoate meening. A dog here, too, and a similar sucking in of memories, this 22 year young woman’s memories and their gaps between and their forced march from dream to dreem, misspelling as a form of nightmare. Her man is 25 years older than her and has concocted a SF future moon travel scenario, a moon that comes back to bite her. I ended furious, too, full of her memories, empathy rampant. I now know what it is like. I already knew, but not to this extent. And the dog gurns. Funny how gurn looks like gum in this misspelt, misspelled world. Gums as part of a mouth. A broken mouth with puppet strings. No pearls there. “…or even with the gum. Dogs like to chew things, she guessed.”
    3. DO NOT GOOGLE by Andrew Humphrey
      …”into the chipped beige paintwork” of a Wetherspoons pub, and the nature of working in an insurance company’s grey building, the disparate characters one meets and loves for whatever goal, the things one does with or against the grain of what is expected or is lawful, as if we are all potentially part of some death or ‘mnemonic rape’ by Google, whether in English, Cyrillic, Latin or whatever. Led into this story from nowhere and back into nowhere, if I told you its plot and about its narrator and such disparate characters in his life (one character being “forty-five, going on thirty, going on dead”), then the plot would be spoilt by some curse that will destroy me or empty my mind. Or yours? I dare not try, other than utter the homily “Horror stories, mate.” Oh, the ending, if interpreted the way I interpret it, is one of the best endings ever in one of the most taken-aback plain-spoken tales I have read for a long time. With someone “in a light beige jacket…”
    4. A SMALL LIFE by Carly Holmes
      “Fish nuzzled the water’s surface from below, ghostly shapes in speckled bronze and silver floating up through the murk.”
      Were they Tench? And meanings float up, too, through the river of this powerful story, through its riparian renewability, always a new river to touch the next time you touch it. Written in a linear literary style with the feel of the balanced stars of Lawrence, a style that I often admire, evolving, though, into a non-linearity, whether it be of this review’s earlier assumption of man harassing woman or now vice versa? It’s you, not me. Daring to face the curse of Humphrey’s Google temptation. Pearls for teeth. Men pretending to be dogs. Meanwhile, this particular story starts with a striking description of seeing the land differently from a boat. And of the seemingly healthy gestalt of a boatful of men in coxed and coaxed unison. The aspirational gestalt of all the books I continue to review, as separate from their authors. The ghostalt then created by an impingement of a single woman, with all that event’s sexual implications. The male narrator’s fight with alcohol while trying, forgive the cliché, to find himself, together with the act of minding his own business, with slippage back and forth. Then the, for me frightening, human-shaped landscape glitch or monster as symbol or something pretending to be thus, as if imputed to be born from the author herself? The at-arm’s-length of the literary intentional-fallacy made closer and closer to self? A mighty work.
    5. FD901BD1-9925-4F17-B847-5E1B26E9B123TANCHO by Mel Kassel
      “She had pruned her garden without mercy, and she knew to drive toward the deer you were about to hit, not to swerve.”
      I did not start the review of the previous story with a question about Tench because I had any inkling then about this story and what it was about! (“Is it a Tench?” – a long-term crucial question for me, with several past links at that link, a question originating from John Cowper Powys’ “The Glastonbury Romance” (1933)).
      I had, of course, not read this final story when I wrote the above review. I am as equally amazed as you also may be at this synchronicity. This TANCHO story, in itself, is a striking vision of a woman being ‘drowned’ by a man to act as some dialysis network to breed the most valuable koi fish of all, the tancho. The actual mad-scientist mechanics of this process and her eventual revenge upon this man is a perfect coda to the Bruce and Holmes stories, that it’s-you, not-me counterpoint to today’s sexual exploitation scandals. There are some beautiful as well as disturbing descriptions in the Kassel that everyone should read. An apotheosis of some complexity that we are all only now beginning to understand. Not pretending to be dogs, but fish. Put “Tancho”in Google, I dare you, I tchah you.