Saturday, March 23, 2019

Interzone #280

Interzone #280

TTA PRESS (Mar – Apr 2019)
My previous reviews of TTA Press HERE
Fiction by Val Nolan, Maria Haskins, Nicholas Kaufmann, Sarah Brooks, Shauna O’Meara.
When they read this magazine’s fiction, the above eyes’ thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

7 thoughts on “Interzone #280

  1. CYBERSTAR by Val Nolan
    “, every perfect world is somebody’s dystopia.”
    But this story is not about relativism, but about something special that, I believe, transcends relativism. All my life – and I am 71 now – I have read literature to transcend my humanity, my fallible body, but mostly my fallible mind, creating a sort of religion, that I have in my latter years enhanced, I believe, by the Gestalt real-time reviewing of hyper-imaginative fictions-as-truth, works like this one. Especially this one. It has a missionary feel, as if its own obliquely disarming missionary force has taken me with its mind-frazzling, surgically-forensic language of words, scientific and near-neologistic words that have flayed and flensed me, body and mind, reframed me, primed to meet God, not as on earth with mere prayer or myths like Christ, but in the spaces beyond, symbolised here by two asteroids balanced like Siamese twins, one Greater, the other Blessed Lesser. Amid the mind-frazzling of myself as facilitated by this work, I outdo myself, even when realising what a “gospel-addled mind” it is with which I have been brainwashed; yes, I outdo myself because it has a twist in this tale, a collective unconsciousness, a Gestalt, a “magnetoacquiesence” – which is God, which art in Heaven? An old fashioned nuclear bomb in a holy psalter become an illuminated manuscript, i.e. symbolised by these illustrated pages in Interzone that arguably have been interpreted correctly as a matter of faith by the Gestalt reader that is us, despite the wrong interpretations that may have fallibly been embedded by the author, any author on earth who continues to bear the burden of the generic Intentional Fallacy, a fallacy of literary theory that many have said over the years pervades all art and literature, a fallacy now finally transcended?
    My previous reviews of this author:
  2. Pingback: The Cyberstar | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS Edit
    “The first time I saw Mother Mary she was standing in the pulpit at the Pacific Priory, looking immeasurably tall, cloaked in her red vestments.”
    I am not sure I fully understood or appreciated this work as much as I should have done. It seems to echo the previous story inasmuch as the narrator and others are surgically prepared (“fusing neural implants to our flayed nerves”) for greater purpose of singing, yet, while tied, like the previous story, to a religious aspect, religious as embodied by the above quote, the singing is effectively for cynical war purposes amid a Wild West sort of scenario involving enemy bots, and trains, and steeds like pig-lizards. With a backstory involving the narrator, one of few people left with the singing powers, her dead lover and a new male friend who mistakenly shoots at her.
  4. CORIANDER FOR THE HIDDEN by Nicholas Kaufmann
    “Sometimes it seemed like there were more pottery-makers than there were animals in the Garden.”
    …and I have a feeling that is a hidden-coriander way of describing poetry-makers, among whom I count myself. And this author, too. A truly marvellous fable of angels with inarguable tasks to fulfil, tasks given by God (here called On-High). With oblique references, references just one slot away from the path we remember they took, to Biblical matters, like the Garden of Eden, the Red Sea Exodus, and the killing of first born, free will, fate, leading to time and cause/ effect paradoxes, our world today, a pattern of Gestalt with fabulous moving parts. I love the language of flowers in this context and its eventually realised raison d’être. And the characters of the angels, particularly the one we get to know most. And the serendipity of this story’s astonishing mutual synergy with Cyberstar.
    My previous reviews of this author:
    “The two coffees are for safety. For betting against fate. We take turns at buying, at practising the belief that the other will be there to drink it.”
    A story cross-rhythmed with Totenhaus from the current counterpart Black Static here and its beautifully attenuated death, and with the above “betting against fate” in the Kaufmann, in this Brooks world of slow fey dying, as represented by the black static of sluggish black butterflies (akin to the, albeit more knowingly cynical, if rising, power of the Haskins ‘singing’ or by the Cyberstar’s way of obviating the need for prayer and religious myth, doing this by means of rising for direct contact to God as some way of fulfilment) — but here a concept of black butterflies is a sort of deadpan assuagement of the state of not being busy, not working hard enough, too satisfied with casual relationships masquerading as close ones, a shield against being side-stepped by life, as we follow the narrator, her aunt, friend and someone called Enoch. Those death-rising black butterflies as presented here are haunting, disarmingly lethargic objective-correlatives for death. And the layout of the text by the publisher is the perfect counterpart of its oblique meaning.
    My previous reviews of this author:
  6. My previous reviews of the next author:
    ‘SCAPES MADE DIAMOND by Shauna O’Meara
    Wow! The ‘mrr’ of this magazine gestalt of fiction with words, and music (previously singing) and poetry lines and real composers’ names and again the flowers’ language, all here inside a herd or hive mind — but the ‘mrr’, too, as two men, Mr and Mr, in love, but with a complicated painful backstory to be relived, relieved, a disease transferred, after prison et al, within a TRUE Tulina alien eco-system of air locks and Cyberstar surgery, when reading a story like this as if it’s wild and uncombable, gone back with a gift of daisies to it, slowly melding into my mind like the black butterflies earlier, as real layers of time do talk to each other, while your past separate Proustian selves converse with current ones (“confronting the ghosts of the past”) and I am still sitting here stunned (in both a good and a bad way) with such free-wheeling hyper-imagination in this novella. I only read a story once before reviewing it and mind-combing its singular gestalt as well as its wider gestalt, even if I need to read it again, while widening into a wider gestalt with the rest of Interzone fiction and, also, I feel, with that in the counterpart Black Static that I have simulreviewed… An experience, so far (with only one more to read in Black Static) that promises to be, at different poles, my own ‘scuttlebutt’ and my own Cyberstar… “The sense of touching, not God, but the closest thing to a God-mind one is ever likely to meet; an exquisite merger of innumerable histories and experiences reaching far back through time, gathering up stories and knowledge and sensory impressions…”


    Black Static #68

    Black Static #68

    TTA PRESS (Mar – Apr 2019)
    My previous reviews of this publisher:
    Fiction by Stephen Volk, David Martin, Amanda J. Bermudez, Kay Chronister, Tim Lees, Tom Johnstone.
    When I read this magazine’s fiction, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

    10 thoughts on “Black Static #68

    1. 03B92BFE-1C67-4830-84F9-63850E4EE4E0.jpegUNCHAIN THE BEAST by Stephen Volk
      “The imagination is the most wonderful playground in the world.”
      Two Mexican boys, their carved backstory, their filming from scratch, firm friends, reaching onward till cinematic stardom for one and artistic collaboration by the other, then National political ambivalence for both, liberal and right wing politics as essentials for each other, both treacherous, even as this story is liberal as well as treacherous, as well as finely intentioned, as well as gorily impelled. The two men falling out, falling back in, absorbing the howl of the monster they created together, absorbing it as a suspension of disbelief on both their side of screen art and the other side’s equivalent treacherous reality, or vice versa, until year dot’s eventual full stop? My own playground as review. Unchained. Unchanged.
    2. IN A DRY SEASON by David Martin
      “Because somewhere in you there’s a dark little room where a scared little boy still lives, and I still see him peeping out of the windows sometimes.”
      …the little boy you once were, as the little boy absorbs the howl of the monster, a monster as the man he was to become in the previous story.
      Here, though, it is as if a woman named Emily — your ex (is she dead or simply has abandoned you?) — is narrating the whole story of ‘you’, as well as her haunting you with words you actually seem to hear her say to you, the thumbscrew of a wife or lover who still knows, even in her absence, your weaknesses. This is an older man’s story as he, as ‘you’, regathers his life, writing a semi-autobiography, and settling scores, now settled in a community of older folk abandoned by the young. A place in the country with a single pub, where the overbearing heat has stopped short so far of becoming an apocalypse but bleaching the wheat fields. He meets one man about my age, early seventies, a man into conceptual art, like me. It is as if I have met my own pretentious counterpart, and self-recognise his weaknesses, too.
      A highly felt, strongly couched story as a wordy thumbscrew of ‘found art’, as weaknesses conspire with weaknesses, with a brutal outcome, in an exhausted social desert, as the burning apocalypse becomes a true apocalypse more real than dream as part of a gestalt collective, – “in deepest England’s deep time.”
      A counterpart, too, in mutual synergy with the Cyberstar, that I read yesterday here, in the counterpart magazine to Black Static, arriving recently together – through the letterbox of my own ‘little room’.
      My previous review of this author:
    3. TOTENHAUS by Amanda J. Bermudez
      “Dead bodies, of course, tend not to heal.”
      A highly compelling Poetick of prose about one who guards the dead, in historic times of much death, whether French or German spoken, where bodies – as well as souls? – tangle together… Some awakening, even when left alone in state? Like this man’s wife, darkly, tenuously beautiful, her heel/ heal test-cut for life …
      Potentially the heel howl heal of this magazine’s fiction gestalt so far. The hawl towards collective catharsis, as I would personally call it. The toten itself?
    4. ROILING AND WITHOUT FORM by Kay Chronister
      Need help? Those well-formed letters like typeface in a book.”
      A message to me, as well as Molly? As if I, too, do not know the difference between ‘ravish’ and ‘ravage’, should I read those old-fashioned romance novels she has been given. Molly who seems to work in a hotel in the heart of darkness and swamp, with a ‘mother’ who is really in charge but to whose room Molly holds the unique key. At first I believed this was some haunted enclave where normal guests sometimes turn up as if it is a real hotel, where Molly is being kept back from normal life beyond the swamp, a swamp that divides a Conradian heartland and the normal world. Until one realises with utter fright that there is no normality left to rescue you. Or, at least, that is my interpretation among the even more frightening realisation that it is one of many possible interpretations. Probably the least frightening interpretation I could have possibly made! Subsuming colours, the devious nature of words, suggested edibilities, alien invasion, shape-shifting, bodily cleaving (in both senses of the word ‘cleave’) and much more.
      My previous review of this author:
    5. THE STOP-TAP by Tim Lees
      “He had a new game on his phone — cartoon mice would scurry round the screen, and he’d bash them with a cartoon mallet, squishing them like old tomatoes.”
      Tomatoheads and a Tomahawk missile. This work plainly affected me deeply …. not only in itself as a unique glimpse of a boyhood friendship, today with Netflix and cartoon phones and Maths become Math, yet with the feel of those epiphanic moments equivalent to my own 1950s experience of them … but also in its strange, revelatory, inadvertent mutual synergy with a story ‘The Hideaway Man’ I read here yesterday, both or at least one of them with a paradoxically incredulous, but believable would-be monster of a boy eager for girls and having a fatherhood question, also in synergy with the boyhood echoes in the Volk story earlier in this magazine. The epiphany of this Gestalt, too. As we follow the main boy protagonist, his endurance of the other insufferable, physically tousling boy, his loyalty despite love-hate of his own sister, and the final eponymous static peace he finds in the dell after the last school bell. But who was the monster, who do we believe most? The vital question of all past boyhoods, especially mine. A wonderful evocation. And to match the earlier Flamingo hotel…another Chronister of black static time… “There was a plastic flamingo on the lawn.”
    6. My previous reviews of the next author:
      THE BEAST IN THE PALACE by Tom Johnstone
      “You mix things up down there, they starts to mix things up above ground . . .”
      There is something topsy-turvy about this work, with a modern woman investigative story told about – or from within – a marvellously stylised story about and within 1829, with elements of Swinging between alternate worlds. With anciently crafted, eccentrically physical characters as if this was written in 1829 (astonishingly, I could truly believe it was written by a great author at that time with a then old-fashioned Swiftian feel and an explorer’s beast brought back from exotica and Tristram Shandy’s Sterne, but those writers take it back topsy-turvily even further back than 1829), but all imbued with a modern style of mutated imagination. A story about Brighton Pavilion gardens and a gardener Caleb “born with a caul to go with his club foot and crook back”, and his cowl as prophylactic against seeing his facial ugliness (a weird premonition of a face that turns up later!) And the tawny lad lurking in the gardens, an imported slave from warmer climes, who turns out to be a girl. This is gratuitous and disarming material, especially the nature of the ‘man’ who falls in love with the girl, not the ugly frog as a potential turncoat prince of fairy tale lore, but a man or beast for whom the earlier quote above in the text about gardening might have been written as gender-gardening! I loved this story for what it is, and I relished its cocky refusal to allow me to use it in my own usual brainstorming toward literary gestalt! Oh, except that its surprisingly abrupt ending, without further extending the stories within stories, does seem as if the stop-tap was suddenly turned off, or is it suddenly turned on? And, like Johnstone’s chronicler, Chronister seems to be a good word in itself for something or other to describe mutual elements, while all the fiction in the latest Interzone and Black Static seems to be reaching somehow towards an absurd God as well as a seriously spiritual one, in mind-stretching tides of fantasy and horror.

    Friday, March 22, 2019

    Sefira - John Langan

    14 thoughts on “Sefira & Other Betrayals – John Langan

    1. “Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
      Had a bad cold, nevertheless
      Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
      With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
      Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
      (Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
      Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
      The lady of situations.
      Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
      And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
      Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
      Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
      The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
      I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
      Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
      Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
      One must be so careful these days.”
      — from ‘The Waste Land’ by TS Eliot


      Compulsive Langan meaty prose. Lisa’s eyes are not TS Eliot’s ‘pearls’, but crazing over with streaks of black into the irises. Anxiety when seen in car’s rearview or McDonalds comfort stop mirrors. Chasing Sefira in her car across USA, Lisa dares not spend time visiting an eye hospital in case she never catches up. The Dolly Parton songs on her car audio, notwithstanding. I think Sefira has been playing around with Lisa’s man Gary? Whatever the case, I do not intend to re-rehearse the plot here, in case of spoilers. But who knows.
    2. II
      “, as he said, it was as easy to fix a rich man’s car as it was a poor man’s, and you could charge him more.”
      Backstory of Lisa and Gary’s marriage, a wife’s typical jealousies and the slight slack she once gave him when he was on a bachelor party with his brother, followed by the most raunchy description of marital sex I have ever seen in print. Seriously.
      What have I got myself into? On the Cusp, myself. Well, at my age, the Cusp is better than nothing.
      How many hidden wheels does the spinning-wheel really have? My seemingly gratuitous question, not the book’s.
    3. III
      “Those mountains shouldered age, history so ancient most of it had been ground off them. Those peaks leaned against the sky as if reclining on it, monuments to unimaginable gods, or those gods themselves.”
      This work, so far, is constructively and satisfyingly attritional with meticulous meaty paragraphs, meticulous with detail but also full of flair, as it describes Lisa’s personal road-movie pursuit – with striking sights for us of the various parts of America she drives through – yet, her teeth, like the above ground down mountains, reach a precarious state that formulate, for me, probably the most anguishing images regarding one’s teeth ever in literature! And her American diet, as she travels from one eating place to another, also accumulates attritionally in our mind. A diet’s nature in contrast to the woman called Sefira whom Lisa pursues. Meanwhile, I resist describing here what I earlier learnt about Sefira’s gestalt of body and perceived aura — and what Lisa has in her car boot…. I resist these things due to fear of spoilers. But please beware inadvertent spoilers in this review. It may be better that you join me on this ride as I read it. Or look at the rest of my review after you have read the work as a whole.
    4. IV & V
      “I will always be in your bed. You will never escape me.”
      I will equally always be in your book, too.
      Strange how some books work on readers, or on one particular reader that is me. This book ineluctably alternates, so far, between backstory and subsequent road pursuit, as if directed by some, as yet, inscrutably named Mme Sosostris, and/or by a GPS that masquerades as phone calls from whomsoever you pursue, the routes of the roads, the names of the places. The reader sees them, too, like a scenic rollercoaster. And the pursued sometimes seem to double-back in person upon the pursuer, rather than by distant connection. All to the backing track of past compulsive searching on-line for whatever built climax you might otherwise not attain. “with gifs and laughing skulls…” Love a polarity between itself and hate, no more, no less – like today’s general intrinsic raging polarity? “You want to know what eternal torment looks like? It’s repetition, doing the same thing over and over and over.”
      • As an aside, “You want to know what eternal torment looks like? It’s repetition, doing the same thing over and over and over.” – synchronously in tune with the Bercow statement today on Brexit.
    5. VI
      “Dignity does not preclude revenge.”
      This narrative’s uniquely attritional extrapolation or mutation of the earlier marital raunchiness, the porn gifs, the retrocausal gps, the blackening eyes, the precarious teeth, the American diet, now extended to the gear-grinding, tail-twirling style of driving a car, then the discovery of … what? Gory with or without Gary? Well, I leave you to imagine, assuming you are not following the text with me, or have not already experienced the whole text without me. Meanwhile, I wonder if the image — that I precariously used by chance in the photo above at the top before starting my own reading of the text — is a symbol of the ‘hives’ or of the rods and pinwheels along the envisaged pathway to Mme Sosostris? Whatever the case, along with a sense of evil, Sefira seems severer AS FIRE than as FIShERmAn… “…the fire, fires, all the fire…” (My underlining.)
    6. VII
      “She had been driving so long that, standing still, she continued to feel herself hurtling forward.”
      There is something deeply attritional about any pursuit transpiring simultaneously with the pursued also purposely pursuing the pursuer, the pawns or puppets of the pursued, one by one, whether male or female, hidden in plain sight or not, pursuing the pursuer’s identity by name before they try to end the pursuer’s pursuit, one of them with a revolver spinning off, another with a knife…
      Via a precarious timetable possibly thwarted, and black shrouds pervading the perception of not only the pursuer but also the pawns and puppets of the pursued, plus a garden of yellow fangs, the fish and its lamprey, yes, via all this and what I might call a fisherman’s cast of spear-carriers, the mutual pursuit seems about to crystallise in this strangely suspenseful attrition of narrative.
    7. VIII
      “‘May?’ That’s the best you can do?”
      We step back to the root of the rationale of this book’s suspenseful pursuit of Sefira’s ‘nest’, the gory of Gary, the card-turning advice of the Waste Land’s Sosostris, the told-about hooking by Fisherman Sefira of the still warm heart, then cradling it like a prize catch (something I would naturally call ‘hawling’ and that this book calls a process to “hook your soul”), the nature discussed here in the dialogue of this hawling in Hell where some entities move close to the ground like spiders, then seeming hokum about the ‘pneumasphere’ … a hokum that makes me question whether we can believe what the characters are talking about. Fingers probing like needles … an essential evil that stains these pages.
    8. IX, X & XI
      “Already, she had identified the spindled form as the one she had seen in the memories the soul cages had driven into her,…”
      Driven into her, as it says, or driven BY her, with her teeth having been already decayed by her journey’s priming for the retrocausal candied finale. “…the mouth lined with bone and glass needles.” That white card, primed by blackened eyes, too, the white card that Sosostris turned, not a devil’s Trump but a wild card, one that can be slotted into the audit trail: a blank joker such as me? I will not reveal here the final outcome of the pursuit, but only hint at the wild duel of Langan’s crepitating words that outpace each other in their own pursuit of each other. No way to do justice to their meatily cumulative, attritional power. Studied aggression, not anger, in distaff combat. Ticks and green shrieking. Soul cages and trenches. Swarm prose. Layered sentences. I feel as if I am the “grotesque parody of an old man shaking his cane at the kids on his lawn,” when I address myself to this text. Layers and layers of clothes on the orgy’s bed after the party. “… putting what spin on it she could.” I am in its power, “hokey as the words sounded.” As they still sound, while I now swallow them.