BLACK STATIC #61 (Nov-Dec 2017) edited by Andy Cox. Zine review

BLACK STATIC #61 (Nov-Dec 2017) edited by Andy Cox, TTA Press, Ely, Cambs, UK p/b £5.99 (UK) 96 pages,

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

It is a strange idea that a writer should learn their trade by writing short stories when there are so few markets available and so many competing for the limited space. Most publishers, particularly main-stream ones will tell you that short stories don’t sell, so are not interested in collections of short fiction. Like poets, many fiction writers resort to doing it themselves. It is fortunate then that Black Static has built up a good reputation in the horror field. It is a showcase for, mainly, British talent, and artists.

This issue, (#61), of the bi-monthly magazine, has six stories, two non-fiction articles and the regular film and book columns. Leaving the reviews sections aside, the other prose contributors are slit male/female with a female bias. The length of the pieces is variable from the very short ‘The Anniversary’ flash fiction by Ruth EJ Booth to ‘A Small Life’ a novelette by Carley Holmes. The first is a subtle piece, the later has space to develop character and atmosphere and begins with an obsession with water and an addiction to rowing. It is a story that builds quietly to the denouement. Andrew Humphries ‘Do Not Google’ deals with a different kind of addiction, the temptation to do what you know you shouldn’t. This time it is an apparent curse. Type it into Goole and someone dies. The problem is that even knowing the outcome, the temptation to test it is difficult to resist. Although the theme is old, the treatment is up to date and while predictable, it works.

‘For Whom the Dogs Bark’ by Ralph Robert Moore uses a more rational fear for its effect. An elderly man is told he needs an operation to remove cataracts or he will go blind. The operation on the first eye goes wrong and he is blinded but he will not have the operation on the second in fear that that will go wrong too. Whatever his choice he will be blind. Woven within the story are the problems he has encountered through life. One of the problems he has is with dogs. A more benign dog features in Georgina Bruce’s ‘A Book of Dreems’. Kate is told it doesn’t exist, but there are a lot of things she doesn’t understand. At the start of the story, she is a woman recovering from an accident which has robbed her of memories. As the tale proceeds a sinister element creeps in as all is not what it appears.

‘Tancho’ has surreal elements as well as being a ghost story. Jameson drowns an old woman and traps her spirit in a koi pond. He promises to free her if she manipulates the koi’s breeding to produce only ones that are rare and expensive.

All the fiction here is of a high quality but the artwork is beautiful and complements the stories. Both the film and book reviews by Gary Couzens and Peter Tennant respectively are comprehensive. To a certain extent some of the less important items, particularly among the films could have been left out and not been missed. On the whole, this is a magazine worth supporting. Remember, these markets will only be there as long as readers buy them.