BLACK STATIC #63 (May-Jun 2018) edited by Andy Cox. Zine review

BLACK STATIC #63 (May-Jun 2018) edited by Andy Cox, TTA Press, Ely, Cambs, UK p/b £5.99 (UK) 96 pages, ISSN: 1753-0709,

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

A lot of the potential readers of a magazine such as this are primarily interested in the fiction and this issue has five offerings from the horror genre. Black Static has never been just about the fiction. It also encompasses reviews, both of films and books, and has opinion pieces. Above all, though, it is a showcase for artistic talent. Richard Wagner’s cover deserves a close look. It is a beautiful piece of work full of detail, texture and surprise. It is not what it seems at first glance. He has also delicately illustrated Matt Thompson’s story ‘The Bones of Flightless Birds’. Ben Baldwin is an artist frequently included in Black Static. His illustration for Nicholas Kaufmann’s story is beautifully rendered. Vincent Sammy’s illustration for Steven J Dines story is also worth looking at.

Although the magazine doesn’t have a theme, several of the stories here incorporate animals into the text. Nicholas Kaufmann’s ‘The Fire and the Stag’ has early on an image of a stag fleeing a fire, its antlers wreathed in flames. For the boy, Kenny, this is an image that haunts his life and along with the fact that the fire killed his parents he has spent the following thirty two years coping with the trauma. His sister, an anthropologist, disappears on a search for a lost Native American tribe. He has to face his fears if he is to search for her.

Moths are the creature that features in Kristi DeMeester’s ‘Pyralidae’ (this being a family of moths). The exact group is not important since the dead body is the medium for growing nematodes for pest control. Before his death, Josephine’s father agreed to take part in trials. The problem with this story is that it is a big jump from Josephine breaking a capsule containing a moth corpse to the denouement.

‘The Bones of Flightless Birds’ by Matt Thompson also has a bizarre element but there is more logic to it. On an isolated prison island, the inmates begin to die with malformed bones. There is no disease that has the symptoms. Curious, the doctor later digs up the bones to see that the deformation has continued after death, the feet developing into a resemblance of a birds talons. Though the mystery isn’t solved, the disquiet of the story is unsettling.

The other two stories have a very human basis. Steven J Dines novella, ‘The Harder it Gets, the Softer We Sing’ deliberately breaks all the rules new writers are told to observe and although part of the effects this generates is surreal the central premise is the way a family copes with the loss of a child through miscarriage. The part played by the child, Alfie is delightful. ‘Raining Street’ by J.S. Breukelaar considers loss from a different direction. The narrator agrees to leave her children with a neighbour while she goes in search of cheaper food, and gets hopelessly lost. The struggle is to find a way back to her children before something bad befalls them.

All these are good stories but Steven J Dines novella, ‘The Harder it Gets, the Softer We Sing’ is probably my favourite as it gets inside the minds of the characters and makes their predicament very real.

As with other issues of Black Static the opinion pieces from Lynda E. Rucker and Ralph Robert Moore are both thought provoking. In the reviews section, Gary Couzens pays tribute to Peter Nicholls who, as well as being behind the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction was also knowledgeable about film, having written a book about it. Peter Tennant takes Priya Sharma as his featured author, reviewing her collection and interviewing her.

If you are a reader of horror and want to keep up to date Black Static is a good way of doing so.