BLACK STATIC #68. Zine review

BLACK STATIC #68, TTA Press, p/b,
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes 

As is usual with Black Static, this magazine is a mix of comment, review and, the main draw, short stories. This is the darker side of Interzone with Case Notes and Blood Spectrum’s sections of long and short reviews. This is the March/April issue with two content sections from Lynda E. Rucker and Ralph Robert Moore on why horror attracts so much attention from viewers and readers alike and the stranger aspects of watching film and TV with Ralph pointing out what is unusual about what people do in those series and why.

Unchain the Beast by Stephen Volk is one of the novelettes here with Beeno and Pepe who are best friends due to their love of horror movies. The story is a long one and takes readers through their early lives as children where they work in make-up and model making in the industry. Their lives start out as exciting, at least for them, but later (which seems far too long) we get to the truth of the matter, that they, like many others were contacted by the state and used as torturers for those who might be against the state, spies or possible insurgents. Instead of reading about what they did, there is more of what they were like growing up, which left me wondering why Volk concentrated so much effort on their early lives when what they did later was more interesting and relevant to the story. I could hazard a guess at Volk wanting to shock the reader at the end, but it did leave me questioning his motivation. I thought it could have been a better story if he had gradually built it up to a crescendo.

The Beast in the Palace by Tim Johnston is the second novelette where Doctor Cecilia Nigerere is looking for Caleb, a gardener of the Royal Pavillion gardens back in 1829, thinking the gardens were haunted, but by what, he has no idea. His encounter with what we come to know as a beast haunted his years and the doctor writes her account of her findings and the strange tale that follows which feels like a dark fairy story with a much darker ending than expected.

There are three short stories this time around; In a Dry Season by David Martin, Totenhaus by Amanda J. Bermundez and The Stop-Tap by Tim Lees. The one that interested me most was In A Dry Season, this is the sort of story where it is written from the first person perspective, like in the old D&D fighting fantasy novels from the ’80s where you were the hero in a scenario that had you doing heroic deeds; you had the choice of finding treasure, saving a damsel in distress or battling cruel sorcerers. Here, a writer ponders the depths of a village being kept in check by a certain man and why this is.

Case Notes looks at the latest novels reviewed by Mike O’Driscoll, Andrew Hook, Daniel Carpenter, Philip Fracass, Georgina Bruce, David Surface and Laura Mauro; The Worst is Yet to Come by S.P. Miskowski, The Suicide Machine by Douglas Thompson, The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell, The Pale Ones by Bartholemew Bennettt and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh are the topic of conversation with The Water Cure being the most interesting as well as the most deadly sounding. Blood Spectrum has the best of film reviews on Russian Doll, Possum, Horror Express, William Castle at Columbia Volume 2, Berserk, Hush, Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte, Halloween, The Unholy, Laura, Human Desire, Boar, Videoman, Predator  and many more besides.  What I found with the subject matter being reviewed were the mix of popular classics with many B Movies; Halloween, Venom and The Predator are the ones that stood out for me as everyone has heard of them, and Venom is one of the most recent. 

Black Static Issue #68 has a lot to offer its readers with short stories, novelettes and some decent review material with darker tales for a change of strange pasts and even stranger futures where man and monster could possibly coexist.