BLACK STATIC #69 (May-Jun 2019) edited by Andy Cox. Zine review

BLACK STATIC #69 (May-Jun 2019) edited by Andy Cox, TTA Press, Ely, Cambs, UK p/b £5.99 (UK) 96 pages, 

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Once upon a time mention the term horror and the majority of the population would conjure an image of blood, screaming females and dismembered bodies. Horror was synonymous with scary and shocking. That kind of horror went out of fashion and has been replaced by much subtler kinds designed to unsettle and maybe provoke. The stories in Black Static explore the variety of horror fiction. 

It can be obsessions that lead towards the potentially unpleasant. In Erin L. Kemper’s story ‘Where it Ends, Where it Begins’ Mac is a scavenger – along the tide-line, out on the sea. He sells his finds to tourists, all except the body parts he keeps in his freezer. This is a gentle complex story. In contrast, ‘Beach People’ by Joanna Parypinski appears more straight-forward. A family desperately trying to come to terms with the death of a son holiday by a lake. The daughter, Camilla, notices a strange girl coming out of the water and onto the beach and the gradual disappearance of other visitors. While Camilla knows her brother is dead, Lee in Hunting by the River’ by Daniel Carpenter, only knows that his sister is missing and not for the first time. The horror is the frustration of not being able to rescue from wherever she has ended up.

Apocalyptic stories may tend towards the SF but always have an element of horror in them. Jack Westlake’s ‘Pomegranate, Pomegranate’ focuses on the effects rather than the cause of the plague that means that if a word is repeated, the brain gets stuck on it and the word is repeated at the expense of everything else. It is the ultimate mind-worm.

Daniel Bennett’s story, ‘When You Decided to Call’ contains little overt horror but the frustration of not knowing who the person is who always calls when the narrator is out. It is strange and surreal. Loss is part of this story as it is in most of the stories in this issue, no more so than in ‘Messages From Weirdland’ by Simon Avery. Franklyn has made a living by writing and illustrating stories about an imaginary place called Weirdland. Many of these stories have horrific elements. When his wife dies, he no longer feels inspired to write. With the loss of Elspeth, so much more has been lost – she has taken his creative ability with her. The messages in her handwriting appear in bottles on the beach. This is a beautifully realised story.

As these stories show, loss and/or grief can generate that sense of horror as it will touch us all at some time whereas encountering monsters out to kill us is less likely. This issue of Black Static explores some of the routes authors have taken.

There are also the expected features found in every issue, including book and film reviews. It is always useful for the viewer to know whether a new-to-DVD film is likely to be to the viewers taste.