Saturday 25 June 2011

Black Static #23

A pretty strong issue I think, with more good than bad in the curate's egg that Black Static often is.

Time Keeping by V.H. Leslie is a story I enjoyed more than her previous submission "Ulterior Design" which I thought was a pretty run of the mill "Descent Into Madness" story which telegraphed its intentions right from the off and used some pretty unsubtle metaphors. Howard eithyer really is a guardian of time or simply a sociopath/psychopath with an obsessive compulsion that serves to provide a framework for his life. Interaction with the real world (in the shape of Helen) can only lead to disaster as the balance of his world is changed and so it proves. The story is divided into 12 "chapters" in the same way a clock face is divided into 12 hours and the text is littered with temporal metaphors and phrases. I think there's more style than substance here - and I'm not sure if the break in chronology just before the climax is necessary, or works that well.

Hail by Daniel Kaysen. I liked this very much, mainly because it's a story that made me think. It's an enigmatic piece that doesn't give much away, even on second reading. At one point the narrator tells a Salvation Army volunteer "I am dead", his reply is "Have you got somewhere to go, though?" I'm guessing that's the crux of the story right there.

Electric Dreams by Carole Johnstone is my favourite story in this collection. Aside from appropriating the name of a song for its title - something I have a penchant for myself - it's a story with a great concept behind it. It put me in mind of the Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire", although a much darker variation on the theme of angels watching over humanity and assisting in their hour of need.

The Harvesting of Jackson Cade by Robert Davies is probably the most entertaining story in this issue. A descent into madness - or possibly despair would be more accurate - it's suitably gross and provides plenty of wince-inducing moments.

For Their Own Ends by Joel Lane is a short piece that presents a kafka-esque vision of the NHS through the eyes of a heart attack victim. Heavy on allegory it probably loses something as a story in its own right to the message it's trying to get across. I work in the NHS and actually read this story whilst waiting to see a consultant for an appointment so a double whammy for me. Subtle it aint. Pertinent it is.

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