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The Silver Web, Issue 15
The Silver Web, Issue 15
The Silver Web
Issues of The Silver Web are available for $5.95US Each and subscriptions for $10.00US (2 issues). The can be ordered from Ann Kennedy,
Buzz City Press,
P.O. Box 38190,
Tallahassee, FL 32315

Buzz City Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

You can tell a book (or, in this case, a magazine) by its cover.

In an interview conducted by Jeff VanderMeer with Scott Eagle, the artist provides an explanation of the inspiration behind the cover art that graces the current Summer 2002 issue of The Silver Web:

This is acrylic paint on top of collage. I started by covering the whole page with magazine pictures of snakes, slugs, frogs, dirt, rust, etc. (That's what little boys are made of.) I took a power sander to it and then collaged some more. I began to see the Buddha's face and developed that first. His teeth are a photo of fruit. The man came next. He is a combination of a couple of fetish figures. At the time I did the collage, I was reading about Buddhism and Taoism [and] my realization that prayer and meditation are two very different things... So, playing Sigmund Freud, I guess zee little red figure is zee devil zat sits on zee christian shoulder tempting... doing something eempossible by reaching through zee Buddha to grab zee tooth (the symbol change) which also happens to be fruit (zee tree of knowledge, maybe?). Nietze voice told me. "Bevare zee devil that you cast out for it may be zee best part of you." Vhat is Yin without Yang?"
A weird (or at least highly accented) explanation for a weird-looking magazine cover that contains some unusually weird stories (as well as poetry in the same vein from Lois Marie Harrod, E.P. Allen, William John Watkins, Scott Kenney, and Gary Myers). Now, some people take that term -- "weird" -- to mean unacceptable, as in, "It's too weird for me." Of course, readers of the SF Site are actively seeking out the weird, in both the sense of something inexplicably strange, perhaps frightening, and possibly foreboding of the future. That said, even stalwarts of the fantastic may find some of these tales just a little bit too, well, weird.

Now, I like weird, especially really weird. The lead story, "Conjuring the Disclaimers" by Colin James, however, strikes me as being weird for the sake of being weird and nothing more. It has got something to do with a guy named Needles who during his hospital stay suffers from questionable fashion tastes, performs a naked martial arts exercise, and meets two brothers who commit "reality disorder." While my problems with this story may reflect my own intellectual limitations as opposed to the author's excesses, it is just too abstruse to bother trying to figure out what the hell James is getting at here.

For those who might have a similar reaction, don't despair. It gets weirder in more interesting ways. "Midwiving the World" by Michael Bishop may seem similarly incomprehensible on first glance, but a more careful reading reveals something genuinely recondite in pondering the unique and at times compulsive power of language. The grotesque reality of "One Window" by Scott Thomas in which the protagonist meets a ghastly fate provides a horrific metaphor for the character's psychological state. That's also the intention of Vera Searles in "The Waiting Room," though not as fully realized. In "O Goat-Foot God of Arcady," Brian Stableford presents a woman whose mid-life crisis has driven her into prospect of a lackluster marriage to a bioengineer. This is the only remotely science fictional tale with its characters speculating on theories of cross species genetic manipulation, though the Great God Pan intervenes to save the reader from the pedantic exposition of so much hard SF.

The bleak inevitability of fate, and the lack of control we have over its relentless march despite our lame efforts to forestall it, is the subject of the "The Rain King" by Michael S. Gentry:

"The rain," croaked the shrinking nurse," is good." She ran her crooked twig-finger along the side of an empty crib, carefully wiping the dust away. "The rain clouds shield us from the burning eye of God." The caretaker heard her, but said nothing. He finished folding the last of the linen sheets and placed it on top of the stack in one of the other cribs. The chamber was full of cribs, all of them empty.
Though the subject matter is mostly bleak, this issue is not totally devoid of humor. Stepan Chapman's "The Comedian" is a tale of how a boy whose telekinetic powers is limited only to the manipulation of dead animals eventually finds a rewarding career where his abilities can truly be anticipated. Funny in a very, well, weird, sort of way.

Not as outright funny, but sure to evoke a smile, is "Ye Old Epherma Shoppe" by Carol Orlock. It is perhaps the most accessible story here, a sort of John Collier yarn of an antiquities dealer who comes upon some unusual goods and makes an equally unusual arrangement to acquire them and pass them on.

The standout stories are "A Lesser Michaelangelo" by T. Jackson King and "The Apocrypha According to Cleveland" by Daniel Abraham. The former is an allegory about deviancy and suffering to create great art, while Abraham's parable of the ineffable and perhaps meaningless nature of reality that lies beneath the myths constructed to give the appearance of an orderly universe is already on my "Year's Best" list. For my money, it doesn't get any better weird than this.

Copyright © 2002 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.

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