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Black Static, Issue 21, February-March 2011

Black Static, Issue 21, February-March 2011
Black Static
Black Static is the new title for The Third Alternative, which was founded in 1994. With the arrival of Interzone in 2005, it was no longer necessary to publish science fiction and fantasy in The Third Alternative, so TTA Press took the opportunity to focus on its darker side and give the magazine a new title to emphasise the slight shift, and give potential readers a clearer idea of what the magazine was all about.

Black Static

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

Stephen Volk talks about the latest movies, and compares them to older ones for maximum effect. The Hammer movies come to mind for him, as do the ones of the fifties. His hatred of Mike Leigh is interesting and shows how much a person can be idolized for all the wrong reasons in Hollywood, but as he skips over the various movies, you can't help but wonder if he's hitting on something we all see -- the depth, or lack of it in movies these days, and how the concept of horror has changed over the past twenty years to become more sophisticated, graphically brilliant, yet has a lack of a plot and substance as it relies too heavily on the special effects in it.

Mike O'Driscoll discusses the genre fiction argument put across by novelist Edward Docx. He mentions that literary fiction is better than genre fiction. Genre fiction as far as he is concerned is always going to be less interesting, less encouraging and less quality when compared to literary fiction. O'Driscoll sees Docx's argument against it as nothing more than a seven-column essay rant against its merits:

"Essentially, Docx's take is that genre fiction; even at its best is inferior to literary fiction. This is because genre "is by definition a constrained form." It's worth quoting Docx at length here; such is the hilarity of his argument."
Christopher Fowler comments about the horror genre from its earlier days to now, and how horror has changed in movies, from the video nasty of the 80s to the more aesthetic and unusual ones. A Serbian Film, Agora, and Mr Nobody all come under Fowler's scrutiny. He believes that if something is changed with the script of a horror movie, it loses all the viewers, and the plot:
"Horror is a tight genre. There are expectations -- you need a classic set-up and reveal, scares, and at least one 'talker' scene that will shock. When you start messing around with structure and adding surprise elements, there's a sense from some audiences that you've cheated them. But Psycho denied its audiences a heroine, Peeping Tom refused to provide a hero, and The Birds would not allow any climactic closure. Halloween removed motive, The Orphanage took out gore, Shuttle unfolded in real time and dumped any thought of a happy ending. Clearly a horror film should surprise, and its biggest sin is to bore."
He does have a point, and it could be found in more other movies than anyone had thought. Adding humour to a horror movie does not alter it too much ,as everyone appreciates the elements in such movies as The Nightmare on Elm Street series, whereas the new release of that movie has left out the human element, and as a result isn't as good.

Peter Tennant's Case Notes section goes into detail on Women in Horror Recognition Month where he analyses the many women writers and their novels on sale now. The first to come up is Angela Slatter's Black-Winged Angels, The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales, and Sourdough and other Stories. He goes on to reveal the merits of her storytelling, and the way she uses old fairy tales and then re tells them in her own way. He also engages the reader with a fun and informative Question and Answer session with Angela herself about her novels. Peter Tennant's column is one of the best in this particular issue.

New stories vary, and are certainly intriguing:

"Ulterior Design," by V.H. Leslie

Daniel tries to choose the new wallpaper for their nursery, and once he's come up with a design, he finds he doesn't like it one bit. At first he doesn't notice anything strange about it, but the closer he looks, the worse it gets, and the more real.

"Pins and Needles," by Ray Clules

James is a man who adores Elton John and David Bowie music, but has a needle fetish he can't get over, not even when he has a new girlfriend. Be prepared for a good laugh at the end -- it deserves it.

"Water," by Maura McHugh has Liz coming back home and acting as if everything is normal with her, even though she has just drowned herself in the river outside. Her son isn't convinced she is normal and neither is her husband, but it is what happens after that which is scary. The rest just creates the overall mood of the story. (Advice for readers: read this nice short when you don't have time for the longer ones in this magazine, as it's a really good one!)

"Extraneus Invokat," by Ed Grabianowski

A couple who plan to move from their home to somewhere much better will wish they hadn't bothered. He didn't know about the terror that stalks the town though, but he soon will, and when he does he will have no control over his actions. This is a shock horror story with an ending that might have you putting your hands over your face for. This isn't at all bad for Grabianowski's first published horror fiction story.

"Cushing," by James Cooper

This story takes the reader back to the days of Hammer horror movies -- he describes the actor's life both on and off the screen using several excerpts from the many movie scripts interlaced with his story. It's an unusual one filled with imagery and his character's mother and brother will stick in the mind once read.

Black Static Issue 21 has to be read to be believed, Peter Tennant's column being the best, Ray Cluley and Maura McHugh's stories captivated me, and Mike O Driscoll's argument on genre fiction makes it a very enjoyable magazine that's well worth getting your hands on.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes is about to write an interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel and wonders what kind of questions she will ask... hopefully not the embarrassing ones... she also has her work published regularly in Love Romance Passion, Love Vampires, Active Anime and Quail Bell magazine.

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