TTA Press

Black Static #42 (Sep/Oct 2014) – A Review


black static 42

Nothing underscores quite how behind I’ve gotten with my reading, as much as the new Black Static dropping onto the doormat before I’ve even finished with the last one. Yes, I confess my shame.

It’s to do with a busy schedule, I would stress, rather than any particular flaw in this issue. My reading is apparently quite heavily reliant on the two hours daily that I spend commuting to work. A sizable chunk, in fact, of my life has been spent in the company of the pages of Black Static on trains, over the years. And it can get damn spooky on a rickety late night London Bridge to Brighton, with only cutting edge short horror for company.

A good way to make the time go quicker, at least.

Read on…

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Interzone #254 (Sep/Oct 2014) – A Review


interzone 254

Does TTA Press head honcho Andy Cox read my blog, I wonder? In the case of the reviews of Interzone and Black Static, I’d have to say yes; more than once he has shared them on Facebook and Twitter. So it was pretty clear that he’d read them — at least enough to make sure that I wasn’t slandering his name.

But now I wonder if he might not have been listening a little more carefully; this is because issue #254 contains, for the first time, a pair of columns.

This is a feature which Black Static has boasted for a long while, and which regular readers (Hello to both of you! -Ed) will know that I have long said Interzone needed. And whilst Jonathan McCalmont isn’t a name immediately familiar to me, Nina Allen is exactly the sort of person this job demands.

Read on…

Interzone #253 (Jul/Aug) – A Review


interzone #253LonCon3 (the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention) finished at the start of this week. I mention this partly out of massive jealousy of anyone and everyone who was able to attend, but also because it seems to have gotten a good amount of coverage in the mainstream press.

There is also a regular part of David Lanford’s Ansible Link column entitled “How others see us”. Here, David cherry picks recent press articles about the SF genre and world.

Now, it might be a coincidence (It is a coincidence – Ed) but that section doesn’t appear in this issue. Perhaps — just perhaps — science-fiction as a genre is starting to receive more of the mainstream acceptance that it deserves.

If it is, then we can only hope that this will extend to such organs of excellence as the short story magazines providing the lifeblood of fresh and exciting SF. Which neatly leads my into my review of the latest issue of Interzone.
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Black Static #41 (Jul/Aug) – A Review


black static #41

Regular readers — hello to both of you! — will know that I like my horror dark, and tailor my reading habits thusly.

Recently, though, rather than fiction I sometimes feel like I could just be reading the news. Probably I’m just noticing it more than usual, but it seems to have become a never ending cavalcade of misery and suffering; new stories of murder and worse on a daily basis.

Misery, it goes without saying, is not entertainment. What is fertile ground for exploration in the hands of writers of fiction, is bleak and unremittting in the cold light of the real world, shorn of analogy.

But fiction is where we explore the world. We can bring out ideas from today and test them, analyse them, know them. All fiction is analogy, after all. So when the world is become so dark a place, where does our fiction have to go in order for us to get a handle on it? How far into the dark night must we go to flush out the real monsters behind our fears?

And on that note, the latest issue of Black Static.

Read on…

Interzone #252 (May/Jun 2014) – A Review


interzone #252Anyone who thinks politics and art aren’t connected is wrong. That has always been my philosophy — my politics heavily informs my view of the world and thus my writing. It may not always be the “safe” option, but if you really believe in something then you can’t escape that.

So serious praise is due to Andy Cox and co at InterzoneIt would have been the easiest thing in the world to ignore the current controversies emerging within science-fiction. They could have breathed not a world, and not run the risk of upsetting some of their readers. It would have been easy.

But it would not have been right. So well done, as I said, for using the editorial to stand up to the forces of hatred and bigotry within our genre. Well done for believing something. I strongly urge you to read it, if not in the magazine then at least here on their website.

It does, however, present rather the challenge for the fiction to rise to.

Read on…

“Cold Turkey” by Carole Johnstone – A Review


cold turkey by carole johnstoneWhilst I’d be the first to admit that the TTA novella releases haven’t been quite as frequent as I would have hoped (The first was released in November 2012, the second over a year ago in March 2013), you certainly can’t fault the quality.

I reviewed the first two novellas (“Eyepennies” by Mike O’Driscoll and “Spin” by Nina Allan) when they came out, and having been a fan for a number of years of TTA’s periodical publications (Interzone for SF and fantasy and Black Static for horror) I was very pleased that they managed to match the peerless, boundary-pushing quality quality of the shorter stories I loved in the magazine.

Now we’re at novella number 3, by Carole Johstone. Carole has featured in Black Static a number of times, as well as a wide range of anthologies and collections, and I have read her stories myself several times.

And now we have a novella. Called “Cold Turkey”. With a terrifying man (?) in a top hat on the front. First impressions are, you have to admit, distinctly good.

Read on…

Black Static #39 – A Review


black static #39

Do you want to know a secret? Writing the introduction to a review is my least favourite part of the whole thing. It’s rare that I won’t know what I think of a film or story, and if I don’t know starting out where I’ll finish up, the very process of writing it tends to steer me towards one.

No, it’s the introduction. The watching the wordcount as I ramble on, wondering if I’ve done so enough that I can just jump onto the meat of the matter. I’m impatient, basically. As a kid it was the oversweet luxury of desert that I craved, and that has never really gone away.

Black Static, as ever, is the best magazine in the horror business. Certainly in the UK. Probably in the world at large. It has been a part of my diet since my student days, lounging in halls on lazy afternoons when I should have been writing essays, getting lost in worlds of darkness and monsters.

I’m not much of a marketing shill, but if you are at all interested in modern horror — or explorations of the human soul — then you could do a lot worse than a subscription to Black Static. I don’t profess to like every story, but I’ve yet to read one from which I haven’t taken something away.

Is that enough of an introduction ? (Yes, that’ll do – Ed)

Read on…

Interzone #251 – A Review


interzone #251I’m sure somebody will disagree with me here, but I don’t know of any fiction magazine as consistently striking as Interzone.

Obviously a book, or magazine, shouldn’t be judged by its cover, but presentation is important, and the new(ish) design of the Interzone cover supplemented with a succession of frankly fantastic artwork, only makes the interior more enticing.

Interzone‘s in the wild are a fairly rare occasion — the shelves of W.H. Smith being stocked mainly with nonsense — which is a shame really. Actually, I think this would stand out a mile off on a newsagent’s shelf.

And if I saw it there, hell I’d pick it up! Wouldn’t you?

I’m not sure what the point of this little pre-review rant is, just that some of the best genre material is something of a secret by the simple fact of a lack of exposure. There is no reason at all that magazines like Interzone should be just for established fans.

Read on…

Black Static #38 (Jan/Feb) – A Review


black static #38

I don’t think that I’ve ever seen an obituary in an issue of Black Static. Interzone includes brief notes on genre figures who have passed away, as part of Ansible Link. But the obituary — the glowing tribute to Joel Lane in Black Static #38, penned by Nicolas Royle, is something else.

I never met Joel, and I only read a few of his stories. They had a dark, brooding atmosphere which resonated with a distinct sense of place. He had a distinctive and powerful style of writing, focusing on very British locations, and the weird close to everyday life.

When he sadly passed away at the far-too-young age of fifty, my Facebook page was alive with people shocked, hurt and in mourning at the lost of someone key to the genre. Although I didn’t know, the shockwave which his death caused was undeniable and inescapable. A picture has emerged of a British genre stalwart taken too soon.

And as such, the idea of an issue of Black Static in tribute is very attractive indeed.

Read on…

Interzone #250 (Jan/Feb) – A Review


interzone #250When you think about it, 250 is a big number. And 250 issues of Interzone is a staggering amount of science-fiction.

For anyone wondering, no I haven’t been reading since issue #1. I came in with issue #222 in May/June 2009. And I can still remember tearing off the plastic wrap in my University halls room, and diving in. Tim Pratt’s “Unexpected Outcomes” was the first story I read, and it blew me away (and you can listen to it for free at Escape Pod now).

But this is a landmark issue, and a real achievement in a climate where we are constantly being told that print publishing is on its way out, to have persisted publishing such a high quality product. I always look forward to holding it my hands — and, yes, to the smell — every two months.

Whilst I can’t speak to the first issue, the story quality has been consistently good since I subscribed. It is the first stop for top-notch SF and fantasy. The fact it’s British is just a matter of pride.

Read on…