Magazine Review: BLACK STATIC #29

PrintE-mail Written by Julian White

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Black Static is a bi-monthly horror magazine offering fiction, features and reviews. The price, a reasonable £3.99, isn't too scary, but what about the rest of it?

The highlight of #29 is Sunshine by Nina Allan. This exceptional short story recounts the developing attraction between a reclusive, philosophizing bloodsucker and a girl he meets in a train station, a relationship which brings unexpected and unwelcome consequences. A thoughtful demythologizing of fanged fiends, it's in the same vein as Suzy McKee Charnas's The Vampire Tapestry and marks Allan out as a name to watch.

Chopda by Baph Tripp is a creature shock story about a tourist who ends up in a bug-infested city. It's hallucinatory, sometimes sick-making stuff, but Tripp's snappy, mile-a-minute prose speeds you along nicely. At only four pages long, Horseman by Renee Carter Hall – the tale of a melancholy widower delivering a foal, only to discover that it has scales and fangs – is one of the shorter fictional pieces in the magazine, but it punches above its weight, delivering a powerful pay-off.

The remaining two stories are rather less successful. Supposedly a playful poke at Jaws and its imitators, Ray Cluley's Shark! Shark! is overly tricksy and written in a chummy style which quickly gets annoying. Tim Lees' The Counterweight describes a teacher wasting away under the mysterious spell of a pupil at the adult education college where she works. Here, the prose is very evocative, but as the pupil in question is balding and called Barry, he hardly makes for a seductive, or convincing, homme fatal.

Turning to the non-fiction, it's puzzling to note that the lengthy book and film sections are handled by only two writers, Peter Tennant and Tony Lee. This is fine in the case of the books, which are reviewed by Tennant with great aplomb. His surveys of chapbooks and novellas are especially useful as horror lends itself so well to these shorter forms. But Lee's film reviews are another matter. He pens an excitable, tortured kind of prose packed with slang and jargon, and slogging through a large quantity of it is likely to bring on a headache and a lifelong aversion to the word “trope.”

A browse through the rest of the issue won't do much to soothe your migraine, as it offers little in the way of eye candy. The illustrations are precious few in number and reproduced in muddy greys, a fact which doesn't stop the magazine trumpeting the illustrators' names with such gusto you would think the whole thing was illuminated by hand on vellum. Some good moments, but Black Static didn't leave me with quite the buzz I was hoping for.

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