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Black Static 51 Mar/Apr 2016
Edited by Andy Cox
Cover Artist: Jack in the Box by Martin Hanford
Review by Sam Tomaino
TTA Press  ISBN/ITEM#: 1753-0709
Date: 29 March 2016

Links: Black Static / How to Subscribe / Pub Info / Table of Contents /

Black Static #51 is here with stories by Stephen Graham Jones, Mark Morris, Gary McMahon, Caren Gussoff, Stephen Hargadon, and Norman Prentiss, together with the usual fascinating articles and reviews.

Black Static #51 is here and it's got their usual, haunting fare.

The fiction begins with the novelette, "Birdfather" by Stephen Graham Jones. -+- Our narrator is one of two older boys in a family with a younger brother named Benny. Their father had been killed in a car crash at an intersection near their home. Sometime later, their mother had seen a large black bird picking at a bit of red meat in the road just where their dad had died and freaked out. Later, they catch what they are sure is the bird and take it in the house where it dies eating fertilizer in a potted plant. But the bird is not easily gotten rid of. Nor is Officer Grant who had brought the bad news to their mother. He winds up getting close to her to their dismay. They are convinced he is connected to the bird. Very dark and unsettling.

"Full Up" by Mark Morris -+- Shirely is back in the house she had shared with her husband, Norman, before he died. She is babysitting a little girl named Heidi whose little brother has died. But the house is full of too many ghosts. Nice buildup to the conclusion.

"Necropolis Beach" by Gary McMahon -+- Our narrator and his wife, Tina, are told about an unusual phenomena at a place called Cala Morell (Necropolis Caves) and they go there to look. There are crowds of other people watching, too, but it speaks to Tina, unfortunately. Heartbreakingly sad.

"Spring Forward" by Caren Gussoff -+- A recovering drug addict must make amends for things he had done to get drugs. One of them was stealing a diamond ring from a widow. The stone had been made from the ashes of her dead husband. He feels the ring burning a hole in his pocket. He finds a way to "spring forward". Well done.

"Listen, Listen" by Stephen Hargadon -+- When his father dies, Robert Haig moves into his house. His aunt tells him she had been telepathically in communication with his father and that his last words were about a place that had been burned and in which a man who died. The ghost of old Haig reprises his last dream. A nasty, very effective, grim tale.

The fiction concludes with the novelette, "The Future of Literary Criticism" by Norman Prentiss. -+- In 1962, Lowell Jacobs is finishing his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania and is "networking" (not a word, I think, that might have been in use at the time) at a Modern Language Organization conference in hopes of impressing people who will be interviewing him for a position at a prestigious university. He is obsequious to older men, dismissive of people he considers beneath him and pompously advising an attractive female colleague whom he would like to bed. The night before he is to present his paper on Edgar Allan Poe, some odd events occur ending with him receiving a beautiful antique pen, anonymously left at his door. It inspires him to write what he thinks is a brilliant revision of his essay which he presents the next day. Nicely done and brilliantly satirical.

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