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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC ISSUE 65 OUT NOW!

Black Static #64 - Bonus Material

20th Jul, 2018

Author: Peter Tennant

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In the current issue of the magazine (#64) I review S. P. Miskowski's short story collection Strange is the Night, which contained three stories I chose not to discuss as I'd already reviewed them previously.

For the sake of completeness, I've decided to post my reviews of those stories as they originally appeared.

From my Black Static #40 review of Little Visible Delight edited by S. P. Miskowski & Kate Jonez:-

A mother who attempts to control her young daughter's life invites trouble into the family circle in 'This Many' by S.P. Miskowski, when a birthday party takes a surprise turn. The story moves deftly from an account of somebody who is simply a bit overbearing, and possibly trying to recapture something of her own childhood, into far more sinister territory, the threat at first understated and ambiguous, then smashing down with the impact of a sledgehammer in a resolution that melds family life and urban myth to disturbing effect.

From my Black Static #55 review of The Madness of Dr. Caligari edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.:-

Somnambule' is the name of an expensive perfume in S.P. Miskowski's story (and perhaps in the real world also - these things are outside my experience). A young woman relates to her friend how she acquired a bottle, the account one of abuse and madness, with the suggestion of a hypnotherapist's intervention. Compulsively readable and with superb characterisation, it's a tale that underlines the shittiness of so many people's lives and how we can find pleasure in the smallest of things.

From my Black Static #56 review of chapbook Stag in Flight:-

Benny, the protagonist of STAG IN FLIGHT (Dim Shores chapbook, 42pp, $7) by S. P. Miskowski, has a whole battery of mental health issues - fear of going out, anxiety, compulsive list making, and horrible memories of his childhood. An interfering neighbour arranges psychiatric help for him, but analyst Dot has strange methods that mostly involve telling Benny about her own perfect life, or at least that is how it appears to him (Benny may be an unreliable narrator). One day in her office a stag beetle lands on his shoulder and this simple event is the key to Benny's transformation.

Miskowski gives us an unusual story, a case study of mental illness, soliciting our sympathy for somebody who is undoubtedly one of life's natural victims through no fault of his own. Ultimately though it turns into a variation on Kafka's Metamorphosis, with Benny adopting the traits of the stag beetle on a psychological level, dreaming that he is a beetle, identifying with the insect's desires. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say the identification with the beetle gives him carte blanche to embrace his own atavistic impulses, a misogynistic subtext hinted at and resentment of psychiatrist Dot taking the form of violent fantasies in which she holds centre stage. The story ends on a note of ambiguity, one of those moments where we are paused to discover what happens next, fearful of what awaits the two women knocking at Benny's door. It is a story of transformation, of one of society's outcasts finding a moment of epiphany, and the subtext is that Benny has suffered so much that only by identifying with another species entirely can he endure and find meaning to his existence, but the resulting metamorphosis is not necessarily beneficial. Miskowski gives us a character who elicits sympathy for what he has gone through, but from whom we recoil when he comes fully into his own reality. As a final note, artist Nick Gucker provides some striking illustrations to accompany the text.

 

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