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January 8th, 2008 - The Elephant Forgets

Summary: Black Static, 2007

Back in 2004/2005 Andy Cox of TTA Press bought Interzone, planning for it to be the companion SF magazine to TTA's namesake Dark Fantasy-oriented magazine, The Third Alternative. With the SF focus of Interzone, the plan was to have The Third Alternative concentrate more strongly on Horror/Dark Fantasy -- in the past they had always run a certain amount of SF. So in 2005, the magazine was renamed Black Static (after a TTA story, actually), the thought being that the new name more directly suggested Horror. But Andy decided to hold off on actually relaunching TTA as Black Static until Interzone was firmly established. I suspect this all took a bit longer than originally planned -- but now, after two years away, The Third Alternative has finally returned in its new incarnation as Black Static.

Two issues appeared at the end of 2007. Together they featured 13 stories, about 74,000 words of fiction. 2 stories were novelettes, the rest shorts (1 short-short).

From #1 (September) I quite liked "Votary", by M. K. Hobson, about a girl with a particularly monstrous and demanding "father"; and "Lady of the Crows", by Tim Casson, about a failed actor meeting again his former lover, who became a much more successful actress, as she plays a woman who murders her husbands. From #2 (December), I liked Mélanie Fazi's "In the Shape of a Dragon", about a girl whose father, an artist, becomes blocked drawing a very lifelike dragon; and Scott Nicholson's rather cheeky "Must See to Appreciate", about a real-estate agent having a hard time selling a haunted house.

This is a welcome return, for all that its focus, horror, is not my primary interest. It seems to me that Black Static does horror about as well as it can be done.

3 and a half of the 13 stories this year were by women (27%). (By contrast, the two issues of The Third Alternative in 2005 had 1 story (out of 13) by a woman.) Stretching just a bit, perhaps, I could call 1 of the 13 stories SF.

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 Summary: Fictitious Force, 2007

Probably it is unfair that I remember Fictitious Force most readily for its striking format; it is a saddle-stitched magazine, similar to many small 'zines, but it is folded along the long axis of a standard sheet of paper: in other words, it's tall and thin. That is striking, of course, but the fiction this year, in the single issue, was pretty strong as well. There were 13 stories, 6 of them short shorts, the rest short stories (though one story was very close to novelette length by my estimate and I could be wrong): about 38,000 words.

My clear favorite story was Marissa K. Lingen's "A Six Letter Word for Mom", about genetic modifications and the devastating effect they had on the narrator's mother -- but with hope added. Amid a selection of stories I really liked throughout (only one was marked "So-So" in my notes) the others that stood out were by "Tangerine Bay" by David McGillveray and "To Worship Death" by B. A. Barnett.

7 of 13 stories were by women (54%), and 5 of 13 (38%) were SF. (I think 11 of 23 2006 stories were by women, meaning a percentage of exactly 50% for the two years combined.)

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