Issue One - Published Summer 2002
A4, 46 pages, b/w
Lara Bandilla and Clive Nolan
Everything you ever wanted to know...
Issue One - Published Summer 2002
A4, 46 pages, b/w
Lara Bandilla and Clive Nolan
Excerpts from the journal of Dr. Laochanon Carlyle:
No April Fool here! In fact, there are days when I think I may be the only truly wise person on the face of the Earth.
And of course, it would be selfish of me to keep all my wisdom to myself.
So I won’t.
Look at all the fabulous creatures of lore. Centaurs, satyrs, the minotaur – and that’s only Greek mythology! Myths? Ha, we are sadly myth-taken! Some people say, “Oh, a centaur was probably the first guy who rode around on a horse, and everybody else didn’t know what to think!” Were the ancients all afflicted with myopia?
Life was better in days of yore, when there were more monsters. Think about it. For back then, there were also more great warriors, sorceresses, and prophets, too. For every Grendel there was a Beowulf. For every Medusa, a Perseus. You couldn’t walk down the street in those days without bumping into a legendary figure. Yes, people were happier and more enlightened, for the presence of monsters made them more willing to accept fantastical notions. And to believe all that is fantastic is to be as one with the gods!
Happy flesh is far more willing to adapt, and ultimately, take on new configurations. Just look at the evidence! Why do placebos work? Because people believe in them. Why are some mystics capable of walking across hot coals? Because they believe they can. They are enlightened, and so their flesh complies with their mindframe, healing joyously and instantaneously.
In ancient times, some individuals with happy flesh became monsters (beginning the cycle anew) while others became the afore-mentioned wizards and warriors. But what, I wonder, brought to an end all the earlier Ages of Monsters (for surely there were several, in different times, in various parts of the world)? I shall have to look into that, to make sure that history does not repeat itself.
Last night on Channel 4 News-4-U, pretty-boy Steve Slate delivered yet another thoroughly peurile health news report.
I guess we are all supposed to overlook his mush-mouth speech impediment just because he has a Hollywood heart-throb face and eyes as blue as a summer sky.
“Sshientishtssh sshay that they have now unlocked the human genetic code, and will sshoon be able to manufacture curessh for jussht about every human illnessh – even canssher.”
Hogwash! Yes, if ignorance could be turned into soap and water, I could easily wash a whole herd of swine in Sshteve Sshlate’ssh sshpit-sshpraying sshpielssh.
True happiness and enlightenment are the real answers to preventing or even negating cancer without going through nasty chemo treatments. And genetic problems like sickle cell anaemia and Down’s syndrome and maybe even mental illnesses like schizophrenia – all that nasty rubbish could easily be avoided, too. How? By unlocking the gates of bliss! Happy flesh can work miracles, and knows not the torments of disease. All the world could, should and must become happier and healthier.
Other scientists are ready to jump fully-clothed into the scary deep-end of the gene pool. But, alas, they will surely drown and take others down with them! It’s time to set the world straight.
I, Dr. Laochanon Carlyle, heir to the Carlyle Pickle Factory millions, shall gradually and subtly introduce new monsters into society, so that I might:
A.) Re-introduce the concept of malleable flesh into the global mindframe;
B.) Show other scientists the error of their ways regarding gene-splicing as a societal quick-fix, and;
C.) Eventually take Humanity by the hand and lead it into a rapturous new Era of Enlightenment.
Let the world’s huddled masses tremble! And at the same time, let them realize that trembling is a precursor to both pain and pleasure!
Still, I wouldn’t want to drive Humanity into a suicidal frenzy by unleashing a veritable swarm of rampaging Godzillas and Mothras. One must start on a more manageable scale. And, based on ancient lore, it would seem that hybrids have always captured the imagination. . .
. . . “But Salkeld is adamant he heard the names Willie and Andrew called out by a third voice… who he assumes was Richard?”
“I think that man hears Andy and Ritchie in his sleep. They’d be the stuff of nightmares if you’re a man with a chip like Salkeld. But that is a feud that goes back a long way.”
“Then you think they were there?”
“They say not. Or at least not until the fire was already started.”
“You believe them?”
Jean shook her head and half laughed. “Call me stupid, but I have a gut feel they’re innocent. Apart from anything else no one calls young Andy by his full name, except, maybe his granny when he’s in for a larruping. Or Ritchie and Billie, come to that. And… Well…”
Ro waited silently for her friend to go on.
“The trouble is, those lads always spent a lot of time up on the heath when they were wee dots. Up round the barns and that bloody tower. Especially Billie.”
“You know what lads are. Its one of those places people talk about. It was the same when I was a girl. You know… ‘Dare you to do a night in the tower’.”
“All watching too much Scooby Doo?”
“Something like that.” Jean said. “No, the tower has always had a reputation. It was burned down twice and rebuilt in the old days. And it was still lived in until after the war. I think the heir was killed in Burma. Something like that. Anyway its been falling to ruin since then.”
“Home only to ghosts and ghoulies?”
“So they say.”
“And Salkeld assumed they had been back to the old haunt?”
“So it seems. He chased those lads out of the tower that many nights. I can’t mind why. It isn’t like they could do any harm. Not really. Its only a heap of stones.”
“Except maybe a danger to themselves?”
“So you’d think, but they bounce, those boys. They do say the devil looks after his own.”
Ro nodded, realising Jean was mostly joking. “But this time they were not there?”
“No. For once. And they must’ve been spitting mad. The reason they set so much store by the place was the fires.”
“It’s happened before?”
“People say it burns many a night, when ‘the moon’s right for the trod and raid’.”
“What and raid?”
“Trod.” Jean shrugged. “Its an old word from the Reiver times. For want of a better term, I suppose, it’s a posse. The sheriff from one side of the border would raise a party of men to take back what ever had been stole in a raid by clans from the opposite side.” She smiled. “Of course much of the time these stolen goods were the proceeds of previous crimes.”. . .
1. ATOM JOHN
“And I still can’t shake the terrible image of her lovely hands all over a robot.”
Atom John. Red eyes and a mechanical pearl for a heart. Horse breath and a discotheque smile. Rhythm of cattle bones and a ukulele throat song. Whispering sweet ones and nothings in to the shell-like crevice of her sticky-out lugs.
Abraham Ghost had built the machine in a fit of misanthropic rage. Inspired by a grisly sculpture at the British Museum, it was his plan to reveal to the city its own horror up-close. Take the art out of the gallery and into the bedroom of hapless Josephine Public.
Professor Ghost mercilessly ploughs away at the automaton wriggling blackly on the tabletop. An operating theatre for a clockwork fiend. Cutting scalpel tears and sinuous gears. A carnivalesque operation. Folding back flaps of fibre skin and tinkering with the circuit innards of his brutal creation.
“Jesus’ tits, this’ll show ’em”.
He knows that he ought to stop. But this will be his offering to London. Atomic Johnny, a deadly mirror reflecting the vulgarity of the city. A grisly instrument of metal and wire. Absolute horror razor-tipped and wrapped in steel. A bludgeoning instrument. Fingers bending backwards against the heat of its furnaces and black choking prison workings. Inside is a tiny factory. A world of clocking in and clocking out. Here we go round the mulberry bush.
. . .About six weeks after the lift experience, I had just come home from my parents one Wednesday evening and had dumped a pile of ironing on one of the chairs.
As I went to get the ironing board, I heard a sharp rapping sound.
I unfolded the ironing board and paused, looking around. I heard it again.
A sharp, urgent knocking. It was coming from the patio doors.
I walked cautiously over to them. A pair of blue velvet curtains covered the doors.
I wondered, was it Mr Whitestone? Was he knocking at the window, was he in trouble? I yanked open the curtains. There was nobody at the other side of the doors. I looked across at the back garden. At the grass that needed cutting and the weeds that needed pulling. There came another series of sharp rapping. Then I looked down, and saw the crow. It was on the floor. It looked up at me.
'Magical man,' it said, in a small wavering voice. Then it rapped at the windows with its beak.
I looked down in amazement. I wondered if I was imaging things. It had been over a month since the lift experience, and in that time I put the experience down to as being just some crazy hallucination. Now this.
'Necromancer,' the crow said again. It looked at me sharply.
I was losing it badly. . .
Joker destroyed a demon, something ugly at any rate.
But his score went down. Frowning, he thought: No way. Oh man did he enjoy this?
The lights, the noise, the whole shebang. It fired his adrenalin, and placed his name on Dougie’s score board, at the very top.
‘What yer doin’ Joke?’
‘Billy, I already said the aim is to reach the damn church!’
Joker’s laugh competed with Meatloaf screaming Bat out of Hell. He playfully punched Billy’s shoulder, ruffled his streaked blond hair. ‘You never listen, bro’. Should’ve paid attention at school. Taken a degree like I did.’
Yeah, right, a degree in metaphysics. Some good it did, for life had yet to offer him a job to test it out.
And who was to blame because it hadn’t? The Establishment that’s who! The tossers who never give a shit. Offer jobs to the boys and the rest can go suck, right? Whole bally lot gone to pieces.
Two thousand years of Hell comes a-calling. And Joker should have made it his business to check it out, set things on track instead of playing stupid games and allowing Billy to live in a cloud of Crack.
Billy had argued about money all the way from the rain-slicked misery of a council estate, a place which always looked damp, uninviting even in sunlight. ‘Ain’t got the readies, Joker.
Can’t play the machines if I got no cash. ’Sides them flashing lights bug me.
Make me sick an’ dizzy.’
Pestering hadn’t won any reprieve. “Where I go, you go Billy-boy, else there’s no tellin’ what you might get up to.’
Billy pulled a face. ‘Stop pickin’ on me, Joke. In your eyes I can’t do anything right. But I’ll prove I can. Yeah, I’ll prove I can.’
‘Quit it, Billy, let me get on here.’ Joker’s exuberance was matched by his sudden ‘YEAH, RIGHT ON,’ as his score shot up.
Billy tugged Joker’s leather sleeve. ‘You done yet? Hey, I know, let’s go start a malicious rumour, mebbe smash a shop window -’.
‘Get real,’ admonished the twenty four year old, ‘I’m on a roll here.’ Joker couldn’t see that his sometimes selfish enthusiasm, his need to win, conflicted with Billy’s own exuberance.
‘We been ’ere ages, ’ Billy complained. ‘I...I don’t feel s’good.’
‘’Cos you’re hungry. Go get a burger.’ Do that, and leave me to win the game.
Joker glanced at Billy, and despite his own attitude admitted responsibility to his younger brother.
Seven years parted them, and where Joker was A-One in tune with the night life, day life and everything in between, he had to look out for Billy since Mam had Od’d on parecetemol.
At one stage Joker had wondered whether she’d done it because she couldn’t cope. Billy was... well, Billy was a pain, always in trouble, always begging, borrowing or stealing money, in fact stealing anything he could lay his devious little hands on. Success? Hardly. Because Billy, even at this age, was a taker and when it came to payback time he didn’t share Joker’s do-gooder attitude, or his penchant for pinball. And certainly not Dougie’s newly installed street game offering Joker his biggest challenge yet.. . .
Peter used to walk around town dressed as a pirate.
When people asked him why, he’d tell them he was advertising some new Fish & Chip shop, but he wasn’t.
There was no real reason: Peter just liked to dress up.
This is about Peter, and about the rest of us, but mostly it’s all to do with “READYMADES”. See, with enough energy at your disposal it’s theoretically possible to travel in time, forwards and backwards and round and round. It’s all done with wormholes. This is the opposite of a time capsule. This is a short History essay disguised as Weirdo Sci-fi. . .
To start at the beginning, poor Eve in the Garden of Eden might be considered our prototype femme fatale. She took matters into her own hands, and not only ate the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, but persuaded Adam to take a nibble as well. By this simple act of gustatory experimentation (how the senses betray us!) she managed to remove all of humanity from a blessed state of innocence, condemning us instead to a short, fraught mortal existence. You might think this would be a pretty hard act to follow, but we Daughters of Eve have been doing our best ever since.
Even with her pedigree as Mother of Humankind, though, Eve isn’t actually the prototype. According to Jewish legend, Adam had a first wife called Lilith, who refused to accept a subordinate position below the male of the species (literally – she wanted to be on top in bed, thus subverting the “natural” order of things.) So she flew away from the perfect (dull) balance of Eden to become the mother of demons, Queen of the Night, an abundant-haired temptress who never quite made it to full human status. Lilith is the unnatural female whose dominant, barren sexuality represents a serious threat. But even Eve, who just goes fruit-picking out of season, carries the smell of the tomb around with her. Women tempt you to forbidden knowledge, and the wages of sin is death.
Like so many other things that sound sexier with a French accent, we prefer our death-dealing ladies to be femmes fatales. The very phrase conjures up a film noir vamp in a slinky, satin bias-cut dress holding a smoking gun in elegant fingers as she gazes down on the body of her (inevitably male) victim. This isn’t, of course, the only incarnation of our lethal lady, but like all good stereotypes, it packs maximum punch.
Reviewed by Glenda Pringle
Appeared in Matrix Jan/Feb 2002 No. 159
... Amid all the well-deserved fanfare for a certain new magazine (well done, Ben and team!), let us not forget another newcomer. I bid you all to give a warm welcome to Here & Now: The magazine of Urban Fantasy. Although not as big and glossy as 3SF, it is, nevertheless, a worthy enterprise on the part of its editors, Jan Wilson and Jenny Barber.
Although The Third Alternative sprang to mind when I first picked it up, I was soon disabused of this notion when I started reading it. True, both magazines serve a similar niche (i.e. urban/surreal fantasy), the similarities end right there for me. TTA is altogether a more established and professional affair.
However, this is not to denigrate Here & Now. On the contrary, this is a magazine produced by fantasy fans for fantasy fans - a sentiment enthusiastically reflected in their mission statement: "Now we could say that we want to inject a little magic into your lives, or that we're ever alert for the funky new fantasy tales, and both would be true. But what this is mainly about is having fun." Can't say fairer than that.
As someone who worked in publishing for a lot of years, I cynically could point out that 'having fun' doesn't make business sense, but as a SF fan, I can only applaud such an aim. Fun is often the missing element in the products of the 'big guns' in the magazine business and it's nice to see someone trying to re-inject it into the genre.
My reactions to the contributions to the first issue are, I must say, mixed. "The Monsters of Enlightenment" (Michael Kaufmann & Mark McLaughlin), with its comical take on the old mad scientist scenario; "Asleep at the Wheel" (Paul McAvoy), a brooding and engrossing tale of a climactic battle between necromancers; and "Razzmatazz" (Derek M. Fox), where a pinball game serves to blur the distinction between reality and fantasy and religion, all worked very well for me.
Less successful were "Kinmont Billie" (Jan Edwards, which reminded me of a Nancy Drew mystery (sorry!); "Penny Dreadful" (Stephen Grasso), with its beautiful use of language and (to me, I'm afraid) completely incomprehensible plot; and "Readymades" (Jay Lyte), ditto.
In fact, in the About the Authors section (charmingly entitles "The Guilty"), the author of the latter story even admits to writing "bloody stories which don't make no sense". no doubt, he was being tongue in cheek, but in this case it was alarmingly accurate.
Finally, the one factual article ("That's Why the Lady is a Vamp" by Gail-Nina Anderson) was quite an interesting exploration of the allure of the femme fatale, but personally I would have liked it to have been a bit longer and more in-depth - perhaps along the lines of a Vector article?
The overall production is pretty darn good for a first effort. The typeface is
easy to read and the layout clear. The cover artwork (by Lara Bandilla) is
eerily moody and beautifully executed. However, more attention should be paid in
future to correcting typos and missing paragraph indentations, as well as using
italics rather than underlining (it really does look better, honest!) and
rectifying short lines being stretched across the columns. All of these things
can be extremely distracting to the reader, and they also detract from the
otherwise high quality of the magazine I have no hesitation in recommending ti
those of you who are fans of urban, surreal, even comic fantasy.
Reviewed by Andrew Hook.
Appeared in The Fix, Issue 5
Although the cover features a striking black and white drawing by Lara Bandilla, the contents are a little less imaginative. Most of the six stories here fell grossly overwritten, with their well trodden themes often overbearing and self-consciously told. In addition, despite the prose being clearly displayed, a few more illustrations would have been of benefit to the longer pieces.
The opening story "The Monsters of Enlightenment" is a collaborative effort by Michael Kauffman and Mark McLaughlin. Told through a diary in a familiarly arcane style, it concerns maladjusted scientists creating a variety of monsters, some with the intention of ruling mankind, and the main protagonist with the intention of saving it. Although the initial premise is intriguing, too much here is run of the mill fare, peppered with some humourous quips which distract from the telling.
"Kinmont Billie" by Jan Edwards at least takes strong characterisation as a starting point before weaving it tale of myth and magic. Again though, little is left to the imagination, and the main character makes some surprising decisions in order to helpfully propel the action. Where the story succeeds is in its creation of menace, but the ending will be a surprise to no one.
Stephen Grasso's "Penny Dreadful" is the most bizarre story in the pack, although the deliberately absurd prose will repel many, it's certainly the most original of the pieces on offer. If you can get your head around 'She counts quietly as insectoid soldering irons rear up within the music box of of her furrowed brow and engrave harsh words and pictures upon the green magnet of her licentious hopes', then you'll love this as it's jam packed with such peculiar language.
In Paul McAvoy's contribution, "Asleep at the Wheel", a dispute between neighbours is unmasked as a long-running battle between two demons. The slow build-up yawns the yarn which is unfortunate as, if the prose had been carefully pared, the story would have been tighter and more effective because of it.
Another overly long and meandering story is "Razzmatazz" by Derek M. Fox. Essentially about a boy addicted to pinball machines who finds himself trapped within the game he is playing, this familiar good against evil piece is subverted by long passages of irrelevancy.
Finally, "Readymades" by Jay Lyte, the shortest piece here, muses on the nature of reality in an original way - sound-bites subverting our perceptions, forcing us through what isn't being said to ruminate on the concept of 'celebrity' and 'fiction'. Although the style isn't normally my bag it shines against what has gone before. A breath of fresh air amongst the staler of its co-habitees. If only the other stories had been condensed to this length then the issue would have been a much more interesting read.
Overall too much is said here with too many words. Nonetheless, some tight
editing could have redeemed this first issue and it will be interesting to see
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