Tag: Nemonymous

Richard Gavin, ‘Only Enuma Elish’ (2010)

A man’s elderly neighbour believes herself to be the incarnation of the Babylonian goddess Tiamat; there are tragic consequences. This story hinges on the question of whether the old woman is correct; the trouble is that character names and other surface details force us into making a particular interpretation, but there’s no true sense of otherness at the heart of the tale. Furthermore, the story brings in a very real natural disaster, in a way that I find frankly distasteful.

Rating: **

Mike Chinn, ‘A Matter of Degree’ (2010)

The Scott Tullis of Chinn’s tale has invented a set of highly effective suction cups, and uses them to cross a suspension bridge, in a bid to obtain ‘immortality, of a sort’. He gets his wish, though not necessarily in the way he intended. ‘A Matter of Degree’ is crisply told, and its ending raises a wry smile — good stuff.

Rating: ***½

Margaret B. Simon, ‘Troot’ (2010)

In the aftermath of a future war, a woman approaches narrator Tullis, asking for the ‘troot’ (truth) of what happened to her daughter. Truth being a rare commodity in his world, Tullis must decide whether to reveal what he knows. Simon sketches her future efficiently (the story is only three pages long), but ultimately I feel that the prose doesn’t have enough density to compensate for the brevity of the piece.

Rating: ***

Derek John, ‘Oblivion’ (2010)

‘It is Tuesday the 43rd of March and I have hanged myself.’

So begins the narrator of ‘Oblivion’, as he relates how he tried to take his own life, but finds himself still alive, dangling from a tree. The story then goes backl to uncover how our man ended up in that situation; he was an antiquarian investigating the Tullis family, whose gravestones suggest remarkable longevity, and sometimes bear impossible dates. John’s explanation for all this is intriguing, and its consequences within the story bring a shiver to the spine; but the prose is frequently overstuffed (e.g. ‘the bizarre dates on the stones were beyond any conjecture I could fashion – their mystery stood impenetrably obscure like hieroglyphs from a forgotten language’), which reduces the impact of the tale as a whole.

Rating: ***

Gary Fry, ‘Strings Attached’ (2010)

Fifty-something Tullis travels to the seaside town where he plans to open his own burger bar; there’s just the little problem of the locals not being too happy about it — and the nagging feeling of a childhood memory just out of reach, which points to something rather disturbing about the theatre annexe that Tullis has bought.

Over the course of these Null Immortalis posts, I’ve talked a couple of times about stories whose elements I’d wish cohered a little more than they do. ‘Strings Attached’ is the opposite: a tale which is all the stronger because its elements don’t quite cohere. Fry hints at something dark, then suggests an explanation; but the events of the story don’t support that explanation fully — and there’s a sense that what’s happening here will not submit to any straightforward analysis, whcih makes the story all the more unsettling.

Rating: ***½

Gary Fry’s website

Tony Lovell, ‘The Shell’ (2010)

Stephen Peters is troubled by vivid dreams of a life he doesn’t recognise with an old woman who is apparently his wife; though she’s not his actual wife, Carla, with whom he’s about to go on holiday in the hope that he can relax for a change. But the cares of life are still nagging at him; and those dreams aren’t going away, either. Lovell’s prose flows nicely, but I don’t think the two strands of the story mesh together as strongly as they might.

Rating: ***½

Tim Casson, ‘The Scream’ (2010)

An estate agent finds that people who were once close now seem to be distancing themselves from him, at the same time as a painful growth has appeared on his neck (yet apparently no one else can see it), and he’s showing properties to a mysterious stranger who sells remarkably popular kebabs. These disparate elements are, it seems, connected; but in ways I can’t quite piece together in my mind — though I’ve thought the story over, its parts won’t coalesce into a satisfying conception of “what’s going on”. So, for me, ‘The Scream’ has some interesting ideas, but is less successful as a whole.

Rating: ***

Joel Lane, ‘The Drowned Market’ (2010)

A publisher rejects the manuscript of a struggling writer; the next submission they receive from him is a thinly-disguised tale of his taking revenge. The threatening MS is promptly sent to the police; but the narrative has changed – and may reflect the writer’s next move. This story has elegant flourishes typical of Lane (‘[As] a publisher…people assume the past is all that matters to you. They forget that you still have to breathe’), but the metaphorical underpinning isn’t as satisfying as that of (say) his ‘Black Country’.

Rating: ***

Andrew Hook, ‘Love Is the Drug’ (2010)

At some point in the future, when life has become more regimented and emotions repressed, an ordinary family man buys a drug named ‘conflict’, and finds himself experiencing feelings he has never known. Hook’s tale is an interesting combination of a subtly oppressive future (for example, instead of booking leave from work as we might, people are told when to take ‘time-owed’ leave) and a depiction of the human psyche that suggests (chillingly) just how far the world of the story has moved away from what we know.

Rating: ***½

Andrew Hook’s website

Ursula Pflug, ‘Even the Mirror’ (2010)

Pflug’s narrator travels back and forth across the Atlantic, in search of someone seen (and loved) in dreams. That person remains elusive, but the protagonist does encounter someone else from those dreams — a woman named Tullis, who has in turn dreamt of the narrator. This whole story has a suitably dream-like quality, and a final line that leaves proceedings nicely open to interpretation.

Rating: ***½

Ursula Pflug’s website

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