CLUBHOUSE: Review: Pulp Literature Magazine #27

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OBIR: Occasional Biased and Ignorant Reviews reflecting this reader’s opinion.

Pulp Literature Magazine #27

Published by Pulp Literature Press, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, Summer 2020.

Publisher: Jennifer Landels, Managing Editor: Melanie Anastasiou, Senior Editor: Jessica Fabrizius, Editor: Genevieve Wynand, Acquisitions Editor: Daniel Cowper, Poetry Editors: Emily Osborne and Amanda Bidnall.

Cover art: Howe Sound Visitors by Mel Anastasiou.

The Lover Snake  – by Tomson Highway

Premise:  

As young men a Sikh immigrant and a Cree from Northern Manitoba become intimate friends. One speaks of the wonders of the Punjab. The other the wonders of a land with myriad lakes, Cariboo, and ice, but no snakes. Yet, wherever you live, beware the Cobra, who will spend a lifetime hunting the killer of its mate.

Review:  

A vignette more than a story.  Possibly fiction, possibly a reminiscence by the author, a highly educated gay man of Cree ethnicity. It really doesn’t matter how much is fiction and how much is memory. The story is fascinating on two levels. First, the intriguing juxtaposition of two disparate cultures which exhibit enough linkage to be relatable, and second, musings over the ephemeral nature and inevitable consequences of a heartfelt relationship in the distant past. Overall, an evocative prose poem rich in description and conundrums.

Feature Interview – Pulp Literature interviews Tomson Highway

Review:

No wonder The Lover Snake feels like poetry. A classically trained musician, Tomson “always thinks musically, as in rhythm, form, phrasing, breathing, structure, etc. To me, each sentence is a song and thus has to sing.” It might have occurred to me this would be a good way to approach poetry, which after all originated in the bardic tradition, but the idea of applying it to prose took me by surprise. Potentially, a very good idea if you have the talent, which Tomson certainly does.

Elsewhere in the interview he reflects on the harsh environment of his upbringing, compares it to the grim nature of contemporary life, and offers two useful antidotes Most will chose one or the other, but both in combination would be good. Nice to see such optimism in the face of adversity.

The Extra: Frankie Ray Stands Alone  – by Mel Anastasiou

Premise:

The tale of Frankie goes to Hollywood continues. She manages to get through her debut as an insignificant extra, only to run afoul of the law.

Review:  

We all think we know what it’s like to be filmed for the first time on a Hollywood movie set. There have been so many books and movies, not to mention amusing anecdotes shared on talk shows, that it is hard to imagine such a scene being in any way original. Yet Mel has come up with a quirky and innovative take that renders Frankie’s debut both exciting and fascinating as if the basic concept is something the reader is witnessing for the first time. Well done.

The crime mystery aspect is equally intriguing. Virtually everything about it reflects the Hollywood of the era (circa early 1930s?). It couldn’t happen anywhere else. Not least the all-powerful role of the leading gossip columnist whom even the police have to treat with justice-distorting respect. Poor Frankie is way out of her league here. As a glimpse of how the dream factory warped and distorted people’s lives back in the day it’s like entering a time machine. There’s a heck of a lot to admire in this ongoing saga. Thoroughly entertaining.

The Absence & Creation Done Different  – by Erin Kirsh

Premise:  

Two poems: one about death and one about life.

Review:

Both too short to really comment on. Complex, rather surreal imagery. All to do with the natural order of things. To ignore, or obsess over? Our choice I suppose. Depends on what you think is important. Personally, I choose acceptance.

Dead of Summer – by R. Daniel Lister

Premise:

Every night the elderly lady who thinks herself young leans out of the third floor window of her retirement home to watch the dead young men gyrating in the street below. The other old ladies hate them and sometimes drop boiling water on them. Not the “girl.” She’s entranced. She watches and applauds. The ghosts appreciate her attention. They like her.

Review:  

Extremely interesting story. At first the premise is straightforward, each bedroom in the retirement centre described as “a starter casket,” being essentially the temporary abode of seniors waiting to die. Not the “girl,” she derives sustenance through watching the youthful dead “taken before their time” yet nevertheless living a life of sorts, a “life” more dynamic than the slow wasting of the seniors. She finds them inspiring. The ghosts seemed locked in a limbo of frenetic behaviour utterly dedicated to the moment, which is perhaps the best attitude to have when one is dead. A sensible way to handle eternity. Perhaps they are not ghosts, not dead. Or at least, less dead than the seniors.

Could be a metaphor for what life actually is or isn’t and what the generations can teach one another if they but dared communicate. Could be. As a senior I tend to survey modern youth from a (possibly bogus) Olympian perspective. The first half of the story is from “the girl’s” point of view. Very similar to what I might think. The second half is the collective viewpoint of “the boys.” Quite the juxtaposition. I confess I have almost no ability to identify with “the boys.” Once a senior, always a senior, I guess.

I would call the story a surreal question mark that makes one think. Or, to be more precise, makes seniors question their attitude toward the younger generation. No idea how it would influence modern youth. I have the vague idea they’re far too busy exploring life’s possibilities to think about us. And when you think about it, that’s the way it should be. We need to cut them a break. After all, we’re the past. They are the future. I think that’s what this story means. Either that, or we’re both doomed. Depends on your mood when reading it?

Joran’s Song – by Dave Gregory

Premise:   

A tourist guy who can’t dance is trying to pick up women at a nightclub in Greece. Joran, a rich guy from Mexico, teaches him how to dance in a single lesson at the bar. Soon everyone joins him. Joran is the life of the party. All he does is travel and have fun, and is generous in sharing his fun. His fate, however, cannot be described as “having fun.”

Review:

Dave has worked aboard cruise ships for twenty years. Therefore it is probably safe to assume he based Joran on a type of perpetual tourist familiar to him. It’s not the sort of story that appeals to me personally, but the description how to dance (for drunken bouncing about as per your typical dance floor at a nightclub) is the best instruction I have ever read on the subject. It’s brilliant. I am now convinced I can dance. It’s the simplest, most effective technique I have ever come across. Best of all, it utilizes the power of the imagination. If nothing else, this story may inspire countless numbers of clueless readers to improve their social lives, maybe even their sex lives, through the magic of cutting an impressive figure on the dance floor. Or a ludicrous figure. Either will do. Dave rightly points out that boasting about your academic skills is not nearly as good a pick-up tactic as proving you know how to have fun when dancing. Yep, the story may prove a life-saver, or at least a quality-of-life improver, for some.

As for the ending, well, it’s just a reminder to have fun while you can. Why not? What have got to lose? Your dignity? Pfft! What is that compared to having fun?

Projections  – by Kim Harbridge

Premise:  

The world hasn’t ended, yet, but it’s tottering. The skies are perpetually shrouded, for one thing. The air hard to breathe. Grant is in the backyard trying to get his ancient projector to work. He wants to acquaint his granddaughter with the past. She’s more interested in the latest cell phone technology. She doesn’t miss the past because she never experienced it.

Review:  

A very short story with a quiet kicker of an unexpected ending. Like the previous two stories it conjures up visions of how to cope with changing times. At the very least, memory can be a source of solace. No matter how bad things get, you know it used to be better. Curiously reassuring, even if it does seem pointless. It’s the little things that help. 

Like We Said – by Peter Norman

Premise:

 Waking up to an unusual situation.

Review:  

Extremely short poem so it is difficult to comment on without giving away too much.  I’ll just say it’s open to interpretation. Something of a puzzle.

The Lion – by Hannah van Didden

Premise:  

“A lion walked into a management consultancy.”

Review:  

A short-short with an interesting premise. What kind of business should a Lion set up if he wants to become a success in the commercial world? What would you suggest? No easy or obvious answers. Still, with sufficient financial backing and a strong enough will, and lions in general can be intensely focused when they want to be, maybe …?

This can be seen as a comment on a certain type of businessman. All I can say is … caveat emptor.

Culinary Subjugation – by Jakob Drud

Premise:  

Mr. Campton is a food inspector in the last human reserve on Earth. Trouble is the Pitonian Overlords have unknown tastes in food quality. It is difficult to know whom to please.

Review:  

A delightfully old-fashioned bit of science fiction offering humour, uncertainty, and the task of figuring out how aliens think when they can’t be bothered to explain. If Mr. Campton can’t live up to what his masters expect him to do, he will be terminated. Trouble is, he doesn’t know what they want. Worse, his fellow humans resent him working for the aliens, yet his reports may be the only thing keeping the reservists alive. Funny thing, the Pitonians know everything there is to know about humans, but could care less except for the food they produce. The food inspector is literally the most important human being on Earth, and everyone hates him. Job motivation is sadly lacking. A darkly humorous tale I quite like.

Captain Hero was a Feminist – by NRM Roshak

Premise:  

Instructions on how to write a five-paragraph essay for an English 100X course on the topic of your favourite superhero. Examples are given from a successful defence of the reputation of superhero Captain Hero as a significant and ground-breaking feminist despite accusations to the contrary.

Review:  

This is actually quite a good description of the arguments and counter-arguments to employ in a University-level essay defending any thesis. It can also be seen as a parody of such. But what makes it especially funny and entertaining is the revelation of how reputable figures, be they superheroes or politicians or whatever, can deploy despicable means of making their opponents look bad while simultaneously preserving their own overblown if not downright-false saintly reputation. Such chicanery has always been common and, if anything, rules the roost today. In that sense this brief story, while genuinely amusing, is also sobering and a trifle sad. However, it does offer an object lesson as to the kind of tricks you need to learn if you want to play the game. To benefit from the façade, you need to participate in the façade. Otherwise you are not a player, and will be rejected by the powers that be for that reason.

He Who Can Open All Doors – by Crystal Bourque

Premise:  

Someone, or something, is killing people by ripping their hearts out. Paul is pretty certain he knows who is responsible. Unfortunately his police partner, Hunter, is convinced it has something to do with Paul’s Aunt Agnes. Paul feels conflicted. He doesn’t know how to prevent further murders. Or prove his Aunt’s innocence.

Review:  

A classic tale of attempting to fend off the dark influence of the supernatural while dealing with the authorities whose bungling attempts to resolve the problem threatens to make things worse. What makes this story particularly interesting is that Paul represents both elements and this makes his task twice as difficult as it needs to  be. In addition, there’s a Lovecraftian tone to the story which, in my view, adds immeasurably to the increasing frustration of the protagonist as well as to the length of the ever-darkening shadows. It is a mood piece, but also much more than that. Throw in a few unexpected twists and you’ve got a story which demonstrates not only how fear-inspiring combating the supernatural is, but also how exhausting and fatiguing. Evil seems to possess a lot more stamina than mere mortals, it seems. But then, when you think about it, always a bad idea to crusade against an immortal and deathless enemy. Still, when you have no choice, what else can any decent person do but give it their best shot?

Shayna’s Eulogy – by Kate Felix

Premise:  

It’s Shay’s funeral. She was a bit of a Goth girl and a bit of a delinquent, but to hear her slightly drunken mother tell it, she was a saint. Her Goth girl friend doesn’t know whether to set the record straight or not. Hard to think when you’re mourning.

Review:  

Winner of the Pulp Literature Bumblebee Flash Fiction contest. Positively the worst way to rebel as a teenager is to die. Almost enough to make your friends question whether rebelling against your parents is worth it. A short but thought-provoking story. Parents and especially grandparents know what the answer is. Teenagers need to think it through.

Let’s Start with the Horse  – by Kim Martins

Premise:  

Surreal glimpses of personal moments in a number of locations scattered across the world, all sharing a commonality of lack of control and fate dependent on the whim of others.

Review:  

This is the runner-up in the Bumblebee contest. Kim is a travel writer, and that is reflected in this fragmented metaphor that seems to speak of the difficulty of being in charge of your own fate no matter where you go and what you do. A lot of striking and evocative description in what amount to mini-fairy tales. Not sure what to make of it, but it is rather lyrical. High quality dreams, I’d call them. Glimpses of the inner mind and its emotional state. Memorable. Some of the imagery will stick in your mind for quite a long time.

Piece of My Heart  – by Mitchell Toews

Premise:  

A modern citizen contemplates the decaying artifacts he finds at an old campsite his immigrant ancestors created.

Review:  

Second runner-up in the Bumblebee contest or, to put it another way, “the Bumblebee Editor’s Choice.”  A vignette reflecting the bridge between past and present. Seems to have been something of a running theme in this issue of Pulp Literature. The past crumbles in our hands. But it remains relevant as long as memory persists. Not what we should focus on it, though, if we know what’s good for us. Contemplating the past not only offers many lessons, the very act of contemplation is a lesson in itself.

Linen, Leeks, and Blood – by Kris Sayer

Premise:  

An extremely ancient witch is pestered by a neophyte witch who wants to learn her spells and secret lore. The elderly witch refuses, but the young witch attempts to compel her anyway.

Review:  

A graphic novel tale with quite a bit of artistry. The use of perspective, for instance, is quite masterful. As vivid as a movie filmed by a first-class cinematographer. At times the expressions of the younger witch are a bit cartoony, anime-style, but the facial expressions of the elder witch are subtle and realistic, dignified even. The difference, I suspect, dictated by the need to stress the young witch’s lust for power as opposed to the experience of a lifetime weighing heavily on the elder witch. The latter seems more permanent and ageless than the young twit seeking to exploit her. Again, conflict between generations and the confrontation between past and present. At least here there is a resolution of sorts. This particular piece is proof that a Graphic art piece can be just as powerful as the written word alone. Worth viewing several times to get the full impact.

Allaigna’s Song: Oburakor – by JM Landels

Premise:  

Allaigna has served for six years as a Ranger on behalf of her Grandfather. She intends to return home now that her duty is fulfilled but a quest has come up. A secret quest. Apparently one fraught with peril. How can she resist?

Review:  

This is an excerpt from a new Allaigna novel which takes place six years after the previous novel (parts of which had been serialized in earlier issues of Pulp Literature) had taken place. The quest is off to a bumpy start and the participants at first sight do not appear to be compatible. This, of course, offers endless possibilities as to what can go wrong over and above the machinations of whatever villains and monsters which have yet to appear. It has all the excitement and anticipation of beginning a D&D game, or any number of online quest games, but with the added certainty of fine writing and complex characters and situations to come, if the previous novel is anything to go by. I’m not much for fantasy or gaming, but I do like quests. The weirder and more unexpected the quest becomes, the happier I am. I look forward to reading more.

CONCLUSION:

The usual wide variety of interesting and intriguing stuff found in the pages of every issue of Pulp Literature. A popular and well-respected magazine. I hope I have successfully explained why it deserves this reputation. Always loads of fun to read.

Check it out at:     <  Pulp Literature #27 – Summer 2020  >

 

 

 

 

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