Clean prose. Some familiar tropes. Bare lip service to its primary sci-fi element where dirt-farming on some near-Earth asteroid begs the questions How? and Why? Never engaged with the narrative or the main character. Maybe if I'd read with a little more attentiveness I'd understand (and care) why he was so obsessed with immortality, as in never having (getting) to die. Or maybe it's just I can't fathom a stupider objective. Potentially, maybe even probably, if not ultimately, the very definition of hell. This VC clearly has skilz, but Lairamore's HEY HEY to the Old Ways cap, seems to target a younger, simpler, happier readership than the disturbed and weathered denizens of this zine. Hard pass.
I must've read Wilson's The Sounds of a House cap some time ago because, even though I have no memory of it, I just found the following note attached to its pages:
"Newly rich guy's mansion makes screeching sounds (which turn out to be a hamster) scaring away all his nympho gold-diggers. Never reeled me in despite some good description. Nice prose. An overworked hook, its promise under-delivered."
I'm pretty sure I wrote that note. Like, who else, right? And it actually does stir up some vague recollections of the piece. One of those submissions whose impressive technical prowess overshadows an underwhelming narrative and main character. Just occurred to me that adept prose can be a little more challenging to read, which can actually hinder it if the story's not there. Like carrying a cup of tepid tea out to a table in a large, intricate, heavy porcelain pot. Often I wish I could ask VC's what motivated a particular yarn, why they felt it needed telling. Anyway, a highly subjective no here.
Okay, I've read enough of Sweeney's Tracee (alluding to Dick Tracey) to know it deserves a shot at the brass ring here. It's technically solid, manages to be articulate while maintaining an informal tone, casual and witty. The VC describes this work as metafiction, which I don't quite get. Maybe if I'd read further... But what I did read, the first ten or so pages, didn't seem self conscious, didn't tear down that pesky fourth wall. He also mentions Barthelme in his pitch. And there is a Barthelmesque list of bullet points midway, but what little I've read of the Don meister I found clear. Clear metaphors, simple and surreal. Whereas this cap is more convoluted and sci-fisy. This is the first time I've bailed on a piece before a lot of skimming and skipping. Like I enjoyed what I read, the language, the characters, its idea density, the dialog (which was a little hard to follow at times without speech or action tags). But then once I was 98% sure it deserved to go Terminal, I wasn't engrossed in the story itself enough to forego guitar and online chess. I guess that makes it the first piece I've sent up without having read in its entirety. A tribute of sorts. Still, maybe it wants more plot clarity, some sort of narrative promise or hook. Be curious to see what the Cow and Carp think.
The VC describes herself as a "disabled author," whereas what little I've just now read of D's "A Christmas Truce" would seem to bespeak a most able one. So I'm a little confused... but, okay, I guess we have a retarded gatekeeper vetting a disabled author. Should be good.
Found the POV (even the narrative) a little inconsistent. It begins in the nice, tight, limited 3rd of the unlikable/unreliable female MC (whose name, Ms. L, aka Lilith, is initially withheld for some reason) but later head hops into a bit much dialog for this point of view (and my tastes), though wandering not quite into the dreaded objective POV (that I almost always dislike). But overall it's a well written and intriguing blend of debauchery, incest and, eventually, the supernatural. It embiggened me, which is as much as any reader could ask.
E.g., I really liked the opening descriptions of the WWI truce. Found it poignant. Seemed to show wars aren't about men fighting men (who are happy to stop and cut each other's hair or play soccer) but rather just governments (i.e. corporations) profiteering by proxy. Didn't quite follow some of the supernatural aspects, feel like I missed aspects of the deals and relationships involved. Happily, our Terminal pair here are a sharper lot by far, and so I'm passing it along to them on instinct and intuition. There's Goodstuff here.
Yesterday we closed the restaurant and Ms Rocks took off in her Minnie Winnie for parts unknown. No, she hasn't left me (I don't think). I believe she plans to return in a couple weeks. I'd have gone with her if she'd asked. But she knows I don't like to travel, to sleep in Walmart parking lots, poop on the run, eat out of coolers. And I know she doesn't like retirement, having nothing useful to do. Yesterday I bought a Gretch at Long & McQuade Music, played a bunch of online chess, ran an errand, shot some pool with the step-grandson, watched a cheesy Netflix movie (The Client List) on the awfulness of prostitution, which, except for my hernia consult tomorrow, covered almost my entire bucket list of things to on my staycation.
So this morning I read Berry's "The Super-cursed Crypt'' with more care and persistence than has been my wont of late. Another toughie. The voice is great, the writing tight. The reflections and lamentations of an Egyptian mummy whose tomb has become a tourist attraction, it strikes me as very well researched. But then research, though important to credibility, is almost too easy today. I'm surprised how few bother. It's not like anyone has to go to the library anymore. I'd say the research integrates well into the story, except... except... there kind of is no story. The plot and character arcs are more spot than line. Static. I mean, there's the story of this mummified royal's life, his conquests, his wives and concubine, and murder. But not enough to warrant the word count. His misunderstandings and misinterpretations of modern language, culture and technology are at times cute, almost clever, but at others cliche. It bothers me that he knows nothing of the world today (despite several millennia of observation and study). Given this VC's apparent skills and intelligence, I'd have liked to see his character's more serious and informed take on history and the state of our species. I know the Bass and the Bovine upstairs have lots on their plate, so I try to avoid sending up cap that I'm pretty sure won't fly. I'm therefor passing on this venture. Not an easy pass. A pass with respect and appreciation. But a pass nonetheless.
Post my heavy 15-year-long weed habit and subsequent divorce from Ms Rocks #1 way back in the early 80's, I went through what I like to call my pathetic singles dance phase. Because I knew I had an addictive personality (as in it's prone to addictions, not addictive to others to say the least) I thought I might've even become a sex/love addict, and called some help line I found in the local paper beside the companion ads (this was before the internet). According to the bi gentleman screening applicants, I didn't masturbate nearly enough to qualify, and my confessed revulsion at guy-on-guy sex, despite his promotional pitch on prostate palpitation, kiboshed both our interests in my joining his group. Though relationships have remained interesting to me even into my waning sexuality. (I thought I'd miss sex a lot more than I do, and am guessing it'll be the same with life after death). Like it has been my observation that, sex-wise, women in their 40's tend to go through what men do in their teens. Some painful shit. Anyway, all this just to say I could really relate to Wilcox's "Vipassana Romance" cap.
Initially and most strikingly, the grammar doesn't get in the way of the story. So much of what I read here, especially openings, tries too hard with the vocab, the adjectives and adverbs, sundry literary devices, leaning if not falling into purple turgidity. Forcing me to think, and thereby distracting from the narrative. Whereas here, I know immediately who's telling the story and what's going on. It carries me. No heavy lifting required. I found the idea of a divorced woman at a (hotbed of a) Buddhist meditation retreat intended to help attendees understand and curb desire ("the source of all suffering") spending all her time obsessing on and pathetically trying to hook up with another hot, young, male attendee hilarious. Though simpler and subtler, it reminded me a little of George Saunders' ironies and humor. Some apt and concise character sketching. Had the sort of hyperbolized autobiographical underpinnings I often employ in my own fiction. I even liked the surprise (for me anyway) ending, maybe because I identified more with the inept klutz than the hunk.
So I'm sending it up without reservation. That said, even if it tickles the bass and bull, and scales the Terminal wall, it probably won't be action packed enough for the platyrrhine, who needs lots to happen. I say this not to predispose or second-guess my higher-ups, whose remarks I'm eager to read, but just as a cautionary heads-up to the VC. In any case, it'll certainly fly somewhere, and so I noted a few nits along the way:
I need to peak at him, peek
If Marie was here, were (conditional tense) Actually though, might work best as is, more in voice
thinking “eating disorder”. thinking, "eating disorder. " Doesn't punctuation always go inside the closing quote, even if only thunk?
something—useful—for the first time I days. in days
My dad used to play Satan ("Mr. Satanos") in skits written for the house church we all had to attend. I remember his character as urbane, intelligent and likable. These little stories were a nice respite from otherwise torturous hymns and sermons.
With allusions to Inferno, The Matrix, the Bible, Wizard of Oz, et. al., Wilems' deftly penned "The Nine Circles" cap appears to me to be one humongous metaphor for... for... something. I actually couldn't tell. And while opaque metaphors usually appeal by allowing me to form my own connections, this piece seemed almost to harp on whatever its message was. And so I just feel dumb. I got the feeling it was mocking those who don't think "COVID" (referenced once) is real through its comedic assertions of the non-existence of dogs. Or maybe it's just mocking social media's lower-hanging fruit. References to and the usage of various cringeworthy medieval torture devices (pears, screws, racks) to me conflicts with an overarching silliness. It's one of those seemingly great pieces that I just couldn't get into, was even averse to. I think setting it in Christian hell with a fairly cliche Satan overseeing, though well done, was not the way to go. A contemporary online "conspiracy theory" that dogs are a falsehood created by elites with vast resources and nefarious agendas wouldn't be that farfetched. People are stupid. There are those still rolling up their (and their children's!) sleeves. There are still flat-earthers. It could be this cap intends to be self-parodying in the way of porn. Or maybe I just disagree with whatever I imagine is its gist--the worst possible reason to reject--but I'm rejecting it nonetheless.
Often I'll read a cap's first few paragraphs as soon as it lands on my desk, even if I don't have time, just to see what I'm in for. I read all the way to page 12 of Smith's "The Sculptor" about a week ago, before un-bussed tables, bus tubs of dirty dishes and a row of uncooked chits saw Ms. Rocks finally drag me away from it. I liked the snappy character descriptions and sharp jabber. Also, totally grokking to its cynicism re social media and the ways of the art world didn't hurt. Feast or famine, mostly the latter. I remember reading a thing by Oates where the MC is always trying to determine who she has to fuck in various social venues in order to get published, and which (having never fucked her myself but having tried to read some of her work) I suspect is at least a little autobiographical (as good writing often is). Maybe because I did most of my psychedelics in the 70's, or because I listen mostly to background commercial radio, I find music today, by and large, godawful. And writing? Sometimes it seems like belonging to the correct minority trumps one's ability to craft. One thing I like about this zine is that no one here (as far as I know) cares what color you are, where you're from, what's wrong with you or what your sexual orientations or preferred pronouns are. All we care about is your story. And I liked this story of a young sculptor who makes a pact with the metaphorical devil, exchanging his free will and freedom for fame. I did find the beginning more compelling than the finish. Snappier somehow. I'm guessing the last 10 pages were written several times faster than the first 10. It's rare for me to want more dialog, but this VC knows how to craft the chatter. The POV wanders between the sculptor and his handler to the point I'm almost not sure whose story it is. But perfection is subjective, and not a requirement in any case, at least down here on the Floor. Good is enough. And this one is more than good enough to rise to the Terminal. I am, as I imagine the VC is also, eager to read these animals' thoughts on it.