Filler content with flesh and blood

A magazine review that originally appeared in The Fix #1:-

Reviewed by Peter Tennant

Flesh & Blood has to be one of the smartest magazines currently doing the rounds, with design and production values that put most UK publications in the shade. Just a brief flick through its pages demonstrates how much thought and care has gone into this aspect of the magazine, with large, typo free print and clear, spacious layout, plus a generous and diverse selection of artwork from the likes of Jeffrey Thomas, Julia Morgan Scott and Colleen Crary. On the other hand you might argue that with large print and all that art, also with seven of the fifty-two pages taken up by full page adverts (very nice ads to be sure, but ads all the same), you don’t get much story for your money. So how good is what we do get?

‘Tales of Dark Fantasy & Horror’ is the magazine’s remit. The longest story and also the most substantial, ‘Someone in the Fog’ by Gene-Michael Higney, has a woman writer coming to terms with personal demons, a crisis brought on by the death of an abusive ex. It’s a familiar theme, but here treated with a rare emotional acuity and going that extra mile to make the situation credible, so the reader can identify with and feel for the character. In a similar vein ‘Oliver’s Room’ by K R McGee is an enjoyable ghost story with a novel twist, a father willing to do anything to contact his dead child, thus putting the story’s focus clearly on the living and dealing with themes of grief and loss. These two stories are the most straightforward in the magazine. Those remaining are more in the nature of mood pieces, with emphasis on language and atmosphere rather than plot. At their best these work very well, as with Jeff VanderMeer’s overtly sinister story of a visit to ‘The County Fair’, which with its singsong tone of voice and clever wordplay taps into a vein of childhood fear and expectation successfully mined by Bradbury many years before in novels such as Something Wicked This Way Comes. Another highlight is the brief and fablesque ‘Autumnal Fete’ by John Urbancik, a quasi-nature myth that suggests themes of spiritual regeneration. Not all the stories work so well however. ‘The Storm Horses’ by Scott Thomas is a very slight piece about coming to terms with death, the mythical overtones not masking its essential lack of anything much to say, while ‘Nipping the Bud’ is the usual D F Lewis product (as opposed to those rare and very special stories of his in which everything comes together), from which, as all too often with this writer, you come away torn between love of the elaborate language and imagery and irritation at the self-indulgence and air of vacuity. Bit like life really, but that’s no excuse.

Poems by such as Chad Hensley, Carol MacAllister and Wendy Rathbone round out a package that, if it is perhaps at time a little short on substance, is always long on style.

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