A review that originally appeared in The Fix #7:-
LIGHTHOUSE MAGAZINE #1
Edited by Paul Calvin Wilson
This new magazine looks promising, printed on good quality paper and with an attractive, easy on the eye layout. Mind you, at £5.00 plus 80p p&p for only 52 pages it needs to look good, and some more gloss is knocked off when you realise that something like twelve of those pages are taken up with adverts and competitions (very nice competitions with some very nice prizes, but that’s beside the point). For illustration we get a few original and generally uninspiring drawings, but mostly its photographs and reproduced book covers and artwork by people trying to sell stuff, and the proofreading lets down the general air of professionalism, as in one slight column billed as ‘Pychic Tips’.
#1 is described as a ‘Special Brian Lumley Horror Issue’ and there’s a lengthy interview which is lively and informative, with Lumley coming over as very approachable and down to earth, and if they’d followed that up with some critical studies of his work and a story I might have been well impressed (they do have a story by Lumley on the books, but it’s going to feature in #3, which is the Robert Weinberg special – go figure), but what we get is a number of people, most with things to sell, saying what a great guy Brian is. Sorry, but as special issues go this is about as half assed and half cocked as it gets.
So what else is there? There’s ‘Blackhouse’, which is just what the world needs, another page giving us Stephen King news, albeit it seems to have been slung together in half an hour by someone who found a website and contains nothing that most King watchers won’t already know. Okay, I’ve read everything the great man has ever written, so King isn’t an issue, but there are people who are paid to keep us informed every time he passes wind and have huge advertising budgets for that very purpose, so why the independent press have to climb on this particular bandwagon is beyond me. Find some lesser known but deserving writers and push them, why don’t ya? There’s also ‘The Lighthouse Foundation’ where ‘the Lighthouse Team have their say, and come across all creative like’, in this case consisting of three poems, and to be fair those by editor Paul Calvin Wilson aren’t too bad. There’s a feature on the indie film Comptine and director Damien Chemin, which aside from Lumley is the most substantial piece of non-fiction here, creating real interest in seeing the film itself and appreciative of the director’s work. There’s an interview with Jack Chalker which is quite revealing as to his methods, and there are two book reviews that read like they were knocked off in a hurry. Dotted here and there about the magazine are the odd poem and snippets of information about writerly folk (Silverberg signs for second volume of Legends etc).
So, fiction. Five stories occupying slightly less than eight pages including the illustrations, which speaks volumes about how important fiction is to this magazine (nowhere near as significant as the competitions and adverts). ‘The Rime of Four and Twenty’ by Claire Mitchell is a competition winner and a decent outing for the old plot where everything is revealed in the last line granting the reader a new understanding of what is going down, it’s just too bad that the whole thing is given away by the title, reducing the story to a simple going through the motions. Judd Hampton’s ‘Selected Droughts’ is a little more interesting, with a couple who move to the country because they can’t stand their neighbours only to find that Mother Nature has her own way to trash the neighbourhood. It’s well written with a neat twist in the tail, but nothing special. ‘The Small Roads out of Town’ by C. J. Hutt is your typical small town tragedy, revealing what really happened to a wife beater and it holds the interest but does nothing more to justify its existence. Phill Garnett’s ‘Late Night Stroll’ reads like something Richard Laymon would have produced on a bad day, giving us a man walking about at night and beset by various problems, only to reveal in a last paragraph that continually ups the ante that he himself is some sort of monster. It’s a dreary little damp squib of a story, rehashing ideas anyone who has ever read Horror will already be sick to death of. ‘Grim’ by Darren Paul Clark is the longest story and perhaps the best, which really isn’t saying much. It’s about a woman who has a premonitory dream of her own murder and tries to outwit the killer, routine stuff and slightly overwritten, but then comes at the reader with a twist that almost redeems the story.
I’ve saved the worst for last. There’s an interview with singer and musician Gary Numan. At one point Numan mentions that he’s writing a novel, and editor Wilson’s immediate response is to ask, ‘Gary, do you write short stories? If so, is there any way Lighthouse Magazine could persuade you to send us one?’ There’s no suggestion that said short story will have to meet any criteria of quality. And that is what I dislike about Lighthouse Magazine. It doesn’t seem interested in providing the punter with a quality read so much as name checking as many B list celebs as possible, with whatever they can catch by way of content thrown in to make up the weight.