Review by Steven Klotz
For a living, I’m a web developer for an e-commerce company. There may be other strategies, but we try and get our products in front of as many people as possible. We call this multi-channel marketing. We deal in handmade art and the big restriction to multi-channel marketing we encounter is that a sculpture is still a sculpture no matter how many different venues you find to sell it in. Literature doesn’t have this restriction.
I’ve been fascinated, ever since I read my first Star Trek novel as a kid, by how stories can flow from one medium to another. A little over a year ago, I discovered EscapePod and similar podcasts that record readings of science fiction stories. When I’m busy, this is my main source of new fiction as audio is significantly more suitable to driving than the written word. I’ve discovered many authors through these audio productions that I’ve gone on to read physical novels. That’s powerful and I suspect that I’m not the only person affected. Thus both the marketing voice and science fiction fan in my head were pleased when I started finding podcasts associated with magazines.
Clarkesworld Magazine is an online webzine that also publishes an annual physical collection of their stories. That’s already multi-channel to a degree, but for over a year they’ve been doing an audio production of one of their stories each month. I’ve listened to all of the stories and they’ve made me a hardcore fan of the magazine. This leads us to TTA Press and Transmissions From Beyond.
I’ve read a few issues of Interzone, and it’s one of the most impressive science fiction magazine I’ve encountered. But it’s published in England and thus can be either hard to find or expensive or both, so I’ve never been a regular reader. Interzone is published by TTA press which also publishes Black Static, a horror fiction magazine, and Crimewave, a crime story magazine. It came to my attention that they’ve started a bi-weekly podcast that pulls stories from each of those three magazines. I think it’s clear that I like this model, promoting a written word publication with free audio, so I decided to give it a listen.
I’m going to say a few words about each of the first 3 “transmissions,” one story each from Interzone, Black Static, and Crimewave. If these sound interesting, check out the podcast. Once you hear a few of these stories I think you’ll, like me, be trying to find a reliable source for these magazines.
“The Algorithm” by Tim Akers
They did a good job choosing a story that’s distinctively Interzone fare and by an author that’s published 2 other stories in the same milieu with them. The story itself is a retelling of an old story that’s played itself out in both fiction and history countless times. The establishment finds itself adverse to change. The setting is a fantastical world of clockwork deities. The conclusion is somewhat expected, but satisfying. As in the clockwork of the story, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.
“Lady of the Crows” by Tim Casson
It’s a delight to encounter such subtle yet effective horror. The story revolves around various performances of a rather horrific play. The transparently unreliable narrator manages to be vile yet vaguely sympathetic or at least pitiable. I particularly like how the story itself feels like a staged production, with each scene distinct and purposeful. This is my first experience with a story out of Black Static, but if this is a representative example, I’ll be back for more.
“A Handful of Dust” by Ian R. Faulkner
“A Handful of Dust” appeared in Crimewave 9. The distinction between a crime story and a horror is one that I’m not spectacular at describing, but if you look at this story and the one by Casson from Black Static the distinction is pretty clear. An actual crime has occurred — at least one. Much like “Lady of the Crows” this story is intricately layered. The narrator seems like an impartial outside observer of the criminal mind. The effect is still spine tingling. This is the shortest of the three stories I’m reviewing here, but it fits a lot into it’s 18 minutes.