Once upon a time, I thought I was catching up but this is real life and there’s no happily ever after. Which sounds more depressing than I mean. There are endings and many of them are happy and then the story keeps on going. Much like my quest to catch up on my reading. Oh happy fool.
Issue 82 of Hub contains the story Under A Bridge by Paul Fairbairn. It’s okay. It’s a modern fairy tale and that’s quite nice to see. I like the idea but the telling of it lacks depth. Exposition is nicely weaved in with dialogue and the writing is competent. It took me a moment to put my finger on what was missing – and in this case, it is that something is missing rather than that something is wrong. There’s no sensation. A very physical scene is described very cerebrally. There’s no smell or sound or texture and little colour.
Still struggling to get used to the new blocky design of Hub‘s website. And still struggling to catch up with all the things I want to read.
Anyway, Issue 81. The story is Gifted by Philip Palmer. Wow. This is fantastic. The very sad tale of a lonely boy who wastes the gifts he has, and knows that he wastes them. The non-linear structure underpins the sense of dislocation and conveys some of the backstory without words. I loved the repetition of some of the scenes and the way it helped to heighten the emotion. Definitely read this one.
Yikes, Hub‘s had another redesign. I’m not so keen on this version; it hurts my eyes a little and seems a bit old-fashioned. Still, what it looks like is less important than what’s in it.
On to Issue 80 and Hush a Bye by Beverly Allen. This story starts off well. Allen takes a mundance breakfast scene, hints at a mundance cause of her protagonist’s sleepless nights and makes it compelling through wonderful writing. She creates a viscerally real atmosphere and knowable characters with a deft hand. I was really impressed.
The ending was a little disappointing. It felt rushed and lacked the drama that the story really deserves. It’s worth a read, for the brilliance of Allen’s writing, and I’ll be looking out for more of her work.
The story in Issue 79 of Hub is another that plays with format. SBIR Proposal by Richard K Lyon takes the well used guise of a letter from one organisation to another. There is quite a lot of back story early on that I think would be unlikely to form part of the content of such a letter. The central idea is entertaining and suits the letter format, but it might have been more effective to have had an exchange of letters. I found myself skipping a couple of paragraphs. It’s a neat idea that could have been executed better.
We’re on to Issue 78 of Hub, only five issues behind now. The story is Gravestones by Mari Ness and it’s a real treat. I’m really interested in structure and the impact it has on a story. The same tale structured in different ways can be so different. I like to see something new. Gravestones is a short, anecdotal story, given a lift by a staccato structure. The graveyard is given a discordant, creepy feel in a deft manner and the ending was hilarious. I laughed out loud.
I’ve heard on the grapevine that Hub is the semi-pro place to get published these days, at least in the UK.
The story in Issue 77 is Hidden Underneath by Malin Larsson. This is an anecdotal tale of a cabbie who is hard to like with an enchanting ending. I’d decided that I didn’t like the story – the writing was competent but not remarkable and the POV character sees the world in stereotypes. I was put off by the negative, cynical narrator. However, the ending is so lovely and memorable that I’m sure it’ll stay with me for longer than many other stories.
I’m catching up a little bit. Then on to Crossed Genres and Issue 9 of Pantechnicon.
Montgolfier Winter by Alisdair Stuart is quite a bit longer than the recent fiction in Hub has been. The start is a little ropey, there are some clunky sentences and a couple of typos. I’m being picky – Hub has set itself high standards. However, the writing becomes more assured after a while and what follows is good. The story question is essentially – what else is there on this planet and what is the mad professor chasing after. The suspense is built up well and the reveal is handled excellently. The characters are a little two-dimensional but no more so than most plot-driven commercial fiction.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that I’d like to know more of the backstory. How did the characters come to be where they were? How is it that a church could buy a planet?