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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Chizine, Issue 31

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“Camp” by Jeremy C. Shipp
“The Teacher” by Paul G. Tremblay

I should probably say up front, that on the whole I’m a bit negative on the concept of e-zines.  Hand-wringing about how green it may be to decimate rainforests to print things aside, I like to possess books and magazines, seeing them around my house and picking them up again and again, holding them in my hands, and feeling the texture of the paper.  I also like to read in lots of places where my computer is not, such as swinging in the hammock in the backyard or on the shore of the lake, or perhaps even the bathroom.  Finally, I simply find it more straining on the eyes to sit and read things on a computer monitor.  And while Chizine offers links to pdf (Adobe) formats of each story for easy printing, somehow printing my own magazine and stapling it together just isn’t the same thing.  All those admitted prejudices aside, I like what Chizine has to offer.  It ranks easily among the more stylish and visceral collections of short horror stories and poems I’ve come across, and there is no terrestrial way to beat the price (free) that I’m aware of.

Growing up as a city boy, I missed the childhood ritual of attending summer camp experienced by so many.  If nightmares and memories such as these are the byproduct of such camps, then I couldn’t be happier to have skipped the whole thing.  You see, things going down at Jeremy C. Shipp’s “Camp” are seriously not kosher.  It begins as just a vague, uneasy feeling, but builds quickly, soaring like an eagle spat out of a wood chipper towards an inevitable and messy end.  The author exudes a fine talent for structure and flow, building a collection of characters that is at once believable, unbelievable, and disturbing.  He also throws in what has to be the most gut churning line I’ve read recently as casually as a player tossing ante into a nickel poker game: “I’m usually no good at falling asleep, but the instant I hit the mattress, I sleep like a rotting baby.”

Perhaps because it does not fit well with the other two stories in this issue, I found Lavie Tidhar’s “The Burial of the Dead” to be the least satisfying of the collection.  Whereas the other two stories have an almost "could happen at a place near you" sort of aura about them, “The Burial of the Dead” is closer to science fiction than horror.  A man with, literally, the Midas touch attends a poker game for revenge.  While the revenge he exacts is certainly vivid and their deaths horrific, the overall impact of the story is considerably less so.  I do have to give kudos to the author for some of the more descriptive passages contained in the story.  Through them, you can really feel and experience each scene and location.

I’ve read Paul G. Tremblay’s “The Teacher” three times now, twice in rapid succession, and then once again after a day of thinking about it.  I’m going to step right up and admit that I have no idea what the author is getting at.  Oh, clearly on the surface it’s a high school class where the teacher is way off the lesson plan, and a girl in the class is watching her home life crumble in parallel with her school life, but how it all revolves around this teacher or what he’s teaching, that’s where he loses me.  I’m attracted to the author’s grasp of the life of a high school student in general and how well his narrative meshes with my own memories.  Furthermore, the subtle perversions of the teacher, that he’s evil (lower case "e") without being crazed, makes the story uncomfortable without being overbearing.  And maybe at the end of all this I’m reading too much into it, that the story wasn’t meant to mean anything more, and the appearance of a deeper meaning so tantalizingly close without it being reachable drives the reader to search for something more, like a conspiracy theorist watching the Zapruder film repeatedly looking for the hidden puff of smoke.  Regardless, the story is crisp and absorbing.