HERE & NOW #5/6

Reviewed by Steven Pirie

'It's alive! And it's a monster!' So says the Editorial.

I worried for Here and Now. Blog and website rarely updated, desperate pleas by contributors and readers alike in forums as to 'when...' going unanswered, I really thought Here and Now was to join the ranks of Been and Gone.

And then here it is; alive, and a monster indeed, for it has to be said at £3.50 for 128 pages, 27 stories, two articles, one interview, and six cartoons, Here and Now provides wonderful value for money. Of course, this is a double issue, so that's not to say subsequent issues will be quite so generous. It's a nice touch, though, that the editor states that whilst it is a double issue to try and 'catch up with the hideous backlog', it counts as a single issue for those with subscriptions. More magazine for your money, indeed.

Outside, its sized A4, perfect bound, with a glossy black-and-white cover. Inside, overall the layout is good. The chosen font is easy on the eye and it doesn't feel unduly cluttered. It is let down a little in that the paragraph spacing is at times erratic, and that in some stories italics are realised while in others they remain as underlined text. Also, there are places where the line-wrap carries a line over only to terminate it half way through what should be the next line. It's a shame, really, because attention to little details like this can mark a publication as professionally mastered. Whether these glitches are due to the editor's self confessed computer problems, the delays and the subsequent hurry to catch up, or are due to the printer's errors I don't know. It's not a major concern, but it will draw pedants like me out from a story.

Given that there are 27 stories, I won't go into great detail about all of them here. I'd sense your eyes glazing over were I to do so. Instead, I'll make some general comments on some of them, while still hopefully giving you a taster of what to expect.

The standard of the fiction in this issue varies from excellent to somewhat ordinary. Hardly surprising, I suppose, that when presented with 27 stories not all of them are going to resonate with the reader. Several stories I found vague in their openings--a personal dislike of mine--and with such a full issue I felt it hard to resist the urge to skip those tales that didn't grab me from the start. In a bumper harvest it's easier to be less fussy when separating wheat from chaff. But it's an eclectic mix, and there's certainly enough good stuff in Here and Now that I've no problem in recommending its purchase.

Take Burning Bush, by Jennifer Pelland, for example. Here's a story that clearly doesn't wallow in its own seriousness. Nor is it likely to win favour with the General Synod. But any story that has the Pope on his knees listening to a whispering vagina whose pubic hair is awash with a miraculous blue flame is all right by me. It's daft, but it's delicious, and it's got some great one-liners. Whether there's a deliberate message in there about the hypocrisy of the church, or whether God is indeed a woman, I don't know. I was simply lost in the ludicrous nature of the tale.

In Guitar Heroes, by Simon Kewin, there's a three piece rock band whose members save the world in their spare time. It took me a while to get a feel for where this story was going, but once it took off I loved it. It has a wonderful camp feel to it that made me think of the band The Darkness. I see them leaping from the stage, all hair extensions and spandex suits, off to do battle with demons. Like Burning Bush, I get the feeling this is another tale that doesn't necessarily take itself too seriously, although it is well written with nice imagery in places.

The Green Man by Paul McAvoy is a horror story that, in one place at least, managed to give me a shiver--something that's so hard to do, especially these days where horror and reality often don't seem that far removed from each other. It was the bit where the hero first meets the monster down the dark alley, and the fact that the monster is small and fast and snarls and spits a lot plays very well with most folks' fears.

And there are plenty of other highlights: The Mermaid's Tears, by Steve Lockley, has a delicious twist to its ending; Blooming Britain, by Leila Eadie, is a tale of village rivalry gone mad; Rainmaker on the Run by Jetse de Vries is an interesting story well worth the read. Better and Better, by John B. Rosenman, sees people who have sex with Merianne Roberts inherit savant-like abilities in a strange recompense because Merianne is 'no good at it'. Form a queue, chaps. Roll your eyes, D.

Charlie the Quantum Computer by Sarah Dobbs is a futuristic tale in which the authoritarian state has so much control it now decides who will love whom. It's a nicely written tale, if a little bleak in that at the end the state is still deciding such things. Rebellious romantic that I am, I wanted the protagonists to marry and be damned, not acquiesce and marry anyway. But it's a nice read, just the same.

A quick word or two about Gregory Cartwright's Danger: Mages in Training cartoons... great fun, I think, and more of them wouldn't go amiss! I think they'd make a good comic strip slotted in amongst the stories.

Overall, there's much more I'd deem good than bad in Here and Now. Most, if not all, of the featured authors have publishing credits elsewhere. There's something to be said for fresh and new talent, but there's also the thought that if a magazine is attracting seasoned writers then it can't be doing much wrong. If your thoughts are of beaches and summer holiday reading, then why not think about purchasing Here and Now? It's a good read, and you're getting two issues for the price of one. What more can you want?

(NB: #5/6 is Sold Out according to the publisher's website, though copies may still be available via Shocklines etc--Ed)

Full list of contents (in order of appearance):-

Fiction:-

Guitar Heroes--Simon Kewin

Blooming Britain--Leila Eadie

Fear of Fitness--John Llewellyn Probert

The Autumn Beast--Michael D. Winkle

Better and Better--John B. Rosenman

Charlie the Quantum Computer--Sarah Dobbs

Choices--Justin Thorne

For Old Times' Sake--Gary Couzens

Humpback IV--Mark Anthony Brennan

Greenleaves--Davin Ireland

From Freak to Unique--Steve Dean

Lorna--Alasdair Stuart

Modern Life--Jason J. Stevenson

The Mermaid's Tears--Steve Lockley

Lost--Paul Bates

Mokey--Kay Green

The Pan!c Foundation--Arthur Lyte

Rainmaker on the Run--Jetse de Vries

Seeing Red--John Graham

She Who Controls the Wind--Ken Goldman

Alan Smithee Lives in Hell--Matthew S. Rotundo

Burning Bush--Jennifer Pelland

The Green Man--Paul McAvoy

They Let You Live--Ian Hunter

Calling the Tuna--John B. Rosenman

Unicorn--Gary McMahon

When the Lights Go Out--Eugie Foster

Faction:-

Extraordinarily Dark Gentlemen--Tony Richards

Fear and Wonder: An Interview with Stuart Young

Hunting Diana--John Shire

Cartoons and artwork: -

Gregory Cartwright

Here & Now, edited by Jenny Barber, 3 Tamworth Close, Lower Earley, Reading, Berkshire, RG6 4EQ. A4, 132pp (NB Double Issue), £3.50 or £12.50/4 (for other countries see ordering details on website).

Website: - www.bradanpress.co.uk


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