Fusing Horizons #2

Edited by Gary Fry
Gray Friar Press, Spring 2004; 96 Pages, Zine, Single Issue $5.65, Subscription (Four Issues) $21.95. [

Review by Barth Anderson

I'm a small "d" democrat when it comes to zines, especially fiction collections. My feeling is, anyone with a website, a PayPal account, and Kinko's can crank out a magazine, so why aren't you? Go on then. Give us your best.
Because this is your baby, I want you-as-editor to emanate from your collection. Express yourself with your editorial vision. Find exactly what you want people to read, and don't compromise. And as a reader and reviewer, I'll be very appreciative of your most daring darlings.
Fusing Horizons Issue #2, edited by Gary Fry, is a good example of a workhorse horror zine. There's a couple very creepy stories, only one clunker in the mix, and Fry's consistent fiction selection gives the reader the sense that he knows what he's after and that future issues will either explore, expand or riff on what he's laying out here.
Some genre zines attempt to challenge the status quo by publishing stories that depart from the editorial vision of large, popular genre publications. But Fusing Horizons stays true to its roots, offering a table of contents that deals heavily in Edgar Allen Poe's trade: psychological aberrance. In issue number two we have sociopathic introversion, prison-like asylums, hallucinations, violent cruelty, old maids with old wounds, and, of course, cat mutilations.
Also in the tradition of Poe, these stories are mainly told in solipsistic narratives so airtight, that their characters' minds frequently devolve into insanity or an entrapped psychology, leaving the reader with no recourse but to recoil (say it with me) in horror.
Where this works best is in the claustrophobic "The Man in the Chimney" by Gary McMahon. Sexually tweaked and psychologically freaked, the main character is convinced that a strange man lives in her chimney. The first lines let us know that we're not venturing far outside this woman's skull: "There's a man in my chimney. A tall, thin badly dressed man who stands still as a statue and listens to me as I sleep." We follow her to a final, surreal encounter with the mysterious stranger, and McMahon's tight-as-a-glove first person keeps us pressed up against the main character and her craziness as she winds up pressed up against the man in her chimney. Despite the fact that the ending is a bit blunt (as endings often are in Fusing Horizons stories), "The Man in the Chimney" shows that editor Gary Fry has an ear for nicely crafted stories.
"The Meeting" by Clint Venezuela is a nifty homage to D. Harlan Wilson. Like Wilson's stories, the surreal dialog here reads like John Cleese by way of Beckett (or vice versa). This story is a true solipsism, an enclosed fictional universe and a narrative ending practically where it begins. I dole out gold stars handily for ambitiousness in zines, and this one, which mines the horror in absurdism, works well enough for a star. (But nifty as "The Meeting" is, one wonders why not simply commission a story from D. Harlan Wilson?)
Andrew Humphrey's "Blind Spot" is a tasty morsel. Sex, violence, the threat of violence, more sex - this story reads as a good gangster story should. Chris, sycophant to crime-boss Frank, is having an affair with the boss' wife. When he finds out, Frank's retribution is violent, but Humphrey twists our expectations back on themselves by sparing Chris the painful end he perhaps deserves. He survives, but he may have been better off dead. Humphrey gives us the most intriguing ending of any story in the collection.
The stories in the rest of issue #2 continue working the theme of psychological and/or mystical entrapment. Some are effective and eerie ("Death Will Come Softly, to the Beating Drum" by Simon Bestwick, "Flies," by Kevin L. Donihe, and "Blind Circles" by Joel Lane) some are ineffective, choosing broad camp over creepiness ("The Pied Piper of Hammersmith" by Nicholas Royle, "Like a Stone in the Riverbed" by Michael Kelly, and "When?" by Antony Mann) and one, "Silent Pine" by Matt J. Drake, is just too predictable to take seriously ("You mean the sanitarium doctor who's telling the story is actually a mental patient? Mon dieu!")
Also worth noting are the flash fictions - in particular, Gary Fry's choose-your-own adventure, "In Two Minds," which is vicious and fun. Also, the interview with Jonathan Carroll: It's all too brief, but any chance to peek into this writer's mind is most welcome.

Barth Anderson
23 October 2004

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