Johnny Cash (a tale in questionnaire results)
Ben Peek’s “Johnny Cash” is reminiscent in part of the work produced by Sladek in the late 60s and 70s. Billed as a tale in questionnaire results, it forces the reader to postulate the unspoken, and ungiven questions that determine, in turn, the content given. As such, then, being a work more of fantasy, or of a fantastic counterfactual, it postulates a world wherein politics and the occult combine. Not only have the events of the world a hidden dimension, these are darker, and more sinister than rationalism demands of us. As such, then, this tale plays with conventions of such narratives as the hypnotic sex-slave fictions that have occurred, and this Sydney-based writer’s work is definitely worth pursuing further. Like the following two stories, this is one excellent reason why this issue of Shadowed Realms deserves to be read.
Ben Peek’s “Johnny Cash (a tale in questionnaire results)” is a somewhat confusing tale. The story being the answers to questions you never hear being asked. By the end of it, I’m not really sure what point the author is implying other than “things happen in the background of politics”.
Two reviews, one really nice, and the other not so. Not bad. You know, I've been really quite surprised by the response to this little story. It's been mostly positive, which is neat, of course, but I kind of expected the story to be forgotten about. Every now and then I have someone read the story and drift by the blog and leave a positive comment, still. It's really been the nicest of responses.
Black Sunday Month.
The most successful pieces, in fact, seem to be the ones that don’t attempt to tell a straightforward plot... Ben Peek’s “Black Sunday Month”, which is, as I’ve found after a long period of contemplation, essentially impossible to describe.
First thing I've heard at all about this little thing. It's basically a messing around with an aphorisim. Successful? Probably not. Some nice words, though, I thought.
There’s so many other good stories in here, including... Ben Peek’s “R-Rated” story of a man getting his eventual comeuppance from a government that’s taken ratings systems a little too far.
A passing positive mention is cool. Agog! Smashing Stories from which 'R' is found is out of print now.*
Dream of a Russian Princess.
The main thing I enjoyed was Ben Peek’s story, “Dream of a Russian Princess”. This is the story of a man who’s just been released from incarceration in “the Frost”, which by the sounds of it is enforced cryogenics, used as a prison. That’s the point, of course, the kindly Mr Peek never quite tells you what things are, so you have to figure them out. This is even more difficult when Blair, the protagonist, either doesn’t feel the urge to explain things to the reader or doesn’t himself know what’s going on - he’s been in the Frost for the last six years, and he emerges into a world where things are not the way he left them, nor entirely what they seem. The most important thing in his life, his daughter, is dead - but how, and who, and why aren’t entirely clear. So we join with Blair in a game of onion-peeling, as he goes looking for the truth. Together we perceive, remove and discard layer after layer, trying to work out everyone’s motivations, and figure out how people are related. Blair doesn’t spend a lot of time crying, but then he doesn’t have time - he’s frantically trying to reaquaint himself with the world and the lives that he left behind. The ending is both triumphant, and wistful. I didn’t want the story to end because Blair didn’t get the ending I expected him to, but at the very last he surprised even me.
I haven't heard much about this story, to be honest, except that Geoff Maloney really liked it. Which is nice. However, here is another positive review, which you can't argue against.**
And now, for another review, not part of this site, but which is really quite funny:
The Dreaming City.
An interesting reflection of Sydney set in three time zones, the first settlement, 100 years later and the present day. All seen through the eyes of an Aboriginal warrior and an Englishman. I found this story almost surreal at times and a little confusing to read and follow.
It's hard to give this review any credibility when Mark Twain is obviously American. But that's how it goes some times.
Anyhow, all up, not a bad bunch of comments about my fiction this year. I hope girliejones can keep the site up and running and iron out some of the errors.
* The story is called 'R' and not 'R-Rated' as is noted.
** Likewise, the story is 'Dream of a Russian Princess' not 'Death of a Russian Princess'.