Next we have the longest piece in the issue, written by Ian Faulkner, and clearly one of historical and descriptive brilliance. This story alone makes the issue worth the cover price. Faulkner’s The Difference Between cannonballs us straight into the most relentless, horrible circumstances of one soldier, Arthur Watts, and the World War One trenches he is fighting so bravely and desperately to get out of. He’s surrounded by gunfire and death on all sides, but refuses to give up. Faulkner’s elegant usage of English made you wonder if you truly were in the middle of these barb wired trenches, drowned in mud and blood and crowded by charred bodies, being thrown about by mortar blasts and shells, just so that our hero could get home to the woman he loved. And on top of that, among the crimson and shrapnel, there are creatures floating around, feeding on the remains of the dying. Arthur learns from an injured soldier that these creatures are referred to as the Daughters of Nyx, or some kind of goddesses or angels that come down to the battlefield to ferry the dying to their loved ones. The Keres, as we later learn they’re called, look part-Angel, part-Medusa, and have fangs! And along with the non-stop enemy fire, Arthur can only hope but to escape this nightmare. The payoff was spectacular!

The Fix: Short Fiction Review

At first, “The Difference Between” by Ian R. Faulkner looked to be nothing more than a war story, a solid showing of prose that had nothing speculative going on. Instead, as the young corporal Arthur Watts soldiers on (pun intended), dodging bullets and grenades as best as he can, wishing to get back to his wife, he discovers the battlefield has a new set of players. Women, garbed in tattered, bloody rags, are stalking those that fight on. Some men seem them as angels, others as death-bringers. Watts will learn firsthand the truth of the matter.

I enjoyed this one very much, especially once the uncertainty of what was happening around Watts came into full stride. But this isn’t David Drake military SF, no. “The Difference Between” mixes horror with gritty realism, and the outcome is astounding. You really get a sense of camaraderie within Watts’s unit, even if no one really likes each other. Read it; I promise you’ll be affected in some way or another.


“The Difference Between” by Ian R. Faulkner
The trenches of the Great War are pretty much as horrific a setting from the ‘real world’ that you can get, and Faulkner makes it crystal clear just how hellish going over the top could be. Arthur Watts manages to survive the onslaught of the Bosche guns, but as night falls he finds himself in No Man’s Land, with a wounded colleague, and with the ghostly Ker rising to claim the dead and wounded….

The characters in Ian R. Faulkner’s “The Difference Between” are caught in the open, seeking sanctuary, but this time the locale is the trenches of The Western Front, in echoes of Dan Simmon’s ‘The Great Lover.’ There’s one clunky paragraph of infodumping, but apart from that Faulkner’s style is assured, there’s a wealth of detail that makes the reader feel how it was to be cowering in the trenches waiting for the signal to attack, and overall, it’s a terrific piece of dark fantasy.

Black Static seems to be on a pretty regular schedule and #3 is the best yet. I loved the articles and all the stories got a Very Good from me.

“The Difference Between” by Ian R. Faulkner is set in a World War I battlefield. Arthur Watts and his commanding officer are the only survivors of a useless charge into the enemy line. Now they must get back to their own line, but they have more to worry about than German bullets. Women called “the Keres — the daughters of the goddess Nyx” are dispersed amongst the dying, eating men but only after consigning their souls to eternal damnation. All Arthur wants to do is to return home.

Black Static is really hitting its stride. You should subscribe.

Ian R. Faulkner turns in “The Difference Between”, a solid story with an effective World War I setting.


The Fix: Short Fiction Review/

Speak Ill of the Dead” by Ian Faulkner recaptures the theme of the issue, pulling readers into a future world where a sentient zombie cult of terrorists has kidnapped the brother of Blueberry, an ex-anti-terrorism agent. The cult hope to use her brother as leverage to force her to help, even join them. Blueberry has bitten off a bit more than she can chew, but there’s an extra layer here, revealed in the last few paragraphs. A zombie tale that doesn’t feel like a rehash of trodden ground, for all the science fiction aspects. But the horror is quite real.

Someone has found a way to re-animate the dead in Ian Faulkner’s Speak Ill of the Dead. They’re not very pleasant, in a fundamentalist terrorist kind of way. What I thought was great about this story is that it’s set in the UK, with a former Special Branch officer as the protagonist, but doesn’t end up sounding self-conscious about it. It’s full of high-tech weaponry and combat, but doesn’t come across as all gung-ho and ridiculous. And the ex-police woman is called Blueberry, which doesn’t at all sound daft in the story. It’s a brilliantly put together tale.

This is Issue #3 [of Murky Depths] and has a nice mix of dark stories, all of which got a Very Good from me.


The Fix: Short Fiction Review/

“Necessary For Survival” by Ian R. Faulkner is the longest story in this issue. A complex tale with suspenseful plot twists leads to a most unexpected ending. Alluding to guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and insurgency, Faulkner portrays, in stark detail, how difficult it is to figure out who the enemy is. Balancing some rather gruesome scenes of Sim to human combat and maser blasts, Faulkner raises the tension with a good dose of psychological warfare.

Carson, a journalist from Planet Wide News, has been recruited by Tru Gen Party headquarters to write “without gloss or spin or antigovernment propaganda” a report to “service the public’s growing concern” over those interned in camps to protect the world from their affliction. Carson is embedded with Delaware Coombs, the organic officer in charge of a Mek expeditionary force.

This futuristic war is a clear reference to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the detention (and intention) of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, and the dangers facing both troops and journalists trying to do their jobs. Their fates are no less horrific, maybe even more so, than those beheaded or blown up by roadside bombs.


Gumshoe Review

“Ian R. Faulkner’s “A Handful of Dust” is the other tale that I thought was exceptional. Matthew delivers a Jeep that he has sold to a widower. The man gives him tea and tells him his sad story. Matthew realizes that the man is clearly insane but does nothing about it. How this one ends will leave a very unpleasant taste in your mouth!”

TANGENT ON LINE. Short Fiction Review

“The premise behind “A Handful of Dust” by Ian R. Faulkner is seriously creepy…. Creepiness aside, Faulkner’s characterization and plotting are excellent, and the twist at the end lends a nice touch of the sinister.”

“…you absolutely cannot hope to find a better collection of razor-edged roses anywhere on the planet….”


TANGENT ON LINE, Short Fiction Review

Lost In Darkness” Is…a well-wrought crime tale that is thrilling to read.

HORRORSCOPE, Dark Fiction Views, News and Reviews

“Lost In Darkness” is a particularly powerful tale of a man desperate to avenge the brutal rape and bashing of his girlfriend. Packed with simmering tension, it’s driven by an unpredictable character on knife’s edge and ends with bloody results