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!
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.