Murky Depths stands out among the offerings of the small press, largely because it contains graphic strips and illustrations, as well as the mix of dark genre work that I find simply tantalizing.
Issue 7 features a large number of dark science fiction tales, each one excellent examples of the genre.
“Scratch” by Jason Palmer is half mystery and half psychological science fiction where people wear their obsessions and addictions on their arms, or legs, or tongues, and the battle to resist self destructive tendencies overshadows the battles of good and survival and everything else.
The first graphic offering, “A Brief History of Dogfighting” by James Johnson is a silent film, of sorts, with a deeply ironic tone and a fast pace. Following it and backing up the silent film feel, is a behind the scenes feature which chronicles the evolution of the storyline and the story as a piece of art.
“The Longest Road in the Universe” by CS MacCath is an incredibly emotion piece, easily the kind one might find in a larger publication, following a member of a species bred and genetically manipulated to love and serve a “higher species”. But when their parental figures who used and abused them vanish a whole race has to face their own abuse, with varying, and in this story almost lovingly detailed, results. This is definitely one not to miss.
The immediate follow up, “A Healthy Outlook” by Bill Ward, is a short, tight piece that shows the same sort of mental turmoil, from the point of view someone so die-hard-determined not to be a victim that the farce reaches a morbidly funny point.
“Viewer’s Choice” by Willie Meikle keeps to the themes of obsession while softening the science fiction focus. Here the lead can’t break away from his television, to the point that all the major memories in his life have a direct link to a television event. A situational story, it nonetheless clearly comments on our favorite societal past time.
“Bite the Bullet” also by James Johnson, is a fantastic romp through the limits of future technology, exploring how technology affects us, for good or ill.
“Psong” by Ian Rogers has less focus. A story about a futuristic assassin, the reader is loaded down with personality and detail without much context. Of course since the lead is a telepath and an object reader this adds more strength to the point of view of the assassin, but readers still have a very limited view of why this story is taking place at all.
“Survivalist” by Kevin Brown is one of the best vampire stories I’ve read lately, bringing the old Gothic critter into the modern world without turning it into a sex idol.
“Bait” by Paul Milliken follows the vampire story with its natural counterpart, a shape shifter story. This one follows the more traditional formula of an ordinary person whose life intersects with a monster. But this monster comes from the sea and remains more of a mystery than readers might like.
Luke Cooper’s “Flashback” adds another tale to the collection surrounding his gritty detective neck deep in the war between Heaven and Hell. In this addition to a potentially interesting plot, readers learn how Goulding got sucked into the Big War in the first place, but his role in it still remains a mystery.
Finally comes “Haruspex” by William Douglas Goodman, a second place finisher to the earlier “The Long Road Home” which brings the issue back around to tales of twisted mentality. In this story a boy finds that he’s gained the ability to get visions from dead animals, which has interesting results when your father is a trophy hunter.
All together here’s another fine issue that shows the people behind Murky Depths have their head on straight. I look forward to more.