Alibi V.12 No.30 • July 24-30, 2003 

Art Article

Peep Show #4

My first love is speculative fiction, but I confess that I dabbled in writing erotica for a short time. It seems to be less of an issue nowadays, but when erotic material is relegated to a literary red light district, the result is moronic, one-dimensional sex writing. Many, smirking, would say: "Who cares?" Well, read Anais Nin, and you might get some sense of the difference between "pornography" and "erotica."

The U.K. publication Peep Show specializes in short fiction with a strong sexual focus ranging from dark fantasy to horror too extreme for the sensibilities of many "yanks."

The lead story, "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down," is by William Wood. (I'm assuming that's his real name.) I would describe this odd little icebreaker as being about an erection inspection by a hot female NCO in a future where men must compete for breeding rights.

Mark Zirbels' "Seven Souls" is about a young girl eager to shed her innocence with a guy who procures talent for a monstrous porn producer. The guy ends up doing the right thing and spares the girl, at horrific personal expense. While that premise may seem cheesy to the truly jaded, Zirbel pulls it off believably in this touching short tale.

I love the opening line for Desiree Coulter's "Opaline Muse": "I wound up in the tiny town of Loen when my dad got killed by a man who had spent the better part of his day giving head to Jim Beam." Despite that coarse and streetwise opener, this story, overall, is quite beautifully written, and involves a bookstore pickup by a chap with absinthe for blood, among other curious qualities.

Joanne Shemmens' "Desecratoria" is a bizarre tale, also quite beautifully written, in the form of a letter by a Catholic girl who becomes enraged with God after the death of her parents. She then finds herself being seduced, first in her dreams, by a dark, supernatural being. Scorchingly seductive, in a hellfire and brimstone sort of way, and a brilliant piece of dark fantasy. Among the illustrations, I thought that Simon Duric's dark symbolic drawing for this story kicked ass.

Paul Athorne's "Just Acquaintances" is about a young prostitute who gets picked up by a well-to-do couple. This story builds tension subtly, then turns into extreme horror. I can't honestly say that I enjoyed "Acquaintances," as it was all-too-believable, and depressing, but it was very well-conceived and written just the same.

A few of the 10 tales in Peep Show didn't really work for me, but I thought that, pound for pound, this was one of the best speculative fiction magazines I have come across. There are also reviews of small press books and magazines, such as the very intriguing U.K publication The Dream Zone, which I plan to get a hold of. While some contributors originate from this side of the ocean, Peep Show will also broaden your horizons with such exotica as the frequent use of the word "whilst."

$9, peepshowmagazine.co.uk