Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Short Stuff: Take 1

Tassilo Chalice, c. 780 (reproduction).
I'm starting a new series today to draw attention to speculative short fiction. Most bloggers (me included) tend to focus on novels in their reviews. I don't know why we are so drawn to novels as opposed to short fiction. Maybe we just want something substantial to dive into. Most writers start off publishing short stories in various and hopefully not too obscure magazines. There's a lot of good stuff out there if you take the time to look for it, and best of all, it won't take long to read it. So, for the reasons above and because I can't read novels fast enough to generate blog content, let's dive into a couple works of speculative short fiction to get started.

"This Is My Blood," by Kristen Davis in Residential Aliens.

If done very, very well, flash fiction can be a small gem, amazing in its minute perfection. If done poorly, it comes across as a story skeleton that needs some more flesh and bone. Davis gets it right in "This Is My Blood," an interesting take on contrite vampires and transubstantiation. Father Marell returns to the rectory one night to find a man named Annik with his wrists bound by a rosary. He claims to be a vampire and requests that the priest hear  his confession then kill him. The priest hears the confession but refuses to carry out the execution. They debate alternative sources of blood, such as animals, but Annik claims that only human blood quells his lust. Father Marell suggests the blood of Christ and Annik agrees, believing something so holy would certainly kill him. Father Marell's beliefs about the Eucharist are tested and the results are unexpected. The healing power of Christ appears to know no bounds. Davis tells this story from Marell's point of view. The dialogue is succinct, giving us just enough details from the vampire's story to understand how out of control and dangerous he is. As for Marell, Davis provides enough psychological detail to highlight his doubts and fears. In a longer treatment, Davis might have provided more details to highlight the creepiness of the setting, two lone figures at night in a darkened chapel sharing communion.

"Presence," by Domyelle Rhyse in Golden Visions Magazine.

Continuing with the vampires going to church theme, "Presence" describes a young female vampire's trip to a church service. Told in the first person, the narrator tells how she became accursed through no wish or fault of her own, how she fears God's wrath and what the congregation will do to her, and how much she longs for God's presence and holiness. She cautiously enters the church, finds a seat, and manages to avoid detection. Her heavy makeup conceals her pallor but nothing can hide the coldness of her skin. Fearing destruction, she instead finds warmth and love and friendship from an unexpected source. With precise descriptions, Rhyse creates a vivid sense of place. For example, "Entering the foyer, I paused again. Warm lights alleviated the darkness created by the mahogany-paneled walls. The tang of lemon wood polish touched the air and tickled my nose." Rhyse deftly handles themes of tolerance, forgiveness, and sin, reminding us that God's capacity for love is far greater than man's.

Photo Attribution: Andreas Püttmann -- Managing director of Schreibmayr Company. The file is licensed under the Creative Commons license.

1 comment:

  1. I read them both--and am torn between pleasure at their ideas and annoyance at the fact that I was going to write something like the first one--man, it's hard when someone else has already used your ideas