Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The New New Thing: Ted Kosmatka's "Cry Room" and "The Color Least Used in Nature"

I've recently run across two stories by Ted Kosmatka, stories which have sold pretty recently, and so which might bear some more analysis. (He also works at Valve, which raises lots of interesting questions about the possibility of writing for digital media, but that's another topic entirely.) I'll include links for both stories and then I'll spoil the heck out of them.

"Cry Room" (published at John Joseph Adams's Nightmare Magazine; read recently for Pseudopod) is a straightforward story, very straightforwardly told: a man goes to a church, but his kid starts making noise, so he is sent to the Cry Room. (Apparently this is a real thing. I wonder if synagogues have them or do parents just guilt their children into behaving?)

Naturally, the kid is worse than all the other little angels, and so is sent to a further crying room--and another and another. Eventually, dad and kid end up in a scary room, and the kid chooses to go further down, and dad chooses to follow. If this were improv, we would say that the story's "game" is very simple: the kid is always terrible, they move further and further down. There's a nice inversion at the end: instead of the dad dragging the kid down, the kid chooses to go on and the dad follows. Which also nicely gives this an uplifting, if unsettling tone.

"The Color Least Used by Nature" (read for StarShipSofa) is a different beast entirely: a somewhat rambling vignette that takes place on a sort of fantastical Polynesian (Hawaiian) island, with a boat builder whose love affairs with women and boats get him into trouble.

Now, this story was printed in Fantasy & Science Fiction (read an interview with him here), but there's very little here that seems fantastical to me. There's an island story about "walking trees," but it's just that--a story that people tell, and the walking trees have no bearing on the plot. So it might be secondary world fantasy, but it's soft fantasy, fantasy as a reason not to research Polynesian culture and trees. That might sound dismissive, but I get it: sometimes, you don't want to tell the story of your research, you want to tell your story.

The story here is very rambling, a novella-version of a bildungsroman, with the boat-builder starting as a kid, learning about love, making a few mistakes, and trying not to make the same mistake for his kid. I would like to summarize it and spoil it for you, but the plot made less an impression than one of the final scenes, with the boat builder facing death from the child of his lost love (which might or might not be his child).

No comments:

Post a Comment