Friday, May 3, 2013

Short story read aloud, week 8

Escape Artists (Escape PodPodcastlePseudopod

Clark Ashton Smith, "The Ninth Skeleton": A man going to meet his beloved enters a strange part of the forest where he sees skeletons carrying baby skeletons; and one of them gestures towards him and a grave ready. Poetic, dreamy with a suggestive imagery--women, death. But it's pretty thin gruel as a story, a reminder that CAS often thought of himself as a poet first.

S. L. Gilbow, "Red Card": A dystopia where a lottery gives someone the right to murder anyone they want. The main character is a put-upon wife who starts out shooting her husband and ends up planning to shoot her husband's mistress. An interesting premise that plays with the "an armed society is a polite society idea" (since you never know who might have the right to kill you); but a rather bleak story with a strangely passive protagonist. A reminder: readers like active protagonists (and dislike having to ask questions like "why are these two together?")

Lightspeed and Nightmare 

Marc Laidlaw, "Bonfires": Turns out to be something like an after-life fantasy, with people on a beach building bonfires to greet the new-comers. The narrator meets a woman who seems to enjoy torturing the new-comers with the truth and they argue: she just told the new-comer what she wishes someone had told her. Like the Clark Ashton Smith, this has a dreamy edge, but here it's more like an overlay: the details of the bonfire disguise the unreality of the situation nicely.

William Ochse, "Gravitas": A drunk returns to home to rediscover that his imaginary friends are just as deadly; and then he expiates his sins by dying and becoming a buffalo spirit. I'm still not sure about this story: the mix of old-school horror story (monsters kill people) and the magical ending (buffalo spirit) is certainly interesting, but I'm not sure it's successful. Worth re-reading, I think, especially after reading an interview with the author where his thoughtfulness about writing comes through.

Hugh Howey, "Deep Red Kettle": A child's view of the on-coming meteor that could destroy much life on the world or could provide lots of mineral resources; from the child's POV, the uncertainty of the people resembles the rabbits that he accidentally runs over when plowing the fields or like the buffalo that were stampeded off the nearby cliff. The child view--limited, far from power--gives Howey an excellent opportunity not to decide but to stand off and judge uncertainty.

Cast of Wonders (Protecting Project PulpTales to TerrifyStarship Sofa)

Gene Wolfe, "Innocent": A vampire/cannibal monster tells a priest in prison how he's really just a guy with a weird need. The reading of this story is done very well, giving the narrator a very winning simplicity. Of course, he's innocent only of malice, since he really does kill and eat people. An interesting view of a monster that is somewhat hard to classify (there's vampiric markers, but plenty of difference).

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