Today I'm adding a new publication to my to-review list with GigaNotoSaurus, a venue that offers work that skew a bit on the longer side. Which is good, because I'd like to read a few more longer stories, and with one story a month it seems like I should be able to add this without fear of overextending myself. This month's story is a nicely weird piece of magic realism with a strong vein of horror and a trippy feel to it. Not the longest of pieces, but plenty to get my feet wet with the publication. To the review!
"Godfall" by Sandra M. Odell (6076 words)
This story has a rather arresting premise: that the gods are falling to Earth, dead, and that an entire international industry has sprung up to harvest the gods, their jewels and also their blood, their skin, their bones, their everything. But the crews have to work fast, are under a timeline because after a certain amount of time follow a god's fall, a new fall happens, this time of worms that devour everything, that destroy everything. It's a great idea, something that is strange and magical but also devastating, the gods falling causing massive destruction and death. Throw onto that the terrible conditions of the harvest, the rush, the way independent crews work to make what they can around the national interest. That there is a mix of politics and religion is an interesting choice, and I like the casual way it's all introduced. The main character, Tully, is an old salt in harvesting, but things are getting harder and he's out now with just one other man, the young Marco, who is something of a mystery himself.
I like the unsettling nature of the story, the slow-build horror and also the huge implications that are rendered here as matter-of-fact. The gods are falling and yes, implications be damned, there's work to be done. The death of religion being usurped by scavenging, by the quest for consumption. At least, as I read it the work is brushing against the changing and diminishing role of religion, though not in what I would call the normal way. It is not, at least to me, a story lamenting the loss of belief or even the rise of capitalism as a destructive force. Instead (again, as I read it) the destruction and danger and loss comes from those who wish to devour the religion, not for profit but as a sort of zealotry. Now, the two sides, consumption of extreme religion and consumption more generally through capitalism/consumerism are linked, driving each other, and the story does a nice job of building them in parallel, the horror of harvesting godflesh next to the horror of becoming a scavenger of a different sort, all of them consuming, all of them linked to the drive for power and freedom and yet all of them slaves, trapped in this cycle of death and mutilation and fear.
The story works well, and Tully and Marco make good contrasts, the cast as a whole a nice mix showing the various sides involved with the fallen gods. Those out for profit, those out for worship, and those just trying to make their way to something better. It's striking and it's creepy and it's a great premise and you should probably go check it out. Indeed!