Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus September 2016

The September GigaNotoSaurus has arrived and it's a contemporary fantasy novelette that brings a kind of Hell on Earth. But, you know, not really the whole fire and brimstone kind. This month's offering is full of more quite suffering. Ghosts that linger but don't really do all that much. Suffering that needs to be unearthed before it can be eased. It's a tale that could almost be a horror story for its elements but ends up being something more tender and more luminous. Whatever it is, though, I should just get to reviewing it! 


"Strange Dancemates" by Ephiny Gale (9331 words)

Aww. This is a rather bittersweet story about a portal to hell and dancing. About people in need of help and finding it. About a woman who feels broken and who, through helping others to fix themselves, learns to fix herself as well. The premise of the piece is interesting and immediate, that great first line about the portal to hell being opened a nice hook for me. So that every time the main character, Lara Jane, tries to sleep, someone shows up. And no one fully human. And after the initial terror of that falls away, Lara discovers that each of the seven people visiting her (one for each day of the week) are trapped. Trapped in their moment of death, in the violence and futility of that moment, caught in a loop that is, in this story, what hell might be. And each seek through Lara a way out. A way to break the cycle. And Lara, after overcoming her own resistance, her own prejudices against the people seeking her aid, finds that she wants to help. That she cares.

I love the way the story frames the idea of affliction. Of help. Lara is especially aware of her own limitations, her own physical disability, and does everything she can to hide it even as that means cutting herself off from the things that she loves, from the act of dancing. She becomes stuck in her own sort of cycle, her won sort of hell, replaying what she has lost, the way that she can’t dance as she once did. And it makes her hard, obsessed with winning, obsessed with pretending she doesn’t care. It’s great to see how with each new person she helps she becomes more comfortable stepping out of her self-imposed cage. That she begins to be able to dance again, and let slip the shame the anger that goes along with it. That she begins to see that by helping others she helps herself, which is a great message and nicely accomplished theme of the story to me. She starts forming bonds with people, with these visitors, who can understand her more than can those she knows in the “regular” world. And I love the different personalities, the different problems, the different solutions. The story is slow and wrenching at times, building up these very tragic circumstances around each character and how Lara helps them reflects the moments they were caught in. And it’s beautiful and lifting and very much worth your time and attention. Check it out!

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