Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quick Sips - The Dark #22

The two stories from The Dark Magazine's March issue offer up some blood and gore, yes, but also something a bit deeper than that. To me at least, the stories examine the power and limitations of belief, especially to create a world bent to an ideology. For society at large, how we frame our world has very real consequences, can trap people in tropes and stereotypes, can push us to blame victims for the violence done to them. Believe can create a break from reality, a place that is stuck in the cycles of rot and decay, violence and erasure. These stories take very different approaches to the core idea of belief, but both seek to shatter the hold that conviction in harmful ideals can create. These are some nicely visceral stories, and I'm going to jump right into my reviews!

Art by breakermaximus

Stories:

"If We Survive the Night" by Carlie St. George (5867 words)

This is a deeply uncomfortable and violent story that takes direct aim at the tropes and implications of the tropes of horror stories and (perhaps more accurately) movies. The characters of the story are all murdered young women. They are all the victims of horror scenarios, of horror movies. They are the ones who sinned and had to be pubished by being killed. But even that is not enough, for as the story reveals they are trapped in an endless loop of the same thing, of being stalked and killed. Of being asked to confess and seek redemption. Of being punished and punished and punished. I love how the story delves into each woman, regardless of what their “sin.” Queer or black, sex-positive or a recreational drug user, the reasons all blur together a bit along with the women themselves. Because I will admit that all the names are fairly similar, are designed to be the ones who are in the background, easily forgotten, easily dismissed. Here the edges blur together a little bit as they exist in this limbo, this purgatory, this hell. Forced to reenact their murder in new and different ways, the reader is made to confront the way that these women, that these characters, are both erased and used to blame victims for the uncomfortable nature of their deaths. That these terrible murders can only be made “okay” in our minds if we believe that they deserve it somehow, that they must be punished for something that they did. And that way of thinking, which horror moves live and breathe, becomes a prison. For the characters and for ourselves, who have to live with this strain and uncertainty and fear. That even the male victims are made into monsters and killers themselves as a way to avoid dealing with the deeper issues, with the toxic masculinity at the heart of the matter, which is never really punished. Easier to blame the women for failing being pure enough, or good enough, or virtuous enough. Easier to look away from their continued victimization. Except the story is unsatisfied with that (and rightly so) and offers another way out. A confrontation. It’s a brutal and effective reminder of what happens, and what we need to be aware of when we evoke tropes and traditions. An excellent read!

"The Thinker" by George Salis (6121 words)

This is a rather strange story about life and death, religion and resurrection and decomposition. The story mostly centers around a family, a father and two children, who are religiously devout but not exactly of a specific denomonation. At least, part of what I get from the story is that these characters are Christian but of a deeply personalized sort, not Catholic or belonging to any church save for the one the three of them make. So, I guess, they’re a very small cult (which I feel is much more common than people want to believe). But the story then gives something of a history of resurrection, the idea of it and the reality of certain people just waking up from death and walking on. The story with the family, then, begins to mirror this as the father falls ill and then, well, dies, having refused all medical treatment. His children, unsure really what to do ,prepare him for resurrection as they can, and wait. And really the story becomes about faith and about doubt and about questions. About how people can sort of collapse in on themselves as they refuse the outside world and insist on one that springs from their personal beliefs. The way that some people can isolate themselves completely in a quest to have nothing questioning how they imagine the world to be, their faith as fragile as a frayed thread. And the story looks at what this faith has done to this man’s children, how it has shaped them and warped them. And how, when all is revealed, there are some things that do not transubstantiate. That belief alone is not always enough, especially when that belief is selfishly motivated and ignorantly maintained. It’s an interesting and ponderous story that manages to maintain a mood of rot and faith, and is certainly worth checking out.

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