Friday, June 8, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #37

The June issue of The Dark Magazine focuses very much on tropes and moving pictures. On television and movies. On slash movies from the 80s and teen detectives from the 70s. They look at history, and the weight of expectations, and how hard it can be to try to escape the gravity of harm and abuse and pain. These are stories that get into the heads of characters struggling to make sense of their lives, succeeding or failing at defining themselves outside of the roles that people want for them. It’s a chilling but lovely pair of stories this month, and I’ll get right to the reviews!

Art by grandfailure

“In the End, It Always Turns Out the Same” by A.C. Wise (3592 words)

No Spoilers: Helen, Tricia, Rooster, and Greg are members of the Super Teen Detective Squad, a Scooby-Doo-esque team of young people all carrying around traumas and hurts and desires that they don’t talk about. That they don’t share. That they bury, along with so much else. The story follows them as they...well, they don’t really investigate anything, but as they find themselves at the center of a new mystery, one with missing kids and a bus driver, Old Man McGinty, who fits the narrative of who the killer should be. The truth of the situation, though, and the secrets that are buried underneath the familiar trappings of teen detective tropes, is what keeps the plot moving, and the characters trapped in roles that don’t allow them to fully express who they are. That don’t allow them to heal from the harms that they’ve suffered. It’s a heavy and difficult read, a glimpse at a group out of sync with what they’re supposed to be.
Keywords: Detectives, Teens, Friends, CW- Child Abuse, CW- Murder, Roles
Review: The media of the past returns with the veil of nostalgia ripped away in this story which builds up a team of teen detective like appeared in Scooby Doo only the plotlines are darker and everyone involved is suffering. In many ways the team is suffering by what is erased in making the show for children. As characters in the cartoon they have no inner lives. They have personality but they come divorced from the time they grew up in. This story gives them back their origins, their backstories, and reminds everyone that the past is not as simple as cartoons would have us believe. Rooster is dealing with PTSD from war, Greg with being the son of a weapons dealer and war profiteer. Helen wants to be a monster, and Tricia wants to step out of the closet and stop being timid and safe. They’ve all been hurt, it seems, and that hurt has finally rotted and turned into something dangerous and hungry. Meanwhile Old Man McGinty, a bus driver who just wants to enjoy his retirement, finds himself powerless to help the ghosts of the dead who plague him. Unable to speak, the ghosts seek recognition, exhumation, only to run against the wall of the past. Because where the past is something that can’t be interrogated, that can’t be questioned, it festers. When narratives can’t break the formula, injustice spreads. I’m not entirely sure what it means that there’s this ghost dog haunting them all, but for me I see it as this turn from what they were supposed to be (innocent, campy, fun) toward what they are (damaged, frustrated, complicit). And for me it’s a creepy, unsettling read that’s very much worth checking out!

The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene)” by Orrin Grey (5448 words)

No Spoilers: Katie’s mother was an actor, but one who only got to be in one very obscure film, a slasher flick that was ahead of its time in many ways, and now is almost impossible to find. But Katie tries, hunting for something of her mother to hold onto, who has been absent since dying in a fire when Katie was just an infant. The journey to find out more about her mother takes Katie far, and eventually back to where everything started. What she finds, though, isn’t really what she was expecting, and what she brings away is a deeper and more nuanced understanding of herself and her mother. It’s a story steeped in blood and very aware of horror tropes. At the same time, it manges to center Katie not as her own kind of final girl, but as a woman grappling with the legacy of her mother, who might have been a star if she hadn’t quite literally burned out.
Keywords: Horror Movies, Blood, Obscurity, Acting, Mothers, Ghosts
Review: I love how this story combines horror movies and legacy. How it blurs the line between film and reality. Between desire and fear. Katie is looking for her mother, but what’s left behind is only a ghost. A movie that doesn’t even exist any longer in one piece. There’s just this feeling that people have about the importance of the film. Just the yearning desire to know who this woman was who was her mother. Because everyone agrees that she was stunning. That she was Going Places. And that she didn’t. She died. And there’s a waste there, but also something of a judgement on Katie, because she’s left behind. The feeling that she has to measure up to this dead woman and to her potential. When it’s just not in Katie to be that. She doesn’t want to be an actor. Might not even know what she wants to do or who she wants to be. What she knows is that looking back and obsessing over who her mother was, facing the legacy of what she could have been, puts a pressure on her. To change. To take her mother’s ghost into herself. And it’s an eerie but beautiful story that really explores what that feels like, what that looks like. That finds Katie finally recovering something of her mother only to find that it’s still just an echo, just a ghost, just the same hunger that people saw in her face on screen. A hunger to live, to shine. A hunger that was snuffed out when she died. But one that Katie can still feel through watching her mother’s movie. And it’s a great, complex way of dealing with legacy and inheritance, and I love the way that Katie shrugs that off. How she comes to the end of her journey and instead of giving in to the gravity to become her mother, she decides her own path is valuable. That she won’t live for a dead woman, however bright she might have shone. It’s a wonderful and moving read!


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