Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Quick Sips - Diabolical Plots #62

Art by Joey Jordan
A new month brings two new stories to Diabolical Plots, which run from fantasy to...kinda science fiction? Tonally and otherwise, the stories couldn't be much more different. The first is a rather wrenching, slightly gothic story of a person following through on a promise to themself. The second is a much more wry take on the idea of resurrection and mad science. But both are linked by featuring characters who have just lost someone important to them, and who are intensely lonely. Both want something they can't quite give full voice to at first, though for one of them that means reaching back for something they've lost and for the other it means walking forward toward something they've never had. The stories are very much worth checking out, though, and I'll get right to the reviews!


“A Promise of Dying Embers” by Jordan Kurella (3356 words)

No Spoilers: Itta is making a long trip to a cave by the sea. Using a rope to climb down the Mountaion of the Three Seasons in order to deliver a parcel to the being who lives in the cave. To make good a promise they made to themself when their guardian, their uncle, finally died his last death. The story revolves around a past full of hurt, full of a love that wasn’t allowed to last. An unlikely love, but one that proved stronger than dragons, stronger than wizards. And the story is a strange amalgam of elements pulled from classic fantasy but with a mood and tone that build up something more brooding and atmospheric, dense before giving way to something lighter.
Keywords: Dragons, Ghosts, Bargains, Bones, Curses, Loneliness
Review: The story does a great job of marrying flow and language to the action of the piece. It’s a story for me dominated by repetition, with sentence structure that gets that cyclical feeling of a sort of relentless grind. Things are stated and restated with a little more, again and again, moving forward hand over hand as Itta makes their way down the mountain. And it gives the piece an older feel as well, a narrative that feels part fairy tale, part gothic horror. And indeed that is Itta’s situation, or how it seems to be, trapped in a castle alone with an uncle who is a ghost, who is training her to kill a dragon he doesn’t want to kill, his stubbornness the whole reason he couldn’t have a happily-ever-after to begin with, because he was too married to the nature of things to fight for what he actually wanted. And the piece is part tragedy, part putting a tragedy to bed, Itta literally carrying the bones of their uncle and his legacy to the place where he never went himself, to the dragon who had cursed him but not before the two betrayed each other. And through their resolve, Itta is able to move toward and push past the mistakes of their uncle, to lay him properly to rest and escape the loneliness of the castle where they grew up. And the ending is cute, a mix of shadows and light, a chance for Itta to become part of a different kind of story, but one that they can own, that they can maybe have some chance at a happy ending with, rather than the doom that their uncle had been preparing for them. The piece has a way of bringing the action back around again, placing Itta into a situation similar to the one their uncle was in but with a chance now to avoid his decision and actually have something full of warmth and joy rather than cold and isolation. It’s a lovely read, and a story worth spending some time with!

“On You and Your Husband’s Appointment at the Reverse-Crematorium” by Bill Ferris (2294 words)

No Spoilers: The narrator of this story is seeking to bring their husband back to life. Kind of. Sort of. It’s not exactly...perfect. In fact, it seems a cross between mad science and infomercial. The doctor who is overseeing it is not exactly the most professional, and while the equipment looks top of the line, the procedure leaves a bit to be desired. But the narrator wants their husband back, even if it’s in an imperfect form. Even if the fine print of the procedure is a bit alarming. And it’s a mixture of sad, heartwarming, funny, and creepy, the story building this situation where there really is no good option because it all hurts, because some things can’t be made right, and moving on isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Keywords: Resurrection, Marriage, Doctors, Monsters, Grief
Review: This story is such an interesting mix of tones. The style and the plot and everything like that is very consistent, but the tone is something that is used very complexly and to great effect. Because in some ways it’s a comedy, a farce as this “doctor” totally knows what he’s doing and is just sort of winging it in actually bringing a human back to life using a 3D printed skeleton, chicken wire, and some cremains putty. Throw in some electricity and a cell phone for a brain and there you go! But for me at least the comedy only really exists at the surface, and though it is charming and funny, what waits underneath that deepens the reading and twists the story into something definitely not comedy. Nor is it tragedy, though, despite the heart of the story being grief, being loss, being this narrator wanting so badly to cut through the loneliness and sorrow of having lost their husband that they’re willing to go to this extreme measure to bring him back. Even knowing that the result won’t be perfect, that in fact the result will be something of a monster, apparently incapable of love and likely to be abusive and violent. The narrator’s choice to go ahead with the procedure doesn’t feel to me to be framed then as stupid or foolish. Though it seems doomed to a kind of failure, there is almost a sense of inevitability to it. That the narrator is going to make this decision, that indeed they made it a while ago, and nothing will turn them away. And it comes down the idea of moving on, which the story brings up multiple times. And if, really, moving on is a great thing. The narrator comes to the point where they’ve moved on from moving on. And there is something very earnest I feel in that sentiment, as sarcastic as most of the story feels to me, something raw that acknowledges the power of lost love and the danger that it represents, because of how far people will go to get it back. And, right or wrong, how pointless it can be to try and logic against the crush of grief that comes with that loss. A wonderful read!

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