Short Stories 365/213

“Mondeval’s Heart” by Rose Mambert from from Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction (Volume One), Pink Narcissus Press (2011). Edited by Margarita Bezdomnya and Rose Mambert.

I’ll confess I made three runs at this story and I’m still confused about a lot of the backstory. Why are some humans and some ferliks “Cursed” (burdened with magic that exacts a physical toll each time one wields it)? What is the source of the magic? What, exactly, is a “ferlik”? How did the human Ash and the ferlik Tamaril come to be banished from their homes? What spurred the war they are now waging, and what do they hope to gain by it?

I liked the relationship that has developed between Ash and Tamaril, born out of their mutual dependence on one another. Ash saved Tamaril’s life and now Ash’s life is dependent on Tamaril’s magic. I like how that relationship changes in the eleventh hour, when both are convinced they will die at dawn and so at last start speaking their feelings.

Overall, I was intrigued. This considerable short story must be a fragment of a much longer work, and it would be interesting to read more of it.

Short Stories 365/212

“Shudder” by Alice Fox from Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction (Volume One), Pink Narcissus Press (2011). Edited by Margarita Bezdomnya and Rose Mambert.

I debated whether or not to include this here, because it isn’t a short story per se, it’s a graphic novel. But it is a story, and it is short, and I greatly enjoyed it, so it’s in.

This is the story of a nobleman, banished from the province he calls home, who takes refuge in a ruined castle only to discover he is not alone. The structure is haunted by the ghost of a minstrel who was thrown into the oubliette for falling in love with a knight. (And why, do you think, was the nobleman banished by the king?) The ghost tells the nobleman he cannot stay in the castle because it’s overrun with demons. The nobleman refuses to go, so the ghost instructs him how to vanquish the demons. When they are gone, he gets quite a surprise…

The backstory is simple and conveyed effectively through sparse dialogue, while the drawing pulls you in to the conflict at hand. The ghost minstrel’s obvious vulnerability contrasts nicely with the nobleman’s stoicism while cat-like demons go flying about their heads. As a general rule I’m not a big fan of graphic novels, but I really enjoyed this story. I would be interested in further installments about these characters.

Short Stories 365/211

“The Zombissager” by Colleen Chin from Queer Fish: An Eclectic Anthology of Gay Fiction (Volume One), Pink Narcissus Press (2011). Edited by Margarita Bezdomnya and Rose Mambert.

I’ve never been much interested in zombie stories, save for a brief stint watching The Walking Dead (before they killed off one too many main characters and I let my boots do the walking, away from the television). The problem is, there’s nothing appealing about zombies, the way there is about vampires, or stories about evil scientists, or other forms of intelligent life making contact with humanity and trying to take over Earth. Zombies have no redeeming qualities. What’s worse, they’re too close to reality for me. Like illness, aging, and death, they’re an approaching, unstoppable sadness. I don’t want more of that sort of thing, for pete’s sake, I want less.

Not that this story is too deeply concerned with reality, mind you. This is a humorous, dare I say zany story about comic book-style superheroes and villains (Awesomeman, Coolman and Sir Zombalot). It’s goofy and over the top to the point that I was rolling my eyes and chuckling at the absurdity of it. I’d summarize the plot, but you’d never, ever believe me.