Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Short Fiction Wednesday

These two stories quite coincidentally share a theme of physical plasticity. The Boneless Corpse by E Bundy opens with the narrator having a psychic vision of - unsurprisingly - a boneless corpse, while The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall by Ken Scholes is the story of a boy who discovers he can flow down stairs like a slinky.

These stories don't have much in common besides bonelessness. Bundy's story is a fantasy noire detective tale with Norse twist. It's set in contemporary America, but one in which humans co-exist with fantasy dwarfs and fairies of the scary Celtic variety. A murder plot revolves around the standard noire themes of greed and betrayal and Bundy delivers a suitably deadpan first person narrator.

The mystery plot turns on somewhat chance occurrences, and our heroine's psychic powers, but this is always part of the form of the mystery novel. Dorothy L Sayer's short fictions usually have to truncate the meticulous accumulation of detail of her novels, in favour of quick solutions that derive from chance slips of the “I knew the milk man could not be left-handed!” variety in the closing paragraphs. Chandler himself frequently resorted random phone calls from people on other business who just happen to drop Marlow a clue.

As such the emphasis is on character and atmosphere, and Bundy does well with the small space. Her characters express themselves with characterful economy, and the world has the distinct tang of of schnapps and embers at night about it.

The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall is miles away from the generic purity of THe Boneless Corpse. This is a short and flavourful story with a poetic, magical edge. It's a truly surreal story that uses dreamy imagery to explore the psyche of the main character.

Focus Jones uses his ability to bend and fall at first to avoid harm from falling down stairs, and then in later life to avoid the pain of life's other difficulties, up to and including Armageddon. Scholes's intense prose surprised and charmed me and I have spent quite a bit of time pondering the story's ambiguous and neurotic themes of fear and denial.

This is a second time appearance for Abyss & Apex, and another trusty trad style story which appealed my love of detective stories. It's a first time appearance by Electric Velocipede, but I liked the look of some of the other stories they have up at the mo, so we might be returning quite soon!

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