Sunday, January 4, 2009

“Ghost Dance” by Sherman Alexie

Author: Sherman Alexie
Title: “Ghost Dance”
Anthology: "The Living Dead" [Title Post]
Position: 4
Length: 10 pages

Author Info: Sherman Alexie is the author of many books, including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won the National Book Award and made several best of the year lists, including being named a New York Times notable book. Other books include Flight, Ten Little Indians, Indian Killer, and Reservation Blues. A collection of interconnected stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, served as the basis for a screenplay called Smoke Signals, which was made into a film in 1998. Alexie’s short work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and O. Henry Prize Stories. In addition to being an accomplished author and screenwriter, Alexie is also world-renowned for his poetry, for which he was awarded an NEA Fellowship.

Summary: Two cops in Montana drive during a hot summer night up to Little Big Horn. Their cargo in the trunk is two Native Americans, which the cops intend to kill. The reason is simple: vendetta for the slaughtering of the 7th Cavalry. However the malign act mutates into a full sized horror show, when awakened by the Indian blood the two hundred and fifty six buried soldiers dig out of their graves and start feasting on human flesh. At the same time FBI agent Edgar Smith dreams the death of the 7th Cavalry leader George Armstrong Custer and as he studies the Little Big Horn case, discovers that has a connection with the dead troops.

Favorite Snip: "...He blasted the skull off one soldier, shot the arms off two others and the leg off a third, had six bullets pass through the ribs of a few officers and one zip through the empty eye socket of a sergeant. But even without arms, legs, and heads, the soldiers came for him and knocked him to the ground, where they pulled off his skin in long strips, exposed his sweet meats, and feasted on him. Just before two privates pulled out his heart and tore it into halves, the little cop watched a lieutenant, with a half-decayed face framing one blue eye, feed the big cop’s cock and balls to a horse whose throat, esophagus, and stomach were clearly visible through its ribs..."

Analysis: The bloodbath and carnage atmosphere is evident in the small snip I provided and until the end, it remains as a basic feel as the zombies separate into groups and hunt down anyone unfortunate enough to stand in their way. For 10 pages a lot killing goes on. It pacts quite the punch and lets your mouth slight agape, which is never a bad thing. I view it as homage towards the popular icon zombie: the zombie with no diet plan. These soldiers are back, they are hungry and almost nothing can stop them. It’s old horror delight.

Here to make the difference is the Native American essence fused within the story from the method of raising the corpses to perhaps the spiritual unity between the protagonist and Custer, although I am not certain for the latter, since I have had no experience with Native American culture in depth to be certain. But apart from the strictly analytical aspect, the whole experience to hop from one location to another was executed flawlessly. I like the zooming effect from one mortal situation to another and then the speed and intensity picking up. Another great delight.

Last but not least, the story explores racism. At least the beginning of “Ghost Dance” handles the topic, which has quite a few dimensions. People these days don’t restrict themselves to hating color only and they certainly don’t restrict themselves to words when it comes to showing their opinion. The story portrays a situation, which is a frightening reality not only in the US; police officers abuse the power given them by the state or country to punish them for the deeds of their forefathers as it is in this current situation. For one thing this is rather stupid since historically speaking the settlers dealt deeper wounds on the Native Americans. I am not judging, but rather pointing that out. So exact vendetta against a loss, for which history also points out that it was a great ambition, is irrational and so is hating individuals because statistics and stereotypes labels a community as such, such and such. That is why we have the term individual.

Alexie has the same opinion on the matter and in his universe he is free to punish such behavior, by having the cops eaten by the very people they were trying to avenge. There is this fine dark irony in how the universe can counteract to such acts with catastrophes of equal amount of disgust. And I have to mention that zombies are the opposite of racism. As stated in Kelly Link’s story they do not judge by color, social status, occupation, salary, age or body type. They are satisfied with whatever comes and treat everything that moves equally. At least this is how I draw my conclusions.


CaroleMcDonnell said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!! I LOOOOVE Alexie Sherman. -C

CaroleMcDonnell said...

::Big grin here:: Did I call him Alexie Sherman? Okay, either it's my dyslexie or I'm in librarian mode...and filing him alphabetically by last name. Great post, by the way!

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