Thursday, September 30, 2010

[Anthology Review] Evolve: Part 7

Soulfinger by Rio Youers [A]

The world has become a battlefield between mysticism and skepticism. With scientific progress, fact trumps belief, logic has become status quo and whatever phenomena don’t have explanations are scratched off as non-existent.

Youers plays with this battle between what seems real as governed by modern common sense and what may possibly be outside its reach. In Soulfinger, music critic Peter has been commissioned to write a piece on Blues performer Soulfinger, who is hailed by bar patrons as the greatest Blues performer in the world. A ballsy claim, considering Soulfinger’s never performed anywhere else other than The Stackhouse bar. Peter represents the modern man. Two feet firm on the ground, a university degree and career, he’s content with. He questions, analyzes and rationalizes, which is why he feels out-of-place in this bar, whose bartender claims to have lived close to two centuries. The Stackhouse is anachronistic, a small debris of a past long gone, sailing through the cracks of the technological present. For instance, there is no show program, no schedule. The segmentation of time, its swift consummation is absent. It has been replaced by a sense of timelessness as Peter prepares to meet Soulfinger. The uncertainty in when the star will come adds an otherworldly feel to the bar.

While waiting along with Peter, I was fed with partial answers to how people inside this bar have remained young and then gradual flashbacks into Soulfinger's past and his second birth. In these moments the story gains a Southern Gothic flavor. The text dripped with descriptions, which did not smother the story or the pace. The piece became alive, vibrant and atmospheric. The vampire morphs into this new creature. The gloss and sexuality as attributes thankfully have been weeded out, so that the vampire can breathe as a dark figure from the lore, suited for campfires scares.

He shines, the Hoodoo Man, and Abram always thinks he should leave incandescent puddles behind him when he walks… Thin as birch, slender shoulders, long fingers. Red flames dance in the window of his face.

Soulfinger presented an alternative vampire. Youers answered the theme of the anthology with in a cheeky manner, showing that vampires can still haunt, still make people mourn. Vampires don’t need to evolve; people need to be reminded that vampires are dark and tragic. Youers has written a visual masterpiece, in which the present dilates in the past as myths and lore come out to play in the dark.

Bend to Beautiful by Bradley Somer [C]

I’ll be short since Bend to Beautiful is more flash rather than short fiction. It’s a vignette to me, but I have never been good at categorizing fiction. Point is that this piece does not say much. Nor does it make me think. I, as the reader, was a voyeur, who happened to witness a human court a vampire and the subsequent one night stand. A short episode, one of the countless the night brims with.

The issue I had was that neither character stood out to me. Both were strangers to me as they are to each other. Both were sad. Both were broken and unsatisfied with their lives. I wish I could understand the point to it all. Perhaps both discovered in peace in the displeasure they cause to one another? Who knows? I, for one, did not care enough to find out. The narrative was bland in the sense that it did nothing to keep me reading further. No sense of individuality to the words to grab my attention. Altogether, this is a lackluster effort with a vampire that I’ve seen in countless shows and parodies.

Evolving by Natasha Beaulieu [F]

So far EVOLVE consisted of some strong and some weak examples of fiction. I’m saying this, guided by my own tastes and judgment. But even the worst of the unappealing did not make me drop mid-sentence and abandon it unfinished.

Evolving made me skip it. It starts slowly, with clichés [club opening; the narrator's comments on how fake people are and how he seeks real vampires], but without a hook or a promise to keep me as a reader. The prose is flat and focused on informing rather than showing me:

He also has a problem with his eyes. When they are exposed to bright light, he tends to lose the ability to focus. To avoid this, he wears dark sunglasses during the day. At night, his vision is very sharp.

Three pages of this and I couldn’t will myself read.

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