Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Lone Star Stories, #10, August 1, 2005

E-mail Print
"A Treatise on Fewmets" by Sarah Prineas
"The Tailor and the Fairy" by Samantha Henderson
"Book of the Flagellants" by Mikal Trimm

Sarah Prineas
's charming "A Treatise on Fewmets," which opens issue 10 of Lone Star Stories, could easily have come from the pen of Connie Willis. Esme Quirk is a professor in an Elemental Studies Department. When she receives a phone call from Ned Slithers telling her that there are monsters in his aunt's garden, she's quickly on the train, determined to get some empirical results for an upcoming paper. But Ned's aunt is canny and bluffly determined, and she has more than monsters on her mind for Esme and Ned.

The story is a lively blend of humor, romance, and fantasy, set in a picture-postcard, nostalgic England of crumbling castles, worn tweed jackets, and bossy aunts. A perfect setting for the romantic fairy tale. The romantic element is entirely predictable, as it is supposed to be in this type of story, and the story's only flaw is that the romantic payoff is cut off short. "A Treatise on Fewmets" shows a nice variation in style from Prineas after her recent, more serious offerings. Well recommended.

A fairy tale of a distinctly different kind features in Samantha Henderson's "The Tailor and the Fairy." The story operates on two levels. On the most basic, it tells of a tailor who sneaks into a grand ball and dances with a fairy. On top of that, elevating the story beyond a simple fairy tale and providing a neat (if over-abrupt) twist at the end, is the waspish and fakely-sweet governess who is telling the tale to her charges. This is a nice play on the eighteenth-century literary fairy tale device in which the tales are written as though told by the governess. But they certainly never had a governess quite like this. This brings humor and a sharp edge to the story. Henderson handles both aspects of the finely told tale with equal skill in an assured performance.

Mikal Trimm gives the tone of this issue a sudden turn with his horror piece, "Book of the Flagellants," in which a group of vampires seek painful redemption. Led by a vampire called Speaker who was once a priest, the group believe that their vampirism is a last chance to be saved. When a new girl, whom they name Santa Maria, is brought to them and converted to a vampire, and when the protagonist begins to spontaneously speak verses of the Bible, their path to salvation takes a new direction.

Trimm handles these conflicted characters extremely well. As in the dominant vampire mythology, Christian imagery—even the lines from scripture—causes intense pain and damage to the vampires. And yet in their quest, they—and particularly Speaker—surround themselves with imagery, and Speaker preaches even as the words blister and burn his mouth. Although there is horror and desperation in "Book of the Flagellants," there is also a great deal of hope. Trimm skillfully humanizes the vampires, playing off their hungers and desires. Speaker is an excellent creation, driven and lost and in pain. At times, the events of the story confuse the protagonist, Book, and some of that confusion reaches the reader on first reading. But there is a lot to contemplate in this original, powerful piece, and "Book of the Flagellants" is worth rereading carefully.