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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Diabolical Plots #39, May 2018

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Diabolical Plots #39, May 2018

The Efficacy of Tyromancy Over Reflective Scrying Methods in Prediction of Upcoming Misfortunes of Divination Colleagues, A Study by Cresivar Ibraxson, Associate Magus, Wintervale University” by Amanda Helms

Graduation in the time of Yog-Sothoth” by James Van Pelt

Reviewed by Jeffrey Steven Abrams

The Efficacy of Tyromancy Over Reflective Scrying Methods in Prediction of Upcoming Misfortunes of Divination Colleagues, A Study by Cresivar Ibraxson, Associate Magus, Wintervale University” by Amanda Helms

As you might glean from the title, this is no traditional story. Helms’ piece reads like a submission to a scientific journal, with everything from abstract, methods, and procedures to results and conclusions. The subject matter is certainly unique: the superior ability of tyromancy, the study of cheese curds, to predict future events.

In a nutshell, the paper is written by an expert in tyromancy who seeks to prove his form of divination is superior to other methods used by magis, such as gazing into crystal balls, mirrors, or pools of liquid.

I found elements of the story engaging, but it often strayed from its purely academic nature in ways that didn’t seem appropriate. For example, lines like “It would have been unfair to match my own immense tyromantic powers against lesser magi,” or “I experienced momentary discomfort that my subterfuge would be discovered, ruining my experiment,” didn’t feel like they belonged in a scientific journal.

Overall, I liked the satirical nature of the story, but thought the vehicle was inappropriate. I usually don’t read journal articles for entertainment, and given the bizarre subject matter, I worry that many will be put off by the story’s academic nature. I believe the same subject matter, written in a more lyrical fashion, would certainly be more engaging.

Graduation in the time of Yog-Sothoth” by James Van Pelt

This is a spellbindingly haunting tale about Kennedy High School in Massachusetts, days before its graduation ceremony. The seniors, like most students about to enter post-school life, are terrified of what lies ahead, but their lives are further complicated by the presence of aliens, known as the “Old Ones,” who are methodically experimenting on Earth. Gone is Palo Alto and Stanford, lost in some cataclysmic accident, as well as the minds of several Kennedy students, wiped clean by an “old One Aura.” Only flute music seems to appease these strange invaders who may not even be aware of the havoc they are inflicting.

The story centers around Jackson, the class valedictorian, who is struggling to complete the senior class speech. His world is a complicated mess of teacher and student expectations, a growing love interest, college decisions, and alien fear.

There is a jerkiness in the prose that mimics how a confused high school senior must feel. At least for me, the erratic alien behavior was a metaphor for the way students fear entering today’s politically unstable world. A slogan, “DBD: Dead but Dreaming,” written across the t-shirt of a freshman perfectly summed up this attitude.

In a particularly unnerving scene, students and teachers alike meet on the football field to chant forgiveness of their overlords. The “acolytes’” frenzied cries are reminiscent of recent political rallies. Equally frightening are the calls to change the school’s curriculum from a liberal-arts to a religious focus.

Lest you be frightened away by the subject matter, rest assured that the ending brings a glimmer of hope, brought about through truth and the power of love.

Finally, for those few unfamiliar with the name in the title, Yog Sothoth is a mythical cosmic entity created by the 1920s horror writer H. P. Lovecraft.