Dissections logo scissors body by Deena Warner

 


Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner


 

 

 

 




P. Andrew Miller: In Love, In Water, and Other Stories, Post Mortem Press, 2014

Review: Gina Wisker

 

This is a collection of finely written, well-crafted pieces which each offer something completely new to sometimes familiar figures – vampire violence and lust for blood, figures and scenarios from myth and fairy tale – women who turn into otters (the stories of silkies). He has thought through the ways in which these established figures and tales offer an undercurrent of threat, challenge, opportunity, which enables us to reflect on, imagine and explore human characteristics, and those of the non-human. He builds on the established and makes something very new.

The otter wife (‘The Otter Wife’) longs to be with her human family and yet needs to keep returning to her otter family, shedding her skin and hiding it – but the disruption in the family grows with her behaviour, the husband has insisted she change and she’d promised to – and she mistimes her attempt to truly enter her daughter into the otter family. Returning to the otter family she is shocked, they also find her selfish and reject her to her surprise. But returning home, realising she must instead choose the human form, she has one of those notes: He’s taken the children and left. It’s a cautionary tale about behaviour and choices, power in a family, whether local, domestic, or the larger community, demands to make, decisions about identity and the future. Like the traditional tales of joining the otter, the seal, the mermaid under the sea, or sadly walking away, it’s a comment on human relationships to the wild side, and on informed decision making. But it is also wrenchingly sad.

‘Bloodsuckers’ is no ordinary vampire tale, but the ordinariness of much of the context and some of the events is rather worrying. It takes an everyday, if excessively mosquito-infested, town and turns it into a location of horror, beginning with Kev and Terri’s familiar annoyance by mosquitoes and the necessity of bug spray down at the lake, where they are bitten even more than usual for the season, then rescue a boy who is attacked and covered by ticks, which burrow into his skin, sucking his blood, devouring him. Violently attacking mosquito crowds surround the town and attack when they go to try and find Kirk, Kev’s brother, whose job is this sort of pest control. They meet the originator at the fetid, infested source of the mosquito hordes. He is a different kind of vampire. Renfield, the zoophogous bug and small creature eating acolyte of Dracula, hardly features in vampire tales, but this new monster in holiday beach clothes is much more invasive, he uses the mosquitoes and ticks to gather human blood for him, draining people through the bugs. ‘The fogger’, the everyday bug spray, plays a welcome and active part in this fascinating all too uneasily close to home vampire fiction. Kev and Terri blast the invasive bloodsuckers to hell.

‘To know one’s fate is a blessing’ says Chloe, seamstress who teaches Prudence more than how to sew, and informs her of the way the Fates cut threads. Grand stories of Fates, gods and tempests infiltrate the everyday task of learning to sew and discovering that you are connected to a classical life and death in ‘Weave’. A sisterly quilting bee is the everyday solution to a crisis managed by the Gods and the fates. In another story, a swimmer meets Proteus, and in ‘Water’ a captured mermaid causes endless rain and rising water. In ‘Styx and Stones’ a dead guy wanders down the ramp to a ferry seeking a ride from Charon, the narrator, where the river of the underworld is everywhere and ‘dessicated limbs reach to the moon’. Another quilting story, ‘The Crazy Quilt’, produced by Grandma, is related to history, and in another tale some spooky creatures, the Dark Forces, head for Aunt Ruth’s barn to attack ‘the heroes’, while in the ensuing heroic fight with swords and crossbows, the narrator and Aunt Ruth discuss her role as the ‘Green Lady.’

There is a Stygian Knight, and in ‘Soup du Jour’, a two-inch dragon in the soup. The Gods, Superheroes, dark forces and supernatural creatures are just everyday folk in your ordinary small town, quilting and producing dinners round their roles. Andrew’s great knowledge of the gods and superheroes, myths and fables, is combined with wit, local colour and a comic touch, realistic dialogue and always some amusing twist.


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Dissections logo pterodactyl by Deena Warner
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