Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts

Short Story by Ben Francisco
Originally published in Realms of Fantasy
PodCastle version read by Brian Lieberman

Lieberman is an awkward sounding narrator, but he fits exactly the voice of the writing and the protagonist. I hope he can do another style of narration if I ever listen to anything else by him, but for this story, I can't imagine it in another voice after hearing his.

A young, gay, stand-up comedian spends a summer with his older, gay, uncle and the 27 gay ghosts that haunt his San Francisco house. You may have noticed that every character in that summary is gay, and that I emphasized it. If you plan on reading/listening to this story, start getting used to it. To be fair, this is a story about the protagonist's first real relationship and the generation gap between him and his uncle who is from a generation of gay men much more haunted (in this case literally) by the AIDS epidemic. So it is hard to avoid, but at times it seems sections of writing are there only to emphasize just how stereotypically homosexual a given character is. That said, Uncle Tio is very well-drawn as both wise uncle and tragic survivor.

The writing is very good though, the relationship is very awkward, but I think this was deliberate, and the semi-abusiveness of the older guy is genuinely creepy. The sadness of the story never becomes maudlin and there is always a touch of humor thrown in from our comedian protagonist. "Sometimes I forget that for most people, realism can't be magical," is one of my favorite lines. The ending is left open in a superposition between horribly tragic and bitterly relieved. And it is very good.

I wonder how many ghost stories written today are tragic. At least 4 out of 5 of them.

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