Thursday, January 20, 2011
Short Story by C. Deskin Rink
This is Rink's first published story, and a PseudoPod Original. By my count, two more stories have since been published, both horror. This one is technically a Cthulhu mythos story centered on Tsathoggua, and in the style of his creator: Clark Ashton Smith. But honestly the only Tsathoggua we get is by way of a high priest and what a particular cyclopean temple was built in honor of. So you could sub in any dark god you want, really.
I saw a lot of hate for this story over on the PseudoPod forums, but I quite liked it. It was a bit slow getting started, and a tad confusing at first, but once we have our hero on his quest, it moves along pretty well. The meat of the story is Lord Galen's attempt to rescue his TrueLove™ from the evil priest, and to play the game the priest challenges him to. And this is absolutely the best thing about this story.
Although I've seen some criticizing this as generic horrific heroic fantasy, I beg to differ. There is an actual point, with themes and all that, rather than just some sap running off and having terrifying but meaningless adventures before dying or whatever the standard is. My favorite bit of resonance, is how we tend to put our loved ones "up on a pedestal" and imagine they are perfect. This story addresses that in two ways: both the tendency to remember the past fondly and forget all negatives of past romances, and in the present tense, to put a love up on a pedestal where they could never achieve that level of perfection if you were to look at them with unbiased eyes. Either way we can be sorely disappointed if we examine our past or present loves too closely while remembering only our ideal image, not what attracted us in the first place.
That said, although I liked the story at heart, want to defend it from attackers, and will certainly be looking out for more stories from Rink, I know I'm looking at my idealized version that ended about two minutes earlier. When I take this story down off the pedestal and inspect her, I remember that the end completely ruined it for me. A nice, thoughtful ending was all set up, and then we had to flash back to a long speech explaining everything to the point where it not only feels disrespectful to the intelligence of the reader, but actively detracts from the thematic internal dialogue I was having. It isn't just a case of Bondvillianitis, but the author going in to pound one last nail into the poor horse's coffin, missing, and smashing a hammer right through the rather pretty looking box. The story is shallower, and oddly less sinister, for the sinister, explanatory ending. (To be fair, Lovecraft and pals were often guilty of this, so it nailed the writing style...)
2.5 out of 5 of my carnal and gastronomical desires have been satisfied by this story.