Lone Star Stories, Issue No. 14, April 1, 2006

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“Hekaba’s Demon” by Sarah Prineas
“The Secret Life of Dave Driscoll” by Jeff VanderMeer
“Thread: A Triptych” by Catherynne M. Valente
Lone Star Stories #14 features three original stories about journeys of different kinds.

In Sarah Prineas’s “Hekaba’s Demon,” the Hekaba is a ship smuggling opium from India to China.  Griffin is the son of the captain but is in fact in charge of the ship, as his father is always drunk.  To avert suspicion, Griffin’s father has also taken aboard the Goforths, a minister and his beautiful daughter, Emily, sailing to China to convert the masses—but Emily’s looks and behavior are not completely appropriate for a minister’s daughter. Later, an unexpected passenger is taken aboard: Daevas/Davis, an attractive demon who will get the Hekaba and its passengers involved in his own troubles.

The most alluring aspect of “Hekaba’s Demon” is its Gothic atmosphere.  Sarah Prineas’s skillfull use of setting and the vividness of her descriptions are clearly the strongest points of this story.  The condensed but effective characterization of the protagonists and the crew is conveyed through short descriptions and a masterful use of details.  Prineas succeeds in sustaining this intensely sinister and foreboding mood almost to the very end.

In “The Secret Life of Dave Driscoll” by Jeff VanderMeer, Dave Driscoll is a professor of humanities who loves guns, Philip K. Dick, and Sam Peckinpah.  Driscoll’s dream is to meet the two artists together, and he decides to build a time machine in order to travel back to an evening where Dick and Peckinpah sat together in a pub.  The experiment is a success, but the meeting doesn’t go as expected.

Jeff VanderMeer mixes together famous SF writer, movie director, and La Jetée to create a lively and odd homage. While “The Secret Life of Dave Driscoll” is interesting as a tribute, it is less interesting as a story.  The engaging beginning is cut short by an abrupt passage to the action, which is then cut short even more abruptly by the end.  The alluring elements of the story, with regards both to the plot and to the humorous characterization, remain only a potential that VanderMeer does not realize.

In “Thread: A Triptych” by Catherynne M. Valente, the Cretan, Annie, is sent to marry in Chicago.  In Annie’s mind, or possibly in reality, she is the mythic Ariadne in more modern times.  Three scenes of her marriage are portrayed through the parallel with the Minoan legend.

“Thread: A Triptych” successfully mixes the story of Ariadne and Annie; written in a haunting style reminiscent of Jean Rhys, the story effectively blurs the boundary between reality and imagination.  It is a story of intense pain and alienation, and the glimpses of Annie’s life viewed through parallels with Ariadne’s tale make one shiver.  The first-person narration portrays Annie/Ariadne’s mind outstandingly and powerfully conveys the intense feelings involved.  A skillfully written and strongly felt story.