Shadowed Realms #5, May/June 2005

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.
"Why Galileo Never Married" Greg Beatty
"Status: Complete" Leslie J. Furlong
"In Nomine Patris" Martin Livings
"Gifts" Paul Woodlin
"Driving the Past Home" Suzanne Church
"Walk in Blood" H.E. Smith

Shadowed Realms
is a webzine of flash fiction, and the editorial describes their content as "short, nasty, even disturbing stories." He also claims that this bunch is "nastier than ever." I found the flash format of the tales to be a bit of a drawback sometimes—in horror and other dark fiction the reader affect is often dependent on suspense and/or identification with a protagonist, and stories under 1,000 words can be too short to achieve either.

"Why Galileo Never Married" by Greg Beatty is indeed about Galileo and his experiments at the leaning tower of Pisa. A betrayal by his love interest prompts him to devise some new experiments to satisfy both his scientific curiosity and his wounded pride. I would consider this story to be amusing rather than dark, and it works as such.

"Status: Complete" by Leslie J. Furlong manages to achieve a surprisingly powerful effect by employing a form of technical report, with many attachments. (An aside: a very nice use of the web format. Indeed, a webzine does not need to mirror a print publication—there are many other possibilities, including a presentation of related items on separate pages, creating an experience impossible with paper publications.) The contrast between dry language of the report, peppered by snide remarks of an unhappy employee, and the gruesome content is chilling. An extremely well done revenge tale.

"In Nomine Patris" by Martin Livings is another revenge tale, less successful than the previous one. Cassandra, an incest survivor, exacts a nasty revenge on her father. This story is rather gruesome, with nice references to Greek and Christian mythology. Unfortunately, I had trouble sympathizing with the protagonist enough to approve of her actions.

"Gifts" by Paul Woodlin did not work for me. In this story, a man and a woman, battered by the world, search for divinity and redemption. It is difficult to describe my gripes with the story without giving away the plot, but the premise was based on a technicality. Moreover, the characters’ trials are described in the narrative summary, which prevented any possibility of caring about them. For example, "I found her struggling and alone in a den of lions and sin, but she found the strength to pull herself out. Her greatest achievement was forgiving herself for her mistakes and weaknesses." No examples of either are forthcoming. What the author paints as the protagonist’s ultimate sacrifice comes across as a crime, and I simply do not know enough about him to decide whether he is delusional or a sociopath.

"Driving the Past Home" by Suzanne Church was a tale of a truly dysfunctional family. As Jeff and Marianna, a married couple, travel to attend the funeral of Jeff’s aunt, we learn more about Jeff’s parents and his cousin. This story skillfully builds a quiet, understated tension, and its matter-of-fact tone underlines this truly unusual situation. I was impressed with the author’s ability to convey so much in such a short space, and yet never allow the story to feel crammed.

"Walk in Blood" by H.E. Smith takes place in a fantasy world. Most of the story is the conversation between a grandmother and her granddaughter, Tariva. This tale feels like an excerpt from a larger work—there is magic, and there is a "shattering world," but neither is explained. The plot is obvious from the very first paragraph, and if the characters or the world were more developed, I wouldn’t have minded. As is, the story left me rather indifferent.

There is another story billed on the cover page—"Son of the Black Crusade" by Richard Harland, but the text is mangled. The story is supposed to be Harland’s book, The Black Crusade, which was the winner of Aurealis award. The mangling appears to be a part of an extended joke based on this novel.

Overall, I would recommend checking out the Shadowed Realms website. They are doing some interesting things with the format; it’s a quick read, and some of the stories are quite good.