Keesa Renee DuPre‘s "To Name a Star" nicely illustrates the difficulty and pleasure of reading a moralizing story. The plot is simple: a little girl, "farsighted" with "hair of shimmering silver," suddenly lands in the farm of a married couple, John and Mary. The girl, of course, is a fallen star; she stays a while and then she goes back, presumably to the sky.
The story is actually quite lovely in its evocation of a childhood story, with its old-fashioned language and sweet, simple characters. And the feeling of fantasy is wonderfully fluid and natural. That the story is primarily narrated from the point-of-view of the husband, who worries about his wife’s attachment to the star, adds some contemporary emotional depth. Yet, on the narrative level, it’s not satisfying, and I wondered if there was something I had missed. Did the writer hope to convey loss or presence? In a spiritual story, both are surely needed, but here, the loss could have been drawn out better.
It’s difficult to describe the plot in greater detail, as most of the story is exposition about the society, stretched from a glance at a computer screen located in an "odd, straw bale house" and winding up with an anguished message from another designer body who somewhat predictably rues his very existence. The political intentions of the writer are clear, but her message gets bogged down by dry language and poor characterization. Ultimately, Vanessa calls upon God to get her through her pain, but overall the character’s spiritual leanings are not explored, and I was not confident that the writer had fully articulated her message.
The story is contrived and dialogue heavy with such groaners as the protagonist’s naive young helper, David, emphasizing a murder with the line "Dead, I tell you!" and name-dropping Mina Harker as an old friend of the beleaguered drug counselor/biblical hero. Granted, the story’s biblical references may be more subtly done than was evident to me, but the watershed moment in which evil is ever-so-briefly overcome just doesn’t resonate.
This issue of Dragons, Knights, & Angels demonstrates some hope for the Christian fantasy genre, but the writers overall hover too close to genre cliches, and how well they conveyed their spiritual message was not quite clear to me.