Mysterion, January 2020

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Mysterion, January 2020

“A Moose for Jesus” by Patricia S. Bowne

“In the Fields of Sin, Down Among the Dead” by Brian Winfrey

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Mysterion is an on-line publication of Christian-themed speculative fiction, edited by the husband and wife team of Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz. After putting together an anthology of the same name in 2016, the editors began the magazine in 2018, publishing one or two stories each month. It accepts fiction up to nine thousand words in length, paying eight cents per word for original stories and four cents per word for reprints.

The editors are quick to point out that authors need not be Christian, and that they prefer fiction that challenges readers rather than confirming their beliefs. There are no restrictions on the appropriate use of sex, violence, and profanity. The current issue offers two very different stories, demonstrating how a wide variety of works can explore premises relevant to Christianity.

“A Moose for Jesus” by Patricia S. Bowne is a comic tale about a talking moose. The members of the local Christian community ponder the meaning of this, wondering if it’s a prank, a miracle, or a case of demonic possession. The narrator tries to help it find its way home, leading to an imperfect, if hopeful, conclusion, and a touch of the unexpected at the very end.

Best described as cute, which will appeal to some readers and disappoint others, this is a story with a very light mood, even when it deals with the serious theme of the miraculous in the mundane world. It begins with a mildly scatological anecdote, which is not quite in keeping with the rest of the tale.

In sharp contrast, “In the Fields of Sin, Down Among the Dead” by Brian Winfrey is a moody dark fantasy. Reminiscent of the stories of the wandering balladeer John by Manly Wade Wellman, it has the flavor of a rural folktale.

The narrator is a woman married to a man whose family has the burden of keeping the souls of the damned from leaving Hell. Their farm borders on the infernal realm, and a wall covered with charms holds back the spirits of the dead. One night, while her husband is out performing his supernatural errand, the woman goes to the wall on her own, hoping to prove that she is worthy of the family task. One of the most wicked and powerful of the damned tempts her to weaken the wall, offering her the thing she most desires.

Although the resolution demonstrates that good can triumph, it also shows that there can be a heavy price to pay. The narrator and her husband are far from perfect, allowing sin to claim its victories as well. This moral ambiguity, combined with the author’s vivid and poetic style, leads to a memorable story without easy answers to the problem of evil.

Victoria Silverwolf thinks it’s interesting that the female author in this issue writes from a male point of view, and the male author writes from a female point of view.