Strange Horizons, 10 April 2006

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"Every Angel Is Terrifying" by Nia Stephens

"Every Angel Is Terrifying" by Nia Stephens is a love story, though not the typical boy meets girl, or even boy meets boy.  The love, held by the narrator in this case, is more admiration than lust or romance.  The angel is a remarkably talented artist named Reece McGowan, the object of the narrator’s admiration.  The two are longtime friends who have, throughout their friendship, come up with descriptions of different angels.
Stephens’s imagery is both gorgeous and understated as she paints the portrait of a man who might be something more than human.  The title, a line from The Duino Elegies by Ranier Maria Rilke, is especially apt in that Rilke’s work was about how beauty—specifically that of angels—can be terrifying due to its intensity.  Stephens softens Rilke’s terror to an uneasiness that’s powerful because of its subtlety.  This story manages to be haunting and almost uplifting at the same time, and I hope to see more from Stephens soon.