Strange Horizons, 16 August 2004

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"Iron Ankles" by David J. Schwartz

In "Iron Ankles", David J. Schwartz makes an ambitious attempt to bring to life a childhood fear of the Anklus seizerus or ankle biting monster.  The story follows Wilma, a woman so fearful of these lurking creatures that she opts to have iron bands welded to her ankles.  She and her friend Dorothy backpack through Europe, experiment with relationships, and marry.  But love is elusive for Wilma.  She never fully commits to anyone, always distracted, always consumed by her fear of the ankle biters.  As the story progresses, so does her dread, and eventually she must decide between facing her demons and being ever controlled by their power.

While Schwartz proposed some poignant rules about love, I found the story fell short of the mark.  I wanted to be scared by his creatures, but his imagery only skimmed the horror surface.  I also found some of the technical details either nudged me out of the story, or in one case, threw me off a cliff.  Perhaps the author tried too hard to invoke a more literary sense of imagery and in the process fell short of the expectations of the genre.