Strange Horizons, October 21, 2013

Note: This post was imported from an old content-management system, so please excuse any inconsistencies in formatting.

Strange Horizons, October 21, 2013

“Event Horizon” by Sunny Moraine

Reviewed by Matthew Nadelhaft

Sunny Moraine’s “Event Horizon” is a macabre story whose opening line lets you know right away you’re going to be gripped. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to feed the house,” Tom – or Tessa – reports. Tom and Zhan are teenagers in a small town that has little room for their gender-questioning ways. Zhan’s biological sex is never revealed; Tom was born female but identifies as male. They are marked for abuse by bullies as much as they are marked for each other’s company. They are likewise, as outsiders, marked for the house. The rest of the town shuns it. Only these two feed it – with animals they catch in traps.

Their outsider status doesn’t make these teens sympathetic; even when they aren’t feeding the house, they are off shooting birds with their air rifles. Their casual slaughter of animals makes me think of several things – notably, Edgar Allen Poe’s legacy of hostility to animals in horror fiction and the excellent rap song “Unity of Oppression” by Consolidated, which cleverly links abuse of the environment into a scheme with misogyny, homophobia, racism and colonialism. There is something deep going on in this story, and in horror literature in general, and I would like to puzzle it out sometime.

That there is a cycle of abuse in this town, centred around the house, is definite. It called to these two: the house found them receptive and worked on them. So when their abusers force them into a confrontation involving the house it seems perfectly natural even if predictable. This is a very self-aware piece, asking why people do awful things even as it tells a gripping story. The conclusion is a bit too meandering but the subtext is powerful and shocking.