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Torque Control Short Story Club week 2

“Tiny Feast” by Chris Adrian.

I missed the first week and some spirited discussion of a fairly weak story, so it may be that this story, weak in another way, might spur some similarly interesting discussion.

I thought that this one was well written, but otherwise failed on most other levels. I have to admit some bias, in that I have essentially no interest in fantasy specifically featuring fairies. It’s a trope at this point that has been so brutally overused that it’s hard to imagine it having any sort of resonance with anyone at this point. I realize that my point of view clearly isn’t shared, so I’ll try to put it aside. The story imagines one of the changelings taken by the fairy court, Oberon and Titania and the whole lot, getting leukemia and going into treatment. In terms of playing the conflict in a humorously deadpan way and depicting the process in an accurate way, the author gets high marks, but as a story it never really gets anywhere, or says anything, or really has any characters. Any one of those could be fine, of course, but at some point the story just falls down, when you decline to provide your readers with any reason to care.

If we’re to read this straight, Oberon and Titania are fairies and so at least somewhat alien and distanced from human concerns. It’s never clear why either of them should care about this particular changeling over any other, other than he’s sick. The author never bothers to make them human characters, nor does he manage to make them convincingly alien. They speak on one hand from a desire for the story to move forward, and on the other from a desire by the author to make the story humorous.

Over the course of the stories, interactions are detailed, scenes are set, jokes are constructed and delivered. The boy sickens, recovers, sickens more, and dies. Nothing else actually happens. No point is delivered, nor is one possible to infer, given the half-assed inhumanity of the characters.

It strikes me that the author had a neat idea for a story, then didn’t realize that his conceit didn’t have legs enough to stand alone at such length. Maybe he had some inkling, hence the jokiness, the places where it’s overwritten. Halfway to Rembrandt Comic Book territory, more or less. Still, in the end, it stacks up to more or less nothing interesting, and the author, while clever and skilled, simply isn’t writing at the level where you’ll stick around to listen to him talking about anything, just because the prose is so good.

And so we reach the end without me having said much interesting or clever, but I feel that the conceit here doesn’t stand up to criticism any better than it stands up to reading; that it is, in fact, a conceit and only provides the critic with his thinnest gruel, stylistic analysis. I am hoping that I’m missing something, and that some of the other commenters will provide a view of the story that illuminates a more interesting angle from which to view the story.

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