Our gods and saints, old and new, are our conscience, our aspiration, our desperation, our need. Their faces, like ours, are graven in stone -- they pass out of the world, but those etchings remain to haunt the next generation and the next world. --Thomas S. Roche, Introduction to Graven Images
Graven Images is the long anticipated follow-up project from editors Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche. Their 1998 anthology In the Shadow of the Gargoyle, with both original stories and classic tales of the legendary gargoyle, garnered both high praise and a devoted following.
This collection of 15 tales focuses on the gods and monsters of myth and legend, the deities of old, and the impressions, images, fears, strengths, and weaknesses they conjure. The stories span the ages from ancient to modern, with settings that include prehistoric times, ancient Egypt and India, France during the first World War, New York during the height of the depression, and the present day. They represent an all-encompassing world of belief through history, and the symbols and myths they continue to provide. Graven Images contains some of the best of today's fantasy and horror writers and, to follow form, some of the best stories to be published in recent years.
I shouldn't have been surprised, considering the writers involved, but I was. Many of stories sent shivers up my spine and conjured great images that stay with me still, especially Robert Silverberg's excavation of "Diana of the Hundred Breasts" and Brian McNaughton's haunting war battles in "Mud." Many of them also touched me in an unanticipated way. I felt genuine sadness as I read several of these stories, many of them dealing with shame and repression. Conjuring this emotion in not an easy feat when dealing with the fantastic, or the horrific. Much of the work is a balance of tender emotion with visions of both dark and light forces.
Lois Tilton's "The Goddess Danced" pulled at my heart with her story of the cruel mistreatment of a girl named Meena and the tragedies leading up to&nsbp;. . . well, it involves the Goddess Kali so I'll leave out additional details! And Yvonne Navarro's "Ascension" is thick with atmosphere and deep emotion as in the following passage.
My lover, my murderer . . . he never even cared to close my eyes as he gathered up my naked corpse and carried me to a hidden panel that slid aside at his knowing touch. Climbing then, up a concealed flight of stairs to a passageway known only to a few in his family and created, no doubt, as an escape route for the bluebloods should there be a nasty peasant uprising. Far behind the parapet in the tiny shaded alcove where I could overlook the town but where those who lived in it would never have to look upon or notice me -- there he placed my lifeless, naked remains. And finally, in a last, absurd act of affection, the only love of my short existence arranged my corpse so that I could see just over the rim of stone and down, far, far down, to the streets of the village and the warmth and love that I would never know again.
There are also love stories -- though non-classic in form and content -- as in the great tale of a mystical beast, the manticore, this one named "Cora" by Esther Friesner. The shortest of the stories in this anthology, M. Christian's "Wanderlust," is a fantastic, funny tale of love and its unfortunate baggage. It features a traveling salesman and his car's dashboard hula girl.
Graven Images includes other stories, all told with strength and expert deftness, by Storm Constantine, Katherine Ptacek, Gene Wolfe, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee, Kathe Koja, and Tanith Lee. All of these authors have an impressive list of books and previously anthologized stories, many of which have been award-winning. I suggest not only buying Graven Images for its wonderful content, but, if you're not familiar with the authors included, using it also as a reference list for further reading.
With no doubt, this collection will match and surpass the critical praise of the co-editors' first, and we will see many of these stories appearing on award nomination lists this coming year. The gods of myth and legend have departed. But they've left something to remember them by.
In the end, it is always a moral struggle, and those who can face the dark without being swallowed by it are far better able to look into the light and see what is really there. These stories strike a chord because they reflect the paradox of primal forces, the paradox of consciousness. --Nancy Kilpatrick, Introduction to Graven Images
Greg Wharton is the founder/editor of suspect thoughts: a journal of subversive writing.
He is a Development Manager for a nonprofit arts education organization by day, husband of 18 years to an extraordinary man, father to two cats, avid antique toy collector, tennis junkie, and writer. He lives in Chicago and travels, usually in his mind, throughout North America and the world. His short fiction, review, and nonfiction writing has been featured in Black Sheets, Blue Food, Mach, and spoonfed:amerika; online at 3AM Publishing, Bonetree, Clean Sheets, The Church-Wellesley Review, Cyber (Exquisite) Corpse, Gothic.net, Mind Caviar, Outsider Ink, Redsine, Scarlet Letters, Strange Horizons, and Venus or Vixen?; and in the anthology Quickies 2: Short Short Fiction on Gay Male Desire. Author information is available at his Web site.
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