by Sarah Hilary
Pelland is addicted to writing short stories. She’s written an essay
about this addiction but you don’t need to read the essay to know it’s
true. Each of the tales in this collection is a testament to her love
of story-telling, and her imagination. She has a keen sense of irony,
and a gift for juxtaposing images and events in a way which enables her
to extract emotion at crucial moments from her characters and from the
Underpinning even the most fantastical of these stories is Pelland’s
instinct that a good story needs to find a response in the reader, be
it laughter, fear, revulsion or compassion. It’s not enough to be
"transported to another world", although she does that in spades; a
good story must touch the reader, and it must ring true. That’s harder
than it sounds in a genre like science-fiction.
is smart, she knows the ratio which governs her chosen genre: the more
remote the setting, the more the story must reach out (and in) to touch
the reader. Thus, when she feeds us a tale as blackly bizarre as Big Sister / Little Sister,
mind-boggling in its descriptions of a futuristic surgical procedure
which enables an ailing younger sibling to be conjoined with her older
sister, Pelland knows exactly how to extract equal amounts of disgust
and dismay from the reader. The further she takes us from reality (and
there are some trips to make your head spin, here), the harder she
works to get close to what moves us.
life as we know it is not only remote but expiring, is at heart a love
story, very simply told. It wasn’t my favourite story in the collection
but – wow. What a testament to Pelland’s powers of imagination. I
preferred the sustained irony of Immortal
Sin which sees a desperate man try and prevent the
judgement he believes will come with death. Pelland presents us with a
world where immortality may just be possible, but at the cost of sanity
and meaningful human contact. Oh and did I mention that the desperado
chasing immortality is hobbled by his “out-moded” and thoroughly
twisted belief in a vengeful God? Long live irony!
bodies? Yes. There are some spectacularly disturbing images of
deformed, mutilated and dying bodies in this collection. Captive Girl tells
of a young woman implanted inside a metal mask, no eyes or ears or
mouth, made to watch the stars for signs of a second attack on earth.
What really disturbs however is the relationship between this woman and
another: entirely human, believable and shocking.
The Last Stand of the Elephant
Man works so well because Joseph Merrick lets us see the
outlandish "new world" through eyes that invite us to see beneath the
surface and consider the heart of the story which is about (among other
things) identity and acceptance. The
Plague Thereof was Exceeding Great could be set any time
any place; its impact draws on timeless universal hopes and fears – how
would we live if we couldn’t ever touch another human being, or be
touched? What would that do to our humanity and our reason for
knows exactly which questions to ask, the ones that trouble us most.
She’s not arrogant enough to suggest there are solid answers but she
spares no pains in taking us far enough away from the world we know in
order that we might achieve a proper perspective on it, and ourselves.
Read one of the stories
from this collection on Strange
won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with Fall River, August 1892, and
has two stories in the Fish anthology 2008. She was a runner-up in the
Biscuit Short Story Contest 2008. MO: Crimes of Practice, the Crime
Writers’ Association anthology, features Sarah's story, One Last
Pick-Up. Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly, Literary Fever, Every
Day Fiction, Ranfurly Review and Zygote in my Coffee.
Publisher: Apex Book Company
Pelland is a Waltham, MA, based writer of dark science
fiction and fantasy. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula and
Gaylactic Spectrum awards.
with Jennifer Pelland
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Publisher's Website: Apex Book Co.
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