Friday, April 02, 2010

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Year of the Rabbit by An Owomoyela

This week's story recommendation goes to Year of the Rabbit by An Owomoyela, a short story just out in the April-June issue of ChiZine.

Early each month I scan through my favorite fiction websites to see which have posted new stories and make a note of the ones I'd like to read -- if I'm lucky I'll eventually get to maybe half of them. The stories that go on the to-read list are generally by authors I know I enjoy or those I've heard a lot about but haven't read yet. Authors I've never heard of are usually out of luck. At best, I might read the first couple paragraphs to see if they grab me. I realize that's terribly unfair -- some stories require an understated beginning -- but I can't read everything. In "Year of the Rabbit," An Owomoyela grabbed me right away:
Tell me about the streetlamps.

It used to be that the sun would go down and the streetlamps would come on and make pools of this wet, yellow light. No matter where you stood, you could see the lights on somewhere. You could run from streetlamp to streetlamp and you could look down the streets and you'd never drown in the dark.

After the Curfew but before the lights started dying, Sara and I used to go to the city's edge—-we'd watch the line where the city lights dropped off, but sitting in our park on the outskirts we still felt that illusion of safety. Maybe it wasn't safety but the thrill of walking so close to real night. We could see the lights of Omaha to the northeast, but between them and us was just dark, dark, a swarming ocean of black. Behind us, too, were all the lights of the city, but we were on the edge.

Sara grew up far from here. When she was a kid, she told me, she ignored her parents' warnings and snuck out of her house to dangle her feet in the lapping Mediterranean. That was before Curfews. Here of course we had no sea, but that was what we were doing. Dangling our feet.
Some will find this story frustrating, because not a lot gets explained by the end, but I thought it worked perfectly. "Year of the Rabbit" is a distillation of all of horror fiction into about 3,500 words. It effectively creates a vague sense of dread that darkness is creeping in and forces us to confront that we don't control our fates, that we can't really understand the world around us, any better than we know for sure what's waiting outside the puddle of light under a lamppost. Great stuff.

"Year of the Rabbit" is only Owomoyela's second published story, with a third forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine. ChiZine provides no bio on the author, and the "About" tab on Owomoyela's website is empty, so I can't tell you much about her (I think it's "her" -- "An" seems to be short for "Anna," but I could be wrong even about that). She is only a year out of the University of Iowa and attended Clarion West in 2008 (with Carlton Mellick III among many others, so that must have been an interesting group). I believe I am the first reviewer to identify her as a very talented author to watch, and so I shall henceforth take credit for her entire hopefully long career.

This is the first SROTW from ChiZine, short for Chiaroscuro WebZine, a consistently solid zine with an emphasis on dark fantasy and horror, which pays professional rates. ChiZine has recently also turned to book publishing with an impressive lineup of titles including Daniel A. Rabuzzi's The Choir Boats, which has been sitting on my to-read mound for too long, and A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files, which I have been anxious to get my hands on since reading "each thing I show you is a piece of my death," which I somehow neglected to post an SROTW for -- stay tuned!

No comments: