[full view art]

Alabaster

Caitlín R. Kiernan. Subterranean Press. $25
(172p) ISBN: 1-59606-060-3
(Artwork by Ted Naifeh not seen by Fantasy.)
(September 2006)


book coverThis fourth collection follows close on the colophon of last year's outstanding To Charles Fort, With Love and compiles all of Kiernan's tales of Dancy Flammarion, a character first introduced in novel Threshold (2001). The volume contains two novellas previously published as stand-alone chapbooks: Les Fleurs Empoisonnèes (as In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers, 2001) and Waycross (2004). Story "The Well of Stars and Shadows", appeared online by subscription to Gothic.Net as well as in Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold, and title story "Alabaster" was originally published in Subterranean Press's email newsletter. But even if these stories have been encountered before, the collection remains valuable if only for original novella Bainbridge, in which we learn more of Dancy's suicided mother as well as visiting the hellish otherworld of the Dragon and following Dancy as she confronts a swamp monster. For those unacquainted with Dancy, a white-trash albino girl who follows the voice of an angel who tells her where to go and who to kill, Alabaster will prove an entrancing introduction. Since Kiernan says she believes she will write no more of Dancy Flammarion, it may well be a farewell for us all. As always, Kiernan's lyrical, carefully-crafted prose bespells the reader as she creates new myths, renews the old, and weaves nightmare and dream with reality. ("And Dancy thinks the monster's rheumy mud and blackwater voice must be the very soul of the swamp, this swamp and every other swamp and bog, every single marsh and slough that has ever been since the first morning of Creation, the creeping, impenetrable spirit of every quagmire and bayou and bottomless, peat-stained lake.") Although not a major work, Alabaster is a fine one that reinforces Kiernan's reputation as a gifted writer of the modern weird. -- Paula Guran (Originally published in Fantasy #3, Summer 2006)