Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Thing in the Refrigerator that could Stop Time by Mathew Kressel

There are many small press publications, (and even more web publications) touting for horror, who state in their guidelines that anyone whose stories feature the usual tropes of vampires, or demons, or ghosts need not apply. They want new ideas, new forms of horror, and God help us all if anyone dare submit any of the things that have given the horror fanbase the chills since Adam was a cowboy.

The thing is, those elements crop up time and again, because they do put a frightener on readers IF they are handled well by the writer. It could be argued that the protesting publishers see a lot of bad writing incorporating vampires and demons and ghosts not because the vampires and demons and ghosts are the subject of the stories, but just because there a lot of writers who have yet to get to grips with their craft.

Not so Matthew Kressel (himself the publisher of Sybil's Garage).

In The Thing in the Refrigerator that could Stop Time e-published in Apex Online #7 , Kressel offers his readers a take on the old horror trope of the nasty-little-things-are-out-there-but-we-just-can't-see-them-and-if-we-could-we'd-all-go-mad. His narrative style reeks of craft.

The slightly-out-of-dimensional-step-creatures (fug it, let's just call them 'creatures' from now on) have the power to slow percieved passage of time (given their ability to alter thought, one presumes the mechanism is through speeding up perceptual processing, but that's just the SF writer in me). Similarly, Kressel contracts and telescopes time during his sophisticated narrative technique, so that when the main character reaches the climax of his slow-motion bid to prevent a captured creature from escape, so too the reader has joined the protagonist with a full grasp of the events leading to the current crisis.

Just as artfully, everything is ripped away from the protagonist at the same time the reader is left with a nagging suspicion that perhaps the story is an exploration of the emotional disintigration of a very unhappy man, rather than a tale relating the events of an objective reality. And ultimately, the story is more about the nature of perception, and about personal responsibility, than it is about a supernatural 'Twilgiht Zone' set of events.

See what can be done with 'tired' horror tropes in the hands of a skilled horror writer? Take THAT and stick it up your arse, all you 'we-don't-accept-vampires-demons-and-ghosts' poseur publishers out there.


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