This Strange Way of Dying Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I discovered Silvia Moreno-Garcia through the late Larry Santoro’s “Tales to Terrify” podcast. In episode 9, Amy Sturgis does an awesome job narrating the story “Flash Frame” from this collection. All you need to know about ‘Flash Frame’ is that it is still, in my head, titled “The Queen in Yellow.” I have to look up the real title everytime I think of it. And despite hearing it for the first time two and a half years ago, it has stuck with me. Except for the title. It’s not a bad title, it’s just that it is the “Queen in Yellow,” a psychosexual/punk twist on Robert W. Chamber’s “King in Yellow” set on the sleazy side of Mexico City.
Setting everything in Mexico works out, at least for a gringo like me. Because the setting is exotic already, when we suddenly realize, half way through the story, that we are not really in Mexico the way we know it, the shift feels almost like reading fantasy for the first time as a child. Because we don’t know Mexico, don’t know all the lingo, it takes longer to see, sometimes, just how fantastic our setting is. The fantasy catches us by surprise in fun ways.
The best example I can find is in “Maquech,” a story about a destitute peddler in exotic pets who is trying to make that one big sale that will change his life. Without spoiling anything, the fact that we think of Mexico as a poor place means that the descriptions of poverty seem cliché, until we realize that this is not really Mexico, or poverty, the way we know it.
Also included, one of my favorite sympathetic portrayals of a vampire in “Stories with Happy Endings.” The entire effect depends on the closing few sentences, which I badly want to quote here, but won’t because I think it will break the spell.
“Snow” is one of those stories that is either hopeful and optimistic or an example of Lovecraftian horror depending upon how I hold it up to the light. Twist it this way, we have a new frontier to explore. That’s a good thing right? The protagonist thinks so. Twist it another way, and, well, Lovecraft warned us what lay hidden in the mountains of Antarctica.
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