Review: “The Bone’s Prayer” by Caitlin R. Kiernan

3 of 5 stars.

Lovecraft’s tale of Innsmouth in which the inhabitants of a remote fishing village slowly morph into baser, older half-sea creatures rooted in a different culture tapped into dysmorphia [feeling alien in one’s own body] to show otherness. These themes arise often within myths of mermaids and other sea entities. Gender dysphoric, queer literature often does the same. So, it is no surprise when the two themes come together: a queer, dysmorphic piece rooted in Lovecraftian lore in which a character imagines, or experiences, a transformation into a mer-like creature.

This tale revolves around Edith, a writer, caught in the doldrums:

She had been walking the beach all afternoon, which isn’t unusual for days when she cannot write. And there have been several dry days now in a row, one following wordlessly after the next. A mute procession of empty hours, or, worse still, a procession of hours spent carefully composing sentences and paragraphs that briefly deceive her into thinking that the drought has finally passed. But then she reads back over the pages, and the prose thuds and clangs artlessly against itself, or it leads off somewhere she has not the time or the skill or the inclination to follow.

The writer brings an interesting symbol-carved stone home from the beach to her lover, Sammie. Slowly, layers of psychologically consuming dreams overtake both or merely Edith who’s projecting her dreams onto both. Images of transforming and melding into a mer-like creature repeat as do obsessions with the stone. It never becomes clear where the layers of Edith’s daymares stop and the outre begins.

This short story was included in the anthology The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2010 edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously read three other short stories by this author, all of them excellent: “The Cats of River Street (1925)”, “The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean”, and “The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings”. The latter is my favorite of the bunch, but it’s also the most heart-breaking. Interestingly, all 4 stories I’ve read by this author contain mermaids adding much to the Lovecraftian landscape without sitting idly as mere fan fiction.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

One response to “Review: “The Bone’s Prayer” by Caitlin R. Kiernan

  1. Pingback: Short Story Review: “The Maltese Unicorn” by Caitlin R. Kiernan | Jaffalogue

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