This Bradley boy here is a Grendelsong Alumni! That’s right, the first two issues he salvaged over the words and made them function like words should as Grendelsong’s first copyeditor. I have to hand it to Ekaterina Sedia for telling me about his awesome skills.
After that we hung out message boards and group blogs, and he started his own awesome zine Farrago’s Wainscot, which has been privy to quite a few of my own stories (some of my favorites of what I’ve written, I might add). I’ve known he’s an author of high merit for quite sometime, I’ve published him in a few of my pet projects before, and I’m a gigantic fan of his dystopian books Noise and Chimpanzee.
This story here, it’s called ‘Seng Running, and it carries over some of those dystopian tones-
I consider this a sort of shadow story of Whips and Wands, not quite a doppelganger, but thematically speaking they carry on a conversation of sorts. Both have very quick, powerful muscular prose. Both are about the underside of things, with misfits outside the law, anti-heroes as main characters. Both exist outside of judgement for their characters- there are actions, and such, but nobody gives an ethical pronouncement. And both stories carry shadows of noir, trappings of folklore and ritual, all wrapped up with a dark current of almost horror but not quite riding on top of all this.
They both have sexual sides. This delves into that herbal remedy for erectile dysfunction, while Whips and Wands was, well, all about sex the mainstream considered deviant once upon a time (and yet these days is a part of popular culture). Both outside the law, both outskirting their worlds. Liminal characters, characters who fallen through the cracks.
But that’s not quite fair, comparing these two stories together. Even without the other they would succeed on their own merits. ‘Seng Running is full of fire, it pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The words stack up and much like his novels you can’t stop reading, you have to keep going. Darin writes in a breathless style that is poetry and lightning, and you have to keep going, you can’t even take a breath, you can’t even exhale.
Even the banality of the story- even those moments are thick with tension, thick with the underside of the world. Filthy diapers needing changed, take another dose of ‘seng. It’s a drug that’s not a metaphor, a metaphor is too easy and too nice and neat. This is something deeper, this is a symbol. It doesn’t stand for something else like meth or heroin. It contains more power than that. It’s all addiction, all things. It has power, this symbol. It has fire. It’s folkloric and yet moreso. It is libido in itself, and yet it’s power waxes and wanes. It is the moon of the phallus.
Oh side note- as a reader you should find out what these things are for yourself, you know? Don’t consider my editorial the end all be all of what a story is. This is what I see in each of these. Consider this a conversation. All writing, all reading, hell all editing- it’s a conversation.
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