A Review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth” in Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us (Nov, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth” available for free online by Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us ( http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442 ) narrates the Dracula story from the perspective of Dracula’s “brides”, the three “sisters” who accompany him, giving life to characters often overlooked in the Dracula mythos. Moreno-Garcia explores the experience of people left behind when a man emigrates in search of new opportunities elsewhere. They are left in a bitter-sweet state, joyous about being without Dracula’s oppressive regime and his compulsion to leave them locked up “for their own safety”, barricading them from the world outside to keep them in a state of perpetual unchanging existence. But, they are also in a state of mourning, without the purpose and drive that he had imposed on their lives and with a lingering sense that he could return.
Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are figures who are trapped between memory and existence. They are frozen in a state of undeath, as vampires generally are, but they also experience a loss of memory, a loss of their previous identity: “We can never look back or we will be turned into pillars of salt”. They grow empty as they age, giving up on aspects of their humanity possibly at the conflict embodied in the daily experience of humanity and inhumanity staring at one another in the mirror of their own bodies.
The narrator holds onto her sense of humanity though her love and maternal care for her sister vampires, using this to maintain some semblance of life and to fend off the experience of emptiness that hollows out the immortal soul. When, as in the Dracula Story, both Dracula and the other sisters are killed, the narrator is left with a loneliness inside of her, a loss of the homeliness of her humanity that was shaped through her maternal affection. Even the castle around her decays and collapses, leaving her with nothing to hold her memories in place. Left without identity, without memory and left to wander in diaspora, she loses an essential part of herself. With the loss of her home and family, she forgets even the semblance of life.
Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are figures of internal conflict – both in the now because of their continual existence and immortality, but also trapped in the past at the moment of their death. They experience an internal war between the desire to escape from the past, and also the desire to remember. The past is an anchor for memory and identity, and it helps them to hold onto something of themselves. Without connections to the past, like many people in diaspora, they feel hollowed out, emptied, and lost.
You can read this story online at Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us at http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442 . To find out more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia, visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/