A review of Sean Moreland’s “The Rosy Boa” in Pavor Nocturnus: Dark Fiction Anthology (January, 2014 online at http://pavnoc.com/?p=419 )
By Derek Newman-Stille
Sean Moreland creates a fierce, almost painful intimacy with the reader in his short story “The Rosy Boa.” The reader is drawn into a conversation, sharing pains and desires with the text, folded into its papery arms, and kissed on the ears by the black tongue of dialogue.
Moreland invites the reader into the world of queer desire, a young man who has fallen in love with another young man in a small town of the 1980s. Like many queer youth, his life is a mix of fear of rejection and the desire to get away from all of the homophobic hate and the persistent threat of violence at home and in public. His desires are stretched between a want for a normal life and a deep drawing toward a potential love interest. The protagonist is perpetually guarded, mediating his feelings for fear of their reception, but he is hyperconscious of every touch of body to body, unsure if these moments of contact are embedded with meaning.
Like many queer youth in a small town, the protagonist is hyper aware of the levels of surveillance that gossip and the vigilant enforcement of normalcy have written over the community – everyone is watched, and everyone’s normalcy is policed. He feels watched in his neighbourhood, forever in fear and needing to manage and shape the perception of others about him – for queer youth, a small town is a horror story, a place of threat, observation, and control. Yet, his queerness also puts him in a position outside of the mundane, separate from every day life.
When the protagonist is able to visit the house of Cyan, the young man he loves, both are able to indulge in an escape from the norm through costume, wearing an antique feather boa that lets them both dance and play, yet this act of play is heightened by one of fear as darkness rolls in and strange sounds appear. In this place of heightened feeling, the protagonist is able to discover more about himself, opened to the world, where transformation and change are possible and where categorical meanings are disrupted. Love and fear meet in a place of desire that is a “mad mix of heaven and hell”. This heaven and hell create an intimacy beyond the mundane, the normal, the unquestioned. Hunger and desire play together at the edge of fear… and death does not know gender.
You can explore this story online for free at http://pavnoc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Pavor-Nocturnus-Dark-Fiction-Anthology-Vol.-1.pdf