Coyotes in Urban Turf Wars

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Nahaules” (in This Strange Way of Dying, Exile Editions, 2013)

Cover photo courtesy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Artwork by Sara K. Diesel

Cover photo courtesy of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Artwork by Sara K. Diesel

By Derek Newman-Stille

As in many of her works, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s short story “Nahaules” makes the urban space strange, exploring the intrusion of the folkloric into the cityscape. Nahaules, coyote shapeshifters, old stories, have come into the city, changing the city gradually as scents of the forest battle with smog, and buildings crack like mountains.

When she begins to be stalked by the nahaules, Moreno-Garcia’s unnamed narrator has to set aside her disbelief for legend and myth and start relying on old techniques for warding off the coyotes and reclaiming the urban environment. She is hunted, made a victim in her own home and she escapes from the mythical into the urban as long as she is able to until she is met with the inevitability that myths of old can only be fought with techniques of old.

The unnamed narrator, like many women in urban environments, is met with the process of being estranged from her home, made unsafe in an environment that she identifies as her own as predators push her to feel more and more uncomfortable. Stalked, she is forced to move further and further from areas that she considers her own, driven from her home by the predatory impulse of male stalkers as they move deeper into her territory. She plays with the image of being a victim, a sacrificial goat, while simultaneously turning the predatory behaviour back on her oppressors.

Moreno-Garcia reminds us that monsters hunt in urban environments and that people are made to feel unsafe and insecure, that their homes can be made strange and uncomfortable by intrusions of predators who rule through intimidation and threat.

To find out more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work, you can visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/ . To read this story and others from This Strange Way of Dying, you can explore it at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/this-strange-way-of-dying/ . This collection will be available in the fall.

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Everyone Hides Behind Their Masks, Whether They Are Superheroes or Psychiatrists

A Review of Steve Vernon’s The Glint of Moonlight on Broken Glass in Nothing to Lose (Nocturne Press, 2007)

By Derek Newman-Stille

What does pain do to a person? In what way is victimhood contagious? Asks Steve Vernon in his short story The Glint of Moonlight on Broken Glass.  Vernon’s story is a superhero story, but one that is not about someone with incredible powers or a beyond the normal desire for justice. He is a regular man trying to make his city a better place. He is a person in poverty, like many heroes would be – torn between the desire to fight crime and the needs of everyday life in a capitalist society. His hero is one that wears a mask and cape, but lives in a one-room apartment with cockroaches unlike the traditional Marvel and DC comics heroes. He doesn’t have his own method of transportation – no Batmobile – he takes a cab to the hideaways of criminals and into the darker parts of the city, the same as any other citizen would.

This story is fundamentally one about the state of victimhood and may be upsetting for those who have been victims of violent crime. Despite the superhero context, this is a very serious story about the nature of society and the way that crime can spread to encompass more than just the original victim. Pain in this story is like ripples on a pond, spreading outward uncontrollably and affecting greater numbers of people. A lot of that pain centres around those who try to help society, and a psychiatrist in this story becomes both victim and victimiser, having her veneer of control broken by violent crime. She is fundamentally changed by her experience of crime and develops a vampiric hunger to absorb the sensory experience of crime around her, consuming all of the anger and frustration and guilt in the hearts of her patients.  She is a broken mirror reflecting the pain of society, and Steve Vernon asks the question, how can one defeat pain? How can one defeat victimhood?

The hero of The Glint of Moonlight on Broken Glass aptly calls himself Captain Nothing, aware that there is fundamentally nothing under his masks but more masks, an endless Russian nesting doll, a Matryoshka doll spiraling toward a hollow core with every level that is taken away. He represents the anonymity of the city, the social masks that people in civilisation wear to hide their inner selves and the danger that wearing multiple masks can make when one loses sight of their own identity. Masks of class, masks of profession, masks of emotional health that cover the lack of substantial identity beneath. Vernon asks the question what lies beneath the masks? and reminds us that often we wear masks not to hide from others, but to hide from ourselves.

You can read more about Steve Vernon at http://stevevernonstoryteller.wordpress.com/  and you can purchase Nothing to Lose at http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Lose-Adventures-Captain-ebook/dp/B004KSR2FE/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345918131&sr=1-1&keywords=nothing+to+lose+steve+vernon