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Click here for the text of Kaas Baichtal's short story, "Fireflies".
By Kaas Baichtal on Monday, July 24, 2000 - 2:30 pm: Edit Post
I wasn't going to post this short-short, but enough people have encouraged me to that I have changed my mind.
By Mary Lou on Tuesday, July 25, 2000 - 8:00 am: Edit Post
This is a suprisingly complicated piece, for its length. By the end, it was ambiguous exactly who was the "firefly", and whether or not the Narosian Sectuib is a hero or a deliberate murderer. The one thing we can be sure of is that he is very _nice_ about it, whatever his motives. But then, no Narosian would dream of poisoning a victim with a cup of second-rate tea, on cruelty grounds.
The multiple levels of betrayal place this firmly in the psychological horror genre, albeit very understated.
By Yon on Tuesday, July 25, 2000 - 2:41 pm: Edit Post
I agree. This is lyric horror, in the tradition of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" or Lovecraft's "The Tomb." I find it remarkable.
While JL has tried to keep published S/G classified as SF, the "energy vampire" motif definitely links this universe as closely to the worlds of Anne Rice as to those of Gene Roddenbury.
I'm a veteran horror reader, well inured to the usual devices, and this story sends chills down my spine. It vibrates on the same psychological pitch as Lovecraft's "Color out of Space".
Like JL, Lovecraft had a following who tried to extend his imaginary world and further embroider the "Cthulhu Mythos" long after he passed away. They included people who went on to become authors in their own right, like Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell.
Many tried, but very few succeeded in matching that peculiar spine-chilling note. They wrote intriguing fantasies about creatures from beyond the stars. But most flinched from looking these nightmares squarely in the eyes.
Stephen King succeeded. So did F. Paul Wilson. IMHO, this story ranks with theirs for pure, distilled 190 proof blood-curdling.
Yes, it's short. It doesn't need to be any longer. It's complete.
The language is simple and succinct, which makes it even more effective. Consider this paragraph:
"When I'd nearly come of age, my parents took me shopping for my first Kill. The first, they said, burns its name on your soul. A hundred more might pass through your hands, but still you'll search their eyes and hearts trying to find that one again. It is important, they said, to choose the first one well. Choose well, and your life will be good. Its strength will become your strength. Its spark of hope becomes your spark of hope. Choose well, and you will always choose well in the future. "
There is hardly a word here with more than two syllables. Not one is wasted. The ideas conveyed are exceptionally vivid and powerful. Each works on several levels of meaning, not only carrying the plot forward but developing characterization, conveying mood, and associating to other images as in a poem.
"I have often asked myself how a man filled with such compassion as I have zlinned in him, could unleash such devastation upon me and look me in the eyes as he did it. He has gray eyes, sultry as a summer storm and somehow innocent, as if he does not know perfectly well what he does."
When I read this, I can see the scene as clearly as if I stood in the room, the two of them together; I know the summation of years of this man's history culminating in the hopelessness of serving a master who plans to murder him "for his own good." Achieving this in 50 words is nothing short of magic.
/me salutes Kaas.
By Jocelyn on Tuesday, July 25, 2000 - 11:27 pm: Edit Post
I have to say that I thoroughly resent the fact that Mary Lou and Yon have taken all the good comments and left me feeling lame and unimaginative. So I guess I will just have to say I really like your glimpse into the underbelly of the Tecton system.
It is a sad thing to be unable to live with oneself. Your story made that one fact painfully clear.
Great story! First person is hard to control and you do it with precision. As far as the length goes -- if it were any longer it would ruin the effect.
I really enjoy your stories, but you know that.
By the way I love the way the background keeps getting darker and darker as you get closer to the end of the story. I also found the fireflies at the bottom sweet but slightly crunchy.
By Zoe on Wednesday, July 26, 2000 - 11:40 pm: Edit Post
This is such a powerful piece. I don't think it's
to short at all. I would say this is very haunting.
So much said and so well written.
By Eliza on Tuesday, August 1, 2000 - 7:04 pm: Edit Post
Fireflies is simply the best, most emotional and powerful short story in any genre I have ever read. Congratulations Kaas. Why aren't you writing stories like this that aren't S~G and sending them off to publishers?
By Kaas Baichtal on Tuesday, August 1, 2000 - 11:04 pm: Edit Post
Gosh... I am totally overwhelmed by everybody's praise. Thank you very much, it's definitely incentive to keep writing a lot more.
By Ann Marie on Saturday, August 5, 2000 - 12:38 pm: Edit Post
Wonderful, wonderful story Kaas!
You keep going. Please!
Everything I'd want to say has already been said with far greater style than I could manage at the morning, so this is a fancy 'Me Too'!
By cheryl wolverton on Thursday, May 24, 2001 - 7:59 pm: Edit Post
Reading this story once again reminded me of why we write. It isn't because of contracts--which of course, we have to have to recieve money--or because it's a job--though to some it is--but it's to express the inner feelings and emotions in a story, in an art form.
This story far surpasses many published works of fiction I've seen on the market.
It pulls at the heartstrings, demanding the reader participate, insisting it not be ignored and brushed aside, but savored and enjoyed.
Bravo Kaas on how much your skills continue to develop in the writing.
By Yomamma on Monday, June 24, 2002 - 9:34 am: Edit Post
Kaas, I loved the tone and the rhythm of this story. It has a "classic" ambiance - rather like Poe. I agree with Yon that it has the feel of the vampire genre... but a magnitude of excellence beyond any modern vampire story I ever read. Splendid!
By tsbrueni on Saturday, June 7, 2003 - 1:16 am: Edit Post
How in the world did the semi-junct in the story join a Household?
By Kaas Baichtal on Saturday, June 7, 2003 - 7:37 am: Edit Post
The usual way, I assumed... was invited by a member (in this case, the Sectuib), pledged, etc.
Why, are semi-juncts canonically disallowed from joining Householdings or something?