Book: Singing With All My Skin and Bone by Sunny Moraine
Age/Genre: Horror fiction, Dark fantasy, Fantasy Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Preferred Reading Environment: A warm blanket, and a pet if possible. Some of these stories definitely make you want to snuggle
Reading Accoutrements: How about a glass of water? Self Care is good for you!
Content Notes: Depression, Suicide, misgendering, Murder, Abusive Relationships
Singing With All My Skin and Bone by Sunny Moraine is another book I found out about on Twitter and thought looked interesting. It’s a collection of short stories, most of them dark and poetic. There were a ton of stories in this collection – 19 in just 194 pages. It doesn’t take a lot of time to read, but I found myself wanting to stop and think about most of the stories before moving on to the next one. So this is probably a collection for several sittings.
The first few stories were pretty abstract – they were mostly a speaker talking to an unknown “you,” who is not the reader. They were really good, but the first time I read them, I was more in the mood for plot-centric stories. I’d definitely recommend reading this collection when you’re in the mood for artful literature. Several of these stories have been published in literary journals and the like.
But many of the stories do have tangible plots, and those are some of the ones I will talk about here.
“A Perdition of Salt” is narrated by the spirit of a deceased person, who is trapped in the salt of the water around their still-alive lover. Some of the language is a bit voyeuristic, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The narrator is in a state of being where the other person isn’t aware of their presence. The reminiscing has some beautiful imagery, and what we learn of their past is painful and beautiful.
“Cold as the Moon” is told by a young child whose dad has turned into a bear and run off following the death of their mother. The protagonist must keep their infant sister alive in the Alaskan winter, and much of the story focuses on their relationship with their dad before he left. I loved how this story unfolded, and the sense of mythology it had about it.
“Across the Seam” follows a Russian mine-worker visited by Baba Yaga, who reveals that the protagonist is one of her daughters. What exactly this means is a bit vague, but it’s a cool story of self-discovery and some historical imagery that really strikes hard.
“Dispatches from a Hole in the World” depicts a grad student researching a dissertation on the year when over 300,000 people between the ages of 10 and 25 killed themselves, many with videos posted online. There is a library archive of the death videos, and the narrator explores this archive, seeking grant money and understanding about this epidemic that was never explained. Though this is not based on real events, it is set in a world very close to our own – with Twitter, Vine, smart phones, etc. A lot of the questions that the protagonist grappled with hit pretty close to home. This story almost made me cry and I don’t even have close personal experience with suicide, so if you do, I would be prepared before diving in.
“Event Horizon” is a “queer kids bond over a haunted house” story, which I seem to love for some reason. Whenever there’s one in a collection I read, it’s one of my favorites in the collection. This was of course, no exception. The house (which actually isn’t haunted, but alive), is really mysterious and engaging, and the kids deal with bullying and uncertainty in really relatable ways.
“Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained” follows an amputee who has a bioengineered prosthetic. They struggle with their relationship with their new arm, which they feel is separate from themselves, and they don’t like it, even though they are grateful for it and know they need it. They address the arm directly, and the piece reads a bit like a diary entry, or letters to the arm. I’d be interested to see what people with prosthetics think about this story, because I thought it addressed the issue super well, not trying to outline a definitive experience.
“The Throat Is Deep and The Mouth is Wide” is a sci-fi story about a freelance worker who takes calls from people who have gone “outbound,” spending months in isolation in space, having gone through a portal of some sort, seeking information. These people come back needing to talk with people, which is the narrator’s job. This one has some creepy mysteries that made me love it.
There were, of course, other stories I loved in this collection, but I can’t tell you about them all. If you want dark, engaging stories, definitely check this collection out. These stories have beautiful descriptions, dark humor, and some humorless darkness, as well. A lot of the stories read like myths, which I really enjoyed. Some stories take place in the past, while others are set in tech-heavy futures. There’s drone fucking, a little mermaid retelling of sorts, a story where a man is handed his own skull by a stranger on the beach, and much, much more!
What’s the last semi-creepy story you read? Tell me about it in the comments!