I don’t normally do this on blog posts, but since it kind of links in with the piece I posted last week on reviews (and because Eskragh is going to be republished by Dark Fiction Magazine at some point in the relatively near future) I thought I’d post these quite different reviews of my story Eskragh, which was published in Albedo One #39. Both these reviews were published at the same time by Tangent Online – the reviews were put up at the end of July.
The first is from Kevin R Tipple:
Author Martin McGrath used a tragedy in his own life as inspiration with “Eskragh.” Family tragedy is also at work in this tale. No parent expects to live longer than their child. Unlike the family in the preceeding story, Thomas’ father knows what happened to Thomas. He just never got the chance to bury his son’s body.
His son and several others had gone swimming in a local lake in Northern Ireland. Six went in and at when all was said and done only five came out. Thomas went missing and presumably drowned in the deep waters of the Eskragh leaving one final memento behind.
I‘m at a complete loss as to why this tale was published in the magazine. Despite the fact that the story is well written and is good one, it does not remotely meet the intent of the magazine. There is no science fiction or fantasy component. It could conceivably be argued by somebody that it contains horror in the death of a friend as well as in the slightly ambiguous ending. However, if one were to accept that premise, then it follows that nearly any story in any genre would meet the requirement as would nearly everything in any magazine or newspaper. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a good story. It just does not fit the stated mandate of the magazine.
The second is from Caroline E Willis
“Eskragh” by Martin McGrath is nearly a haiku. McGrath’s story is the shortest in the issue, and he makes every word count. “Eskragh” is a slow horror piece–the kind in which the story ends without ever finding out if the monster is real.
The narrator’s friend, Thomas, disappears one sunny afternoon while they were hanging out at Eskragh Lough. “Eskragh isn’t a big lake, but it’s deep,” the narrator says. That line repeats throughout the story like a chorus, or the lapping of waves. The timeline of the story also loops back on itself, rocking back and forward through time to the ultimate conclusion of events.
Horror can often be about the ways in which the human mind reacts when confronted with something outside its understanding of the world–an event outside normal causality. “Eskragh” uses that horror to communicate the emotional weight of loss without explanations.
I don’t really want to comment on the reviews. Neither is, in my view, negative even though, if the first reviewer had been Albedo One’s editor, I think it’s safe to assume that “Eskragh” wouldn’t have seen print. I will say, though, that I consider the story to be a horror story – I just don’t think all horror stories need to have their monsters made obvious.
In relation to the Focus editorial, Reviewing My Position, I think it’s interesting to compare how two readers react to the same text. “Eskragh” is, by some distance, my most reviewed story and overall the reviews have been very positive but the fact that the story deliberately avoids unravelling the mystery at the heart of the story has definitely brought very different reactions from reviewers.
In other news, I’m pleased to announce that Ian Sales has accepted my story “Pathfinders” for publication in his anthology, “Rocket Science” to be published by Mutation Press next year.