Monday, September 10, 2018

It's Easy to Shoot A Dog, by Maria Haskins

★★★★☆ Tense and Exciting

(Fantasy Horror) On a cold October midnight, teenage Susanna takes her dog and a musket and sneaks away into the woods. Things happened ten years ago when she got the dog. Bad things. And now the reckoning is due. (4,470 words; Time: 14m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 260, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2018.524 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The story generates tension several different ways. First, we worry that she’s going to shoot the dog. Then we worry that she murdered her little brother. Or traded him to the witch, which amounts to the same thing. When we realize the witch turned him into a dog, it’s only slightly better, but then we're worrying whether she'll survive her confrontation with the witch.

When we realize what happened to the church’s stolen silver, it’s a great “ah ha” moment. One can argue that whatever comes next is better imagined than described.

Con: Or one can argue that the story has a protagonist we can’t root for and an ending and leaves us all hanging.

Susanna is as cruel and selfish as her parents are. She watched a woman burned for being a witch, partly because of her own theft of the silver, but once she saw it was no one she knew, she didn’t care. What she really wants is to kill the witch and then live in her cottage with her brother (still a dog). After shooting the witch, her biggest worry is that her brother might not be a dog anymore.

Whatever the outcome, Susanna doesn’t deserve to succeed. She has betrayed everyone: her parents, her brother, the church, and even the witch.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Your "con" is exactly how it ultimately hit me, though I agree that it has something that makes it almost work early on - tension, mood, fate of the dogboy.

    1. Sometimes I'll mark a story as "mixed" meaning it has too many problems to recommend but too many strengths to recommend against. In this case, I came down on the side of recommending it despite its problems, but just barely. The difference is just the entirely subjective fact that although I was annoyed by the negatives, they didn't bother me that much.