Thursday, January 10, 2019

Bone Song, by Aja McCullough

Not Rated No Speculative Element

(Mainstream Horror) The miller makes beautiful music on a violin made from the bones of a dead woman. This is her tale. (755 words; Time: 02m)

"Bone Song," by (edited by Jason Sizemore), appeared in issue 116, published on .

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

Review: 2019.047 (A Word for Authors)

It’s pretty gross, but unless you take that bit about it playing the story of her death literally, there’s no speculative element to it at all.

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. The specificity of the bones' backstory made me think it was to be taken as a fantastic transmission of knowledge and not the fancies of a crazy old man - besides, if he wanted the bones to love him, why imagine an obstacle? So I took it as fantasy and really believe it was intended as and feels like one, anyway. (But I do agree that a lot of fantasy and even more SF is just social, psychological, or other metaphor, symbolism, or imagery and not actual speculation.)

    1. I try to be pretty generous about considering a story genre. I know some folks who try to insist that it's not really SF if the speculative element is "disposable," meaning that trivial changes would turn the story into a mainstream one. Here, though, you have to work hard to make a fantasy out of it.

      I think the worst I've seen was one where the opening scene has a demon or space alien or something (I forget exactly what) take human form, after which the story was 100% mainstream. I'd bet money the author couldn't get it published and so added that one scene to be able to shop it around to SF/F magazines and someone was dumb enough to fall for it.

  2. P.S. To me, it's a lot like "The Deepest Notes of the Harp and Drum" in terms of bone music knowledge stuff. :)

  3. I really liked this one. It's a retelling of a fairytale which I'm familiar with as "The Bonny Swans", but it has a lot of variations with other names. Here's the Wikipedia entry on it: