Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Staircase, by Stephanie Feldman

★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(Horror) Five teenage girls explore a mysterious staircase to nowhere on a hill. Rumor has it that some who walk down it never come back. (4,335 words; Time: 14m)

"The Staircase," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 07-08|20, published on by .

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

Review: 2020.382 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Superficially, this is about how Jo went down the staircase and some changeling took her place. The other girls do the same thing, one by one, but the narrator manages to break the spell, saving everyone at the cost of losing them as friends.

It’s a little deeper than that, though. The nameless narrator plays no role in the group at all until the climax. All the other girls interact with each other one way or another except for her. As far as we readers are concerned, she was already alone. One can interpret that in a variety of different ways.

You can interpret the whole thing as a metaphor for how high-school friendships end with college. Or you can view it as an extra horror twist by imaging that the narrator was a ghost who haunted the four girls but saved them from something worse—and who now haunts the staircase. And I’m sure there are more ways to see it.

Con: The story doesn’t give us a lot to work with. Who was the singing man? What did he want? What did the narrator save them from?

A minor nit: The story says school comes easily to Tasha, but if she’s in the 12th grade and only just now taking geometry, then she’s at least three years behind. If she’s struggling, it should be with calculus.

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Stephanie Feldman Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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