Short story: “Abomination Rises on Filthy Wings”

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“Abomination Rises on Filthy Wings,” by Rachel Swirsky

Appeared in Apex Magazine issue #50, July 2nd, 2013 (read or buy here); found via Manboobz here

2,823 words

I was disappointed by this story. The main character’s fantasies and descriptions are over the top but somehow bland. I don’t find myself sympathizing with him or admiring him, which for me is the chief attraction of an evil protagonist. I’m not persuaded or challenged or disquieted by his hateful point of view. The horror carries too little conviction to be truly horrific. Meanwhile, the story doesn’t offer anything like a solution to the problem the main character represents, and it doesn’t give his wife/ex the humanity or compassion he denies her. It just makes them both monsters so they can kill each other off (literally or otherwise). The whole thing seems pointless.

At first glance, the italicized sections seem discontinuous with each other (the second one calls the main character “you” instead of “I,” for example). They also fail to contrast very strongly with the non-italicized parts, so the effect is muddy. On a reread, it’s clear that the italics represent a frame story in which the author of the bird-monster story actually murders his ex, which I guess explains why there’s shit running down her legs. Towards the end, when the italics narration teases us by saying, “Remember, this is a story,” it reads like a reveal. But what’s the reveal? That the frame author is a real-life monster? That fantasizing about horrors can lead to committing horrors? That’s kind of dumb. If the metafictional authorship is supposed to be chilling in itself, it’s undercut by Apex‘s choice to run the author photo, bio, and commentary immediately below the piece.

Is the story mocking the frame author’s melodramatic fantasies? That would explain the title and the purplish prose. But the writing is just lurid enough to be flat and genre-magazine-ish, not enough to be really funny. (The first sentence, for example. What else do you do with a throbbing cock in your pants, play Pat-a-Cake?)

Nitpick: “One fewer” sounds stupid. Yes, I love rigidly logical syntax too, but “one less” is perfectly good English, and it has a long history of being used with count nouns.