This might be my favorite story in this issue of Cirsova. Xavier Lastra, the author of The Elephant Idol, is a good friend of mine. He has edited a few of my short stories, and his blog has played a vital role in improving my writing. Reading this story reminds me of exactly why, when he speaks about writing, one should listen. Many of the recent crop of new writers seeking to revive the sf/f genre after its long bout of SocJus cancer have written at length on the trappings of sf/f, myself included. We wax prolific about the old masters, about how to keep your political messaging subtle and unobtrusive, and about how to write for a better tomorrow. Xavier is one of the few who rolls up his sleeve and writes about the nuts and bolts of wordcraft.
He also writes in English as a second language, so it’s doubly not fair that he can string words together so more prettier than writer me.
The Elephant Idol presents a simple heist tale gone wrong. And by wrong, I mean about as wrong as a heist can possibly go. I’m talking Lovecraftian wrong. And I’m not just talking “stick some tentacles all up in there – BOOM, Lovecraft”.
Instead, I’m talking about somebody messin’ where they shouldn’t have been a-messin’ and winding up in a Very Bad Place. The action takes place in an opera house filled with colorful characters who get even more colorful when a ragamuffin thief makes the mistake of stealing the wrong idol. The curse he brings down upon his head transports him into a hellish upside-down version of the opera-house populated by cancerous funhouse-mirror versions of the colorful characters already introduced. It’s a freakish and foul place that evokes a truly original sense of mystery and uncertainty and danger.
A lot of people talk about finding new ways to do Lovecraft without tentacles, but Xavier just went out and did it, and he did it in a way that adds a touch of honest to goodness romance? Full marks for this unsettling tale.