What comes to mind when I think of Catherynne Valente’s writing are the dissection and reconstruction of fairy tales, folklore, and myths…not zombies. But more often than not, Valente and her tales will surprise and “the Days of Flaming Motorcycles” is no exception. How often does one see the spiritual side of zombies? Narrated by Caitlin, whose “father wasn’t really that much different after he became a zombie”, the short story lays to rest stereotypes, including a few about an apocalypse where
“There was no flash of gold in the sky, no chasms opened up in the earth, no pale riders with silver scythes. People just started acting the way they’d always wanted to but hadn’t because they were more afraid of the police or their boss or losing out on the prime mating opportunities offered by the greater Augusta area. Everyone stopped being afraid. Of anything. And sometimes that means eating each other.”
The tone and plot are lighter than those of other works I’ve read, which can get downright macabre. I chuckled several times, partly because of the humor and partly because the notion of reading a zombie story by her was amusing. It still is. One of the things I appreciate and really like about Valente is the way she uncovers a word and holds it up to the light like a prism, showing its different facets. “The Days of Flaming Motorcycles” isn’t her best work, but it is good, well written, shows Valente’s versatility, and I’ll be reading it again. Nominated for a Hugo and a Nebula this year are Palimpsest and the Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, respectively. Regardless, Valente’s works are cities worth revisiting and further discovering the intricacies of their avenues.
The only zombie story Valente swears that she will ever write can be read online at i09, a sci-fi blog-zine. It is also available in Dark Faith, an anthology of thirty stories and poems that explores belief’s darker aspects. I’m rarely inclined to read horror, but the collection looks to contain enough sci-fi and fantasy to suit my tastes and I find the theme interesting so may have to get a copy.
“Sometimes I think the only way you can tell if something has a soul is if they can still be sad. Sometimes it’s the only way I know I have one. Sometimes I don’t think I do.”
Rated 4/5. Ninety-fourth shot for the 100 Shots of Short Challenge.