“Swan Maiden”

This week’s weird fiction being discussed by the Deep Ones over at LibraryThing.

Review: “Swan Maiden”, Barbara A. Barnett, 2013. 

I didn’t have high expectations for this one given that it’s flash fiction. Most of the flash fiction I’ve read strikes me as an abrogation of authorial imagination and ends the story where the real imaginative work begins. 

This story is told from the point of view of a ballerina who, along with the rest of her company, was frozen in place, magically, by Fyodor. It was peforming Swan Lake. At first, they were visited frequently. But Fyodor is now old, not many people visit, and the theater now is dilapedated and filled with garbage. The only reason it hasn’t been torn down is because of the spectacle of those frozen ballerinas.

But Fyodor’s magic can possibly be counteracted. 

The narrator is frozen “forever on point”. Roksana, playing Odette, has an expression changing slowly to “madness and despair”. The narrator has learned that the strength she admired in Roksana was affected; she’s going mad. Her skin has also taken on the “cast of stone”. Yet, Roksana’s movement has given the narrator hope.

With exquisite pain, the narrator has began to move her foot. She only hopes her first step can be taken before the theater collapses.

The ending emphasizes the narrator’s resolve to fight against impending doom and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

2 thoughts on ““Swan Maiden”

  1. Bookstooge December 24, 2022 / 5:24 am

    Do you have an actual definition for flash fiction? I always assumed it was just amateurs writing out a couple of paragraphs on their blog and that “flash” referred to the amount of time it took to write it.

    • marzaat December 24, 2022 / 10:26 am

      No, I’ve never seen a definition. I’ve read flash fiction written by professionals. I get the impression it’s just an internet rebranding of what used to be called short-shorts. Frederic Brown was a master of them. I give you one in its entirety: “The last man on Earth was sitting in a room. There was a knock on the door.”

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