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In the Shadow of the Gargoyle
edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Thomas S. Roche
Ace Books, 256 pages

Victor Stabin
In the Shadow of the Gargoyle
Nancy Kilpatrick
Nancy Kilpatrick writes horror, dark fantasy, mysteries and erotic horror, under her own name, and under a nom de plume. Besides writing novels and short stories, and editing anthologies, she has written 4 issues of VampErotic comics. She has won the Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery story, has been a Bram Stoker finalist twice and an Aurora Award finalist 3 times. With years of teaching experience at a Toronto College behind her, Nancy now teaches several on-line courses. She lives with her black cat Bella in Montreal.

Nancy Kilpatrick Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Nancy Kilpatrick

Thomas S. Roche
Thomas S. Roche is a San Francisco writer who began selling stories professionally in mid-1994. His short stories have have sold to such anthologies as Razor Kiss, Blood Muse, Dark Angels and Enchanted Forests. He has also written for 3 of White Wolf's anthologies based on their World of Darkness. He recently edited his first anthology, Noirotica.

ISFDB Bibliography: Thomas S. Roche

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

While few of the stories contained in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle are particularly memorable, none of them make a mockery out of the essential theme of the anthology. Although a gargoyle is technically a grotesque sculpture used as a drainspout, the editors of the anthology have expanded their definition to include all sorts of grotesque sculpture. The authors have not only taken this expansion to heart, but have pushed it to see how inclusive it could be, resulting in a wide range of gargoyles from masonry to flesh and blood.

Although Charles L. Grant starts both his story "The Soft Sound of Wings" and the book on a promising note, neither live up to their potential. Grant posits the story of a retired policeman who lives in a town in which several mysterious murders have been committed. Although his inclusion of gargoyles is not particularly obvious, he leaves enough loose ends that the reader is left with the feeling that the situation has not been resolved.

"How Do You Think It Feels?" is Neil Gaiman's story of a lengthy affair. His use of a gargoyle seems almost gratuitous, as if he suddenly remembered that a gargoyle was necessary to meet the requirements of the anthology.

The gargoyles of a religiously divided Ireland are the protagonists of Katherine Kurtz "The Gargoyle's Shadow." These gargoyles take themselves seriously as guardians of their respective faiths and churches, although they are willing to band together despite religious affiliations when necessary.

One of the few memorable stories in the anthology is "Scylla and Charybdis" by Don D'Ammassa. This story posits two gargoyles, named Scylla and Charybdis by the story's young protagonist, as guardians and confidantes.

Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris attempt to use subtle humour in their tale of a Scottish gargoyle who has decided to better itself. "Studies in Stone" works better than many of the stories collected in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle, and addresses itself to questions about bettering oneself in the face of opposition. Few of the characters really come alive, however, and Gryx, the Yolen-Harris' gargoyle, is the most realized and least caricaturistic of all the characters.

Melanie Tem's gargoyles are a mixture of guardian and avenging angel in "Hagoday," the story of a recently released man who was responsible for the accidental death of an acquaintance. Tem's gargoyles are external manifestations of the man's own fears and guilt.

A runaway is the protagonist of Charles de Lint's "May This Be Your Last Sorrow," one of three reprinted stories in the anthology. Originally part of the Borderlands series, created by Terri Windling and Marc Alan Arnold, this story stands reasonably well on its own without the shared-world context for which it was created.

Unfortunately, while the problems faced by the main character of Nancy Holder's "Little Dedo" are certainly realistic, the character is a vapid unsympathetic woman from Southern California whose highlight of a trip to Paris is a visit to EuroDisney.

A gargoyle helps a lonely woman in "The Gargoyle's Song," the Alan Rodgers story. Cathy Gilman is a failed artist living in New York who has decided that it is time to move on. She doesn't feel at home in the city or even in her apartment, which she feels belongs to the gargoyle on the ledge outside. While Cathy's interactions with the gargoyle are interesting, her decisions do not seem to be based on any real changes, but rather on the possible delusional concerns caused by illness.

The second reprint in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle is an excerpt from The Luststone by Brian Lumley. This short piece, practically a vignette, is set at the dawn of man as humanity is beginning to coalesce and create culture and ritual. While the piece shows the potential of developing into something more complex, it is not a long enough excerpt to really indicate the direction Lumley chose to take it.

Christa Faust & Caitlín R. Kiernan have set their story "Found Angels" against a drug culture, much as Melanie Tem's "Hagoday." In this case, Kev is a homeless runaway living on the streets of Los Angeles who agrees to pose for an artist who is doing a series of photographs with a gargoyle theme. Although Kevin finds the idea of the gargoyles creepy, he also notes that the idea of being captured in stone appeals to him as a safe haven from the uncertainty of the life he is living.

In his introduction, editor Thomas S. Roche indicates that "The Hour of the Sisters" is the late Jo Clayton's last work to be published. The story is also the only one which has a completely fantastic setting. In some ways, this setting works against the story. The reader has gotten so used to reading about gargoyles in more realistic settings, it takes a while for the fantasy world Clayton devises to sink in to the reader's consciousness.

Wendy Webb's "Smiling Beasties" begins as a reasonably gentle story about Lillian Wicker, an elderly Atlantan woman, who is being evaluated to see whether she can still live on her own. As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly clear to both the reader and Rebecca, the social services counselor assigned to the case, that Lillian is suffering from some form of dementia and needs someone to look after her. Naturally, gargoyles can perform that duty superbly, but Webb introduces an horrific element to the story.

While Jo Clayton's story is the only story which could be considered epic fantasy, "Now Entering Monkeyface" by Marc Levinthal & John Mason Skipp is the only real science fiction story in the collection. Set on a future Mars, the story is about a down-and-out drifter who becomes involved with possibly the largest gargoyle in the universe. As with several of the stories in the anthology, such as Alan Rodgers's "The Gargoyle's Song," whether the main character's reactions are caused by reality or internal problems is very subjective.

Writing as a woman, Lucy Taylor's main character in "Tempters" is surprisingly misogynistic. After the breakup of his marriage, he becomes increasingly obsessed with his ex-wife and her treatment, or possible mistreatment, of their children. Egged on by his own sense of morality and the strange gargoylesque sculptures in the town where his wife is living, Taylor's character begins a dark plunge which is reminiscent of so many of the stories in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle.

Perhaps one of the best stories in the anthology, "Cenotaph" is Brian Hodge's mixture of paganism with the idea of gargoyles. Set in and around the Church of St. John the Baptist in England, the story describes Kate's attempts to discover more about her distant ancestor, Geoffrey Blackburn, who was responsible for the majority of the sculpture in the 14th century village church. Hodge does a wonderful job of evoking the age and culture of a small English town.

If Kate's lover Alain is too shallow, it is intentional and makes him the perfect counterpoint to the equally insipid Jeanne from Nancy Holder's "Little Dedo."

The anthology ends with the third reprint, Harlan Ellison's "Bleeding Stones." Ellison demonstrates that gargoyles can be both avenging angels and protectors, depending on your point of view. In this case, the hideous gargoyles of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York wreak vengeance against the humans who have destroyed the environment the gargoyles have been set to protect.

Unfortunately, In the Shadow of the Gargoyle necessitates a word about proof-reading. Throughout the book, the font selected for titles replaced a simple apostrophe with an í, rendering both titles and authors incorrectly (Don D'Ammassa becomes Don Díammassa, Gargoyle's becomes Gargoyleís) and what should be í has become ó (Caitlín Kiernan becomes Caitlón Kiernan). Although this does not really detract from the reader's enjoyment of the book, it is an unfortunate effect of either poor proof-reading or an incorrect font selection.

While the stories in In the Shadow of the Gargoyle do not always succeed, none of them are light-weight stories, as the majority of theme anthology stories tend to be, and not only could all of these stand on their own outside the anthology, many of them may be improved for not being read as part of a theme anthology. The stories have a tendency to dark fantasy, even those with science fictional or more traditional fantastic elements, and gargoyles, to judge by these writers, seem to be attracted to drug users. On the whole, In the Shadow of the Gargoyle is well worth reading, but the stories would benefit from being read one at a time rather than straight through.

Copyright © 2000 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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