SFRA Review

A publication of the Science Fiction Research Association



Bailey, Dale. The Resurrection Man's Legacy and Other Stories. Urbana, IL: Golden Gryphon Press, 2003. 332 pages, cloth, $24.95 ISBN: 1-930846-22-3.

Don't read this collection of short stories — Dale Bailey's first collection — alone or at night. That was my first thought as to how to begin this review. There are things out there in the dark — and some may be dead — or once were, or — ? And Bailey knows them. Don't think you will be safe in your backyard or your garden. The former is likely to be haunted, the latter home to incarnate spirits of nature whose sense of morality might be a bit different than your own. Rest assured, however, that you will be exploring the human condition in these stories of death and grief, of loss, of the variations of love, of the pain and heartache and pleasure of family life.

Just what kind of stories Bailey is telling is another matter. Dark literary fantasy is the first term that comes to mind, and it does work for most of the stories in the collection, including the title story, "The Resurrection Man's Legacy." What if a dead person could be copied as an android? Could such a copy, if that is the right word, fill in the place a father's death leaves in a son's heart? Weave in such elements of the American mythos as baseball and the reader has a story that will echo as do "the empty stands, the endless empty stands" for the story's protagonist. Perhaps darker is "Quinn's Way," inspired by Bradbury and Something Wicked This Way Comes — only this time one of the boys gives in to the dark, to the shadow.

Shadows, the Shadow, seems to be a motif in the collection — as a place to wait, a place to be if one is uncertain whether one is human or not, or as a place to grieve. In the last story, "In Green's Dominion," the shadow is green and occupying another border space, between the garden and the wood, between the tame and the wild. Taking the idea of "vegetable love" from Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," Bailey takes the reader into the myth of the green man, an "English fertility archetype," and past the garden and the wood and into the tensions between "order and chaos . . . between sexual impulse and puritanical morality, between, especially, life and art" (332). Sylvia, a retired professor and poet, must navigate this in-between space, these tensions, even as she is called out into the green darkness of her own garden. In "Death and Suffrage," the dead rise and head for the ballot box; rest assured the world is not the same place. Need spare organs? Grow them in the bodies of anencephalic children, "infants born without a brain, in "Anencephalic Fields."

Yes, dark literary fantasy, but what of the stories that are under a different shadow, that inhabit the blurred and shadowed territory between the fantastic and the mainstream? Is the backyard in "Home Burial," which is both a retelling of Frost's poem and a homage to Frost, a haunted place? Does the grieving mother, Rachel, hear her dead child crying because it is cold in its grave, or doesn't she? And does it matter that only she hears the cries? What of Gerald, the soon-to-be-father in "Cockroach": Does a creature he made up as an advertisement haunt him? Or is it guilt? Both? Is he safe in his own home? Is anyone? And there are still stories I have not mentioned (and yes, worth reading).

What, then, is Bailey writing? Dark literary fantasy, yes. Crossover stories? Yes. Stories of ghosts and the risen dead and old people living way past their time or a mentally challenged boy who can bring back the dead — no doubt, these are of the fantastic. But then, these are also stories of jealousy, of grief for a dead parent, of regret for not choosing a full life, of warnings against handgun misuse, of fear, of child abuse.

What is Bailey writing? He answers, at least in part, in the "Story Notes" at the end, which provides the scholar an excellent starting place for interpretation. What is Bailey writing: stories, stories with lyrical and beautiful and dark prose, of the fantastic, of the haunted, stories worth a sleepless night or three — human stories. His short fiction has been published in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror fiction, two editions of The Best from Fantasy & Science Fiction, nominated for a Nebula, among other awards and honors, and one novel, The Fallen, was a finalist for the International Horror Guild Award. Bailey is a writer worth checking out. And if you do so at night, at least light a candle.

— Warren G. Rochelle, SFRA Review #268, April/May/June 2004



 

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