Short Story Review – Darkness in August by Bentley Little

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[Content Warning: Rape]

There’s a kind of subgenre that crops up from time to time in short form horror fiction. I don’t know if it has a proper name, but I’m going to call it “Literary Fan Fiction.” I’m sure it happens in other genre fiction as well, but in horror there are a lot of stories in which a character discovers that a famous fictional story is actually based on some horrorific supernatural truth. I’ve encountered stories where Lovecraft actually fought eldritch monsters, stories where The Sandlot was actually based on some bizarre time loop thing, and a half a dozen others.

This is a story in which we discover William Faulkner’s supernatural inspiration for his novel Sanctuary. I don’t particularly like William Faulkner or Literary Fan Fiction stories. So when this story opened up with our main character interviewing people who met Faulkner as research for a book he’s writing, I was rolling my eyes a little. It’s a very short story. I don’t think I can summarize it without giving basically everything away. I will say, though, that the story went in a different direction than I thought it would.

This was all I could think of from the second he walks into the field.

Final Verdict

All I can say is that I’m not sure what tone the story was going for. It could be a kind of lit-major-joke? If it is meant to be funny, then I’d say it’s in poor taste. If it’s meant to be serious then I’d say it needs a little work. It feels like it was very quickly written (and quickly edited) around one particular scene.

Bentley Little seems like a fairly well established author, and so I don’t think it’s fair to judge him based on a 6-page story that isn’t really my thing in the first place. I’d be willing to give his other stuff a shot.

A prerequisite to getting anything out of this story is that you have to have some familiarity with Faulkner and Sanctuary in particular. Even with that knowledge, though, the intent behind the story is still a little too vague for this book podcaster.

3 arbitrary stars out of 10 arbitrary stars.

I found this story in Issue #15 of Unnerving Magazine.

Ben

I co-host the Words About Books podcast with my writing partner Nate.

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