Short Story Review – Fading Memories by Michael Bracken

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[Content Warning: This one is pretty much erotica]

On Twitter I announced that I had a personal goal of reading one short horror story for every day in October. Part of the reason I wanted to set that goal is that I really like fiction magazines. I don’t feel like the short fiction market gets a lot of attention from anyone other than writers of short fiction. I would wager that in the last 50 years few people who were not interested in writing their own stories have ever picked up, or even known of the existence of, these magazines.

Confession time. I’m planning to do a full Words About Books episode where I recommend some horror fiction magazines. This is why all the reviews released so far this month have come from an issue of Unnerving Magazine. I’m going into most of these stories blind while I try to get a feel for what kind of content Unnerving publishes.

That is the context in which I stumbled onto Fading Memories by Michael Bracken, and that is why it is being included in “Ben’s Horror Bullshit Month.” Fading Memories skirts the line of what I, personally, would consider to be horror. There are certainly horror elements. But…well…there’s a scene in Ghostbusters that pretty much encapsulates this entire story. This scene:

The scene where Dan Akroyd gets a ghost blowjob.

Our main character is a woman who recently broke up with a guy. The guy isn’t handling it very well. He keeps insisting that she’ll take him back because she misses the sex. All the while, our protagonist keeps having ghostly encounters of an erotic nature. It’s hinted that the boyfriend knows that she has been having these encounters, and probably has something to do with them. The tables are turned somewhat when our heroine begins to look forward to the encounters, rather than fear them.

There’s a horror framing device, but this story is basically just a handful of sex scenes and then a random ending that explains basically nothing. The point of the story is to have sex scenes. Which is fine. Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to gatekeep the horror genre. This is a sexy ghost story, but it is still a ghost story and so I can totally understand why it works for Unnerving Magazine. This just isn’t what I personally think of when I think of horror.

This makes my final verdict a little complicated. In the interest of fairness to the author, I’m going to make a conscious effort to judge this story based on what it is rather than what I would like it to be. With that being said, I don’t think I would recommend this to someone who is looking for a “horror” story. If, however, the idea of a sexy ghost story sounds like something you would “enjoy” *wink wink, nudge nudge* then you are who my final verdict is for.

Final Verdict

This may shock and surprise my readers, but I actually don’t consume that much erotica. What little I have read has a tendency to make me laugh. And laugh I most certainly did while reading this story. There was a line that nearly made me spit my coffee, and it was this:

She felt a man’s body pressing against her, the thick tube of an erection nestling between her ass cheeks.

I think if I were reading this seriously for the thrill of it, that sort of language would pretty much kill the mood. Like I said, though, I have no idea if this sort of thing is standard for erotica. It seems like really clumsy writing to me. I can’t see how this is supposed to turn anyone but the horniest of people on. It wasn’t a chore to read, though. Intentional or not, I did get a lot of laughs, and that counts for something.

5 arbitrary stars out of 10 arbitrary stars.

And as I discussed at length…I found this story in Issue #15 of Unnerving Magazine.





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

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