The Gorgon in the Cupboard • 2004 • Fantasy novella by Patricia A. McKillip


Synopsis Victorian painter Harry Waterman tries desperately to find muse, model and topic for his masterwork. His Persephone wasn’t finished, because the model ran away. His friend’s wife would be a dream model but she is not blocked by her husband’s ambitions. But his muse is waiting in the cupboard in the form of a Gorgon which manifests in his Persephone painting.

Now, don’t be afraid: Neither the Gorgon nor anything else in this story is dangerous or shows action at all. Instead, the Gorgon leads Harry to his muse and model, Jo Byrd.


This is an inverse magical story: It starts with a lunatic, poetic artist, finds the Gorgon as a magical element. From there on, Waterman is grounded, gets ever more realistic. Harry’s comfortable, bohemian way of living meets the badly treated and poor Jo. In the end, everything is equalized.

It is a slow, poetic, beautiful story. The scene where Jo and a couple of other poor women wait in the rain at a butcher’s house is worth an additional star.

Meta: isfdb. This SF short story was published 2004 in To Weave a Web of Magic. I read it as part of Dreams of Distant Shores. It is also available for free.



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