The Prayer of Ninety Cats • 2013 • Dark Fantasy novelette by Caitlín R. Kiernan

★★★

Summary: You are a movie enthusiast, paid for reviewing a restored black and white fantasy film featuring the Blood Countess.  This time, she is not a vampire but a witch, and you have to ignore your surrounding and suppress your bladder’s distress to follow the story to the end.

Review: The Blood Countess has been a historical Hungarian mass murderer, influencing folklore and the Dracula myth. The film is followed in two layers, one describing the film’s essential scenes in snippets of stage directions. The other layer constructively debates the material as a metafiction from a second person point of view. Both render the poetic and horrific atmosphere masterfully; it is astonishing how only a few dense but vivid snippets can bring to life a complete film and you think you really watched it. The story was not only dark but also amusing, as the reviewer preemptively formulated a review just like this one:

Pedantry and nitpicking is fatal to all fairy tales. You will write that there are people who would argue a wolf lacks the lung capacity to blow down a house of straw and that any beanstalk tall enough to reach the clouds would collapse under its own weight.

This is one case of fiction where the prose inspires awe in the reader without drawing him into the story itself. I found the metfiction more interesting than the film snippets, maybe because the fantasy content didn’t grab me. And I certainly didn’t leave out a walk to the restroom just to read through to the end of this novelette.

Meta: isfdb. Published in Subterranean, Spring 2013. Read in The Best of Subterranean. Available online. It won the World Fantasy Award 2014.

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