SH Flashback: “The Disappearance of James H___,” by Hal Duncan
Here's the next Strange Horizons Flashback story:
- “ The Disappearance of James H___,” by Hal Duncan
- In a British boarding school a la Tom Brown's School Days, a certain James H___ has an encounter with a mysterious boy. (NSFW.) (Content warning for brief description of a rape.) (Published in 2005.) (1,000 words.)
In his white breeches and shirt open to the waist but still tucked in, he looks like some prince kidnapped by pirates to serve as cabin boy.
(See also the full list of Flashback stories.)
I haven't read Tom Brown's School Days, but I really liked this take on Peter Pan and on James Hook.
I particularly liked the poetic prose, and the careful word choice—the sly use of the word ”peter,” the repeated use of various “cock”-related words (echoing Peter's “cockiness” in the original book: “What stayed him was Peter’s impertinent appearance as he slept. The open mouth, the drooping arm, the arched knee: they were such a personification of cockiness as, taken together, will never again, one may hope, be presented to eyes so sensitive to their offensiveness”), the “never never,” and so on. And all the other references to the original: shadows, sailing, fairies, and more.
And one more thing, to give you a sense of how carefully Hal constructed this: at one point, I suggested adding a word to one of the lines. And Hal pointed out that he couldn't do that because the story consists of ten sections, each exactly 100 words long (not counting the section titles, and counting a hyphenated word as a single word), for an exact total of 1,000 words.