By Elle Turpitt
Flash fiction is a very hard beast, hard to do and difficult to do well, and it’s hard not to be in awe when it’s done as brilliantly as Calvin Demmer’s collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master.
This collection of 23 very short stories covers a wide range of scenarios and characters, meaning there is something for almost everyone in here. They’re all dark, drawing from the dregs of humanity and envisioning characters you really wouldn’t want to meet down an alley late at night. The prose is handled skillfully, and every word counts, as it really should in this form.
The collection kicks off with the creepy, eerie On the Seventh Day, an atmospheric story about a ship at sea. It sets the tone for the rest of the novel, and raises the bar so high it feels almost impossible for the stories that follow to exceed it. But they really do. Yara is heart-breaking and sweet, The Snakes or the Humans? shows how far one man would go to avenge his loved ones, The Guests keeps the reader guessing throughout.
Other highlights for me include Revenge of the Myth, Voodoo Child and the title story of the collection, The Sea Was a Fair Master. But each story collected deserves its own praise, for the depths of the characters to the expertly handled plot twists, to the sheer imagery presented before the reader. These are tales of darkness, but they are also tales of family and love, drawing the reader in and leaving them begging for more from each story.
This is a fantastic collection, one which can easily be dipped in and out of again and again, layered and deep and downright creepy.