What is Love but the Quiet Moments After Dinner?


Richard Kadrey, "What is Love but the Quiet Moments After Dinner" in Screams From the Dark, ed. Ellen Datlow (Tor Publishing Group: 2022).

Being a monster can be lonely─struggling with feelings of isolation, rejection by others, and trying to navigate a world not made with you in mind. Monsters may make bad dates, but this is a monster love story; this is a story of two (very different) kinds of monsters discovering something in one another that they can connect with. 

Kadrey does cool stuff in this story, and he does more than just turn expectations on head by playing with the dichotomy between monster and human. The moral valence of Caleb's actions, contrasted with Patti's, pervades the story. The reader's moral sensibilities tend toward uncomfortable identification with Caleb. But his lack of outrage at what Patti is up to is quite bothersome, but on the other hand, understandable. Questions about how one's nature paints the moral status of one's actions develop as we witness Caleb, Patti, Thatcher, and Brubaker acting from "what they are"─whether that be ghoul, hunter, blackmailer, or vigilante.

An interesting theme that develops is how monstrous acts are justified by their perpetrators. For both Caleb and Patti, their victims don't really exist in any critical way. They don't exist because they are either already dead (for Caleb) or just see-through shams of existence that need editing out (for Patti). It isn't clear that either is drawing the right conclusion.         


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