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The Taborin Scale by Lucian Shepard

1/09/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan

Buy The Taborin Scale: A Novel Of The Dragon Griaule in the USA - or Buy The Taborin Scale: A Novel Of The Dragon Griaule in the UK

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pub: Subterranean Press. 103 page deluxe limited edition hardback. Price: $35.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-288-7.

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Why, it could be asked, would someone want to write a novella or a novelette when it is almost impossible to find a market for them? There are magazines and anthologies - professional, semi-professional or amateur - that will print a short story but the intermediate lengths between them and the novel give problems and are largely uncommercial. One of the best bits of advice that can be given to any author is to write the piece to its natural length. This is the length that feels right for the tale it has to tell. Ideas are like mines. Some are worked out after a short time but may have a high yield - a short, beautifully crafted story that is highly memorable is better than one filled out with dross. Some have rich, branching seams that form a network through the pages and create the novel or book series.

The mine from which Lucius Shepard created 'The Dragon Griaule' has rich pockets containing gems. Over twenty-five years, Shepard has produced a number of stories relating the dragon's influence. The lode is not yet played out.

'The Taborin Scale' begins when George Taborin takes his annual vacation, travelling to Teocinte in the Carbonalis Valley. This town had grown up in the lee of the paralysed dragon Griaule whose body forms a mile long ridge. George is a numismatist and goes to buy coins and visit the brothels of the Morningshade district of the town. Soon after his arrival and sorting through his finds, he discovers that he has a small dragon scale. He makes a deal with a prostitute, Sylvia. If she sticks with him for the rest of his visit, he will give her the scale. Cleaning it, they find themselves transported back in time. They are not the only ones that have found themselves back in the realm of a young Griaule. While in search of food, George rescues a young girl, Peony, from an abusive situation. Together, the three of them have to work out a routine for survival until Griaule shows them and the others stuck in a similar situation, what he wants them to see.

This is a short, surreal story juxtaposing the mundane and the fantastic. In very few words, Shepard shows how different people react when the unexplained happens to them. For some, like George, qualities surface that had no use in normal life, for others, their natures are enhanced, for good or ill. Some are accepting, others find the power to act. The novella also explores the insidious nature of myth, as represented by the dragon itself.

'The Taborin Scale' is a worthy addition to Shepard's oeuvre.

Pauline Morgan

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