The Anomalous Archive, Part I: 'The Bravest Fell' by G.L. Francis

 [This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on March 16, 2010.]

"The Bravest Fell," 1st in Issue 1 of The Cross and the Cosmos

The Cross and the Cosmos draws its first breath with a lovely piece that really expresses the essence of what Christian speculative fiction is. This is not to say that "The Bravest Fell" by Glynda Francis is typical of what we think of as "speculative fiction"; it is not. The story actually is speculative in the literal sense of the word, not just as a genre label.

The most strikingly speculative feature of "The Bravest Fell" is that it is written in a sort of poetic meter containing rhymes based on approximately eight stressed syllables, the words containing the fourth and the eighth stressed syllable rhyming with each other. It is not formatted as a poem. The writing is contained in short paragraphs of highly-poetic prose, most of which seem to be set in a specific symmetrical form, being almost the same length.

Please do not dismiss this fine story out of hand if you happen to be allergic to poetry. Remember that poetry dominated English literature when prose hardly existed. I will concede that at times, the rhymes seem a little too lyrical, slightly diminishing the seriousness of the work. But in general, the unique format emulates the epic style of the great literature of the past. Great deeds alone do not make a tale epic; those great deeds must also be expressed in a way worthy of their grandeur, which really requires some form of poetic effect, even if the work is written all in prose.

"The Bravest Fell" is not science fiction; nor is it fantasy in the modern sense of the word. It also does not fit in with the other Christian speculative genres. The best category into which this story can be placed is that of the great medieval elegies and didactic poems. It shares the subject of dream-visions with much medieval literature. About a year ago, I had to read a translation of a fourteenth-century poem entitled The Pearl, which is interpreted as the symbolic meditations of a man trying desperately to cope with his grief in losing his beloved two-year-old daughter. The Pearl also has a profoundly Christian message. "The Bravest Fell" reminded me of the fourteenth-century masterpiece of literature very much, even though it was probably written within the past twelve months!

I don't believe that all modern literature necessarily has to emulate the forms of the past in order to be meaningful and portray the sense of epic awe that I, at least, seek from speculative fiction. Nonetheless, "The Bravest Fell" beautifully proves that the great forms of literature of the past should not be considered obsolete! I could hardly think of a more appropriate story to appear in the front of the first issue of The Cross and the Cosmos.


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