About All Consuming

Included in Dangerous Urges Anthology

by Konrad Hartmann

Cover for All ConsumingAnyone growing up in the 1970s or 80s remembers the shark craze triggered by Jaws, and the genre of shark movies still seems to be chugging along in the 21st century. But while now we see series of various Sharknado and Sharktopus and 2- or 3-Headed Shark movies, the genre I remember contained less camp and more grit. Sure, silliness isn’t anything new for the genre, but there was a more grisly side to it, or at least, that’s how I remember it.

One of the creepier aspects, or related elements, to the genre, was a flurry of shark attack magazines. Many of these were probably one-shots—grimy-looking things on pulpy newsprint paper, with grainy black and white photos of white sharks launching themselves out of the churning water to attack hunks of meat dangled from boats. The publications also contained photos of human victims, sometimes survivors, sometimes fatalities. The layout more than slightly resembled some of the sleazy porn mags I would see years later. I don’t mean Hustler or anything with shiny, color pages, but rather the crustier black and whites.

I thought about this sort of “shark porn” when I was writing All Consuming. Like Lot’s Sin, the story originally saw online print with the late Freaky Fountain, but the original form was a short story. My editor, Lon Sarver, did what he does quite well, by pointing out where the story had room to grow. As I began editing it and making changes, I found the story rapidly growing into a novella. The original story only involved the protagonist, Jacqueline, at least as far as named characters. The novella included the story of Jacqueline and her lover, Genesis.

Without giving too much away, Jacqueline’s interests and obsessions make her an outsider in the world. I found it interesting to examine how her energies isolate her from others, seeming to render her incompatible with anyone else. Looking back at my different stories, I now see this as a persistent theme. My characters often exist with an inner life that alienates them. They live within a sphere, within the greater world, yet are unable to ever leave the inner boundaries. At times, they come close enough to touch the wall; perhaps a visitor can touch the outside, but the character remains within their own cell.

When Jacqueline meets Genesis, the relationship threatens this barrier. A social wall may break open, it may be breached, but sometimes with explosive results, especially when the other person no longer remains isolated in a cell. This makes love dangerous, because something about the individual wants to repair the sphere. What once seemed like a prison now seems like a compromised refuge. And the person may wish to trap a lover in her own sphere, or, failing to contain the prisoner, devour her. Addiction may serve a function not just for Genesis, but also for Jacqueline, offering a weakness to be exploited, a craving to be fed and used, a commodity to be consumed.

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