Story Study: Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart

Welcome to the second installment of Story Study! Where I and a few friends plan to read a story out of a Year’s Best anthology, and discuss what makes that story tick. The first anthology I’m taking on is Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 1. Fellow authors Evelyn Freeling ( and Carson Winter ( joining me on this adventure. If you would like to follow along, be sure to grab your own copy and let us know!

Quick synopsis

What if the events of the original King Kong really happened? What would the aftermath in New York City be like? How would Anne Darrow (the damsel) move on with her life? In Sam J. Miller’s story, ‘Shattered Sidewalks of the Human Heart’, the second story in Paula Guran’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 1, poses this scenario. The story opens just after Germany invades Poland with a Jewish cab driver driving around to see the famous people when he has a chance to pick up Anne Darrow and save her from the paparazzi.

Initial thoughts

This was another amazing story. I can definitely see why Paula Guran chose it for the best-of anthology. I’ve read other stuff with the same sort of premise—King Kong or any other of the classic movie monsters are actually real—but this one has a real x-factor that puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

Spoiler line

Warning! After this line there will be spoilers. If you have not yet read the story, read on at your own risk.

What makes this story tick?

Miller does an amazing job of painting Denham, the sleeze who brought Kong to NYC via lies and impossible promises, as the villain. He also portrays Kong as a sort of miracle of nature which mankind destroys, but not before Denham attempts to exploit the ‘beast’ for every bit of money and notoriety he can.

In this meditation on Kong’s demise, Miller asks if humanity truly deserves the continue on this Earth. If we deserves to live. And, in the opinions of both Solomon, the Jewish cab driver, and Anne Darrow, we do not. We have committed atrocities uncountable, and we readers are privy to the many upcoming atrocities of World War II.

That is the x-factor of the story. It makes us face the crimes of our own history. And for those who are convinced that we will not improve ourselves as a species, what is the best course of action but to help bring it all to an end.

After Anne brings Solomon to a warehouse where Denham held Kong between shows, she reveals a special plant. A plant grown from the seeds which traveled in Kong’s stomach from his home. Any plant that could survive the ultra extreme environment of Skull island must be tough. What would a plant like this do if set loose outside the confines of that remote island?

Anne has fostered the ultimate invasive species, and has already started to spread it across the country, crippling staple crops.

The plant has become the means of vengeance against an undeserving world.

Next Time

If you would like to follow along, very soon we will be reading ‘The Surviving Child’ by Joyce Carol Oates, the next story in Paula Guran’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 1. Watch this space for a discussion of what makes that story tick.