I’ve been away from the fantasy/spec-fic genre too long.
I don’t know how that happened but in my absence, queer
fiction has seen fit to evolve its own voice in that genre. I’d always thought
we were terrific subjects for fantasy lit and I guess if I’d started my writing
career sooner, I could have gotten in on the ground floor but hindsight is
always twenty-twenty. Don’t worry. I’ll catch up.
I’ve been reading a lot of it lately for this website and in
addition to Steve Berman’s terrific Icarus Magazine and Tom Cardamone’s Pumpkin Teeth, Meredith Schwartz’s great collection of queer urban
fantasy, Alleys and Doorways has
now come to my attention. This volume is a must for fans of the genre.
As with any short story collection, there are one or two
that don’t quite suit my taste, but Schwartz’s batting average is excellent.
The anthology starts off strong with Rose Fox’s understated story about an elf
and eternal life in a city park, “Everlasting” and continues that streak with
Valerie Z. Lewis’ stark, post-apocalyptic “The Steel Anniversary.” Lewis is the
only author to use that setting, however. The other stories take place in
realities closer to our own—reality being an elastic concept, that is.
B.A. Tortuga’s tale of a tattooist and his subject, “The
Truth of Skin and Ink” could have taken place in any city, for example, while
Steve Berman’s Lovecraftian “Path of Corruption” has firm roots in New Orleans,
a city that seems to inspire stories about degredation and alternative beings
luring victims into dark alleys with darker motives. M. Decker’s “Side Effects”
and A.J. Grant’s “Underneath” are both great dragon stories, the former playing
it for laughs and the latter bringing a latter-day knight to slay said reptile.
My favorite here, though, is JoSelle Vanderhooft’s
delightfully warped “Were,” a sly, tongue-in-cheek tale about two sci-fi geeks
whose attraction to each other trumps the fact that one is a werewolf and the
other is a were . . . um, bunny? I love
how Vanderhooft stands the whole transformation thing on its head:
Jekyll writhes in shadows as he turns into Mr. Hyde; Larry Talbot
from man to monster, his eyes glassed half with horror, half with
But there was no tragic dignity in my transformation. I was
at the Easter Bunny . . . I looked like the bastard child of Tiny
and Bargain Bob’s All-Occasion Costume: buck teeth, big paws,
fur—pink!—and a fucking cotton tail up my ass crack.
In short, a terrific story from a great collection of queer
fantasy. There’s something here for everyone, from chilling to comic. And even
a tale or two to make you think.
Which is what good fantasy should do.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler