Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman, ed. (Lethe Press)

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Whenever I think of Steve Berman as editor of either this fine series or the late Icarus magazine, I always envision a curator. You know, someone House of Wax Vincent Price-ish, though not as tall, taking his patrons on a tour of his favorite tableaux as he delights in their squeamishness or incredulity. Rattan-backed wheelchair optional. But the physical description doesn’t matter. It’s the joy, the enthusiasm, the delight in presenting some choice morsel you’ve grown to love that shines through and creates a successful anthology. And the ever-reliable Wilde Stories is that, right down to this, its last volume.

Joseph Keckler kicks off the proceedings with a short short called “Ghost Sex,” whose first line is a fine start to the book: I am not saying I believe in ghosts at all, but I did have sex with one. This quick slap slides easily into Christopher Caldwell’s “Serving Fish,” a dandy sideways rewrite of Grimm’s “The Fisherman and His Wife” that turns on a motive other than greed. Richard Bowes, always a safe bet, turns in a great performance with “Some Kind of Wonderland,” a gritty story about a lost surrealist film take on Alice in Wonderland.

I also quite enjoyed Matthew Bright’s quirky “The Library of Lost Things,” featuring a library of works left uncompleted by the deaths of their authors. Oh, and a rat with a penchant for antiquated words. And Martin Cahill captured my attention with his amphibian spaghetti Western, “Salamander Six-Guns” as did Devon Wade who, in a neat corollary to the Bowes story, turns in “Love Pressed in Vinyl,” about a lost, and supposedly magical, album.

Appropriately enough, the final story, “A Bouquet of Wonder and Marvel,” sees Oscar Wilde fighting kobolds during his 1882 American tour, as if the press wasn’t challenging enough. Sean Eads, who has a knack for this historical mash-up, does a great job winding up this volume and this series on a number of different levels.

I will be sad to see Wilde Stories go. I reviewed a few of them but read all of them. However, the curator’s mind is a curious place. and the closing of one venue does not forbid the opening of another. That urge to say, “C’mon, lemme show you this…” is strong, and we’ll see how long the hiatus lasts. We can only hope.

JW

© 2018 Jerry L. Wheeler

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