Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was – Dave Ring, ed. (Mason Jar Press)

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Ten stories traverse queer love, loss, and courage in a highly readable, urban fantasy anthology that is refreshingly replete with #OwnVoices.

These are modern tales in style and tone from a new generation of young, emerging authors. One, kx carys, is still in high school. Some, like Pushcart Prize nominee Claire Rudy Foster, have garnered attention in the literary community. As such, Broken Metropolis invites discovery of new perspectives in short fiction, and readers will find it delivers on bold, imaginative queer storytelling.

The anthology is branded as an exploration of urban situations and possibilities, though it could be said the story moods provide the connective tissue. In M. Raoulee’s “Neon,” a mechanic and money hustler navigates a post-‘Electric Revolution’ misandrist dystopia in a magic-fueled motorcycle while trying to repair his android boyfriend. Caspian Gray’s “The Plague Eater” concerns two guys dancing around their mutual attraction as they chase a macabre urban legend that might be the only way to save a friend dying of cancer. The non-gendered trans narrator of V. Medina’s “My Heart in My Teeth” (a reference to “my transition” is the only clue) moves numbly, robotically through the day, haunted by the violent murder of a lover, and in Jacob Budenz’ “Under Her White Stars,” a witch (also non-gendered) must trust in their powers to reanimate their fiancé after a noble mission to capture a soul-consuming renegade witch goes horribly wrong.

The futures the authors imagine aren’t bright, perhaps in step with Millennial sensibilities and/or our current times. But the stories do explore the possibility of hope. Their heroes might be jaded about the state of the world, but they want to believe in the redemptive power of human connection. However bleak their situations, true love surely offers a chance to rise above.

Claire Rudy Foster’s “Saturn Conjunct Venus” evokes that dark and tentative romantic mood in a story about the challenges of trans living. Angie, a young phlebotomist working in a lab to find a cure for HIV, perseverates on astrology to glean clues to her romantic future while muddled in a depressive episode that has her seeing the world in shades of blood. She’s been dating a lesbian woman for two months and has yet to tell the girlfriend about her transition. It’s an entirely contemporary situation that grips the reader as well as any suspenseful fantasy adventure. Having been rejected by T.E.R.F. lesbians before, Angie’s heart hovers above a blade awaiting the moment her girlfriend will learn her history. Her situation is specific, but the fear of revealing one’s whole self to the person with whom you’re falling in love strikes a universal chord.

Readers will find a mix of traditional, atmospheric urban fantasy (Raoulee’s aforementioned “Neon”), a clever trans-slashed update on Greek mythology (H. Pueyo’s “Perseus on Two Wheels”), stories in which hand-drawn cats come to life (Victoria Zeldin’s “The City of Cats”), and others that are darkly psychedelic and reminiscent of William S. Burroughs (D.M. Rice’s “Dissonance”). Similar to Medina’s aforementioned “My Heart in My Teeth,” Meghan Cunningham’s “The Strange Places in the City” delves into the fantasy theme by imagining the city as a living organism.

A challenge with queer anthologies is providing representation across the spectrum. In that regard, Broken Metropolis takes a different and I’d say inspired approach by making space for trans, non-binary, and non-gendered stories, which haven’t received as much recognition as cis gender gay and lesbian fiction.

A nice achievement and an entertaining sampling of modern queer lit that offers something for comic/fantasy fans and literary fiction readers alike.

Reviewed by Andrew J. Peters

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