Audio reprint, Clarkesworld Year Seven, and “Doors” illustration

I just returned from a week-long camping retreat with fellow writers Julie Day and Michael DeLuca. We viewed the Marfa lights, walked in the Big Bend hot sun, seared vegan marshmallows, and half-slept in a haunted tent. I returned sunburnt, exhausted, but inspired.

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While away, a few writing bits filled my inbox.

  • My story “An Exodus of Wings,” which originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction, has been reprinted in the audio magazine The Drabblecast. Listen to it here.
Art by Melissa McClanahan
Art by Melissa McClanahan

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  • I saw a first glimpse of the art for my forthcoming story “Doors” from Interzone. I’m thrilled to see the whole issue.
Art by Richard Wagner
Art by Richard Wagner

Anthology Review: Glitter & Mayhem

Roller skating, roller derby, glitter, drugs, sex, disco, glam rockers, funk, nightclubs, nightlife; these are just a handful of subjects covered in Apex Publications’ anthology Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas. Add some aliens and very literal party monsters, along with an invitation-themed introduction by Amber Benson, into the mix, and you get twenty original stories about, well, all sorts of things, with a particular focus on self-discovery and self-acceptance.

Twenty stories is a lot of partying, but I’m happy to say that I wasn’t burnt out by the end. Part of this may be because the first and last two stories of the collection are so damn strong; they’re both fairy tale retellings, which is right up my alley.

In “Sister Twelve: Confessions of a Party Monster” by Christopher Barzak, my all-time favorite fairy tale — “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” — is retold with a half-modern twist. The youngest sister gets to tell her side of the story; in the original tale, twelve princesses find a door beneath their bed that leads to another world. In that world, they meet twelve princes who take them to a palace where they dance until their shoes are ruined. When their father, the king, sees their destroyed shoes every morning, he offers the hand of any princess to any man capable to figuring out where they go and what they do. What’s different about this version is that instead of the sisters disappearing each night to dance at an elegant ball, they visit nightclubs from our own world, partying with the likes of Andy Warhol at clubs such as Studio 54 and Womb in Tokyo. It’s a refreshing way to retell the story without altering the bulk of what makes this particular tale so resonant: the mystical world, the princesses’ love of dance, the tattered shoes. It’s also worth noting that in the original, the younger sister is the only one who really seems to ever notice when something is out of the ordinary, and so it’s fitting that she, the one who stands out most in the original, would be given her own perspective.

The last story is Rachel Swirsky’s “All That Fairy Tale Crap,” a wonderful meta-fictional retelling of Cinderella in which the fairy tale world is turned upside down and examined from the perspective of a feminist Cinderella figure; false Prince Charmings constantly try to trick women into believing that they’re the real deal, and Cinderella sleeps and parties with her stepsisters. Funny, smart, and one of the best stories I’ve read, period, this story is tough to explain but an absolute delight to read.

Another highlight of the collection is Kat Howard’s “With Her Hundred Miles to Hell,” which reinvents the Greek underworld mythos. Hades is a club with a six-visit limit, the Erinyes are the bouncers, and if you drink the cups of ambrosia and pomegranate seeds that Hades offers from his seat at the bar, you’ll die a permanent death. Morain works at the club, making her dreams into pills for customers to swallow. But her dreams at home are having lasting consequences in the real world, and so she is tempted by Hades and his pomegranates, his offers of sleep without repercussions. Absolutely beautiful, dark stuff here. A story about choices and sacrifices.

In Damien Walters Grintalis’ “Inside Hides the Monster,” a siren wonders why her songs no longer lure people. This is another darker mythological retelling; the siren needs to feed, but she must be careful not to let her song out in front of too large a crowd, or her victims’ energy will be too much for her. She discovers a night club where the music is modern and unlike anything she has ever heard; she hates it, at first. The siren in Grintalis’ story isn’t all monster; she does what she can with what life has given her, and because of this, she is a complicated, sympathetic character, despite the fact that she maims people. My kind of gray area, “Inside Hides the Monster” modernizes the siren myth in just the right way.

Another mythology-based story: the selkie story gets a disco edge in Cat Rambo’s “Of Selkies, Disco Balls, and Anna Plane.” Anna Plane, a young woman in love with her gay best friend, the story’s narrator, finds herself when he takes her to a local gay bar. As she breaks out of her shell, she takes a job as bartender there and befriends a group of selkies who inform her that the bar’s proprietor is a sorceress who has stolen her selkie lover’s skin. Anna decides that it’s up to her to get the skin back and set the other woman free. This is a story about being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, and how two very different people choose to deal with that rejection. It’s also a coming out story, as the narrator struggles throughout the story to voice his sexual orientation.

These darker stories, however, don’t make up the bulk of Glitter & Mayhem; in fact, most of the stories in the anthology are lighter-hearted. In “Apex Jump” by David J. Schwartz, a roller derby team is invited to play on another planet, though they’re unaware where the venue is located at the time. In Jennifer Pelland’s “Star Dancer,” Cass moves to a small town where her options for recreation, and girlfriends, are limited; when she discovers through the use of MDMA that the local belly dancer with glittery skin is actually an alien in exile from her planet because she wants nothing more than to dance, Cass is drawn to the adventure. This story turns farcical pretty quickly, and Cass’ quippy voice is solid company all the way through. Both of these stories are entertaining, and they both offer the speculative fiction fan glimpses of stuff they wouldn’t ordinarily see in alien stories: roller rinks and derby, for one thing.

Also impressive in this anthology is the amount of stories which feature women characters and characters of varying genders and sexualities. In “A Hollow Play” by Amal El-Mohtar, Emily writes letters about her life in London to her best friend, Paige; one of the events she writes about is a new friendship with Anna, who invites her to a Spangled Cabaret show. Anna is in a poly relationship with two individuals who aren’t quite human — one of these individuals is also genderqueer, and the other, Lynette, is a performer in the Spangled Cabaret. When Lynette tells Emily about the world they came from, and how they can’t go back, Emily becomes involved with their lives in a way she couldn’t have imagined.

Some more highlights of the anthology:

In “Such & Such Said to So & So” by Maria Dahvana Headley, a police officer gets a call one night saying that “the drinks from Bee’s Jesus had finally killed a man.” Bee’s Jesus, as it turns out, is a nightclub where the cocktails come to life; each drink has its own personality, its own body, which emerges when it’s ordered. The narrator, one of the cops, has a long-standing history with the club, having met his ex-wife there. This highly-original story has a noir feel, and as usual, Maria Dahvana Headley’s prose is something to be reckoned with.

Tim Pratt’s “Revels in the Land of Ice,” is about a college student who befriends an older man named Crater; he promises to teach her magic. When he informs her that there will be a breach into a faerie world he visited in the past, and that the breach will happen in a local, closed-down roller rink, she’s wary of just how much truth he’s telling. Crater is an excellent character who starts Aerin, the college student, on a journey of self-discovery. The ending is resonant.

“Bess, the Landlord’s Daughter, Goes for Drinks with the Green Girl” by Sofia Samatar is about two ghosts who try to live out their deaths to the fullest, spending their nights at bars, going home with strangers, and living by the creed: LIVELIVELIVE. Clever, fun, and haunting.

Also, be sure and check out the cover art, by the talented Galen Dara, one of my personal favorite illustrators.

Overall, Glitter & Mayhem is well worth checking out, especially if you’re in the mood for some highly original tales of party lives. You can purchase Glitter & Mayhem on Amazon or through Apex Publications.

Advance Review: Clockwork Phoenix 4

Highlights:

  • “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl” by Richard Parks
  • “Icicle” by Yukimi Ogawa
  • “Lesser Creek: A Love Story, A Ghost Story” by A.C. Wise
  • “The Wanderer King” by Alisa Alering
  • “Lilo Is” by Corinne Duyvis
  • “Selected Program Notes From the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” by Kenneth Schneyer
  • “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  • “The History of Soul 2065” by Barbara Krasnoff

 

            With a release date of July 2013, Clockwork Phoenix 4 will provide some not-so-light summer reading. The latest in the series edited by Mike Allen, Clockwork Phoenix 4 was Kickstarter-funded, and the introduction to this volume has Allen explaining the reason behind this crowd-funded reincarnation, rather than the puzzle of an introduction which began the first three volumes. This volume contains eighteen original stories which can only be classified as speculative; most of them blur or even reject genre lines altogether. The common thread which runs through these stories is a sense of unsettling strangeness. There were several moments when reading that I felt physically altered, only to realize that it was the story and not my body which was causing the queasy feeling in my gut.
            That is not to say that these stories are not enjoyable; they are, in a discombobulating, shiver-inducing kind of way. And there were several of the tales which left me thinking on them long after I had finished reading. I can’t say that I understood all of the stories in this collection — there are a few, such as Yves Meynard’s “Our Lady of the Thylacines” and Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” — whose surface-level meanings remain fuzzy, but I feel as though that confusion might add to these stories’ charm. For certain, there is not one story in Clockwork Phoenix 4 that I found completely absent of merit.
            In Richard Parks’ “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl,” two personifications of two distinct clichés meet on a beach on several separate occasions. The Drowned Girl floats in the ocean until she washes upon a shore and upsets a community then promptly disappears, giving them an urban legend to pass down for generations. The Beach Bum falls in love summer after summer, a fling which the lovers will remember for the rest of the lives. Both characters exist mostly in the memory of the people they have left. Together they speak of their reasons for existing, their reasons for performing the same ritual again and again. This story has an unexplainable but beautiful sadness to it.
            Yukimi Ogawa’s “Icicle” is a simple, folkloric story of a half human, half snow-woman whose body boasts both a human heart and an icicle which rests poised ready to pierce her heart. Her fragility comes to be a burden when she decides to see the ocean, traveling far from the mountain where she was raised. Never having known her father, the story feels from the beginning as though that might be where her quest will lead. Not entirely predictable, however, the story does end on a disquieting revelation.
            A boy and a girl, a devil and a ghost, make a yearly bet — they never remember the results — on who can capture the most souls in A.C. Wise’s “Lesser Creek: A Love Story, A Ghost Story.” A tragic story in which the sense of entrapment is palpable, “Lesser Creek” also says something about gender roles, as the village’s perceptions of the two spirits differs greatly, and the methods with which they extract their souls both sets them apart and unites them.
            In Alisa Alering’s “The Wanderer King,” a post-apocalyptic story in which the apocalypse is never explained, society has been split into two factions: the Wanderers and the Fixers. Two friends — Pansy, a Wanderer, and Chool, a Fixer — find a crown and set off to find the dead body it belongs to, the king who will save them. An eerie tale of redemption as Chool seeks to atone for her own bloody past, of which Pansy is not aware.
            A woman has a spider-demon’s child and is then forced to raise her on her own in Corinne Duyvis’ “Lilo Is.” Short and sweet, “Lilo Is” explores a mother’s challenge to instill in her child a solid sense of self-esteem.
            Written as a program to a gallery’s art exhibition, “Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” by Kenneth Schneyer is an innovative story told in an innovative way. The program notes feel like authentic program notes, complete with the program writer’s pompous discussion questions which often miss the mark completely. A vivid retrospective of an imaginary artist’s interesting life, with clues contained within the piece that there is much below the artwork’s surface.
            In Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly,” a woman with little time to live has her heart replaced with bees in a world where technology and life are intertwined. It’s a challenging story which will reward readers more familiar with the science fictional tropes in which the story deals, but I found the details of her transformation fascinating, and her search for her missing sibling hits home.
            “The History of Soul 2065” by Barbara Krasnoff is the story, told in ten-year increments, of a group of family and friends who meet each year for seder. The character Abram tells them, on the youngest member’s first seder, of a legend: originally, there were 60,000 souls in the universe which were broken into pieces. When all the pieces of a soul return to one another, “a part of the universe is healed and made whole.” The group decides that they are all part of Soul 2065, and a tradition is born where each year they tell each other one thing that has happened to them throughout the year. It’s interesting to hear the complete lives of so many characters, and the moment of realization that the story is not as simple as it first appears is a shock.
Available here for pre-order, Clockwork Phoenix 4also contains:
  • “Our Lady of the Thylacines” by Yves Meynard
  • “The Canal Barge Magician’s Number Nine Daughter” by Ian McHugh
  • “On the Leitmotif of the Trickster Constellation in Northern Hemispheric Star Charts, Post-Apocalypse” by Nicole Kornher-Stace
  • “Trap-Weed” by Gemma Files
  • “What Still Abides” by Marie Brennan
  • “A Little of the Night” by Tanith Lee
  • “I Come From the Dark Universe” by Cat Rambo
  • “Happy Hour at The Tooth and Claw” by Shira Lipkin
  • “Three Times” by Camille Alexa
  • “The Old Woman With No Teeth” by Patricia Russo