“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito

“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito, is a fast paced thriller about a woman with Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). It’s an aggressively feminist book that looks at the many different ways rape culture is the status quo, enforced both actively and passively by both men and women. There’s also arson. I should note that I received this book as part of a GoodReads give away in exchange for my honest opinion. Every time I run into a book featuring Disassociative Identity Disorder, my hackles go up. It’s a flashy, vilified mental disorder often used cheaply and meanly to indicate someone is a villain or just flat out CRAZY!!!!!!!!!. It’s a cliche that further stigmatizes a very real mental illness that affects marginalized people. Esposito seems to have done her homework, however, and her protagonist Alice Leinenger is a person and a character with attributes outside of “just” living with DID. Alice is married to a lawyer and is a stay at home parent (with a nanny) to two young kids. They live in a condo that is impossibly expensive and have more money than I can realistically comprehend. She and her friends casually…

“Last Shot” by DJ Older
2018 Publication , 3 star , novel / May 16, 2018

“Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel” by Daniel José Older, is an interesting look Han Solo’s past as well as a lovely bridge between the original trilogy and “The Force Awakens.” Why does he leave Leia and Ben? Why does he go off on his own? Why is he so unstable? Lando Calrissian gets examined as well. What happens when a ladies man and inveterate gambler starts growing up, or at least getting older? The book explores this against the back drop of an exciting story involving space battles and mysterious objects and gang cartels and a droid uprising, but that’s not the main focus of the book. The main focus of the book is on Solo and Calrissian being vulnerable and talking about their problems with each other. It’s not all conversations all the time, but their growth is very evident in the pages of the book, and they hash stuff out with each other a few times. I know. I didn’t expect that from a Star Wars novel, either. Not even with all the fan cannon (fannon!) about Poe Dameron and Finn hanging out and sharing jackets and hugging all the time. THAT is a book I…

“Sucks (to be you)” by Katherine Duckett

“Sucks (to be you),” by Katherine Duckett, appears in the May/June 2018 issue of “Uncanny Magazine” and is an interesting take on succubi. There are a lot of stories about Succubi, of course, and their brothers called Incubi. The oldest stories focus on the horror aspect of them. They come in the night! They make you DO THINGS! They steal your VITAL ESSENCE and/or GET YOU PREGNANT!!! More recent stories spin the whole sex thing into a positive and erotic thing, almost as through the Succubi themselves are writing them. Aren’t they sexy? Don’t you want them? “Sucks (to be you)” takes a slightly different view: an emotional one. Ducketts Succubi, at least the protagonist of her story, don’t just need sex. They need an emotional connection. What I want—what most of us want—is far simpler, and gender is immaterial in its pursuit. All I want is a little space in your head. A siphon, giving me a bit of you, ever-flowing: that bit of you that can’t seem to stop thinking about me. As sexual as these Succubi are, they’re also emotional. While some view the effort of getting this attention as a chore, the way that some humans…

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler, is from the 63th issue of The Dark magazine. This short story takes us to Red Bay in New Foundland, a settlement of Basque and Portuguese whalers, and the things that come up out of the sea. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night; I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare-bosomed night! “…sea half-held by the night” is a quote from “Leaves of Grass,” a famed collection of poems by Walt Whitman. The volume of poetry, containing anywhere from 12-400 poems depending on its publication date, emphasizes the body and physical world, as opposed to spiritual, and nature and human kind’s place in it. It’s a lovely bit of poetry, it’s a lovely line, and it’s a fitting title for a story about humans and whales and death. The story is told from the point of view of Tota, a young woman married to a whaler. She works with the whales as well, harvesting spermaceti, the wax-life stuff found in a specialized organ of a sperm whale’s head. It was used in candles and lamps and to make medicines. It’s…

“Tender Loving Plastics,” by Amman Sabet

“Tender Loving Plastics,” by Amman Sabet, comes from the May/June 2018 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Harry Harlow is remembered for his “wire mother” experiments, raising baby rhesus macaque monkeys in isolation save for a vaguely mother-shaped dummy. There were two kinds of “mother”: one was wire and wood and had a bottle of formula, while the other was covered in cloth and had no formula. The baby monkeys vastly preferred the cloth covered monkey and visited the wire one only for feeding. Regardless of the type of substitute mother, however, all rhesus monkeys in Harlow’s experiments grew up with mental issues. As cruel as his experiments were, they vastly changed the treatment of human infants for the better. With all the talk of “attachment parenting” it’s easy to forget that relatively recently parents were advised not to pick up or interact with their babies/children too much lest they “be spoiled” by attention. Primates are hard-wired for loving interaction. We need mothers and fathers, or at least guardians, who provide emotional and physical care including holding and cuddling. Neglect is a pernicious form of child abuse, and can be difficult to prove to child protective services….

“Being an Account of the Sad Demise of the Body Horror Book Club,” by Nin Harris

Being an Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club by Nin Harris looks at “body horror” in an interesting way. What is body horror? It’s a genre of horror that deals with the body and the way it can be intruded upon, changed, taken over. Common themes include possession, parasites, mutations, body parts falling off, infection, etc. Certain bodies– those with uteruses and vaginas– have their own special body horror elements surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and the vagina/uterus as some kind of holding cell/pocket dimension out of which slugs, snakes, demons, aliens,etc are free to come out of at will. There’s an entire genre of horror films centering around menstruation, for instance. “Being an Account…” takes 3 approaches to body horror: Lila imagines bodily horror/torture/mutilation/etc happening in the flat above hers Lila’s “body” in the form of her home/surroundings are invaded by a malevolent force The group discusses books and folklore that feature bodily horror Noise is common in shared living spaces. In Lila’s case, she’s in a very large gated condo development. She’s had many upstairs neighbors, plenty of them loud and irritating. But one neighbor is more than irritating, he scares her. Not that they’ve…

“No Man of Woman Born,” by Ana Mardoll

No Man of Woman Born, by Ana Mardoll, is an anthology of reworked short fairy tales/fantasy stories about dragons and swords stuck wantonly into stones and prophecies, most of which are gender based. Mardoll is bisexual, on the ace-spectrum, transgender, and autistic and these stories very much reflect xer lived experience, assuming that their lived experience also had dragons and prophecies and polyamorous warrior clans, etc. Xie is also a very good writer. I should note that I received this as a review copy, and that I’ve known Ana for quite a while and am friends with xer. I haven’t received any compensation for this review, and my opinions are honest and my opinions alone. They’re colored by my friendship with xer, of course, but they’re still true opinions. Reworkings of traditional fairy tales are nothing new. There’s a million anthologies with their own spins on fairy tale retellings. They’re set in outer space, they’re set in modern times, everyone’s a witch of some sort, the bad guys are redeemed or are secretly working for the benefit of the good guys, there’s a bureau of fairy tale characters investigating other fairy tale characters, everything is feminist either earnestly or satirically….

Snake Season by Erin Roberts

“Snake Season,” by Erin Roberts, is a claustrophobic story about love and loss and being forced to make do. Content Note: child death Marie, a pregnant woman with one living child, is visited pretty regularly by the ghost/spirit/manifestation of her first child, Sarah. Sarah slowly, over the course of her childhood, turned monstrous and ultimately Marie killed her and buried her. That’s what she claims, anyway. As we read the story we find that Marie, well meaning and full of love, isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. Time passes and pregnancy after pregnancy results in a baby girl who “goes wrong” until she’s forced to put them out of their misery when her husband Ray is away from home. Now, though, they have Junior… their only son, nearly a year old, and perfect as perfect can be; and they have the baby in her belly who she assumes is also a boy. Everything looks good, right? And then Sarah comes for a visit. Ray is worried about Junior and about the unborn babe. Reading between the lines it’s clear he isn’t worried about them being monsters — shrunken tiny heads, bulbous eyes, arms that reach the floor– he’s worried about SIDS,…

“Worth her Weight in Gold” by Sarah Gailey
2018 Publication , 3 star , female author , Tor / April 26, 2018

“Worth Her Weight in Gold,” by Sarah Gailey, is about a man and his hippo. Specifically it’s about Winslow Remington Houndstooth and his hippo, Ruby, who is his faithful companion and steed and who just isn’t cooperating when it’s time to high tail it outta there after one of his bloody but lucrative heists. And how do you MAKE a hippo do something that hippo doesn’t want to do? Hippos are huge, fast, and have big deadly teeth and also horns. Hippos can mess you up. Especially when they’re in pain. Which Ruby is. It’s a very short story, more a character piece than anything, about the love a man can have for his hippo and the price he’s willing to pay for his health. It’s also, a little bit, about kintsugi. But mostly it’s about love. I have a feeling that true enjoyment of this story requires having read Gailey’s novels “River of Teeth” and “Taste of Marrow.” This short story is a nice appetizer for them, leaving me wanting more.I was able to enjoy the story without having read the novels, which is always a plus. Leave a comment if you HAVE read the novels. What’d you think?…

Granny Death and the Drag King of London by A. J. Fitzwater

“Granny Death and the Drag King of London” by A. J. Fitzwater could be described as a story about Queer culture in the early 90s, Freddie Mercury, and grief. But more than just grief, it’s about loss… about losing almost an entire generation of queer men (and many women) to AIDs. Why don’t you ever see an old Drag Queen? Because death comes all too soon, all too young, thanks to a virus. You can read the story at the link, or you can download and listen to the podcast. Lacey James is a bisexual drag king who has nursed many friends ill with HIV and seen their lives end. She’s said good bye to a great many people she’s loved, and that’s scarred her and scared her. She’s far from her New Zealand place of birth, working a job she doesn’t particularly like for a boss she loathes, when one of her heroes and icons dies of AIDs: Freddie Mercury. As you might expect, this absolutely shatters her. She’s already preoccupied with death, occupied with mourning, carrying a litany of names with her. Now she’s lost Mercury, too. It’s odd, but the death of a famous person we’re emotionally…