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…

“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková
2017 Publication , 4 star , short story / April 18, 2018

“Bacchae,” by Erin Horáková, is a very short story about a very big issue. The title is taken from Euripedes’ play, which shows two twinned but opposing sides: order and rationality versus Dionysian instinct. Without this wild instinct, this impulse, this influence of Dionysus… humans suffer. When it’s suppressed it turns dark and chaotic, destructive. Dionysus, angered, inspires his Bacchanates to run wild and attack men and cattle, to steal, to destroy what’s in their path. Bethan, drunk and leaning against a wall, begins attacking the concrete wall. She does more harm to herself than to the wall, and her equally drunk from Angharad intervenes and tries to pull her away, calls the cops to get her to safety. Bethan is wild, bleeding, but once fully parted from the wall and tucked into a police car she goes limp and compliant… although still very aware of that wall. At the hospital, they don’t find anything WRONG with her, and Bethan is released. She, Angharad, and Bethan’s mom head straight back to the wall. The wall is surrounded with wild women eager to beat that wall, to pull it down, to destroy it. I’m not familiar with London, but I live…

“Cutting Teeth,” by Kirsty Logan

“Cutting Teeth,” by Kirsty Logan, is a story about choices; in many ways it’s about the choices that we all make as we enter adulthood, as we live and stretch in relationships. It’s a story about potential. It’s a story about men and women. The narrator is reminiscing, or spinning a story, or simply narrating, the story of their conception and the life of them and their parents prior to their birth. The child’s mother, Ash, is a hunter who runs with a wolf, as a wolf, under the moon and brings home her prey to carve, to salt, to season, to dress. She uses their meat and fur and feathers and bone, as hunters do. The child’s fathers are Caleb, who runs Loch Ness boat tours, and Zev, who is a wolf. Caleb doesn’t know about Zev, does’t know about Ash’s other, wilder life. Caleb doesn’t know about the wild child, half wolf and half human, shifting between two states, in Ash’s womb. Of course, Ash doesn’t know just how wild Caleb’s friends – his very human friends – are until she encounters them drunk in her living room. Ash and Caleb need to make decisions about who they…

‘Logistics,’ by A. J. Fitzwater

“Logistics,” by A. J. Fitzwater, is the story of one person’s post-apocalyptic quest for tampons. And food, water, shelter, etc. But tampons are key. “Logistics” follows Enfys, a non-binary AFAB individual who was in the middle of top surgery when a super powerful flesh eating bacteria got of hand, sweeping across the Earth. They were hastily stitched up after a partial mastectomy, cared for by a nurse who saw them through minor infection and healing, and then hit the road. Much of the Earth has just been… devastated by this… and most news and communication is being broadcast by what sounds like YouTube style web channels. The story is quasi-epistolary, or diarist, but instead of letters or journal entries it’s transcription of videos. This is something that’s hard to do, but Fitzwater captures Enfys’ conversational tone very well and manages to not be corny. A fuller picture of the crises unfolds slowly. Enfys, after all, assumes that everyone knows what happens. There’s no huge info dump, just a lot of little clues. WHO botched things. The northern hemisphere is “up in smoke” (leaving “the second/third world” to pick up the pieces and fix the shit “the first world” caused). People…

“Played Your Eyes,” by Jonathan Carroll
2018 Publication , 4 star , short story , Tor / April 12, 2018

“Played your Eyes,” by Jonathan Carroll, is a short story about a woman who receives an unusual bequest from an abusive ex. The protagonist is minding her own business one day when she gets word from a lawyer that her ex has died and left her something in his will. Curious, she contacts him to find out what she’d inherited. He had money, after all, and he could be generous when not being cruel. To her consternation she finds that he’d left her his lovely, flowing handwriting. She doesn’t believe this at first, but soon finds that it’s literally true. She’s able to swap her own pigeon-footprint (like chicken scratch, but different) handwriting with his. She goes between the two for a while before finally giving in and using his handwriting all the time. But how can you bequeath someone something as personal, and insubstantial, as hand writing? And why? As her life unfolds, the protagonist finds that her life is smoother and calmer than it was with her ex. She finds a man who she loves, and who loves her in return and treats her well. But the handwriting thing continues to be a source of weirdness in her…

The Next to the Last of the Mohegans by Joseph Bruchac

“The Next to the Last of the Mohegans,” by Joseph Bruchac, is an Own Voices story about a young Mohegan man named Billy and his trouble-making mad scientist best friend. Just about every culture has stories about little people, or fairies, or spirits, or small gods, or beings that aren’t quite human. Although a lot of modern culture has spun stories of these beings to be light and cute and benevolent they generally have darker roots. They are the things in the dark that we should be afraid of, should be afraid of crossing. In “The Next to the Last of the Mohegans,” Arlin Sweetwater gets into trouble- again- and Billy has to get him out of trouble – again. It’s a well worn pattern of behavior. If there’s one thing Arlin’s good at, it’s getting himself and Billy into trouble. (Another thing he’s good at, apparently, is exploding labs and also making a working time machine.) Arlin specifically got into trouble this time by spying on the Makiawisug, the Little People. Despite being told not to. Numerous times. Over the course of his life. They closed him up in a tree, and also put his feet on backwards just…

A Dog of Wu by Ted Rabinowitz

“A Dog of Wu,” by Ted Rabinowitz, is a novelet set in the future following the collapse of the society we know and the formation of another… a society shaped by eugenics and absolute control over everyone beneath The Wu, control by both training and by chemical influence. In the story there are two groups of humans: “feral humans” who haven’t engaged in strict gene manipulation and genetic lines (cloning?), and Followers Of The Way who are constrained in pretty much every aspect of their lives, including whether they are even allowed to live or not. The protagonist, who serves The Wu, is sent on a mission to track down and retrieve an item, but finds himself in embroiled in a much larger and more difficult situation. “A Dog of Wu” is very well written, and a protagonist who seems distant at first soon becomes extremely familiar and human as he grapples with new knowledge of the world and his place in it. Forced into realizations he doesn’t want and never asked for, by the end of the story his life is profoundly changed… and yet isn’t. He faces choices, yet doesn’t take them. In a story about the inevitable…

“Likho,” by Andy Stewart

“Likho,” by Andy Stewart, is a speculative fantasy near-future/alternate present novella about a young woman who goes somewhere she shouldn’t and learns something she shouldn’t… just as she did as a child. Set in Pripyat, Ukraine, the story follows Sonya as she travels into the Forbidden Zone in search of a mural that is rumored to change on repeat viewings, slowly revealing the story of what happened and the children who were abandoned there. Like the abandoned children, Sonya was adopted. She feels some kind of link with them. And as she studies the mural the link feels ever more real. “Likho” is a great story, well told. Sonya is an interesting character who is fleshed out fully yet subtly. Although Stewart doesn’t have the space of a novel to introduce us to her, it’s still easy to get a feel for who she is and what motivates her. As bits of her past are unfolded, it makes sense why someone who seems so grounded and full of common sense would trapise into a radiation zone and then take a drug that allows one to see the future (or maybe the past). (the drug is called yaga and it turns…