“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,…

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…