September 20, 2014

‘Wilde Stories 2014: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction’ Edited by Steve Berman

Posted on August 11, 2014 by in Fiction, Speculative

Begun in 2008, the annual series Wilde Stories has striven to provide the best in gay speculative fiction (much as its companion series Heiresses of Russ strives to do for lesbian speculative fiction). The latest installment in this series contains fourteen selections published during the calendar year 2013, which first appeared in other anthologies, literary magazines, and three first appeared online (two at Tor.com). Both female and male writers are represented. In his introduction, Berman notes that this installment happens to contain only writers who have never been published in this series before: a sign that perhaps the field of gay speculative fiction is expanding. Berman certainly has an expansive definition for speculative fiction:  four are outright horror, several more blur the line between horror and dark fantasy, most seem set in some version of our world (two are clearly set on another world), one is a historical fantasy, and one is steampunk. Several of the stories defy easy classification, straddling different sub-genres, and a couple do not even strike me as obvious speculative fiction. (more…)

‘Light’ by ‘Nathan Burgoine

Posted on April 30, 2014 by in Reviews, Speculative

Kieran Quinn, a not-so-mild-mannered massage therapist, has some unusual skills: he is both telekinetic (he can mentally lift up to thirty pounds, or keep up to seven small objects aloft simultaneously), and telepathic (he can receive and send thoughts from other people or animals). When he uses these abilities, they refract the light around him into spectacular rainbows, which he can use to hide behind, or dazzle foes and friends alike. However, Quinn has no pretensions of becoming a super hero; but when Wyatt Jackson (dubbed “Stigmatic Jack” by the press for his uncanny ability to produce bleeding palms) and his followers from the Church of the Testifying Prophet arrive to demonstrate during Pride Week celebrations, Quinn decides to shadow them, and maintain order as best he can. Because wherever Jackson appears, violence erupts, and people get hurt—including Quinn, who soon discovers that he is up against another telekinetic and telepath, one much stronger than he is. Locating and defeating the rogue telekinetic/telepath occupies Quinn for the better part of his vacation—when he isn’t going on disastrous blind dates, meeting hot leathermen, or being distracted by handsome police officers, that is. (more…)

‘Dust Devil on a Quiet Street’ by Richard Bowes

Posted on April 20, 2014 by in Reviews, Speculative

 “A writer’s life only becomes clear to him after he writes it,” declares Richard Bowes near the end of his Dust Devil on a Quiet Street. Part memoir, part tell-all, part homage to the city he has lived in for forty-plus years, and part secret history of that same city, Dust Devil is more than just an examination of Bowes’s life, although it definitely has the quality of someone looking back at his life and trying to make sense of it, both to us, and to himself. (more…)

‘Daughter of Mystery: A Novel of Alpennia’ by Heather Rose Jones

Posted on April 13, 2014 by in Romance, Speculative

Daughter of Mystery: A Novel of Alpennia, is a wonderful book of intrigue and romance. Margerit Sovitre is an orphan who lives with her overbearing uncle, his wife, her sister, and their son. She is the god-daughter of Baron Saveze, a man who has ancestral lands and great wealth.  (more…)

Discussing ‘Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand’ with Dale Cooper

Posted on March 24, 2014 by in Interviews, Speculative

In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of its publication, Wesleyan University Press has republished Samuel Delany’s Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Stars has earned comparisons to Joyce’s Ulysses and has been called “the most truly galactic novel ever written.” As a novel it performs delightful and confounding acts of destabilization, challenging normative understandings of gender and race, sex, language, and death. (more…)

‘Wild Fell’ by Michael Rowe

Posted on February 24, 2014 by in Reviews, Speculative

In his well-reviewed debut Enter, Night, a chilling and atmospheric throwback to Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot fused with the gothic leanings of an early V.C. Andrews novel, author Michael Rowe added both depth and dimension to the otherwise overplayed vampire mythos, injecting it with some much needed viability. (more…)

‘The Heavens Rise’ by Christopher Rice

Posted on February 11, 2014 by in Reviews, Speculative

Readers who held out hope that the son of Anne Rice would eventually find his way to the dark side will rejoice over his latest novel, The Heavens Rise (Gallery Books). Those lamenting the time it took him to get here shouldn’t because the years Christopher Rice spent sharpening his literary teeth over the course of five New York Times bestselling thrillers was time well spent indeed. (more…)

‘Lake Thirteen’ by Greg Herren

Posted on February 5, 2014 by in Speculative

In less than five pages of Lake Thirteen (Soliloquy), Greg Herren yanks you into a tale of fear and love. Once started, I stayed and read to the finish this combination of teen romance and ghost story, unable to put it down. Of course, coming from the master of gay horror and mystery writing, this lure hardly surprised me. Still, it deserves mentioning that Herren’s latest story once again hits a home run of suspense, teen coming of age, and hauntings. Right out of the park! Long gone! The tension eases into your bones from the start, as does the creepy setting and potential hauntings. You’ll want to jump right into this gay-themed teenage horror flick.

Scotty finds himself a reluctant participant in the annual summer vacation with his mom and dad and two other families to a remote part of upstate New York. Each family comes from a different part of the country, and Scotty hasn’t seen these lifelong friends since recently coming out. Worried about how they will react to his sexuality and not at all pleased about the isolated retreat, Scotty dreads this adventure. More worrisome, he finds himself depressed about leaving behind his closeted and very hot boyfriend, Marc, with an abusive and homophobic father, especially since his cell phone hardly gets reception – and he must monitor every word he texts because Marc’s dad will read them, too.

At first glance, Herren takes the reader down a familiar horror landscape, with a group of teenagers in a forested area, visiting rural cemeteries, going out after dark against their parents’ wishes, and searching for clues to a nearly centuries old murder mystery. Cue the Halloween or Friday the 13th music and add a gay character to the mix. Yet Herren manipulates this seemingly customary horror territory into an original story that becomes part fear inducing, part murder whodunit. He writes so that you feel the emotion, as if it happens to you. At one point, Scotty explains, “I didn’t know how I’d gotten there, and there was something out there in the darkness, and it wanted me, I could feel the hate and cold emanating from it, hatred, it wanted to destroy me and kill me, and I stifled a scream and turned to run back up the path” (138). Makes me shiver all over again, just rereading it!

Scotty lies at the heart of what makes this story unique. Herren provides such a believable character, with his teen infatuation, curiosities, and rebellion, combined with that contradictory longing for safety and comfort. His inner thoughts, dreams, and anxieties guide you as you wish for his happiness and contentment, not to mention protection from the other realm. Herren captures perfectly contemporary late-teen culture. Thankfully, Scotty finds that his old friends love him, gay or straight, but this connection only manages to pull them closer to the sometimes angry spirits that haunt Lake Thirteen, and now Scotty. Indeed, Scotty receives the brunt of this trauma, as a ghost calls his name and comes to him, unbeknownst to his friends, who often stand just a few feet from him as it occurs.

All the while, this group of teen sleuths seek answers to a death and disappearance that happened long ago because they think those answers may explain the hauntings happening to Scotty. Herren plies his craft especially well in engaging the reader with this part of the novel. A history lesson come ghost story launches off the pages, so that even the reader wants these teenagers to find the answers, in part to honor the dead, and more importantly to protect the living.

Alas, explaining anything else threatens a major spoiler. Grab this book for a mid-winter chill, in preparation for a spring break outing, or because you know that Herren won’t lead you astray. Just make sure to have your flashlight handy, in case the darkness descends upon you, too.

 

Lake Thirteen
By Greg Herren
Soliloquy of Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, 9781602828940, 264 pp.
August 2012

‘Suffered From The Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula’ Edited by Steve Berman

Posted on December 17, 2013 by in Anthology, Speculative

In the past year, Lethe Press has “queered” Sherlock Holmes (A Study In Lavender, Joseph DeMarco, editor) and Edgar Allan Poe (Where Thy Dark Eye Glances, edited by Steve Berman) and this October turned their queer eye at the original prince of darkness, Dracula. Fourteen authors (some veterans of the earlier volumes and some new) set about exploring the possibility of gay characters in the world Bram Stoker created in his seminal novel, eschewing (for the most part) any version of the Dracula story outside of Stoker’s original. (more…)

‘Pale Wings Protecting’ by Lesley Davis

Posted on December 10, 2013 by in Mystery, Speculative

Detective Daryl Chandler has a gift even she finds hard to explain. She has the uncanny ability to find missing children. When cases begun to surface of children being stolen from their mothers, Daryl is convinced that they are being given to well-off adoptive lesbian couples and she enlists the help of an old friend in the Deviant Data Unit in New York. The old friend partners her with Agent Blythe Kent to try to crack the case. Together Daryl and Blythe move into the affluent community populated by same-sex couples under the guise that they are a loving couple seeking to adopt a child to complete their family. (more…)