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This multifaceted and inclusive edition of Wilde Stories, edited by Steve Berman from Lethe Press and featuring “the year’s best gay speculative fiction,” is memorable from cover to cover. The cover itself, by Inkspiral Design, is based on a French Folies-Bergere poster from decades earlier, and it captures the feel of this final edition of the anthology: whimsy, darkness, and the fantastic.
The book opens with the following memorable line, from Joseph Keckler’s “Ghost Sex”: “I am not saying I believe in ghosts at all, but I did have sex with one.” Keckler’s story plays out like a brief, funny anecdote (complete with a reference to the old horror soap Dark Shadows), and is a fun way to begin the collection, in which each story includes gay men as pivotal–though not always human–characters.
Other highlights include:
Appropriately enough, Oscar Wilde appears in the final story in the book; Sean Eads’ “A Bouquet of Wonder and Marvel” is set during Wilde’s visit to America in the 1880s, where he finds himself in Colorado in time to battle unnatural forces in a mining town.
This edition of the anthology is much more representative of the diversity in the LGBT community than in 2008, the year Wilde Stories first saw publication. For example, Eric, the main character in “Serving Fish,” is biracial, and there are other such representations as well.
Berman closes out the book with reminiscence and an overview of the changes in the availability of LGBT-themed speculative fiction since he began the series in 2008. “When you grow up Jewish, you encounter the word assimilation in a different light than when you grow up a science fiction fan,” Berman writes. “I think readers nowadays have greater opportunities to find quality gay spec-fic when they go to the bookstore, when they go online.”
Altogether, the 2018 edition of Wilde Stories is a fine read, with every story a highlight. Berman’s choices are usually excellent, and the book displays the quality that readers have come to expect from Lethe Press. The annual collection will be missed.
Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction
Edited by Steve Berman
Paperback, 9781590213193, 300 pp.