Thursday, December 10, 2015

Quick Sips - Fantasy #59 QUEERS DESTROY FANTASY

2016 has been the year for Queers Destroying, with Queers Destroy Science Fiction! dropping in June, Queers Destroy Horror! in October, and now December seeing Queers Destroy Fantasy! There are four original stories, and they range widely, from stories about wars in the dining halls to battles between heroes and monsters where love is a weapon. Women swap heads and young men banish ghosts, both for a price. These are stories of longing and love, violence and tenderness. They are not about queerness so much as they let their queerness subvert and, yes, destroy. These are stories that some might say are common enough now, no big deal. But fuck that, really, because what that argument does is erase those who have worked and are working to change things. These stories are still vital because, as seen in the Bowes story, though things have gotten better, they are not equal. So more of these projects, please. More destruction. But first, reviews!

Art by Priscilla Kim


"The Lily and the Horn" by Catherynne M. Valente (5230 words)

I love the idea behind the setting of this story, the war waged with poison, at a banquet, the way it places those with actual skin the game…well, in the game. That those who wish to fight sit down and try not to die. It really is quite a fun concept, the world-building springing out from there and creating a setting that I want to see more of, with its food and its hilarious unicorns. Really, the unicorns in this story pretty much sell it alone, but there’s a lot more to enjoy. I’m a sucker for food stories so no surprise I like that, but the story also plays to my hopeless romantic side of me that sees Yew and the main character and yearns to see them together, knows that they cannot be, that they’ve been place too far apart. And yet maybe not too far apart, because they can touch in ways that don’t involve skin, because they can see each other and know each other and remember the days when their love was allowed to stand against everything. It’s not quite a tragic love story as it is a courtly love story, bowing to the realities of the world they live in, able only to do this. But the yearning is there and the feeling is there. War has become about guile and cunning, and yet under the poisoning and the dead there is a much more tender battle waging. It’s a fun setup and a great execution and a brilliant way to kick off the issue!

"Kaiju maximus®: 'So Various, So Beautiful, So New'" by Kai Ashante Wilson (7290 words)

Well the weird is certainly running strong in a lot of stories this month and this story keeps with that theme, taking a sort of post-apocalyptic view of the world through the lens of a fantasy video game. The story follows a hero and her family, who must accompany her on her quest to kill the great Kaiju maximus, a creature who struck the Earth and killed pretty much everyone on the surface. People now live below ground, but the heroes exist to kill the Kaiju and reclaim the surface. But they need the love of others. They need people to fight for and people to sacrifice for them. The love gives them power. And through it all the focus of the story is on the hero’s partner, a man dealing with the nature of the hero and of his family. Dealing with having lost one daughter who became a hero. The world-building in the story is strong but vague, left fairly open and fairly nebulous. What remains vivid are the relationships between the characters, the love and the care between the man and his children, between them all and the hero. It’s a strange world, where love is fuel, where a hero must be loved to fight. It’s a strange world but one that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. Because while the story focuses on the things that matter, family and hope, I do sort of want to know about the giant monsters and superheroes. But that’s just me being greedy. A compelling read!

"The Lady's Maid" by Carlea Holl-Jensen (6051 words)

Ah, this story reminds me of Return to Oz, because it features a woman who can change her heads. Not as the main character, but as the tyrannical Lady. The main character is the maid, stuck in service, the last person left in a city that was once well-populated, but has slowly dwindled. Now she and the Lady are all that remain. Well, them and the thirty heads. It’s a great image, a great idea, and the writing is strangely sensual, the way it describes the act of putting on heads, and especially what the maid gets up to when the Lady is headless. The story as a whole explores the idea of staying in a bad situation, an unhappy situation, and the reasons for it. The maid is invisible, unthanked, and yet vital, the Lady completely helpless without the younger woman there to serve her. The relationship between them is what drives the story, the power they hold over the other, the intimacy that is never quite expressed, that is on the surface. The way the feed each other, provide for each other all of what they need. It’s another strange one, but a story steeped in a sort of repressed hope. The idea of there being nothing better pervades, and the maid uses that idea to stay, all the while not dealing with her feelings buried beneath that, her feelings that only seem to come out when her Lady’s head is removed. Good and rather unsettling work!

"The Duchess and the Ghost" by Richard Bowes (4490 words)

Closing out the original fiction for the issue is this story, about the past and the cost of escape, about hating yourself and carrying the ghost of that hate inside you. It’s the story of a man who runs away from his old life, who finds in New York a community to take him in. A place to belong, at least sort of. Friends and lovers. But not quite a release from his hatred, his fear. The things that grew in him from his family, that he took in like a slow heavy metal poisoning. It’s a hatred that he doesn’t have to live with, but there is a cost for exorcising him. It’s an interesting thought and a strong one, what people in the past had to pay to get away. Those that survived had a tendency to not survive very long. There is a certain gnawing quality of always having to hide, always being under that stress of something happening to you. It’s something that certainly has gotten better, though it still exists, and the story ends with hope. Hope that people won’t have to make the same deals those in the past did. Hope that there is a way to grow up without ghosts, without hate. The story is moving, slightly nostalgic, and very good. And it closes out a great issue of original fiction!

No comments:

Post a Comment