Review of Bogi Takács, “To Rebalance the Body” in The Trans Space Octopus Congregation Stories, (Lethe Press, Inc., 2019): 199-212 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
I was a bit surprised that this story didn’t come with a content note, so I’ll add one of my own — if body-modification or vampirism isn’t your thing, avoid this story.
Ordinary vampires are generally neither my thing nor not my thing, but Master Viiren in this story is no ordinary vampire. With all their usual skill, Takács takes a character type and turns it into something on the border between creepy and unsettling. Master Viiren has an illness for which they take medicine, a medicine which they receive from vesicles on the skin of their servant, Biruyan. There is a deep physical intimacy between the two, and the narrators obsequiousness to their master makes it almost uncomfortable to witness.
What was not so uncomfortable, for me at least, was the direct way in which both Biruyan and Master Viiren confront the problematic consequences of adherence to a gender binary and a sex binary. While issues of gender and sex are threaded throughout the stories in this volume, only a few of the stories explicitly revolve around the topic, and its strongest in this one. It’s one of the thins that I’ve loved about this collection as a whole: How much gender matters, but how much also it doesn’t have to be central, but (on the third hand) how much it also can be the central guiding force of a story, and also how gender and sex are intertwined.
(First published in Nerve Endings, ed. T. Hill-Meyer, 2017).