REVIEW: “Perisher” by Crystal Frasier

Review of Crystal Frasier, “Perisher” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 134-148 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Murder.

Aggie is a Perisher, someone who, through the violent killing of another person, is connected to the ghost of the person they murdered. Fuchs is a German soldier who refuses to learn to speak any English or Spanish — Aggie’s fluent languages as she lives and works in Florida — but he can speak to other ghosts, and in this unlikely pairing the two of them hiring out their services to people who need answers only ghosts can give.

The tenor of this story was quite different from the much-more-fantasy oriented ones of the rest of the anthology. It felt much more like a crime drama than a fairy tale. I enjoyed the contrast that it provided, and the idea of Perishers in the first place — not like anything I’d read before.

REVIEW: “Failure” by Casey Plett

Review of Casey Plett, “Failure” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 127-134 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The first-person narrator is a reviver, traveling from place to place, always on her own. Revivers rarely ever stay long in one place, or spend much time with other revivers (which makes me wonder how a reviver gets trained in the first place). Along the way, she (all revivers “grow from boys to women” p. 130) meets a stranger unlike any she’s ever met before, and they force the reviver to contemplate an awful decision.

I think many people reading this story can sympathise with the idea of never doing, never being, enough. It’s hard to practice self-care when there is always someone else that could be helped, something more that could be improved. (If you don’t sympathise with this, then you are very lucky or very privileged or both.) In the end, I think the reviver made the right decision.

REVIEW: “Dreamborn” by Kylie Ariel Bemis

Review of Kylie Ariel Bemis, “Dreamborn” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 108-126 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Misgendering, kidnap, allusions to child rape.

This was a harsh story of invasion, colonisation, betrayal, lies, and loss. But it was also a story of deep, abiding love. It’s a tough story to read, but good.

REVIEW: “i shall remain” by Kai Cheng Thom

Review of Kai Cheng Thom, “i shall remain” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 97-107 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was a rich, sensual story full of old myth and modern realism, and threaded through with a gruesome interpretation of Christianity (I don’t know if this was intended or not, but it certainly read that way to me). It was distinctly different from the rest of the stories in the anthology, not only in content and in choice of trans characters, but also in its literary style, with a systemic eschewing of capitals except for proper names and phrases, and sometimes (but not always) “I”. I think this was my favorite story of the volume.

REVIEW: “Undoing Vampirism” by Lilah Sturges

Review of Lilah Sturges, “Undoing Vampirism” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 92-96 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Vampire stories have been so overdone in recent years that whenever I come across another one, I admit, I sigh a bit.

But there were NO SIGHS whatsoever in this hilarious (“but I realized even then that the desires to be a girl and to eat them are unconnected” p. 94), unpredictable, unexpected take on modern-day vampires. I absolutely loved it.

REVIEW: “The Knighting” by Alexa Fae McDaniel

Review of Alexa Fae McDaniel, “The Knighting” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 83-91 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Daphne has long admired Sir Thais — the first woman of Epirus to ever have been knighted. Now, two more women have become knights, but female knights are still the minority. Part of Daphne longs to be what Sir Thais is, but another part of her knows she could never be what Sir Thais is; not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a transwoman.

The focus of this story was Daphne’s grappling with the difficulties of being a transwoman in a male dominated field. As a cis woman, I realised I would probably make many of the same arguments that Sir Thais did, to persuade Daphne to take up the accolade; so it was important for me to read Daphne’s arguments in return. Now, I’m not so sure which choice Daphne should make, or even, at the end of the story, which choice she did make.

REVIEW: “Freeing the Bitch” by Ellen Mellor

Review of Ellen Mellor, “Freeing the Bitch” in Gwen Benaway, ed., Mother, Maiden, Crone, (Bedside Press, 2019): 65-82 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: Explicit misgendering and some internalised transphobia.

It’s funny the little things that can catch you out when reading a story: I was so distracted by the fact that two of the MCs started a forest fire and then proceeded to do nothing about it (including showing remorse) that I could hardly pay attention to the rest of what was going on.

That distraction aside, I enjoyed the multi-species cast (all varying flavors of queerness!), and can’t help but approve of a story that tells us: “There is nothing we can’t do because we are amazing women” (p. 72).