REVIEW: “Salamander Six-Guns” by Martin Cahill

Review of Martin Cahill, “Salamander Six-Guns”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 95-111 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

I remember this story getting quite a bit of buzz when it first came out (we’ve even already reviewed it on this site!), and it was the only one of the anthology that I recognized, so I was super interested in reading it for myself.

Usually I come to the stories I review here without any preconceived notions of what they are about; not so this one. But while I’m not sure I could tell you what I thought it would be about or be like, what it was about/was like was not anything like it.

I found Copper, the MC, deeply unsympathetic. He is insecure and xenophobic, and at times reading his prejudice to the newly arrived stranger, known as the Mayor, hurt — even while at the same time I marvelled at Cahill’s skill in developing such an unlikeable character. Copper does get a bit of a redemption arc, over the course of the story, and I liked the way how both men, both Copper and the Mayor, ended up becoming what they feared most. But I’m not sure that I enjoyed the story.

(Originally published in Shimmer Magazine no. 38, 2017.)

REVIEW: “Making the Magic Lightning Strike Me” by John Chu

Review of John Chu, “The Library of Lost Things”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 79-94 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Charlie Tsai’s job is one that needs a man with height, and strength — two things Charlie didn’t have and always wanted and that’s why he got the job. Because his new employers would “make the lightning strike” and even if it didn’t give him the body he wanted, it was close enough that Charlie would always be beholden to them.

This was a story full of contrasts and tensions — on the one hand, it almost feels like a superhero origin story. On the other hand, for a story involving big burly men who lift weights and are described as being like WWF fighters, it is unexpectedly and surprisingly tender. It is finely crafted, and that brings with it its own layer of pleasure, to watch a master story-teller plying their trade.

(Originally published in Uncanny Magazine, 2017).

REVIEW: “The Library of Lost Things” by Matthew Bright

Review of Matthew Bright, “The Library of Lost Things”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 61-77 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

What a thoroughly, wonderfully, perfectly delightful story! This is a story for any author that has ever lost a story, or destroyed a story, or never finished a story — that is, it’s a story for every author! — and who dreams that maybe somewhere, somehow, it is not truly lost.

The premise of Bright’s story is that dream come true: In the Library of Lost Things lie all the stories lost or unfinished before their authors died. Even better: the Library is in need of a new indexer. Thomas Hardy (no relation) arrives to interview for the job; he knows just what to say and do to secure his place, to get the chance he needs to find the one thing he wants most of all.

But what Tom finds is more than even he could have imagined…

I loved, loved this story.

(Originally published in Tor.com, 2017)

REVIEW: “The Summer Mask” by Karin Lowachee

Review of Karin Lowachee, “The Summer Mask”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 47-60 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This was a beautiful, tender story written with a delicate sense of trauma and recovery, and a level of archaity (is that a word? or is it ‘archaicity’? Or neither — what I mean is “that which makes something feel archaic”). You can certainly read it as a horror story, as I think it was originally intended to be, but to me it had no more horror in it than you find embedded in every love story ever.

(Originally published in Nightmare Magazine, no. 62, 2017.)

REVIEW: “Pan and Hook” by Adam McOmber

Review of Adam McOmber, “Pan and Hook”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 41-45 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This short little story mixes old myths with modern ones, and gives a twist to both. I loved the idea of re-envisioning Pan as the god of non-toxic masculinity; he is the perfect choice for that. So perfect, I wished he could’ve gotten a happy story instead of the sad one this was.

(Originally published in Vestiges:Mimesis, Winter 2017.)

REVIEW: “Some Kind of Wonderland” by Richard Bowes

Review of Richard Bowes, “Some Kind of Wonderland”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 23-40 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

“Some Kind of Wonderland” is the story of a 50th anniversary rescreening of an Alice in Wonderland movie filmed in the desolate spaces of New York City.

I’ve never liked Alice in Wonderland. As a child watching the movie, I always felt like I was missing something because there was no story, just disconnected scenes, and it was so frustrating. When I was older, I tried reading the book, and couldn’t stand it; I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded in finishing an unabridged version of it. It always seemed like there could have — should have — been so much more to the story than there actually was.

Bowes’ story recounts the scenes in the movie one by one, spliced with the reactions of the audience and with memories of the filming fifty years earlier. It’s hard to describe a film in words; yet Bowes describes it so carefully and so beautiful you’d think the movie he writes about was real. I wish it were real: I want to see it.

One thing that struck me about this story was how minimal the speculative content was; in fact, it’s difficult to pick out any detail that is clearly speculative. But another thing that struck me was that I didn’t even realise this lack until almost all the way through the story, it was that good, and that gripping. Two thumbs up. Even if I’m not sure why it’s in this particular anthology, I’m glad it was because otherwise I’m not sure I would’ve ever come across it and read it.

(Originally published in Mad Hatters and March Hares, Tor Books, 2017.)

REVIEW: “Serving Fish” by Christopher Caldwell

Review of Christopher Caldwell, “Serving Fish”, in Steve Berman, ed., Wilde Stories 2018: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press, 2018): 7-22 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

This story I loved, this wonderful retelling of an unlikely choice of fairy tale, littered with lines that made me snort with laughter. More fairy tale retellings like this one, please!

I also enjoyed reading it for the perspective that it gave me through its drag queen main character. Reading Eric’s growth and development into Mahogany Eternique I found interesting and also useful. Authors who write these stories have no obligation to educate people — they are not beholden to people like me to do so. But I am beholden to them for the education I get from reading them; and that’s something that I appreciate not only about this story but about this anthology as a whole: reading it stretches me and makes me grow, and I value that.

(Originally published in People of Color Take Over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Positronic Publishing, 2017).