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Wilde Stories 2011, story by story

I'm not a fast reader. It takes me a while to get through a book, so even though I received my advance copy of Wilde Stories 2011 ages ago, I've only just now finished it. Since I always enjoy it when my friend 'Nathan goes through an anthology story by story, I figured I'd give that a spin here....

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Unnerving, unsettling, and irresistible, Alaya Dawn Johnson writes a love that dare not speak its name because its mouth is full of human flesh. A novel take on the zombie story is told intermittently, and to good effect, in that most difficult of all perspectives, second person. It's tense and funny and sad and, unexpectedly, sweet. (Bonus points for the reference to a Kate Bush song.)

Map of Seventeen

Christopher Barzak writes a convincing story of a seventeen-year-old Ohio girl with a gift she hasn't told anyone about. Then her gay artist brother comes back to town with his fiancé, who has an even bigger secret than the one Meg has been hiding for years. It leaves you at the end wondering where the characters' lives go after the last word.

How to Make Friends in Seventh Grade

Nick Poniatowski nearly made me cry with his story of two junior high misfits, an enigmatic spaceship in Earth orbit, and one boy's model rocket that takes him further than his frightened classmate ever expected it would. For anyone who has ever felt like an outsider and wanted not just to get out of their house or their hometown, but off this planet, they'll find this story sad and beautiful.

Mysterium Tremendum

Laird Barron dials up the creepy factor to eleven in this compelling story about two couples who go camping after one of them finds a mysterious occult guide in a used bookstore. I had no idea where this story was going, which was part of its appeal. Another part was the strength of his characters, their distinct voices and their personality traits against type. Suffice it to say, these guys are really rough and tumble, especially for a gaggle of gays.

This is the sort of story that makes you want to go and turn on all the lights in the house once you're finished. And stay out of the basement.

Mortis Persona 

What if reuniting with a dead loved one was as simple as putting on a mask? Barbara A. Barnett offers an interesting twist on love from beyond the grave. Her economy of time presents an entire life's span in the space of a short story, and poses the question, does love ever die?

All the Shadows

Another melancholy chiller, this one about a couple holidaying in a seaside town. Of course, when one of them is able to glimpse traces of people who've died, it's going to be anything but a pleasant vacation. Joel Lane's unexpected ending makes for a sad and unsettling tale.

Blazon

I loved Peter Dubé's story when I first read it in Saints + Sinners 2010. It's about a boy whose desire for men is so intense it takes on the character of combustion. There's more to it than that, though, if only he can overcome his fear of what he wants.

Oneirica

I originally read this story in Icarus, and I'll admit, it stumped me. I finally had to look that word up. Oeneiric means of or relating to dreams, and knowing that now helps me understand the strangely flowing quality of Hal Duncan's story. You're never quite sure where you are in time and place, and he describes a city that's as mazelike as the story he tells. And when you reach the very quotidian end, you do find yourself wondering if it was all a dream.

Lifeblood

Yeah, that's mine. So, moving right along. 

Waiting for the Phone to Ring

One of the things I particularly liked about Richard Bowes' story was that the narrator and the main characters were all past a certain age. I think that's often an overlooked time of life, especially in queer fiction (with a few obvious exceptions, such as Andrew Holleran and Armistead Maupin), but is a phase that, with all of the accumulated experiences of youth and middle age, is rich with possibility. And there's plenty of that here, with a band whose frontman could see into other people's minds and went to great lengths-even murder-to find another who could do the same. Told from the vantage point of decades later, it still proves chilling.

The Noise

Has there been a zombie apocalypse, are the narrator's neighbors the walking dead, is his old boyfriend really even there? Richard Larson leaves nothing settled for certain and, whatever the answers, the tale is unnerving.

How to Make A Clown

Jeremy Shipp takes us on a journey to the other side of the mirror where clowns are real, humans are giants, and happily ever after might be possible. At the beginning, I wasn't expecting this story to be as touching as it turned out. A very pleasant surprise. 

Beach Blanket Starship

Easily my favorite of the entire anthology, this was like Gidget meets a Star Trek holodeck gone awry. The whole, however, is much greater than the sum of these parts. Sandra McDonald crafts a moving tale that, even in sadness, has a happy ending.

Hothouse Flowers: Or the Discreet Boys of Dr. Barnabas

A classic horror tale with a gay twist, Chaz Brenchley tweaks the Dracula story and gives it a creepier, unsettling ending. His prose captures well that voice of Victorian-era literature without sounding stilted or dated.

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If I had any complaint—and really, who am I to complain? My story's in there!—I'd have liked to see more science fiction like Sandra and Nick's stories. While I enjoy a satisfying horror tale, science fiction remains my first love as far as genre goes. I realize that this sounds a bit hypocritical since, hey, my story's about a vampire (I don't think I'm giving anything away by stating that here). What this means is, I think I am going to turn some of my attention toward science fiction in my own writing—right after I finish this novel about Amazons, a ghost story, and a story about a long-distance runner....