Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman

Wilde Stories 2012 Ed. Steve Berman
Cover Art: Ben Baldwin
Last year I loved the Wilde Stories 2011 anthology, so picking up Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman was a no brainer for me. In this year's edition, I again found excellent creative speculative fiction by favorite authors plus new-to-me authors whose works I'm going to explore in the future.

The anthology begins with an introduction by Berman where he nails exactly how I feel about reading a story/novel as opposed to watching the same (or similar) story on film. And don't get me wrong, I also love film.
Reading is such a different experience than watching film. More intimate. More revealing of the self. More secrets are told, as if the author stands just over your shoulder and bends down to whisper in your ear his tale rather than performing on a set several feet away. 

Following this introduction, Berman showcases fifteen very different stories that show the wide range and variety he discovered last year in gay speculative fiction. Personally, I think that variety is what I love and enjoy the most about reading speculative fiction. That and the fact that there's no placing most of these stories into a neat little box even when certain genres are used as a base in their construction.

I'll give you a few samples of the variety found in this anthology, even when stories seem to share similarities. There are two stories that really touched me, "Ashes in the Water by Joel Lane and Mat Joiner," and "Hoffman, Godzilla and Me by Richard Bowes." These tales are quite different in setting, mood, atmosphere and writing styles, yet pain and loss oozes out of the pages while that darkness and other worldliness that comes with a speculative fiction story is central to both. And while one story is edgier than the other, they both leave the reader in deep thought while chilled to the bone.

There are also fun tales such as "The Peacock by Ted Infinity and Nabil Hijazi," a science fiction based love story between a spambot program and a man that made me snort and laugh from beginning to wonderful over-the-top end, and Tom Cardamone's very short excellent Chinese mythology-based story, "The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons," which surprisingly left me with a smile at the end. These two stories while very different are both excellent, quite creative, and fun!

Of course a speculative fiction anthology would not be complete without the all popular horror-based tale, and this year Berman features great stories I enjoyed, his own creepy contribution "All Smiles," featuring young adults, is one of them. And while Steve Berman's story is full of dread and quick action followed by a hopeful ending, in "The House By The Park," Lee Thomas contrasts the bliss of a gay couple as they find love and lulls the reader with everyday life details while all along dark evil slowly hunts them. Both horror tales are nightmare worthy, but compare that horror to the magic found in Justin Torres' creative fable "Fairy Tale," Ellen Kushner's fantasy-based tale of swordsmen "The Duke of Riverside," or another favorite, "We Do Not Come In Peace by Christopher Barsak" where Peter Pan-like young men in a familiar Neverland-like setting battle the Fair Ones, and you get the idea as to the variety of stories included.

I enjoyed reading this anthology slowly, savoring each tale on its own. It is interesting to note that even as personal taste led me to find favorite stories, it is also easy to say that the quality of the stories and writers, gay themes, plus the variety found in Berman's Wilde Stories 2012: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction make this anthology an overall well-balanced, rock solid read.

Category: LGBT/Gay Speculative Fiction
Series: Wilde Stories Anthologies
Publisher/Release Date: Lethe Press/July 11, 2012 - Print Ed.
Grade: B

Stories and authors included in order of appearance:
"The Arab's Prayer" by Alex Jeffers
"Fairy Tale" by Justin Torres
"Thou Earth, Thou" by K. M. Ferebee
"Hoffmann, Godzilla and Me" by Richard Bowes
"Color Zap!" by Sam Sommer
"All Smiles" by Steve Berman
"The Peacock" by Ted Infinity & Nabil Hijazi
"Ashes in the Water" by Joel Lane & Mat Joiner
"A Razor in an Apple" by Kristopher Reisz
"The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons" by Tom Cardamone
"Filling Up the Void" by Richard E. Gropp
"The House by the Park" by Lee Thomas
"Pinion" by Stellan Thorne
"We Do Not Come in Peace" by Chris Barzak
"The Duke of Riverside" by Ellen Kushner

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