Title: Wilde Stories 2008: The Best of the Year’s Gay Speculative Fiction
Editor: Steve Berman
Publisher: Lethe Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M, Speculative Fiction
Length: 240 pages
Rating: 4-ish out of 5 stars
A guest review by Kris
Wilde Stories is a new annual anthology that offers readers the best of the prior year’s speculative fiction with gay characters and themes. Editor Steve Berman, who has been a finalist for both the Lambda Literary and Andre Norton Award, has collected an engaging selection of the fantastical, the strange, the scary from such notable authors as Victor J. Banis, Jameson Currier, Hal Duncan and Lee Thomas.
Honesty from the outset~ I’m probably going to get my butt kicked for being so vague about the rating for Wilde Stories. Oh well.
First things first~
Wilde Stories contains 11 short stories that are extraordinarily diverse; not only in terms of the voice and writing styles of each of the authors, but their approach to the speculative fiction genre and to the themes themselves. The stories range from the more ‘traditional’ haunting of “The Woman in the Window” by Jameson Currier, the reeling time travel trip (literally) of “Acid and Stoned Reindeer” by Rebecca Ore, the poignant “Ever so Much More than Twenty” by Joshua Lewis, to the downright scary “City of Night” by Joel Lane and John Pelan
One of the things which particularly struck me whilst reading this anthology was that this genre lends itself very well to dealing with issues affecting the GLBT community. (Apols to those who don’t like this all-inclusive word.) I suppose one might say that about any of the sub-genres of GLBT fiction, but it seems to me the fantastical imagery of speculative fiction allows authors to explore more metaphorically such subjects as sexuality, being in the closet, coming out, prejudice, loss and love. The end result can be very thought provoking as I found with a number of the stories in this volume.
I have to say my responses to Wilde Stories varied so much; from the ‘wow’ to the ‘ummm’, I felt like I was on a roller coaster at times. Later, I wondered if this was the intention of editor Steve Berman or maybe I was just ‘reading’ too much into it as I am wont to do after attempting to work my way through a review of an anthology like this. 🙂
Regardless, there were a couple of stories that were absolute stand outs for me. The first of these was the superb horror story by Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco entitled “Awkward”. Quite frankly the only ‘awkward’ thing I found about this work was the use of French Canadian language, which, because I don’t read or speak it, I found disjointing. Other than that, it was a wonderfully dark and sadomasochistic story about a suburban queer couple whose so-called perfect life is ripped to shreds under the torture of two gay kids, who could, in fact, well be the ghosts of their past.
The second story was the Shakespearen-esque farce called “The Island of the Pirate Gods” by Hal Duncan. I’m not sure I can even begin to describe this short other than saying that if you can imagine a gay and very campy version of “Pirates of Penzance” complete with weird and wonderful, love-challenged faeries you just might be coming close. This was an absolute riot of a read.
A couple of issues/warnings~
It’s been a long time since I’ve read any fiction in which I’ve had to deconstruct imagery and symbolism to try and get a deeper understanding of the meanings and themes embedded in the work. I think because of that the nuances of some individual stories flew straight over my head. For example, while I found “An Apiary of White Bees” by Lee Thomas to be a compelling read I am not certain I fully grasped the bee metaphor beyond the stings associated with first love and sexual experience as well as that of sexuality itself. Maybe I’ve hit the nail on the head. *shrugs* However, there were several other occasions whilst reading the anthology when I was left with the feeling that I’m wasn’t quite sure if I ‘got it’ or not.
Overall, and to the credit of Steve Berman, Wilde Stories is a good quality volume of short stories, which both challenge and engage the reader. I would recommend it particulary to fans of speculative fiction. I think those of you who do have a love of this genre will be quite blown away by the boundaries several of the stories contained in this anthology push.