From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Wilde Stories 2010: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman

Review by Cynthia Ward

Think there are already too many annual anthologies devoted to “the best” of SF/F/H? Think again. Wilde Stories 2010: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction assembles several excellent stories, and they’re ones you are not likely to otherwise find together in a year’s best volume. Oh, sure, the terrific Richard Bowes, Tanith Lee, Joel Lane, and Elizabeth Hand stories might show up in the same fantasy “best-of.” But they’d probably not be rubbing shoulders in that volume with Marc Andreollotta’s surreally post-apocalyptic SF tale “Lots”, Ben Francisco’s lovely magic-realist story “Tio Gilberto and the Twenty-Seven Ghosts.” and Georgina Li’s densely compacted SF examination of class and love “Like They Always Been Free.” Assembling a volume along the lines of a sexual orientation, instead of a subgenre-specific axis, makes for unexpected contrasts and illuminating revelations (one of which, for some readers, will be the fact that great gay fiction is neither penned solely by gay men nor enjoyable only by gay male readers).

This isn’t to say that every choice in Wilde Stories 2010 is an unqualified success. Some readers will be annoyed that the character transformation in Simon Sheppard’s nightmare/fantasia, the Xanadu-set “Barbaric Splendor,” essentially happens after the story ends, while other readers will be vexed by its heavily romanticized treatment of the East as exotically alien. Some will find the enigmatic ending of Tom Cardomone’s strange urban fantasy, “The Sphinx Next Door,” too mysterious. Rhys Hughes’s surreally careening “Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine” feels rather careless, and its jumpy word-associational humor puts teeth on edge more than it rouses laughs.

Still, all the stories are superior choices. And, in and of itself, Richard Bowes’s is-it-fantasy-or-is-it-mainstream novelette, “I Needs Must Part, the Policeman Said,” is worth the price of admission; and the same is true of Elizabeth Hand’s re-envisioned fairy tale, “The Far Shore.” Wilde Stories 2010 is a worthwhile volume for anyone who enjoys literary speculative fiction.

Wilde Stories 2010: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction
Edited by Steve Berman
Lethe Press
ISBN: 978-1-59021-301-8
228 pages | Trade Paperback | $15.00
July 14, 2010

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