Friday, July 1, 2016

Bending the Landscape: Horror

Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel, ed.
Completed 6/26/2016, reviewed 6/30/2016
4 stars

“Bending the Landscape” is a series of original collections of gay and lesbian short stories in different genres:  Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction.  This edition is Horror.  I found it very interesting.  As in the title of the book, the landscape of horror is bent a bit.  Only a few stories are what I would call classic horror.  The rest are more like speculative fiction of horrific things.  They didn’t evoke outright fear and loathing as much as sadness and despair.  Most are very disturbing and some are even surreal.  

My favorite story was the very first.  “Coyote Love” bends the notion of “coyote ugly” and turns it inward.  A straight man wakes up to find himself in bed with another man.  But instead of finding his partner ugly, he attempts to deal with the ugliness inside. 

The second story, “Explanations Are Clear” was also quite good.  The main character’s partner has a habit of “getting lost”.  At first, we are led to think it’s directional, but the reality is that she changes, adapting to her environment.  It really hit home for me, making me reflect on my own chameleon-like tendencies, not being true to myself when confronted with different interpersonal environs.

One thing that has always struck fear in my heart has been the pink triangle.  In the story “Triangle”, a man finds an original pink triangle at an antique store while on a business trip.  He buys it for his partner who is writing a novel about gay men in the holocaust. The twist in this story is that this little patch of cloth might be endowed with a supernatural power. 

A few of the stories are near-future stories.  The one that really got to me was about a future where gays and lesbians are hunted down and executed.  One gay man hides in a marriage to a woman and takes pills to destroy his libido to survive.  In addition, he’s a police photographer who accompanies squads on raids and photographs the executions.

All the stories are well written.  They are provocative and horrifying in sometimes very subtle ways.  Even though I was hoping for cheap fluff horror, I enjoyed the book enough to give it four stars out of five.  Except for some graphic scenes in “Coyote Love”, I think people who don’t enjoy standard horror would appreciate this book.

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