“Tradition” by Joey Comeau
“Dead. Nude. Girls.” by Lori Selke
“Foam on the Water” by Cat Rambo
“Horatius and Clodia” by Charlie Anders
“Tradition” by Joey Comeau kicks off the February suite of stories from Strange Horizons. Known on the Internet for his web comic, A Softer World, an insightful juxtaposition of grainy photos and absurd text, Comeau brings his surreal vision to fiction. “Tradition” is a slightly incomprehensible, meandering coming-of-age tale of a young protagonist and his magical, tattooed mother. Its Technicolor imagery compensates for its slender plot to bring the whole work to a level suggestive of Charles de Lint, only less polished.
“Dead. Nude. Girls.” by Lori Selke concerns said titular zombie dancer and her admirer who slowly becomes drawn into the dancer’s somber world. Selke blends her experience with both the fantastical and the erotic in a simple, but well-wrought and touching, fairy tale. The lascivious title notwithstanding, Selke’s tender perspective helps the story’s stock elements achieve luminosity.
A fairy tale revision bobs up again in the month's next selection: “Foam on the Water” by Cat Rambo. If you know the original Hans Christian Andersen version of “The Little Mermaid,” you know the lineaments of this story. A mermaid sacrifices her voice and endures pain with each step so that she might have a chance to be close to the land-bound prince she loves. This rewrite, though, takes on the prince character’s viewpoint, which is complicated by his kinky interest in suffering. I felt that Rambo was onto a strong, provocative theme in her exploration of the story’s complex of attraction and agony, but her tendency to tell, rather than show, weakened the story.
The month finishes off strongly with Charlie Anders’s “Horatius and Clodia.” In this story, a sentient form of electronic currency falls in love with a “Trojan horse” program. This is not your usual AI + AI love story (is there a usual one?), but a lighthearted treatment of one character’s dawning sensuality. It’s an appropriately fanciful conclusion to a fantasy-heavy month at Strange Horizons.
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