Short Stories 365/310

“Your Changing Body: A Guidebook for Boy Super Villains – Introduction by Mr. Positive” by Matt Fagan from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone. What an original idea. Here we have a super villain reflecting on his career and striving to “give back” by editing a how-to manual for budding super villains. Mr. Positive pens his own entry for the collection, in which he outlines the process of his coming of age, how he came to understand that he was different from other boys. He comes out as gay simultaneously, and the genius of the piece is found in the fact that that revelation is as nothing compared to the first one. I love it. I love, too, that he’s met with acceptance on that front. Great stuff.

Short Stories 365/309

“Scorned” by Jeffrey Ricker from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

Marcus Harris aka Megawatt, is a fallen man, a former superhero who has done terrible things. For one, he made himself the judge, jury and executioner of super villain The Arrow of Armageddon. It’s not how good guys are supposed to behave. They’re supposed to play by the rules. Doing so makes their job harder, and much of the nobility of being the good guy stems from that fact. When Marcus let his emotions take over he stopped playing by the rules and became a bad guy. Now he’s in a maximum security prison.

The thing is, it’s easy to understand why he lost control. His boyfriend Alan, whose crime-fighting name is Altitude, fell in love with someone else. Ouch. Also, when he was a child Marcus was ostracized by his classmates because he was gay. Does he have issues? Heck yes. Who wouldn’t?

My favorite section of the story is when prison psychologist Dr. Emily Wheeling points out to Marcus that in his superhero days he wasn’t only looked up to by the public, he was nearly canonized by them. She makes the case that this was wrong because he was born with his abilities; they aren’t something he worked to achieve. In her opinion he should have discouraged the public’s adulation. She’s right, of course. Just as it’s wrong to hate someone for a trait they have no control over, it’s also wrong to love them for one.

There’s an interesting parallel here, obviously. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for decades. In my personal opinion a default sympathetic starting mode is acceptable, given the sum total of everything that has happened. What’s wrong with an automatic benefit of the doubt? The alternative would be starting everyone off from a level playing field, and hey, I’m all for that. Really, anytime the rest of the world wants to implement that, well, you go right on and do it.

Anyway, back to the story. It turns out that nothing is really as it seems, Marcus has been wronged even more than he knew, and he’s being granted a second chance. Why? We don’t know. This story feels like the start of something bigger. I hope it is.

Short Stories 365/307

“The Knights Nefarious” by Rod M. Santos from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

Muse has gotten it into his head that if he can find the right birthday gift for Dr. Schadenfreude he can make the other man fall in love with him. He decides the best way to do that is to capture one of the doctor’s worst enemies. He can’t do it alone, though. He needs a team. How does one assemble a super villain team? Why, by holding auditions, of course.

This is a very humorous piece. The rejects are great, and the rag-tag team he ends up with seems to make no sense at all, but you know their diverse abilities must, somehow, be capable of working in unison, so that Muse can achieve his goal. It was fun to watch it all slide into place. There’s also the factor of one character’s superpowers giving Muse a glimpse of his future, which ups the ante for the author, to be sure. And of course how great is it that Muse achieves his end by finding the right individuals and then inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves? You have to love that.

Short Stories 365/306

“The Plan” by Charles “Zan” Christensen from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

Eclipse is a super villain, but he didn’t start out that way. My favorite thing about this story is the lowdown it provides on one way in which a man with super powers might become a villain. There are no plans to take over the tri-state area here. No, there was simply a need to pay off student loan debt he accrued obtaining a useless master’s degree, debt that a “shitty office job” wasn’t going to touch.

He’s a decent guy at heart, which is why he and a superhero called The Eagle have been having a sort of love-hate relationship for some time. The Eagle is a pretty steadfast do-gooder (he used to be downright insufferable; he’s mellowed with age), but he can see that Eclipse isn’t cruel or evil, just a bit selfish. Also, opposites attract, right? It’s obvious The Eagle has developed a thing for Eclipse. They just can’t tell anyone because, you know, villain.

Then again, maybe Eclipse has been seeing only what he wants to see. Maybe he’s been had.

It’s enough to drive a guy right over the edge.

Short Stories 365/305

“Lesser Evil” by ‘Nathan Burgoine from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

This story is constructed of onion-like layers. Its complexity, coupled with the fact that a great many of the characters have—and are referred to by—two names, meant that about halfway through I had to admit to myself that I was lost. I thought about re-starting and keeping an actual pen-and-paper tally of the players, but I forged on and at about the three-quarters mark found my way clear again. Then I immediately went back and re-read it.

It’s told really well. It’s just an awful lot of information to digest. The second time through, when I knew who was who and could focus on smaller details, I liked it immensely. It’s just that it deals with what’s happening now; then a couple of things that happened long ago; and some things from the not-so-distant and still-nearer past, before getting back to the present. And it has all those names.

This just might be what prompted people to push ‘Nathan to write a novel.

Tristan Edwards is telepathic. You may have guessed that, going in, if you are at all familiar with the author’s work. Tristan’s also gay, and was pretty much rejected by his father because of it. He’s felt like an outsider his whole life. He seems not to have had any friends while growing up. Somehow, though, when the chips were really down he managed to contact the North American Metahuman Defence Agency.

Even with them, however, he didn’t fit in. Apparently, telepaths aren’t trusted anywhere, and they’re a public relations nightmare. Tristan didn’t help matters any by his actions in the group. Not surprisingly, his rocky childhood has left him something of a mess, emotionally.

The story takes place after he’s no longer affiliated with the agency. They need Tristan’s help, and so the guy who sent him off the rails shows up at his door.

Isn’t that always the way?

Short Stories 365/301

“The Meek Shall Inherit” by Jamie Freeman from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

This story scared the #$% out of me. It’s a little too realistic for my taste, given that we live in a world in which would-be world leaders keep taking to social media to call for the mass execution of LGBT people, and citizens are being executed in the streets by law enforcement personnel, and proponents of the dominant religion equate not being allowed to enforce their beliefs on the masses with persecution.

We’re frighteningly close to the world of this story already, and I can completely relate to the murderous rage that overtakes main character Joshua. The thing is, he has super powers, so things escalate quickly. The other thing, of course, is that two wrongs don’t make a right. But this is a story. It’s a place to vent, and explore the what-ifs. What if America became a (an openly?) totalitarian Fundamentalist Christian state?

Yikes.

(For more by this author go to Short Stories 365/26.)

Short Stories 365/300

“The Web” by Steven Bereznai from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

Daytripper has just gained admittance to the Academy of Super Heroic Excellence. This milestone is made all the sweeter by the presence of Arachnid, a dark and brooding fellow student. There’s chemistry between them, or so Daytripper thinks, anyway. It turns out most of his perceptions are wrong. Nothing is as black and white as it seems.

I loved the dark undertone of this story. Daytripper starts out believing he’s a good guy, and ends up, I think, still one, only in much the same way as Batman or Elliot Stabler on Law n’ Order. They, too, have been through some $%@# and have no intention of taking any more from the likes of you. Or, to put it another way – seduction, treachery and deceit never go out of style. This story has all that, in spades. It’s great fun.