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 365/308

“Snow and Stone” by Stellan Thorne from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

It’s a world ruled by those with superpowers. Reporter Edward Stone works for The Victoryville Herald, writing filler pieces about second-string metahuman heroes. When the paper gets an opportunity to send a reporter to Prometheus Isle, a dictatorship not dissimilar to North Korea, the editor decides to send him. Why? Mainly because their star reporter, Gerry Gates, has a criminal record, which means he can’t be granted a Promethean visa, but also because Stone has a lot of experience interviewing people, and he’s a good writer.

Journalists from several media outlets have received invitations. Stone feels a little out of his depth. The story really takes off during his interview of Snow. It turns out that the General isn’t really the one being grilled; Stone’s complicated past comes to the fore. He has buttons Snow can push because he’s seen his dreams crushed and the wrong people become victorious.

It feels like the back story of a longer work told from the point of view of someone in the upper echelon of a terrifying organization. I’d love to see what happens next and how he reacts to it.

 

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 365/304

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

Here we have the funhouse mirror image of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. I also kept thinking of the Green Knight from the Arthurian legends, probably due to the description of the Ice King as “overly masculine”. At any rate, we follow him as he carves a destructive path through the backrooms of gay bars, freezing the strangers he finds there. It’s all part of his mission to create macabre ice sculptures that will one day be recognized as art.

I expected to encounter the hero next, but the Ice King first pays a visit to Mother Bear. This section of the tale is quite interesting, but didn’t seem to serve a purpose as far as the plot was concerned. It makes me suspect this is a fragment of a larger, very intriguing work.

The story’s final line borders on groan-worthy, but closer to the beginning there is the double entendre to end all double entendres. I’m really not kidding. The rest of us should throw down our pens; we’ve been outdone.

Short Stories 365/303

“The Third Estate” by Lee Thomas from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

What a timely story this is, all about the growing imbalance of power in this nation and the willingness by a handful of people to destroy the entire ecosystem for their own selfish ends. These are topics I follow on a daily basis, so it was very satisfying to find a character so moved by the issues that he’s crossed a line into villainy. He’s going to save the planet, no matter who he has to kill to do it. He has the perfect means to do it, because he possesses the ability to leave his physical body and inhabit someone else’s for awhile. There’s only one problem: his partner Curtis has just figured out what’s going on and is determined to stop him from causing any more harm.

I especially liked the twist at the end.

Two other stories by this author have already been included in this project – Short Stories 200 and 242. The first I enjoyed right up to the very end, but it didn’t turn out the way I would have preferred. The second I flat-out loved.

Short Stories 365/302

“After Balenciaga” by Marshall Moore from The Lavender Menace: Tales of Queer Villainy, Northwest Press, 2013. Edited by Tom Cardamone.

I feel about this story much the way I did about Alex Jeffers’ “Captain of the World”, which was all about soccer. This story is about fashion design, something I know almost nothing about, and yet I enjoyed it.

The premise is great. A mysterious figure has resurrected and subsequently enslaved some of the world’s most talented, but deceased, designers. They don’t know his actual name, so they call him “Couture”. I suspect that if you are really up on such things you can see that the entire piece is an allegory, every bit a sly commentary on the industry. For example, Couture is headquartered in Beijing. He’s dug up the designers of yesterday and is forcing them to create designs for him, but he doesn’t really have what it takes to pull off the looks. He also can’t tell when he’s taken a look too far. He has all the power and no taste.

Now I did recognize that Alexander McQueen was the one narrating. I remember when he committed suicide. It wasn’t that long ago, and it was shocking and very sad. He was just forty, had lost his mother only days before, and apparently was dragged down by despair. I also understood the references to Versace’s murder. Who wasn’t riveted to their television at that awful moment in time? Likewise I could appreciate the digs the other characters made toward Coco Chanel. The rest were little more than names to me, but as I said, I suspect that for the right reader, this story is pure gold.