bITS 'N CHUNKS
Well shipmates, rather unexpectedly I have a brand new piece of unblemished fiction for you this year!
It's been quite a long time since I've entered the 36th Chamber of fiction publication, as I've bemoaned a few times in the past whilst I try to get my act together. Things are coming along pretty well but there are some things that just never change.
Submitted here for your approval is an anthology submission from last year that ultimately got the axe for length; I don't have any further plans for it as it stands so I'm passing on the savings to you. It's fanfiction so it's a little bit of a cheat in that regard Yes, I have an AO3 account but I'm kind of hiding from that right now. And as a fanfic it automatically warrants a NSFW warning.
Recently, I received a copy of Welcome Home, an anthology of short stories centered around adoption. I'm not adopted myself but I have plenty of people in my life who are, are adoptive parents themselves, or at least interested in the process. Also, I'm not someone that reads young adult fiction on a regular basis…but here I am. Although it's not my forte, representation and visibility are important to me and it's especially important that young people are able to see themselves reflected in the literature they read.
That being said, cracking this open I still wasn't sure what to expect. What does an adoption story look like, really? I combed my recent memory and realized I don't really know. The last positive depiction of adoption I saw was on Doc McStuffins, which was great because it involved a black family to boot. But an anthology of stories? I recognized a lot of the names and I was very happy to see a great variety of authors writing from a multitude of experiences. These stories have a wide spectrum of representation across an impressive variety of genres from gen lit to dystopian cyberpunk.
To say I was surprised might come a little condescending, but I was. And pleasantly so! What we have here is a solid collection of stories that really expanded my thoughts and made me realize I was all wrong. Anthologies can be hit or miss and highly subject to taste of course, but I'm very happy to say this collection is all killer and almost filler. I really do think there's a little something for everyone in here. The stories are sensitive and obviously written from personal experiences. I laughed, I cried, I got caught in my feelings, just the gamut of emotions. I also appreciated that the stories tackled the emotional aspects of adoption as well, but also cultural issues that span countries, language barriers, sometimes planets. The stories reaches across multiple aisles including race and sexuality to make what I would consider a very inclusive collection. And as I've harped on, inclusiveness is nothing if it's not inclusive of bleeping everyone.
Reading this anthology made me realize the dearth of positive & accurate depictions of adoption there are out there. Movies are especially bad. Adoption is often seen as a last, desperate resort or a step above the changeling fantasy. Don't even get me started on horror and sci-fi movies. Those stories are obviously far from the truth of what adoption is, but they just don't help the perception. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding the topic. It's getting better sometimes, but reading these stories and the book announcement from editor Eric Smith made me realize there is still so much work to be done. These stories, to me, truly do that work to create understanding, to normalize and center the experience. A couple of my personal recommendations out of here are "A Kingdom Bright and Burning" by Dave Connis, a cathartic story about a young boy trying to work through trauma and learning to communicate with his adoptive family; "Webbed" by Julie Eshbaugh was another great highlight and kind of flipped my expectation of the changeling family, and included discussion of physical deformities to boot; and William Ritter's "Deeply" is...something that has to be seen to be believed.
(Sidenote: as a native Tennessean, how hyped was I to see a lot of my home state people repped here! Yeehaw.)
Anyway, if I've recommended Welcome Home to you already I will recommend it again and again because I can't say enough good things about it; please put it in the hands of an adult or a child that needs it, request it at a library, and if you need it yourself please check it out from wherever good books are sold.
Ghostland by Colin Dickey is a fantastic book for those of you that like your skepticism neat and your sociology weird. It's not about anything occult, but like James Randi's Flim-Flam! it is a good guide on looking at superstition and religion objectively and asking for evidence of Things Unknown. Ghostland isn't malicious and doesn't really seek to discredit anything, but rather explain why we create ghost stories and hauntings and what those stories tend to mean from a cultural and regional basis. It reminds me a lot of Cassell's Dictionary of Superstitions, another neat text that I think everyone interested in the supernatural should read.
Curiously enough, there is also another Ghostland. Or rather, Ghost Land (PDF) as written by Emma Hardinge Britten. Britten was a prominent member of the Spiritualist movement as we'd recognize it today. Like Manly P Hall, Britten is an interesting figure and very influential, but a lot of her life is shadowed in mystery and much of what we know about her stems from her work. What's best to note about Britten is the company she kept (notable women of various occult groups like Helen Blavatsky) and not only was she a prominent member of Modern Spiritualism, but she help lay the ground work for its current principles.
So Britten's Ghost Land actually deals with her research into the occult centering around one Chevalier Louis de B, an eccentric nobleman that comes off a little St. Germaine. I'm pretty sure he's a composite figure. She details his initiation into occult mysteries, séances, mysticism, all that…like, you know, a documentarian. How much of it is true and factual? Who knows. I trust Britten, but she has a much different focus with her information. An agenda, if you will!
But in any case, both books do some pretty good things like identifying primary sources, build upon information, and don't expect you to just take their word for it just because they said so. They also aid in deciphering information by providing commentary backed up with knowledge. Any good investigative text should give you that much. And quips! Oh, the quips.
I love reading yuri or girls' love (I don’t really make the distinction between yuri & "softcore" shoujo-ai) manga, but I think it's fair to say a lot of it is very same-y. Yuri still trails behind yaoi/boys' love in popularity and profitability, so a lot of mangaka understandably keep whipping out the same tropes over and over to increase their profile and of course make money. The more experimental manga tend to be one-shots and often reserved for anthologies. And the experimental ones are free to get as…weird as weird can.
That's how I stumbled onto Mare a few years ago by one of my favorite yuri mangaka Morinaga Milk. Morinaga-san is really cool because her art is so feminine and delicate and she's largely unfettered by stereotypical yuri tropes, but she's not afraid of a little hentai. Even her works that kind of push that direction -- school girl lesbians for example -- usually have some subversive element to keep it from being the same ol' same ol'.
Morinaga-san is probably best known for Girl Friends, which is one of the best damn school girl romance dramas out there in the English speaking world, dare I say ever because I'm going there. Mare is an earlier work that looks to have been published in a highly specialized hentai magazine because it's pretty hardcore and there's demons.
Wait, what? Demons in my lesbian manga?
Well, yeah. And I say highly specialized because Morinaga-san incorporates some of the more obscure demons from Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and The Lesser Key of Solomon. The main character, Mea, is a powerful and amoral witch who hides out in a girls' school while feeding her pet beasties and summoning demons. While she's there, Mea inadvertently exposes some of the dark secrets of the school like co-ed affairs, abortions, even murder. Later on, there's a plot where another witch at the school challenges Mea but it ends too abruptly to even be satisfying.
So, Mare barely counts as a yuri manga because it really just involves Mea being rather loose with her sexuality and her attachment to her roommate/classmate, but it's definitely one of my favorite occult-themed manga. Themes of the occult in manga usually skew more towards the shounen or seinen demographic and, yeah, there's Judeo-Christian demons and long three volume fights but it never feels like substance. The works of Go Nagai (Devilman & Devilman Lady) keep my interest as well. And then there's the truly esoteric and nigh incomprehensible side, which would be something like Neon Genesis Evangelion. But despite the second half being a let-down, Mare just felt so substantive in the way that it accurately incorporated witchcraft, minor demons, sigils and invocations, and a smidge of social commentary. Then it, you know, goes to hell. But if you have the time, like ambiguous lesbian relationships, and cute evil little girls, check it out.
Once again with the bullshit!
This is another one that I really liked the concept of and I actually like the story overall, I just had no real interest in developing it further or working on it. It was a nice exercise. I was like, "a noir-ish underworld fantasy? Yeah." after most of this flash fiction challenge was full of stories of death and self loathing el oh el. This story is so...pure it just looks weird in comparison.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...