I wrote a general overview of the Wilde Stories annual series as an advent calendar entry a few days ago, but I’m slowly working my through the whole lot and have now shuffled my way in the ebb of history through to the summer of leaving university, and Wilde Stories 2009.
Rather than my usual method of going through every story in the collection, I’m going with a different approach – picking out my favourite five stories from the whole deck (in order of table of contents, and not quality.)
(It was going to be three, but I can’t choose between them, so you’re getting five.)
Firooz and his Brothers by Alex Jeffers – sumptuous and slyly erotic. Of the stories by Jeffers I’ve read up til now, he does seem to excel at the gender-bending queerness side of fiction far better than your average. There’s got to be something extra-seductive about this story, as I usually despise anything in the ‘Arabian Nights chic’ branch of fiction.
I’m Your Violence by Lee Thomas – quite nice to have a properly nasty, gritty story pop up in Wilde Stories, and, much like Firooz, this was playing in a genre I usually hate (effectively police procedural) and made it gripping.
AKA St Mark’s Place by Richard Bowes – I love stories that tangle threads of narrative and the stretching nostalgia of people’s lives into a narrative through history, and AKA St Mark’s Place ties all that up with a smart-as-a-whip characterisation and an intriguing overlaid plot surrounding prophetic visions.
In The Night Street Baths by Chaz Brenchley – Erotic, beguiling and thoroughly magical, with a beautiful cadence to the prose and a dark, beating heart of imagination. (Mind you, I very rapidly mentally cast one of the characters as Michael J. Anderson (Carnivale/Twin Peaks), which is going to make watching any of those shows again a little unsettling.)
The Behold of the Eye by Hal Duncan – a fusion of Duncan’s usual queer-punk-literary aesthetic with more emotional heft than I’ve come across from him before, and probably my favourite short story of his I’ve read to date.