BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A strong anthology that transcends the seeming limitations of the theme to bring a set of high quality genre stories.
PROS: An excellent set of original stories, some clearly in award-nomination class; beautiful cover art.
CONS: Readers not interested in the theme or subject matter will find little purchase here.
BOTTOM LINE: The stories in Glitter and Mayhem? Absolutely fabulous.
In Glitter and Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, you’ll find roller rinks, nightclubs, glam aliens, party monsters, drugs, sex, glitter, debauchery, and much more. Even in an industry and a genre with strange genre anthologies, it seems like an unusual set of subjects for science fiction and fantasy stories. And yet when the music begins to play and the party starts, this anthology is there to bring a genre spin to stories of people who only truly feel they are alive in such environments. Even given the risks of an anthology with such a theme, the idea of using the 70’s and 80’s disco scene as a template for an anthology seems especially unusual and difficult to pull off. It is not a surprise that the anthology needed to be kickstarted in order to be published1. But could writers rise to the challenge of making good stories with such a set of limitations?
Fortunately, and to my delight, there are many excellent stories here. The editorial quality between the three editors, in the selection of the stories you will find here, is high. I particularly liked the high amount of female characters, characters of differing sexualities and the general energy and positivity that many of these stories bring. Even when the lives of the characters are ostensibly being ground into dust, there is a real strong core and strength to them, characters that are inspirations in what they do, and their sense of self. I liked many of the stories, but want to highlight a couple of the delights you will find, here.
- “Revels in the Land of Ice” by Tim Pratt, mixes up the party scene with intruding Fae as the ultimate revelers, both for themselves and for the mortals who are bold, or foolish enough, to get wrapped up in their parties. Attending such a party always has a cost, a price and consequence. Even more strongly, sometimes that cost, although paid, is not even recognized.
- Seanan McGuire, in “Bad Dream Girl” brings Roller Derby and another of those Price girls to her InCryptid (Discount Armageddon; The Midnight Blue Plate Special) universe. While I think the story works best having read one or both of those volumes, it’s self contained enough, and focused enough on Roller derby Incryptids that it also could serve as an introduction to her latest literary universe.
- Finally, the last story in the collection, Rachel Swirsky’s “All That Fairy Tale Crap” is a fourth-wall-breaking tale from a unique Cinderella that is not afraid to speak her mind. I had not quite realized, until she articulated it, a particular character trait in her Prince Charming. Its fun and darned funny.
More subtly than the choices of stories, there is an art and a skill in arranging a set of stories, a flow that keeps a reader skating through the anthology effectively. I particularly paid attention to that process while reading the stories in Glitter and Mayhem.
The anthology starts off with Christopher Barzak’s “Sister Twelve: Confessions of a Party Monster”, a strong opening story with princesses, nightclubs and faerie that helps introduce the theme, and shows that genre-bending and blending are the order of the day in the anthology. There are stories with broadly similar topics and themes, but they are arranged so as not to ever have a reader sick of aliens partying Earth, or shenanigans at roller derby, or faerie parties, or strange and eldritch pharmaceuticals. By the time a take on a topic comes up again in the anthology, there has been intervening stories with different, or complementary, themes and characters. And, like any good anthology, the book ends with a good story (the aforementioned Swirsky story). Really, there is no better place for this extremely strong and metatextual story than in its position as anchor, as a way of playing the audience out of the story set.
Glitter and Mayhem not only justifies the risks and faith required from its kickstarter backers, it shows that there is an audience for anthologies that take risks to bring short fiction outside of the usual bounds to a genre audience.
I have one more thing to say to the Editors and the cover artist, Galen Dara: Fabulous!
1. Glitter and Mayhem was originally kickstarted under the title “Glitter and Madness”. For reasons not germane to the review, this title was changed in production to Glitter and Mayhem.