Flash Fiction in Infernal Ink Magazine

Here’s some horror for the month of October. Infernal Ink Magazine has published my flash fiction, “Doll Parts”, in the Fall/Winter issue. It’s a little erotic horror story about a rubber doll.

Here’s the blurb for the magazine. Please be aware that this is an adult magazine of erotic horror and contains some extreme content. The stories and poems are mostly not queer. (My story is gender-bendy.) My poet friend, Kristin Garth, who I interviewed on this blog a little while ago, has one of her sonnets in this edition too.

Infernal Ink Magazine Fall/Winter 2018

IIM Cover Fall-Winter 2018 smallr

Infernal Ink Magazine is a literary magazine with a focus on publishing extremely dark and violent adult fiction and poetry. Consider your triggers warned.
In this issue we have our interview with musician and vocalist David Ingram, who discusses with us music, life, and Dr. Who. In the “The Author Bordello” we have Rajeev Singh, author of The Erotic Muse. In addition to this we have fiction and poetry from Thomas R. Skidmore, Sean Mulroy, Kristin Garth, Sidney Williams, Michael David, Matt Scott, Douglas Ford, Wendy A Rohn, Victor H. Rodriguez, Ashley Dioses, Jaap Boekestein, Ambrose Hall, J.B. Toner, and an anonymous poet.
This magazine contains adult content and themes and is not meant for readers under eighteen years of age.

 

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Queer Book Club: What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

What Belongs to You coverWhat Belongs to You is (adult) gay contemporary fiction. It’s taken me a little while to review this one as I needed to let it settle. It’s a tough read, not because of the style or the length—it’s a fairly short novel and elegantly written—but because watching the main character manhandle their emotions and cycle through their self-loathing is difficult to witness. If those don’t sound like things you want to read about, this isn’t the book for you.

The story is about an American teacher living in Sofia, who starts an on-off relationship with a young sex worker, Mitko. The narrator (who I don’t think is ever named) becomes fixated with Mitko, but their relationship is always an uneasy one, complicated by the narrator’s self-loathing and their uneven economic status. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that the narrator is far from easy with himself, that likely every decision he’s made in adulthood has been complicated by feelings left over from his childhood and his father’s rejection of his sexuality. I thought the emotional layering was well done. The way the narrator constantly fails to make the best choices for himself creeps up on you with slow frustration and then begins to make sense when more of his past is revealed.

The only thing I didn’t get on with, and this is more a visual discomfort thing for me, is that there are no paragraphs in the middle section of the novel. It’s a retrospective section about the narrator’s adolescence and his complicated relationship both with his own sexuality and with his father. Whilst perhaps the format reflects that mire of emotions, it made my eyes hurt and I’m not grateful for that.

Overall, this is a fairly heavy read, but it’s worth it for Greenwell’s handling of the ways our past shapes our present. I like the unreliable narrator and I’m interested in the ways we lie to ourselves about our own emotions. I also like a book that pulls the reader into the atmosphere and emotion, even if it is uncomfortable. It’s a book that leaves readers the space to do some working out for themselves and I think it’s worth the effort.

Queer Book Club: Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker

Regeneration cover

An actual book review from me, for a change. I’m rather late to the party with these ones, as they were published in the 90s, and the first one has since been made into a film, but I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d dust off my reviewing hat and recommend them here. I’ll cover the whole trilogy in one review, as I read them back to back in a frenzy of enthusiasm, and would now probably fail to separate them very well. The trilogy is adult historical fiction, comprised of: Regeneration, The Eye in the Door and The Ghost Road.

The trilogy is set during WW1 and begins in the Craiglockheart Hospital, where Dr W.H.R. Rivers is treating soldiers experiencing battlefield trauma. The characters are a mixture of historical figures, including Rivers, and the poets Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves, as well as fictional characters, such as Billy Prior, who becomes the focus of the second and third novels in the trilogy. The trilogy doesn’t shirk from featuring the sexuality of the characters, particularly as the trilogy progresses.

What I liked most about this trilogy is the way Barker tackles the subject matter with compassion, but not sentimentality. The characters are complex, often difficult, and morally conflicted. There are no easy answers served up for any of them, and their understanding, both of themselves and the world around them is always a hard-won thing. Billy is a brilliantly drawn character—acutely aware of the class divide he awkwardly straddles, as an officer from a working class background, at peace with his bisexuality, but troubled by his sadistic desires, wryly self-aware of his own limitations in some ways, whilst self-deluding in other ways. Whilst the portrayals of the historical figures were interesting and well done, it was Billy that really made the trilogy for me.

This is human nature, in all its messy complexity. These books have gone straight onto my list of favourites. I can’t recommend them enough.

More queer fiction reviews coming up in the near future, as I have some on my reading pile.

Flash Fiction: Changeling on Medium

green man natureI’ve just had my flash fiction, Changeling, published on Medium, in the publication The Mad River. They specialise in tales of fairies and madness, so check them out if that’s your sort of thing.

Changeling is a story from the point of view of the changeling boy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a what happens next about love and desire. LGBTQ content. I guess you could call it Shakespeare fan fic.