I Am Providence

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mamatas’s mystery novel takes place amid a convention of fans and authors inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, reminding this reader pleasantly of Sharyn McCrumb’s 1988 murder-at-an-SF-convention mystery BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN. (Mamatas seems well aware of the comparison, going so far as to reference McCrumb’s novel with a similar fictional book title within the narrative.) The characters are colorful and interesting, the murder is suitably grotesque, and the events in and around the convention are outlandish enough to keep your attention. Mamatas knows the subject matter inside and out, and his talent for pacing and detail continues to impress.

However, there’s a lot of inside baseball here, and if you’re not familiar with Lovecraft or convention culture this novel might not be for you. It is claustrophobic and air-tight in its humor and observations, and casual mystery readers may find themselves feeling like the one person at a party who doesn’t understand the joke everyone else is laughing at. While the prose is good and the novel is a fast, enjoyable read, its reliance on in-jokes and its willingness to sacrifice emotional involvement in favor of archness prevents it from being as memorable, to this reader at least, as it ought to be.

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Black Static #63 Is Here!

Black Static #63, which includes my story “The Fire and the Stag,” is now available! My name is even on the magazine’s cover, which is a first for me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

You can find Black Static #63 wherever you buy magazines, or you can purchase it directly from TTA Press. (The price is listed in British pounds, but there’s a button on the side of the page that will allow you to change the currency to US dollars or Euros.)

I hope you enjoy “The Fire and the Stag.” I think it’s one of my best stories, and I can’t wait for people to read it!

Art for “The Fire and the Stag”

This afternoon, Andy Cox, the editor of Black Static, sent me the utterly amazing art by Ben Baldwin that will accompany my story “The Fire and the Stag” in Black Static #63, which will be out in May. I love it!

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal GirlPaul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny, insightful, and often quite charming, Andrea Lawlor’s PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL comes as a pleasant surprise. The novel follows the life of twenty-two year old queer shapeshifter Paul, who can change his shape from male to female and back again at will. It’s a clever and effective allegory for trans and non-binary experiences, but it also works very well as a character trait. Paul, like many twenty-somethings, is full of outward confidence but lacks true self-esteem; he is constantly looking for outside validation through being an object of attraction and uses his shapeshifting abilities to get it. He wonders if there are others like him out there or if he is unique in the world, and what it would mean if either of those are true.

There isn’t much in the way of plot per se as we read about Paul’s relationships and his travels to different parts of the country, but I found the characters always interesting and there was a lot of sex to keep my attention. I don’t mean that reductively or as an exaggeration. There is A LOT of sex in this book — straight sex, gay sex, lesbian sex — and to Lawlor’s credit it’s a very sex-positive novel. (Although not all the sex is presented as sexy; a hurried blowjob in a dirty alley is presented just as unenticingly as you think it would be.) The author evokes the world of 1993 perfectly, and at times takes a fanciful approach to their subject, intoning certain mythically evocative names, interspersing versions of Paul’s backstory in the form of folklore and legend, all to great and sometimes even profound effect.

Although I found myself wishing for a slightly stronger ending, the ending Lawlor gives us is certainly the right one. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough to anyone interested in queer fiction, or literary fiction that’s laced with and informed by the fantastic. Lawlor studied under Samuel R. Delany, and it shows in both their talent and imagination. (And their graphic depictions of sex! Seriously, if you don’t like reading about sex, this is not the book for you!) I look forward to seeing what else Lawlor writes in the future.

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