Today on the site, we’re looking inside an anthology that’s edited by none other than yours truly! At Midnightis a collection of reimagined YA fairy tales (with the original source material in the back) authored by some of the category’s best and queerest, and it released today from Flatiron Books! Check out more about the volume and some of the queer stories within it below:
Fairy tales have been spun for thousands of years and remain among our most treasured stories. Weaving fresh tales with unexpected reimaginings, At Midnight brings together a diverse group of acclaimed YA writers to breathe new life into a storied tradition.
Fifteen celebrated authors reclaim classic fairy tales for a new generation:
Dahlia Adler, “Rumplestiltskin”
Tracy Deonn, “The Nightingale”
H.E. Edgmon, “Snow White”
Hafsah Faizal, “Little Red Riding Hood”
Stacey Lee, “The Little Matchstick Girl”
Roselle Lim, “Hansel and Gretel”
Darcie Little Badger, “Puss in Boots”
Malinda Lo, “Frau Trude”
Alex London, “Cinderella”
Anna-Marie McLemore, “The Nutcracker”
Rebecca Podos, “The Robber Bridegroom”
Rory Power, “Sleeping Beauty”
Meredith Russo, “The Little Mermaid”
Gita Trelease, “Fitcher’s Bird”
and an all-new fairy tale by Melissa Albert
Sugarplums. Glittering snow. Really snappy uniforms. Fabulous shoes used as weapons. It’s not like I had to make a huge leap (grand jeté?) to make The Nutcracker gay. But while my story got real gay, it also got real about what it means to have to perform for the audiences in our lives. A Latina dancer feels wound up like a music box ballerina. A soft butch girl with a chip on her shoulder and a spectacular curling throw can’t say what she really wants to say about the Christmas party going on downstairs. Two queer girls who always have the perfect insult for each other are quiet for once, leaving space for the conversations they’ve never had. And cake. Because sometimes enemies to lovers starts with cake.
“Say My Name” by Dahlia Adler
What if Rumpelstiltskin were a cruel Sapphic coding genius in love with her best friend? That’s the heart of “Say My Name,” which is actually a semi-repurposing of an idea I had for a different anthology to which I was asked to contribute but unfortunately didn’t sell. My main character in that story was a catfish who kept the game going a little too long when she got feelings, and naturally when I think catfish I think of the ultimate identity-hider of yore! And so Rumpelstiltskin became [redacted], and this became the story of a girl who would do anything to impress the girl she loves, even if it kind of turns her into a monster.
“HEA” by Alex London
HEA is a modern m|m reimagining of Cinderella, turned on its head. Asher (as in Aschenputtel–the little ash girl of the Grimm tale) is a teen social media star, who lives in service to his brand. Constant balls and parties and opportunities to create content. He longs for one night not to be a brand, but just to be a boy. So he disguises himself in sweatpants, ditches the Met Gala, and hides out at a coffee shop. Of course, it’s there that he meets his prince, the barista, and has to flee, back to his fabulous life and the endless churn of content. But he’s left something behind, more than his heart, and his prince is going to track him down…
“Mother’s Mirror” by H.E. Edgmon
When Dahlia asked me to join a fairytale retelling anthology, it was a no-brainer. I’ve been compelled by fairytales since my earliest days—I currently own three copies of the exact same Grimm Brothers collection, with different covers. My only question was which fairytale to make my own. And when I remembered that the original Snow White featured the protagonist’s own mother, not an evil step-mother, as the villain, I had my answer.
The often-fraught nature of mother/daughter relationships is one many of us are already familiar with. But what happens when the eldest daughter, the one expected to twist herself until she becomes a reflection of the mother, comes out as trans, instead? That’s the story I explore in “Mother’s Mirror.” The contemporary retelling features a narcissistic single mom as the evil queen, a main character who’s more huntsman than Snow, and the choice to cut out one’s own heart rather than face the slow poison of living a lie.
“A Flame So Bright” by Malinda Lo
I first encountered the little-known story of “Frau Trude” in an academic book called Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms, which includes an essay by Kay Turner titled “Playing with Fire: Transgression as Truth in Grimms’ ‘Frau Trude.” I was inspired by Turner’s queer reading of the very short tale of “Frau Trude,” and I loved the metaphorical possibilities of fire, especially because it has been connected closely with witchcraft. I lived in Salem, MA, for about a year and a half, and I’ve been fascinated by beliefs about witches since I was very young, so retelling “Frau Trude” gave me the opportunity to over-research witchcraft in colonial America and bring some local Salem-inspired flair to my story. I also loved this chance to return to what I call “fairy tale voice,” since I haven’t written fantasy in quite a while.
Today on the site, we’re saying howdy to Queer Weird West Tales ed. by Julie Bozza, which releases tomorrow!
Frontiers have always attracted the Other – where they find that the Other is always already there. These 22 stories explore what happens when queer characters encounter weirdness on the edge of the worlds they know.
Authors include: Julie Bozza, J.A. Bryson, Dannye Chase, S.E. Denton, Miguel Flores, Adele Gardner, Roy Gray, KC Grifant, Peter Hackney, Bryn Hammond, Narrelle M Harris, Justin Warren Jackson, Toshiya Kamei, Catherine Lundoff, Bunny McFadden, Angus McIntyre, Atlin Merrick, Eleanor Musgrove, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Lauren Scharhag, Sara L. Uckelman, and Dawn Vogel.
Per editor Julie Bozza, “In this edition of LGBTQ Reads’ “Inside An Anthology,” ten of the contributors to Queer Weird West Tales share insights into their choices of character, weirdness, and setting, and why this mix of themes is so intriguing.”
“Magic Casements” by Julie Bozza (editor)
I think this combination of Queer, Weird and West/Frontier works so well because all three elements resist – or are at odds with – the “norm”. Whatever that is! My friends and I have been saying “Normality is a dead concept” for decades now, but I think that is part of the charm of these genres, whether written together or separately. There is something that goes against the grain in all of us; there are social and cultural expectations that we all chafe against at times, to say the least. Which I think is at least partly why we identify with or at least enjoy reading about outsiders.
Maybe we are all the Other.
“Rumblings” by Roy Gray
The inspiration for my story was reading a book, The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time by J. Richard Gott. His description of a jinni, a sort of time loop – and in particular the information jinni – was one of the ideas that meshed with speculation about climate change, supervolcanoes, asteroid impacts and how our descendants might cope with the fallout of such.
“Handguns” by J.A. Bryson
I love the Weird West combination, the sort of miso and maple syrup of it, and have experimented a good bit of late writing Wild West Fairylands. There’s unexpectedness and umami so-to-speak, tropes to embrace and subvert. I love it. As for the queerness, that’s just the icing on the proverbial cake (pardon the mixed metaphor/flavor palates).
I very much enjoyed reading Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, which was steampunk but with a wild west flair and Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted, which was pulp western near future. I wanted to riff off these in my own work, and you know, lean into the weird.
“Twin-Sun Bayou” by Peter Hackney
My inspiration was not actually all that deep, at least not for this story. Very simply, I wanted to write a story about an out there romance in an out there place; one that would challenge some of the simpler tropes we often associate with things like space adventures and science fiction. Honestly, the very first thing that came into my head was the image of my characters sitting side by side on deck chairs, wearing matching straw hats and fishing as the sun(s) went down.
“A Truce with Evil” by Bryn Hammond
In my story I have a contrast of cultural values between competition and cooperation. That had its seed in a fascinating book I read years ago, Darwin Without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evolutionary Thought by Daniel P. Todes. It’s about 19th-century Russian scientists’ reception of the competition theme in Darwin. The ‘struggle for existence’, animal with animal, was a key concept for evolutionists in England and France, but in Russia did not translate well or tally with the observations of naturalists. Darwin had observed animals in populous places and warm climates, whereas in the cold spaces of Russia’s non-European hinterland, the usual struggle animals faced was against conditions, not each other. Pyotr Kropotkin is famous as an anarchist but was also a forerunner to the study of emotions and the beginnings of ethics in animals. His Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902) has a host of examples of the sociability of animals, cooperation across species, as witnessed in the vast landscapes of Siberia.
I meshed that with the ideas around evil in my story. I’ve wanted to explore the cultural relativity of evil ever since I wrote a sentence in my novel Against Walls: “We’re defined by our definition of evil.”
“Bleb Central” by Justin Warren Jackson
My main character is a gay man whose job is to cater to others. He thinks he runs things because he keeps everybody in one piece, literally. Only as the story progresses do we see that there is a larger picture and that what the main character does is just one piece of this. A moral of the story: No one is indispensable, though each of us can play a pivotal role. Especially after an alien invasion.
In my story, the queer characters are no more outsiders than any other human. With all characters equal in this regard, they also have equal agency in transforming their hostile environment into some semblance of home. Ultimately, their effectiveness depends not only on how much effort they put in, but also on how attuned they are to the larger picture.
“Grimwood” by Catherine Lundoff
I’m fascinated by the impact that the spiritualist movement had on both American and British society in the nineteenth century. It was an impetus for the founding of the abolitionist and the women’s suffrage movements: a lot of the female leadership combined their interests or moved from one to the other as they learned to give speeches, organize and be active outside the domestic sphere. I start off with a woman, a lesbian, who’s lost the love of her life and has exhausted what mediums and spiritualists can do for her, so she’s looking for a wilder, older magic.
“A Fearful Symmetry” by Angus McIntyre
My story is set in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century. It’s very much a time of transition. So the characters are ‘at home’ in the sense that they can function well in that environment, but there’s a growing tension between the old and the new. As the frontier increasingly opens up and loggers and miners and city builders move in, it’s creating a very different world.
The North America of my stories isn’t a comfortable place. There’s a dark and eerie side to it, and there really are sasquatches and wendigos and worse in those trackless woods and swamps. No one’s ever really ‘at home’ there. But my protagonists, like the Native people of the region, have learned how to fit in, how not to live at odds with nature, and how to manage those particular dangers. They’re going to have a much harder time coping with the new, rapidly-industrializing America that is coming their way.
“Set in Stone” by Eleanor Musgrove
My story is set on Hadrian’s Wall at the time of its building. This was (arguably!) the edge of the Roman Empire at the time, and for my Roman main characters, it’s where the fairly stable, predictable Empire they’ve always lived in gives way to wild weather and strange peoples. In my story, at least, there’s so much that they don’t know about the world beyond the Wall that they can actually use that to their advantage in some ways!
I chose this particular frontier because when I was younger, my dad was involved in Roman reenactment, so I learned a lot about the Romans on weekends and holidays, usually through visiting castles to watch their displays of marching, weapons, and even mock battles. I was a little worried that this particular frontier might be a bit too distant from other people’s for this anthology, but I’ve since learned that mine is actually not the farthest-flung! I love that we got to include a range of different frontiers, and I’m glad I could add to that variety.
“The Frontier of the Heart” by Sara L. Uckelman
I grew up watching Star Trek, so of course the first thing I think of when I hear “frontier” is “Space: The Final Frontier”. Even as a child, I remember finding that a perplexing phrase, because surely the frontier moves as it is explored, so how could any frontier be the final one? That was the inspiration for the story: A far-future space-exploration where every new planet is its own frontier to be explored. And then, of course, my characters had to face their own personal frontiers, the boundaries they thought they’d never be strong enough to cross.
Today on the site, we’re joining four bestselling, award-winning Sapphic romance authors for a look inside Eternally Hers, a collection of paranormal romance stories, launching today in Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and paperback!
Under a full moon, all creatures will succumb to their fate.
Explore your wildest fantasies with these page-turning lesbian paranormal romances designed to captivate you.
The overwhelming instinct to complete the preordained bond will drive these women to do what they must to satisfy the need to mate.
This collection of sapphic romance tales has something for everyone, from sweet to steamy, to dark and thrilling.
The stories in the compilation are exclusive and can’t be found anywhere else. Don’t wait, this box set will only be available for a limited time before it is gone forever!
Here are the authors sharing a bit about their stories!
“Hot For Her Bear” by Ariel Marie
Hot for Her Bear is a steamy, bear shifter romance. A forbidden, age gap romance between a human attracted to her best friend’s older sister, what is a girl to do? We’ve all had that one crush we shouldn’t have, but are we brave enough to pursue them? I love writing bear shifters. I’ve always imagined them grumpy and possessive.
I had so much fun writing this story. Our bear shifter is an awkward, grumpy bear who shouldn’t be giving in to the desires of her little sister’s friend, but how can she resist? Fate is involved.
And we all know fate always has her way!
“Cougar Woods” by Tiana Warner
Cougar Woods is a shifter romance with a sassy twist: it’s about cougars who shift into cougars. Like, middle-aged women who are feline shifters. I love an age-gap romance, and I love the idea of a group of confident, sexy, supernatural women. Pair that with a forbidden sapphic romance, and this story was super fun to write! Twenty-year-old Liza heads to the town called Cougar Woods to investigate her twin brother’s disappearance. What she finds is a dark secret—and an irresistible pull toward a mysterious woman named Winter.
“Crimson Desires” by K.L. Bone
Several years ago, I took a trip through the vineyards of Épernay, France. The beauty of the land and the lure of the vines inspired the setting of Crimson Desires. Vampires Suzette and Yelena experience a passionate romance throughout moonlight walks and sultry nights along the vineyards of the French countryside. One a pure-blood vampire, one a human turned, their path to love is a tumultuous liaison of tangled hearts and fated destinies.
Vampires are amongst my favorite paranormal creatures to write, as I have a master’s degree with a focus in vampire literature. I am very excited to have been able to combine my enchantment with the French countryside and my fascination with immortal vampires in the love story of Suzette and Yelena. I hope you enjoy their journey among the French vines.
“Elda’s Zephyr” by Renee Hewett
Elda’s Zephyr is about star-crossed lovers: a vampire falling for a fae… but with a twist! Zeph is fae crossed with wolf shifter, so though she knows she’s supposed to stay away from vampires, her fated mate sense tells her that she belongs with Elda. Zeph’s fae council is convinced that a vampire will drain any fae they can get their hands on, but Zeph is ready to challenge that thinking and prove that true love between light and dark can exist. Zeph believes in her, but Elda doesn’t know if she does. She’s afraid that the vampire darkness inside of her can’t be controlled if she lets herself have a moment of bliss with the fae.
Welcome back to Inside an Anthology, the feature where authors of queer anthology contributions come to share a little more on their stories! Today we’re checking out Longsummer Nights ed. by Dayna K. Smith, a queer paranormal romance anthology with 15 contributions that just released in May! Come check it out!
Have you ever dreamed that the dark eyes staring at you across the bar might belong to a vampire? When you watch horror movies, do you find yourself doodling the monstrous antagonist’s name in hearts the next day? If we’ve got you nodding your head, stick around!
If you’re looking for love in all the wrong places (like under the bed, or in creepy old crypts), we welcome you to pack your bags and visit the historical and haunted city of Longsummer. In the new paranormal (and very queer) romance anthology Longsummer Nights, edited by Dayna K. Smith, readers will experience a variety of thrilling original stories of love among monsters. The fifteen authors who contributed to this project are members of the VOW Collective, a group of game writers who went on the first ever strike in the history of the North American Games Industry in 2020. Our monster-loving authors include: Cyrus Adams, Cherry, Alix Comeau, A.K. Fedeau, Eve Golden-Woods, Rien Gray, A. Hendricks, T.K. Hirst, Arson Kidder, Abigail Laughlin, Amanda Louise, Margot Madison, Frances Maple, Devan Soyka, and Fisher Strunc.
In this edition of LGBTQ Reads’ “Inside An Anthology,” ten of the authors who wrote Longsummer Nights have shared a bit about which monsters they chose to write about, and what made them so chillingly irresistible.
“What Happened At Wisteria House” by Margot Madison
My contribution to the anthology started with a random yet spicy thought: how would one have sex with a ghost? As soon as the question popped into my head, I found myself compelled by the challenge of writing a story around it. My solution was to play with consensual possession. That would require a lot of trust between the parties involved…which led to a very tasty enemies-to-lovers opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. But who would be the lucky possess-ee? At first I thought it would be a regular human mortal, but as a witch myself, I couldn’t resist the urge to include one in the story. And thus, two unlikely roommates were born: Asha, a witch who moves back to her family’s old house in Longsummer for a fresh start, and Ruth, the ghost who’s been haunting the house in Asha’s absence. The two women are used to feeling alone and adrift in the world. Can they overcome their individual insecurities and traumas to make Wisteria House – and one another – their home?
“A Simply Miraculous Invention” by Frances Maples
The “monster” in my story is a life-size dancing doll that gains sentience. As soon as our group decided on the theme of monster romance, I knew I wanted my story to riff on the trope of “teaching a robot to love.” I’ve always been fascinated with the way robots are used in fiction, and even wrote a term paper on it in college, so the choice was an easy one. The dancing doll portion of my idea came later, as I started thinking more about the way human-like inanimate objects are used to express sexuality and gender. We have sex dolls, mannequins at department stores that have historically been used to model how people “should” dress along gendered lines, and we have children’s dolls that have historically also been bifurcated along strict gendered lines: Barbie for girls and G.I. Joe for boys. What caught my attention most in my research was the ballet titled Coppélia. It’s about a man who invents a dancing doll, falls in love with it, and tries (unsuccessfully) to bring it to life. I was fascinated with this idea of a doll being an expression of a cishet man’s ideal woman: beautiful and inanimate. There’s something scary about a dancing doll as well, an inanimate object that moves despite having no free will. That, too, echoes the way so many cishet men have an innate fear of women and femininity. The idea of this doll, designed to be an object of cishet male desire, coming to life and having a mind of their own, felt a lot to me like being assigned female at birth. In robot fiction there is constantly a thematic struggle between what a robot is created to do and what the robot wants to do once they have gained sentience. The idea of assigned gender vs gender identity felt like a natural progression of that theme to me. My story is heavily inspired by the ballet Coppélia, but is also a love letter to all the disaster enbies out there.
“labrys” by Cherry
I think I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, so when the theme of “monster romances” came up, my first thought was, “so Theseus and the minotaur fall in love instead”. And that was kind of where it started — at first, I had this grand vision about how the entire story would be one of self discovery (and in the end, I think I kind of, sort of, got there), but as the story grew, I knew it would become more of an exploration of what constitutes “monster”. More than anything, I chose this “type” of monster because we can find them littered throughout the most iconic stories, across every single culture — monsters that are monsters because we’ve decided they are. But they never get to speak for themselves; and then what if we turn that inwards, to look at ourselves and ask — aren’t we just as monstrous, if not more so, by choosing actively to segregate and separate ourselves from something or someone just because they are different, just because we’ve never tried to understand them? One of my favorite quotes from a book goes something like: “There’s not a monster dreamt that did not first walk within the soul of man.”
“Toothpick” by Arson Kidder
While we were all spitballing our prompts for the anthology, I suggested writing about a mermaid, and another writer shouted back “ALLIGATOR mermaid!” and I knew immediately I had to do it. The idea of selkies with their sealskin jackets wouldn’t leave me alone either. What if it was an alligator leather jacket and she needed it to transform from human to gator form? Then I worked around what kind of person could comfortably rock that as their casual everyday look, and Reina with her cowboy boots and her braggadocious energy was born. I’m grateful the other writers encouraged me to make her as uber-powerful and important as I wanted, to the point that she became a demigod of the city. Go big or go home, right? Then I started playing around with the idea of alligators being a metaphor for death itself, and the story just unfolded on its own after that…
“Corylus and Stone” by Amanda Louise
I chose to write a love story about lesbian faeries because I already had too many ideas about fae lore. For example, in some circles, the fair folk have a reputation for being tricksters. Wouldn’t that reputation lead to different treatment from those non-fae who might be wary of being tricked? Or what about from those who have already been tricked, like parents who raise changeling children?
Thus came the idea for Stone, a fairy raised among humans who was made to use her glamour magic to hide her true nature. She resents both being good at glamour and how faeries are treated. Her love interest, Corylus, is a human who was raised in Faerie and has missed magic every second since she left. Her drive to get magic back into her life leads to a tragic accident that makes her view herself as a monster.
I wanted these two lovers who grew up in different worlds with different morals to help each other get past their negative views of self (by finding the other one super sexy) and come to terms with their issues surrounding magic (by using it in a love scene).
“Indelible and Nocturnal” by T.K. Hirst
I had this idea to combine my two loves—Formula 1 and writing—into this thing. I knew I wanted to write something that was a little different; something a little meaner, and I wanted to incorporate vampires, because they’re sick, for lack of a better term. Also, creating an elusive vampiric character being absolutely destroyed by his younger, naive human counterpart was just fun to write! I chose this type of monster because I believed that vampires deserve some sort of retribution in the form of a young hot-shot driver willing to ruin your life. Life’s fun that way!
“The Antidote to Memory” by Eve Golden-Woods
I started with visuals. I knew I wanted a monster that wasn’t remotely human, something that would seem truly unnerving and alien. I had certain elements in mind immediately – a big height difference, altered facial features (the Curator has no nose, only slit nostrils, a classic choice for a creature meant to be scary rather than sexy). I was definitely influenced by things like The Shape of Water, along with other stories I’d recently read/seen, and I wanted to play with similar ideas but in a wlw space. I think other writer’s answers will probably delve into the queer/monstrous connection that a lot of us resonate with, but I should also add that I find stories of women who are not and cannot be traditionally beautiful very important, so that was something I wanted to explore for myself. There isn’t really a classical folkloric creature who fits what the Curator is, although lots of contemporary reimaginings of water monsters get close. She calls herself a troll in the story, which is a fairly flexible fantasy term, but I wish I’d been able to find an actual Irish folktale to link her to. Unfortunately, for all the bog we have, Ireland has a real dearth of bog monsters. But although the specifics are all my own invention, the idea of a big, dangerous creature who lives just enough off the beaten track that she might catch you if you get lost is something that a lot of cultures share.
“Seeds of Solace” by Rien Gray
The first image I had for this story was of an overgrown Southern manor, years of artifice being pulled back into the earth. As that expanded to a garden–with statues–the image of a gorgon sitting among the ruins came to mind. Yet I wanted her to be out of place, a hard and cold beacon in the midst of summer, so she became the love interest, intruding on my protagonist River and their ancestral home. River is, for all intents and purposes, a sentient plant, although they’re not aware they were grown by their mother inside the house until returning home in the wake of her death. Since I wanted a natural connection to the house and to explore the transformation that comes from grief, having them literally bloom over the course of the story made perfect sense.
“Virgin Cocktail” by Fisher Strunch
It would be easy to say I pursued a vampiric romance simply because I like vampires and think they’re sexy—honestly, even I thought that was the most accurate reading of my inspiration at first. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had really been seeking something entirely different: intimacy. There’s an intimacy beyond the traditionally romantic or sexual in vampiric fiction, and most specifically in the concept of consensual blood drinking. Beyond simply (though of course it’s not simple at all) baring your heart to another, of trusting a partner to see you wholly and accept you all the same, you’re putting your life in a vampire’s hands. And, in turn, a non-vampiric participant is literally giving a part of themselves so their vampiric lover may live. Obviously, it’s a bit intense for real life, but that’s the appeal of fantasy, isn’t it? And after living for two years and counting in almost complete isolation, some fantastical, bigger-than-life intimacy is exactly what I was craving.
“Mending Ribbons” by Cyrus Adams
I was really into second chance romances when I started brainstorming this story. In a magic-focused story, I knew that whatever broke my love interests apart, it would have to be related to the magical abilities of one person or, more specifically, how the magical love interest resented that side of himself. I don’t remember how I came around to the choice of making Tristan a witch specifically, but I know the first thing I thought of was having a character who made a career out of his magic, and perhaps he found that was all it was good for. One of his greatest challenges would be facing someone who was fascinated with his magic, and saw it as a gift, rather than the curse Tristan saw it as. Which was also how I made the decision to give Tristan a literal curse. And that’s how the foundation of the story was laid down! A freelancing witch gets hired by a man who needs his magical powers; they fall in love. Kai loves how careful Tristan is with his magic, Tristan loves that Kai can see beauty everywhere he looks…and a curse tears them apart. So this is a story about Tristan learning that there are beautiful sides to his magic and himself, but it’s also about Kai being faced with the ugly truths, and deciding if he wants to stick around to see them.
Today’s edition of Inside and Anthology celebrates Fools in Love, ed. by Ashley Herring Blake and Rebecca Podos, and releasing tomorrow from Running Press! Here’s the info:
Join fifteen bestselling, award-winning, and up-and-coming authors as they reimagine some of the most popular tropes in the romance genre.
Fake relationships. Enemies to lovers. Love triangles and best friends, mistaken identities and missed connections. This collection of genre-bending and original stories celebrates how love always finds a way, featuring powerful flora, a superhero and his nemesis, a fantastical sled race through snow-capped mountains, a golf tournament, the wrong ride-share, and even the end of the world. With stories written by Rebecca Barrow, Ashley Herring Blake, Gloria Chao, Mason Deaver, Sara Farizan, Claire Kann, Malinda Lo, Hannah Moskowitz, Natasha Ngan, Rebecca Podos, Lilliam Rivera, Laura Silverman, Amy Spalding, Rebecca Kim Wells, and Julian Winters this collection is sure to sweep you off your feet.
And here are the authors of a bunch of the stories, sharing a bit about the story behind the story!
“Edges” by Ashley Herring Blake
“Edges” is an f/f story about a girl who feels everyone has left her behind–including the popular girl she’s currently making out with. Mac can’t believe that Clover–their schoo’s queer queen bee–could possibly actually truly like her. After all, her dad left her family for another one, her mom is hardly ever home, and her twin sister left town altogether for a performing arts boarding school. She’s inherently leavable. So when it becomes clear that Clover wants more than just hooking up, Mac has to decide if she’s willing to soften up her edges a bit for the girl of her dreams.
“Disaster” by Rebecca Podos
I know an homage to 90’s era disaster films might not be the most natural pairing for a romance trope anthology, but setting “Disaster” during a potential apocalypse in 1998 felt perfect for my trope, second-chance romance (and, possibly, a last-chance romance). It also gave me the opportunity to explore a time period before bisexuality was regularly spoken about, even within queer circles. My story about two ex-girlfriends trying to find their way back to one another at the maybe-end of the world takes place the year after America’s first openly bisexual state official came out, a few months before the bisexual pride flag was unveiled, and a year before the first Celebrate Bisexuality Day. Plus, I got to smuggle in Armageddon references (and watch the movie three times in a row, you know, for research).
“Bloom” by Rebecca Barrow
Listen: when it comes to romance, I am all about the yearning. And what kind of yearning is more exquisite than the kind that reaches across worlds, or universes, or time itself? Blame it on me watching too many mind-bending space movies late at night as a kid, or reading The Amber Spyglass and constantly thinking about benches in Oxford, or binge watching 12 Monkeys in distant pre-pandemic times, but when I had to pick a trope to write about, I couldn’t think of anything better. Maybe it’s the idea of exactly how great a love has to be for it to exist outside of the natural boundaries of our world. Maybe it’s just that there is something so deeply romantic about two people pining for something that shouldn’t be possible. Maybe it’s the bittersweet possibility that actually, love can’t conquer all. Except—sometimes it can. And sometimes, in my mind, all it takes is an extra bit of magic for that love to bloom.
“Silver and Gold” by Natasha Ngan
I’ve always loved wintry settings in books, there’s something just so cosy and romantic about them! Of course, being me, the setting in my story is a touch more dangerous than romantic. Rather than a pretty frosting of snow, it’s a life-threatening blizzard – and the two girls sheltering from it are in the midst of a deadly race. But the riskiest of situations can often be the most bonding, and that’s what we see in “Silver and Gold”, as rivals Mila and Ru are forced to confront their romantic past – and whether there’s space in their futures for each other. I had so much fun writing their story, and I hope you have as much fun reading it!
“My Best Friend’s Girl” by Sara Farizan
My story is about Alia who has always been there for her best friend, Hal, especially since she is the only one who knows he is a burgeoning superhero in Gateway City. She finds it increasingly more difficult to keep all of his superpowered secrets, especially from Hal’s new girlfriend Clara. There’s one secret Alia hasn’t told Hal yet either…
“I knew a lot of authors would be fighting over the more popular romance tropes for this anthology, so I went with one of my favorite under-the-radar tropes, one so under the radar I didn’t even know what it was called! I think when I emailed Becca and Ashley about my trope preferences I called it “gets drunk/drugged/injured/delirious and confesses love, later does not remember/pretends they do not remember.” Which is a mouthful! ‘Kissing Under the Influence” is a lot snappier. I love the awkward interactions after characters accidentally give away things they didn’t intend to reveal, and my young adult fantasy novels are on the serious side, so I really wanted to play around and be goofy with my short story. The result is “Unfortunately, Blobs Do Not Eat Snacks,” which is weird and quirky and not much like my previous work at all. (Also, I love my title so much and still have a hard time believing they actually let me keep it.)”
“What Makes Us Heroes” by Julian Winters
Everyone knows I love writing about superheroes! But when I picked my trope—Hero vs. Villain—for Fools in Love, I honestly didn’t know what kind of romantic story I wanted to tell. Should I go explosive and action-packed like a Marvel movie? Dark and introspective like a DC comic? How could I turn a fresh twist on this epic trope?
And then 2020 happened. Specifically—June 2020.
The news was flooded with videos of violence. Protests. Of people trying to define who the heroes were and purposefully villainizing the ones fighting for a change. All I thought about were the teens ready to take action for their friends, family, themselves and how people were ready to villainize them for having a voice—including the ones who are supposed to love and protect them.
Suddenly, “What Makes Us Heroes” poured out of me. Shai and Kyan’s story came to life. I wanted a story about two superpowered boys navigating a world telling them what a hero should be and letting them define who a hero can be. How we can fall in love with the one person everyone thinks is “wrong” for us but is really the best thing we had all along.
The fact that I got to set it in a coffeeshop with a side of fake dating was a bonus!
As it happens, there are a few stories in the anthology that aren’t queer. (It happens.) A couple of those authors wrote blurbs too:
“Teed Up” by Gloria Chao”
“Teed Up” is loosely inspired by LPGA superstar Michelle Wie West, the first and thus far only female golfer to qualify for a USGA national men’s tournament (among many many other accolades). I myself am a terrible golfer, but I unfortunately have my share of experience dealing with large male egos in other domains. I wanted to explore the idea of being the only woman competing in a field of men in my short story for FOOLS IN LOVE, titled “Teed Up.” Sunny Chang, a star female golfer, is wary of any attention—both positive and negative—coming from a male competitor, which creates the perfect opportunity for an oblivious-to-lovers story. Even though most of the details are fictionalized, I had a lot of fun temporarily putting myself in Michelle’s superstar shoes!
“The Passover Date” by Laura Silverman
“The Passover Date rolls up everything I love into one story – Jewish cooking, fake dating, and nosey family members. I had so much fun writing this Jewish romance. My characters Rachel and Matthew are sweet and funny and adorably bumbling.
I hope readers will enjoy watching them fake date their way into something real.”
Welcome to another edition of Inside the Anthology! Today we’re celebrating Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America, ed. by Nora Shalaway Carpenter, which, as you may have guessed, contains rural YA fiction, some of which is queer! It releases today from Candlewick, and here’s some more info:
Gracie sees a chance of fitting in at her South Carolina private school, until a “white trash”-themed Halloween party has her steering clear of the rich kids. Samuel’s Tejano family has both stood up to oppression and been a source of it, but now he’s ready to own his true sexual identity. A Puerto Rican teen in Utah discovers that being a rodeo queen means embracing her heritage, not shedding it. . . .
For most of America’s history, rural people and culture have been casually mocked, stereotyped, and, in general, deeply misunderstood. Now an array of short stories, poetry, graphic short stories, and personal essays, along with anecdotes from the authors’ real lives, dives deep into the complexity and diversity of rural America and the people who call it home. Fifteen extraordinary authors – diverse in ethnic background, sexual orientation, geographic location, and socioeconomic status – explore the challenges, beauty, and nuances of growing up in rural America. From a mountain town in New Mexico to the gorges of New York to the arctic tundra of Alaska, you’ll find yourself visiting parts of this country you might not know existed – and meet characters whose lives might be surprisingly similar to your own.
And here are the authors of the queer stories, talking about their work!
“The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow” by Rob Costello
Dark speculative fiction with a queer bent is my creative wheelhouse. So, when Nora Shalaway Carpenter gave me free rein to contribute any kind of story I wanted to an anthology that would celebrate the rich diversity of teen life in rural America, I knew my piece had to be creepy. “The Hole of Dark Kill Hollow” is the result.
I came up with the idea shortly after a visit my husband and I paid to the Shawangunk Mountains of upstate New York. I’d never been to that corner of my home state before, and something in the air of those thickly wooded peaks and valleys spoke to me. Something mysterious, magical, and perhaps a little bit sinister. Soon, that something had evoked the image of two best friends—one gay, one not, each with secret hurts and desires—as well as the malevolent presence in the woods that offers much but could take everything away from them both.
Yet, the real trick with the story for me lay not in the concept but in getting the characters right. Above all, I wanted to depict a friendship between two teenage boys whose sexuality is irrelevant to their bond. I love queer romance as much as the next gay guy, but I don’t think we see enough portrayals of purely platonic male love in YA. Jesse, my gay protagonist, has an awful lot of problems in his life—really thorny, wrenching, heavy stuff. But his best friend Tyler is his rock. Over the course of the story, as they draw closer and closer to making a terrible mistake, it becomes clear to them (and to the reader) just how precious their friendship truly is.
Life saving, in fact. Together, I hope these two boys will challenge some of the toxic stereotypes about queerness, masculinity, and love that still poison our culture today.
“A Border Kid Comes of Age” by David Bowles
When writing my award-winning MG novel-in-verse They Call Me Güero, I did a lot of digging into my own childhood, growing up in a small community on the Mexican-US border in deep South Texas. Most of what I pulled into the fictional narrative were happy memories, beloved traditions, humorous incidents that I knew would draw readers into the complex and beautiful lives of border folks.
But I stopped short of one of the darker aspects of my adolescence in this Mexican American enclave called the Rio Grande Valley: the fear I felt when I considered the deep-seated homophobia of so many local men. As I realized I was attracted as much by boys as by girls, panic set in. My youngest uncle had just been run out of town, taking refuge at last in Austin, when he was caught outside one of the Valley’s clandestine gay clubs.
Like other queer Chicanx folks of the 80s, I managed to make a sort of peace with myself and those I cared about. Married an incredible queer woman. Eventually became a teacher and a mentor to students who, in slightly more enlightened times, found themselves in similar straits.
At the intersection of their lives and mine, I have crafted “A Border Kid Comes of Age,” a verse short story about the protagonist of They Call Me Güero, four years after the events of that book. I’ve given him the courage and family support I only wish I had enjoyed.
That’s the joy of being an author. You can craft the world you want to see.
All queer teens deserve a happy ending.
So I wrote him one.
“Best in Show” by Tirzah Price
When Nora approached me with the idea for this anthology, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, and Molly sprang to life almost immediately. Like many of the contributors, I borrowed heavily from my own life when writing “Best in Show,” but I struggled to put into words my experience of growing up queer and rural, and the complicated feelings that arise in me even now.
Like Molly, I showed pigs in 4-H, lived on a farm, and picked up my first date in a farm truck that was older than us both. Like Molly, I’ve felt torn between the excitement of a new crush and the fear that acting on said crush means being visibly different in my town. I enjoy a certain amount of privilege even today—some people are surprised to find that my spouse is not a man—and as I’ve grown older, I’ve gained more confidence in myself and my relationships. But too often growing up rural and queer oftentimes means making a choice between leaving, or sticking around and finding the courage to challenge perceptions in your community, and face questions, discrimination, and even bigotry as they come up. That’s not always easy, and sometimes it’s downright exhausting. And yet, I’ve never wanted to define my hometown by the worst interactions I’ve had with others over who I love, because it discounts all of the fantastic people I know—and many times, some people I thought for sure would write me off have surprised me with their support and acceptance. Overall, I remain optimistic. Not because I want to present an unrealistic view of rural living, but because I want readers, especially teens, who are queer and live in small towns to feel seen, and to feel as though they don’t have to follow the narrative prescribed to them.
Shae Carys, “Black Nail Polish”
When I started “Black Nail Polish,” I had a rough idea of what the story would be about. It’s a bit autobiographical, although I didn’t find out about my Ehlers-Danlos until I was much older than Maddie and our motivations were a little different. I was miserable in high school until I decided to express myself, to dress like I wanted to, wearing black nail polish and lipstick and fishnets and vinyl. It had the added benefit of people making way for me in the halls who had previously tormented me. I later found out that my popular friends envied me for not caring what others thought. I will admit, it was heady.
Maddie’s embrace of the gothic comes from a place of frustration – it’s less about the desire to stand out, since she’ll never fit in. Dealing with the news of a disability is a multilayered process, much like grief. There is a grief to it, certainly some anger. It was important to me that Maddie wasn’t alone in the process of dealing with it, since it can be one of the loneliest things in the world. I will say that in the original version, Maddie’s crush on her best friend was explicit, but in the end, we decided that it didn’t need to be. The crush is still there; it’s just not the focus of the story. I’m sure Maddie will figure herself out later, just like I did.
Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome the authors of Out Now: Queer We Go Again!edited by Saundra Mitchell, which releases today from Inkyard Press! This anthology has a little bit of everything queer, so take a gander at the beautiful cover, check out the blurb, and then dig into the authors’ personal stories behind their stories!
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed All Out anthology, Out Now features seventeen new short stories from amazing queer YA authors. Vampires crash prom, aliens run from the government, a president’s daughter comes into her own, a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer, a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. Teapots and barbershops, skateboards and VW vans, Street Fighter and Ares’s sword: Out Now has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page!
I was a freshman in college in Long Beach, CA, when I went on the very date that inspired “Refresh.” Online dating was much sketchier back then, but I had spent weeks talking to a boy my age who seemed so effortlessly cool. I finally mustered the courage to ask if he wanted to meet up, and he agreed enthusiastically. I knew this was risky, so I picked a public meeting space outside of a Metro Station in Hollywood. It took me two trains and nearly two hours to get there, so you can imagine my disappointment when I showed up to discover he had catfished me.
My date did not end as the story does in “Refresh.” I left immediately, feeling scorned and rather foolish. I had worked up so much courage to even come, doubting that I was handsome enough or interesting enough for this person. I wrote this story from that place of vulnerability, of not knowing if you are enough for another person, of existing in a world where the politics around the size and shape of our bodies make life harder. It’s a bit of queer fluff, and I had so much fun writing it.
“What Happens in the Closet” by Caleb Roehrig
When I first sat down to begin my contribution for OUT NOW, I outlined the story of a theater kid with a crush on a boy who might or might not be queer—and then I struggled to write it. Even though it was ripped straight from the headlines of my own teenage life, I couldn’t quite connect with the narrative I was crafting. Where were the stakes?
Among my influences as a storyteller, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably number one. It was inventive and suspenseful, of course, but it balanced its undead bombast with nuanced and sensitive explorations of very real day-to-day issues. On a season three episode entitled Homecoming, Buffy and her frenemy Cordelia are forced to hash out their longstanding jealousy and insecurities…all while fighting for their lives against vampire assassins. It was a brilliant metaphor for the fishbowl of high school life, and the layered dynamic between the two characters still felt so rich with potential for more.
What if it had been two queer kids trapped together instead, with physical attraction added to the already volatile cocktail of envy and admiration? What if they’d had to navigate those life-or-death problems while also, you know, trying to literally just stay alive?
Eventually, I asked if I could go ahead and lean into it—to write a story about two boys facing their demons (figurative and literal,) where a vampire invasion is only the second-most annoying thing about a ruined school dance; and I am forever grateful to Saundra Mitchell for saying yes. The universe I created for “What Happens in the Closet” was so much fun that I used it as the basis for a full-length novel, (The Fell of Dark, coming in July!) and I hope you love this fun and fang-toothed tale as much as I do!
“Star-Crossed in D.C.” by Jessica Verdi
The idea for this story sparked for me around the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when I saw posts on social media about Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump (two adult children of the two nominees) being friendly in real life. It confused me, honestly, since they seem to stand for very different things. How on earth could they be friends?
But then I wondered, what if Ivanka did secretly agree more with Chelsea and her mother Hillary more than she let on in public—if maybe she had an obligation to stand by her father’s side, but deep down disagreed with him on the issues. (I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Come on, Jess, Ivanka has made her opinions more than clear.” But this was years ago, before any of that was as blatantly evident as it is now.) And then I wondered, how amazing would it be if Ivanka (or any child of a high-profile conservative politician) had enough of a backbone to buck tradition, and what was expected of them, and publicly announce their support for the other candidate—the more progressive one. How absolutely inspiring and thrilling would that be!
Over time, the real-life inspiration for “Star-Crossed” fell away, and what remains is something a bit more romancey, a lot more queer, and even more wish-fulfilling. It’s my version of a fairy tale.
“Floating” by Tanya Boteju
“Floating” grew directly out of my experience as a high school English teacher. I’m surrounded by teenagers and tend to most notice the kids who seem a little out of place—the ones who sit alone in corners at lunch, who aren’t wholly driven by ‘A’s and university acceptances, who offer up weird and wonderful insights into the literature we’re studying. One student I noticed a few years ago kind of floated through the hallways, seemingly in a world of her own. And having taught her, I also knew she had one of those weird and wonderful minds. I was curious about what her brain was doing as she drifted through the school. The protagonist in “Floating,” Shanti, is my attempt to explore the inner workings of students like this and what it might look like for someone else to be able to reach into those inner workings somehow–as Essie does—but without changing who Shanti is at the core. I wanted Shanti to be able to maintain her wanderings and wonderings, but then to also find a gentle stillness with Essie. That it was two girls finding each other just felt natural to me. Many of the setting details in the story are pulled from my own school too—including the paper swirls that become so integral to the story.
“Far From Home” by Saundra Mitchell
I wasn’t going to write a story for my own anthology (I didn’t have one in All Out, either!) but my wonderful editor at Inkyard, Natashya Wilson, really, really, really wanted one. And it’s hard to say no when someone brilliant is saying, “please write a thing for me, I think it would be great.”
“Far From Home” may or may not be great– that’s not up for me to decide. But I did have a lot of fun writing it. I wanted to write a non-binary character, so check, and I wanted the genders and orientations of the characters to be as far from central as possible.
Also, my reviews agree that sometimes, my novels are slow to start. So I wondered, what would happen if I just started with the danger? And that’s how I end up with a non-binary starboi and their pan boyfriend dangling a thousand feet above an empty creekbed, with Men in Black in pursuit.
I love the conversation they have– because we love superhero movies, but I’m not entirely sure we’d be thrilled with actual superheroes. So yeah… write fast, write hard, no mercy! (Well, a little mercy. I love a happy ending!)
“Ready Player One” by Eliot Schrefer
I actually wrote the first incarnation of “Player One Fight!” twenty years ago, and rewrote it to include here. I was 21 at the time, and back then I was prey to a conception that I think a lot of us have when we’re young—that relationships are a form of battle, with winners and losers. That if you do all the moves right, then you’ll come out on top. Through Blake I wanted to look at the early life of someone who still had a lot of room to grow as far as how he treated boyfriends, and himself.
“Victory Lap” by Julian Winters
In “Victory Lap,” Luke Stone is great at everything, but there’s one thing he repeatedly fails at: asking a boy out. Specifically, he hasn’t found a date to the winter formal. His friends are putting more effort into finding him a date than he is. That is until Luke bumps into Milo, a shy classmate who Luke thinks is his perfect match, if he can get the nerve to ask Milo out. And the one person who he knows he can get the best advice from doesn’t know he’s gay yet—his dad.
When I first started writing this story, I had two goals: write a cute love story starring a gay, Black teen who’s still becoming comfortable in his own skin and set it in a barbershop, a place that is well-known in the Black community as a place of comfort, strength, laughter, and discourse. I didn’t plan to write a “coming out” story but the moment Luke sits in his dad’s barber chair, I knew the story I needed to tell. It was an opportunity to show a positive experience between a queer teen and his father, something that isn’t often depicted, especially inside POC communities. QPOC teens deserve to read stories where they feel safe and comforted by their loved ones. And I hope readers walk away from this story feeling lighter, confident, and smiling goofily just like Luke.
Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She’s dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. The author of nearly twenty books for tweens and teens, Mitchell’s work includes SHADOWED SUMMER, THE VESPERTINE series, ALL THE THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK, a novel forthcoming from HarperTEEN and the forthcoming CAMP MURDERFACE series with Josh Berk. She is the editor of three anthologies for teens, DEFY THE DARK, ALL OUT and OUT NOW. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.
Today on the site, we’re excited to welcome Celine Frohn, editor of Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, out now from Nyx Publishing! This speculative collection features a wide range of identities, including gay, lesbian, bi/pan, trans and non-binary, poly, and asexual characters. Check it out here and then learn a little more about the stories that make it up!
Unspeakable contains eighteen Gothic tales with uncanny twists and characters that creep under your skin. Its stories feature sapphic ghosts, terrifying creatures of the sea, and haunted houses concealing their own secrets. Whether you’re looking for your non-binary knight in shining armour or a poly family to murder with, Unspeakable showcases the best contemporary Gothic queer short fiction. Even dark tales deserve their time in the sun.
The anthology contains stories by Claire Hamilton Russell, Ally Kölzow, C. L., Lindsay King-Miller, Avery Kit Malone, Katalina Watt, Jude Reid, S.T. Gibson, Jenna MacDonald, Eliza Temple, Katie Young, Sam Hirst, Ryann Fletcher, Heather Valentine, Jen Glifort, E. Saxey, Anna Moon, and Mason Hawthorne.
The haunted house as a metaphor is something that fascinates me. In “Leadbitter House”, the house is a proxy for the protagonist’s body, the struggles he faces throughout the story reflect a number of struggles that are common to transgender experiences. Elijah is confronted over and over by people who believe that his house must be arranged or decorated or treated in the way that they expect it to be, rather than how Elijah needs it to be, or who express outright disgust at it. The use of body horror elements in this story is another part of the gender narrative that I explore through my work. Often, it isn’t until other people read my writing and say “wow that’s body horror!” that I realise what effect the scenes I develop might have for someone who is not in my head. I try to make the ostensibly gory, horrific elements more about connection and exploration of the body, about intimacy and anxiety connected to bodily experience, in a way that uses the uncanny to interrogate that which is often assumed to be familiar and ‘normal’.
But besides all that, sometimes organ removal is fun!
“Laguna and the Engkanto” by Katalina Watt
My story ‘Laguna and the Engkanto’ takes place on a fictional island called Avelina and is inspired by Filipino folklore, specifically the engkanto: a mythical spirit of the environment. The engkanto in my story is genderless and similar to a siren or mermaid, acting as a catalyst for and symbol of sexual awakening. Laguna begins the story with a fear of the sea, and as she becomes more in tune with herself and her body, this transforms into a longing for it.
I wanted to explore the idea of queerness within the prism of a society which is highly spiritual in both the religious and folkloric sense. The characters are living under the shadow of colonialism which has brought, among other things, these new religious ideologies. Within this society and particularly for a young woman, the engkanto represents both sexual agency but also transgressive pleasure, and I wanted to play with the concept of queerness as it relates to these intersections within a culture.
“Brideprice” by S.T. Gibson
“Brideprice” is my love letter to the vampire novels and action fantasy movies like Van Helsing that got me through my teens. When I was first coming to terms with my own bisexuality, my desires felt monstrous, so stories of ravenous supernatural creatures pining away after maidens soothed me. I was enamored by the capricious, sensual, mysterious brides of D, who struck me as the perfect mix of maiden and monster, seducer and seducee. I wrote “Brideprice” to give them their own narrative voices, and to play up the queerness inherent in the source text. This undying family is re-imagined as a polyamorous unit of cis and trans men and women who simultaneously desire one another and compete with one another for power.
The Dracula myth is generally told from his perspective, or the perspective of his victims, but not the brides. “Brideprice” is my attempt to give agency back to the brides. This is why Dracula rarely speaks in the story and only exists filtered through the brides’ memories: he’s just the catalyst for their leap into immortality. Whether they’re trying to escape violence, bigotry, or poverty, he’s their dark door into a new world, but they’re the ones seizing agency and making that final choice.
“Homesick” by Sam Hirst
Writing has always been a means of exploring and expressing myself from those early days of pre-teen poetry with its paeans to blonde beauties right through the angsty self-repressing tragedies of my teens littered with sapphic ladies dying to save their beloved. Emerging from years of denial about who I was and ignorance about the words that existed to describe myself – asexual, sapphic, queer… I turned to writing to work out my confusions before I even knew what they were. And that’s where ‘Homesick’ comes from. It mixes the Gothic elements I’ve always loved – ghosts – and one of the intriguing riddles associated with – how the afterlife actually works – with an exploration of queer identity that I’ve often felt didn’t fit in any of the existing categories. Ghosts allow you to move away from the physical. Sexual attraction disappears from the world of my story, the way it is absent from my own life. Exploring life after death allowed me to imagine a world lived within sight of your past but not bound or determined by it. My ghosts are homesick because they haven’t found a home yet and my story is about them finding their way there – to the place and the people they belong with. In writing this story, I followed Marion and Sanan through a Gothic world that they made beautiful. It’s a story of hope in the end and I hope people read it that way.
“Lady of Letters; or, the Twenty-First Century Homunculus” by Heather Valentine
Lady of Letters came from an idea I’d been toying around with for a while about fake profiles and alternate accounts in the mid-2000s era of early social media. I’d played a few games that were either set in that era or touched on the ideas I was interested in – Cibele takes place in a fake MMORPG, and spoke to my experiences of playing Phantasy Star Universe while having arguments with my soon-to-be-ex high school boyfriend in the private chat; and Simulacra takes the idea of the sentient profile in a far more cosmic horror direction.
Seeing the call for stories for Unspeakable, I realised that the key to exploring these ideas on the page was the Gothic. Taking the genre’s sometimes-features of narratives framed through letters and recordings; the all-encompassing emotions its heightened settings allow its protagonists to have without that teenage shame of feeling too much; the idea of a ghostly romance, but making the spectre a digital one.
I think the way that classic Gothic writing explores and remembers is past is something we can use to explore our own much more recent history, as people and as communities.
“Hearteater” by Eliza Temple
Hearteater is a story about a woman who lives alone in a decaying manor house named Scarlet Hall. One dark and stormy night, a stranger named Kat turns up at the house looking for shelter. Lady Scarlet invites her inside, and they grow close, despite each insisting on their own monstrosity.
My initial idea for Hearteater was to explore how Gothic preoccupations with virginity would work when applied to queer sex, but literally none of that made it into the final draft because I got preoccupied by my own issues. Both Lady Scarlet and Kat refer to themselves as monsters throughout the text; they literally are, in the sense of being supernatural and nonhuman, but they also live in a heteronormative society which could consider them monstrous for not being attracted to men. When Kat comes to Scarlet Hall, both women find community in each other—not only are they both lesbians, but their respective supernatural powers complement each other. I wrote Hearteater at a time when I didn’t really have any friends who were also gay women, so the heart of the story is the joy and comfort that comes from finding someone like you, when before you were all alone.
“Taylor Hall” by Jen Glifort
I’ve always loved haunted houses—the dilapidated buildings, the secret passages, the unpredictability of a house’s temperament. But what if the house was benevolent, rather than threatening? I wanted to explore what it would be like to live in a haunted house that was devoted to its owner and wanted to help them.
I thought Taylor Hall would be the ideal environment for a character like Kit, who struggles with gender identity and all the insecurity that comes with it. I’ve questioned my own gender identity my whole life, and feel like I’ve only recently started coming to terms with that. In my experience, suppressing those feelings can cause them to express themselves in unexpected ways (although they’ve never resulted in my house misbehaving in the middle of the night). I wanted to see how something like having a crush on a new roommate could bring up those emotions for Kit.
Setting this story in a haunted house gave me a chance to play with the concept of home. I loved the idea of someone who found a loving, nurturing home that caters to their needs while still trying to find a home in themselves.
“The Dream Eater” by Anna Moon
What if an asexual person is faced with a succubus or incubus? That was my initial inspiration for “The Dream Eater”, where the ace protagonist, Dan, comes across a genderless entity that drains people’s life force. I wanted to write a story where asexuality and queerness allows the main character to relate to the supernatural in a different (and positive) way, and at the same time show an ace person in a happy relationship with an allosexual person (his girlfriend, Elise). The Gothic, and a threatening presence that looms in the space between dream and reality, seemed like the perfect lens through which to explore sexuality, identity, and what it means to be human.
“The Ruin” by E. Saxey
“The Ruin” is a romance, with two guys falling in love through their shared interests: ruined buildings, end-of-the-world fiction, incredibly old poetry. These are also a few of my favourite things. I wanted to explore, through a love story, a nagging doubt I have: are these hobbies actually unsavoury? Is Ruinenlust – so fundamental to the Gothic – also fundamentally dodgy? I can tell myself that I’m interested in how people used to live, or how they’d survive in an apocalypse, but I spend a lot of time (imaginatively) in dark crumbling places. Maybe it’s the continuity of the human experience that delights me, but I suspect it’s the continuity of me, posing solo against the background of all these wonderful ruins.
So while I’m fond of both the characters in “The Ruin”, their relationship isn’t ideal. While the narrator’s interest in the end of the world is purely imaginative, his partner may have a more hands-on approach. Or is that just paranoia?
Well, this is a pretty exciting post for me, considering I’m the editor of this particular anthology! Getting to see different takes on Poe was fun in itself, but getting to see half the collection come back with queer protagonists? Now, that was utterly delightful. I asked the authors of those stories to share a little bit about them, so come check it out!
Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.
Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining “Ligeia”), Kendare Blake ( “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).
Tessa Gratton, “Night-Tide”, a retelling of “Annabel Lee”
“Annabel Lee” is one of the poems that used to get stuck in my head when I was a kid. Something about the rhythm, the longing, and the weird imagery—not to mention morbid aesthetic—spoke to thirteen year old Tessa. I used to recite it to myself in a sing-song way, letting the imagery wash over me. When I set out to write a short story inspired by it, I knew I needed a story with a refrain, and that it needed to be filled with longing and angst, and the anger I felt as a kid when adults pretended they knew better than me what I was feeling. It wasn’t until I was a few pages into writing that it occurred to me I never actively decided to make “Night-Tide” about girls in love with each other—because, to me, the poem always had been about emo teenaged lesbians.
“Annabel-Lee” is so unapologetically passionate, and as a poem it’s unashamed of its melodramatic nature. When I was a teen I was passionate and melodramatic, but I knew shame, because the world had already taught me what I was and was not allowed to love and desire. That makes me angry, and as an adult I see more shades of anger in “Annabel-Lee” than I noticed as a teen. It’s all woven into my story “Night-Tide,” which I hope inspires passion and drama and, yes, anger, in readers. Because love is so messy, and queer people deserve the space to embrace melodrama, anger, and to confront shame. We deserve the chance to take risks as we discover and decide who we are and want to be.
Caleb Roehrig, “The Glittering Death,” a retelling of “The Pit and the Pendulum”
With a cast of one, “The Pit and the Pendulum” is one of Poe’s simplest narratives: an anonymous man, alone in a dungeon, tries to evade a series of inventive death traps set by the Spanish Inquisition. The sexuality of the prisoner is irrelevant to the story—and, in my opinion, that was the perfect reason to queer the character in my adaptation of it. Laura Bonelli, the central figure of “The Glittering Death,” is questioning. (Possibly bi, though she’s not sure yet.) This fact has nothing to do with how she ends up in the clutches of a villain who calls himself the Judge; it has nothing to do with the dangers she faces, or how the story eventually concludes; but it has something to do with who she is. It’s her identity, and would still be if the story was about a driving lesson, a graduation party, or a first kiss.
I balk at saying a protagonist “just happens to be queer,” because nothing about identity can be reduced to pure happenstance; but there’s power in bringing casual visibility to identity—especially when the character in question is the one to whom it matters most.
Rin Chupeco, “The Murders at the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” a retelling of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
“The Murders at the Rue Apartelle, Boracay” is the story of Ogie Dupin, a Filipino-French amateur detective investigating a strange murder set in a supernatural island getaway. In keeping with the original Poe story, it’s told by an unnamed narrator, this time a young trans girl. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is not an easy story to retell – I had to write a locked room mystery believable enough for Ogie’s deductions to make sense, and yet complex enough to keep people guessing at the solution till the end. But more than that, I also wanted to write my trans narrator in a way that would give her just as much agency as Ogie, in stark contrast to how these detective stories are often written. It’s difficult to find the right balance, showing off her own intelligence without taking away from Ogie’s skills and the murder mystery, but I think I was able to pull it off!
“Hop-Frog” is, in its essence, a story about monsters. About who gets to be human and who is considered a monstrosity. About how we can be monstrous in our humanity–or our inhumanity. It’s a story about disability, too. Historically those two–disability and monster narratives–intersect quite often. (After all, every changeling story is a disability story at heart.) So when I brainstormed reimagining Hop-Frog I knew I wanted to include both those elements. I wanted to center it on disabled characters, my two queer, broken girls who are both looking for revenge—or perhaps belonging. I wanted to throw in an element of historicity (which Poe alludes but never quite commits to). And I wanted to play with monsters. I’ll just leave it up to you to decide who the monsters are: the fae, the unseelie folk, or the humans?
Emily Lloyd-Jones, “A Drop of Stolen Ink,” a retelling of “The Purloined Letter”
“A Drop of Stolen Ink” came about the way so many of my stories do: with a weird sequence of events. I was at work, thinking about Poe because the always-lovely Dahlia had mentioned how awesome it would be to rewrite those tales for a modern audience. (I believe I responded with, “OH PLEASE PLEASE LET ME DO THE PURLOINED LETTER.”) I’ve always adored mysteries – and Poe created the detective archetype with his character of C. Auguste Dupin.
And then I reached beneath a cash register scanner. Which would have been fine and normal – up until the scanner beeped and brought up a number on the computer. I made a joke about someone equipping my arm with a barcode and then my brain immediately jumped on the possibilities.
I adored working on this short story because it’s about how much of ourselves we share with the world. There are some characters’ names who are never revealed and others who put all of themselves out there. It’s about identities, both stolen and reclaimed. And I also just wanted to write an adorable budding f/f romance set in a cyberpunk near-future world, I’ll admit it. I’m really excited to share this story with both new and old readers of Poe.
Dahlia Adler, “Lygia,” a retelling of “Ligeia”
People ask me how I chose to retell “Ligeia” in particular, and the truth is that it basically chose me. I don’t share the horror/thriller strengths of my co-authors here, and I knew that whatever I did was going to have a sort of romantic contemporary sensibility, just a lot more Gothic and tragic than my usual.
“Ligeia” is a story about a man who loses his first wife to illness and remarries, but never quite finds that same love for his second wife before losing her to illness as well. The second wife, however, is the one who returns from the dead…but she returns as his first wife, Ligeia.
Knowing I didn’t want to go paranormal, I knew this was going to be a story about turning a new girlfriend into an old one, trying to revive something that couldn’t be revived and going to mad, toxic lengths to do it. It’s a story that requires praying on insecurities in a way teenage girls have truly mastered, a story I knew would thrive on a specifically female main character. Add that to the perennial queer problem of never quite being sure when your next possibility can or will come along in an area where so few people are out, making the narrator’s loss all the more dramatic and her new venture feel all the more necessary, and you have so many of the components that created “Lygia.”
Keep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion, unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe, unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself. Keep faith, in other planets and other houses; be it in the face of danger, grief, or while you spread your arms and laugh. Keep faith the same way you keep hope, bright and shiny, ever present. Keep faith in all your queer, beautiful self. Because you deserve it.
This is an anthology of 14 short stories, by 14 queer authors, where faith and queerness intersect. Incidental, purposeful, we-exist-and-that’s-why queerness. And faith meaning whatever you want it to mean.
In “And I Entreated,” nonbinary trans kid Gil is preparing for their bar mitzvah on a cramped space station, while their mom Shoshana has turned into a houseplant. “And I Entreated” is a fun story, but it also tackles some serious issues, like how trans people can have different feelings about misgendering, how traditional Jewish observance interacts with nonbinary gender, and whether to keep the term “bar mitzvah” – which is gendered in itself.
I have been writing a lot of stories that are about Jewishness and growing up, in one way or another; and also incorporating trans and/or intersex aspects. And I confess I always wanted to write a story from the perspective of a houseplant! So this time I put the two together. While I was working on “And I Entreated,” our kid was also preparing for his bar mitzvah. Our household is very different – we are two trans parents, for instance –, but some aspects of Jewish family life are similar regardless. Including the endless practicing of the Torah reading: like Gil’s mom, I also know our kid’s Torah portion backwards, forwards, upside down… His bar mitzvah went great, and I have no doubt that Gil’s will too. With this story, I’d like to offer a bit of warmth and belonging to everyone around the world, regardless of religious affiliation.
“Bigger Than Us” by Megan Manzano
“Bigger Than Us” is about two teenaged girls, Jude and Mari, who have to face a reality they had been ignoring since they were children—Jude could be a Mage. In the country of Aurora, Mages are reincarnations of Gods and are immediately whisked away by the government to become servants of the people. Jude always believed she was meant for this path, but falling in love with Mari threw a rather large wrench in her future. She has to reconcile being a Mage with her love for Mari and if ultimately, either is worth keeping.
While we may not be in a fantasy world like Jude and Mari, it was important to show not every decision is black and white. As a teenager, and especially getting older, we tend to question systems in place and the responsibilities they’ve placed on our shoulders. My hugest motivator for “Bigger Than Us” was teasing out these nuances and making the reader ask what happens when your faith in something is shaken, especially by someone you love.
“Droplets Of Starlight” by Vanshika Prusty
“Droplets of Starlight” is a short story about Payal, a girl who is head over heels, struggling with her heart and her society. We follow her, an almost eighteen-year-old girl who is bisexual, and who struggles with understanding how she fits into her Indian society because of her sexuality.
Set in New Delhi during the monsoon, “Droplets of Starlight” will take you on a quiet journey of struggle, acceptance and love all under thunderous clouds and starry night skies.
“Godzilla” by Kate Brauning
I love this story because I love Halloween– I never got to trick-or-treat as a child (though I go every year with my nieces and nephews now!), so it was fun for me to write that into reality. I pretty quickly knew I wanted to write Emily’s story because while in some countries progress toward safety and acceptance has been made for queer kids, even in those places, adolescents find themselves dealing with really complex and difficult situations, often from lacking the relationship modeling cis-gendered, straight people their age often have. Churches meaning to be accepting and welcoming too so often hold their LGBTQ members up like mascots or poster children of their own progressiveness, and the spotlight is a hard place to be as you learn who you are and how to love. An anthology like this full of hard and transformative and hopeful moments about this intersection between faith and queerness is priceless, and I’m so honored to have been able to celebrate that through Emily.
“Golden Hue” by Mayara Barros
My story is about finding hope in the unknown and what happens when you die. It’s set in a fantasy world, where people have powers, but technology has also developed to about our current era. Even with all that, there are still mysteries that neither science nor magic can solve.
I lost my grandmother last year and it still hurts some times. She never knew about by queerness, so I guess I wrote this story to tell myself she still loves me wherever she is.
“How Not To Die (Again)” by Gabriela Martins
Do you ever just have a crush on someone and deny it so hard that you totally die? Because Margô can’t take all the dying anymore. Every single time she denies her feelings for Josie, the universe flips her off by killing her in a yet more ridiculous way.
I wrote this short story because I think we all deserve some sapphic joy, especially romcom style. Especially ridiculous. Especially Brazilian. Especially trans. Anyway, there’s a lot we deserve! Faith in this story comes very much in the form of having faith in yourself. … because, don’t you doubt it. If you keep self-sabotaging (YOU. You know I’m talking about you!), the universe will find a way to teach you a lesson.
“Life Is A Story Of Change” by Elly Ha
Even when she didn’t know the terminology as a young teen, she knew she was ace and aro. Knowing she’ll always be ace, she never expected to doubt herself. Especially not when she gets to college and starts to fall in love with her best friend of almost a decade. What changed? Are her anti-depressants clearing her head so that she can focus on her own long-lost feelings? Is she simply maturing? Are her Korean parents right, and she’s finally found The One? The scarier question continues to gnaw at her: is she still ace if she feels attracted to him this way?
“Life is a Story of Change” is a semi-autobiographical story at the intersection of mental illness, sexuality, and personal faith. I wrote it from my personal experience with self-doubt in questioning my sexuality once I fell in love with who I can only describe as my ride-or-die partner. Despite that I am happily in love, I also endure occasional existential crises, always asking myself, “What am I, if not ace and aro?” For others who end up questioning their hearts, I hope that this story serves as a reminder that you are valid no matter where you land on the a-spectrum. You can be a little ace or entirely ace, or, like me, you can just be sure that you’re not not ace.
“Nothing Left Standing” by C. T. Callahan
“Nothing Left Standing” is the story of a queer teen, who—facing abuse and bigoted parents at home—decides to run away with his boyfriend for a chance to find his happily ever after. It’s a story about coming from trauma and pain and learning to put your faith in someone else. And essentially, it’s about that struggle of wanting to be optimistic and proactive, and the fear that that’s naive and you’re just going to get hurt again.
I have a very complicated relationship with religion and capital “F” Faith, so when I was asked to write a story about holding on to faith, I was instantly reminded of my life in high school. I went to a Catholic high school, and while my friends were all praying to God, I was constantly putting my faith in other things—music, people, fiction, etc. In the long run, it’s probably easier to have faith in religion because you aren’t looking at a flawed person who’s guaranteed to mess up, but I’d been so betrayed by it that my last resort was putting faith in people with the constant fear that it was only a matter of time before they let me down. And so I wrote this story to explore that fear, the feeling of sitting on a ledge and knowing it’s only a matter of time before you fall, but doing it anyway because that’s what faith is about, and when your life refuses to give you something to have faith in, sometimes you just have to make your own.
“On The Other Side” by Shenwei Chang
“On the Other Side” is a story that draws on my own experiences with Buddhism, which my mom’s side of the family practices. It’s not a very commonly portrayed religion, so I wanted to shine a little light on it. My story doesn’t dig super deep into the belief system, but it does touch on a some of the rituals (disclaimer: Buddhism is an extremely diverse religion/spiritual tradition, so I’m limited to portraying the ones I know).
I also wanted to depict the experience of having an ambivalent relationship with faith and religion that I haven’t seen very often when it comes to fiction. This story is dedicated those of us who are half-familiar and half-ignorant when it comes to our parents’ faiths, who have some exposure but not enough to feel entirely comfortable in a religious setting, who are receptive to immersing ourselves more in it but don’t know how or where to start. This story is also dedicated to all the queer people who wanted to come out to one or both of their parents but didn’t get the chance to because their parent(s) passed away before they could. It’s hard to cope with not knowing how your parent(s) would have reacted and not being able to share something so intimate and important with them. I want those people to know they’re not alone.
“Read The Room” by Sofia Soter
“Read the Room” features many of my favorite things: clueless teens, rituals, queerness and polyam crushes. It’s a short and sweet story, centered around Jo, a girl whose experiences with love and spirituality mirror my own in many ways; there’s specificity to her world and life that I sometimes shy away from writing, worrying about how (un)relatable it might be, but I hope it resonates with readers who are—like me, like Jo—looking for connection with others and themselves.
“Ten Steps To Becoming A Successful Blogger” by Julia Rios
I’ve been thinking about influencers a lot lately. It’s fascinating to me how and why certain people become cultural touchpoints, and what that means, both for them, and for their followers. In times of difficulty, we can look for messages all around us, and I wanted to think explicitly about the messages I give and the ones I listen to. It’s easy to dismiss Instagrammers and YouTubers as shallow and frivolous, but I think they can be doing good and important work, and I wanted to explore why and how that might happen for queer people who feel isolated in their daily lives. Also, I just really love the idea of a Bigfoot makeover. Glam Bigfoot!
“The Language Of Magic” by Adiba Jaigirdar
“The Language Of Magic” is the story of Asha, a Bangladeshi teen in Ireland, who wakes up in the early morning of the new year to a hint of magic in the air. The magic presents her with a vision of her grandmother back in Bangladesh. Motivated by her vision, Asha decides she has to find a way to travel back to Bangladesh, even though she knows it’s almost impossible. But maybe with the help of a stranger, the impossible can be possible.
I was motivated to write “The Language Of Magic” because when I was a kid and living in Saudi Arabia as an immigrant, my maternal grandfather (my nanabhai) suddenly passed away. My Mom was distraught and it was my first major experience with death. But we couldn’t go back to Bangladesh. We couldn’t attend the funeral. We couldn’t comfort my grandmother or the rest of our family. We were mourning but there was so much distance, and that distance created a strange boundary and a sort of emptiness to my sadness. After that experience, I moved to Ireland for good and over time I lost more members of my family. Every time I experienced the same lack of closure, the same kind of distance and emptiness. Unfortunately, this is simply a part of being an immigrant. I wanted to imagine a world where this wasn’t a part of being an immigrant. Where the universe, or magic, wanted to help us out and give us the closure that we need.
“The Messenger” by Mary Fan
“The Messenger” tells the story of a woman who transferred her consciousness into a probe in order to explore the multiverse. After years of dimension-hopping alone, she accidentally crash-lands near a pre-industrial civilization and is mistaken for a miracle — a prophesized messenger from the Infinite Spirit. At first, she goes along with it. But when she falls in love with a local girl, she realizes she can no longer keep up the charade.
I grew up atheist—not in a “God is dead” kind of way, but in that religion just wasn’t a thing in our household (probably a byproduct of my parents’ upbringing during the Chinese Cultural Revolution). Yet the studies of religion and faith always fascinated me. I spent years in church choirs both for the music and because I found the rituals fascinating (and was fortunate enough to have very accepting local churches that didn’t care whether their choristers were also worshipers). With “The Messenger,” I wanted to explore the question of just what faith is. And to depict a world where two women can fall in love, and it’s not a big deal.
“Whatever She Wants” by Kess Costales
“Whatever She Wants” is a queer fake-dating story about a Filipino teen named Theodora who is asexual and biromantic with a Catholic upbringing. She believes in God as a creator who loves and accepts all people, including those who are queer. The story shows her journey of discovering her sexuality along with her classmates. The story shows her journey toward self-acceptance as she discovers romantic love for her best friend, Magnolia, and for a boy named Alastor. After she and her best friend break up with their boyfriends, they agree to pretend to date each other to make their exes jealous. But the entire, Theodora hides that she’s in love with her. Spoiler: there’s a happy ending to it as they come out to each other and realize that they stopped pretending somewhere along the way.
When Gabhi approached me with this opportunity, I quickly realized the only thing I could write was something personal and similar to my own journey (except being in love with my best friend). I grew up Catholic like Theodora, attending Catholic schools and going to Mass on Sundays. And like Theodora, as I started understanding myself and my sexuality, I realized I couldn’t believe in a God who wouldn’t love all people, especially if He supposedly created us in His image. So I wrote about my doubts and emotions through Theodora and hoped to share a story that resonates with someone else. Plus, it’s always nice to have a chance to write something sweet and fluffy when life is dark and difficult.