Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Short Stories by Diemer & West

One of the joys of blogging is that you get to make up the rules. 

 . . . and go nanny nanny boo-boo to yourself, every now and then.

I write book reviews - I read a book, make notes, sit around staring at a wall for a while, then end up with something that eventually becomes a post on The Rainbow Reader.

It’s scientifically unscientific, kind of like making pudding, only with words and no whip cream.

Back in August, the lovely and talented Sarah Diemer of The Dark Wife fame asked if I’d crack open my rulebook to review a short story of hers.  I kind of wanted to say ‘no’ because I only review books, but she’s just so darn nice and her writing is so lyrically edgy, I found myself saying, “Of course I will.”

Then a month later, the lovely and talented Gabriella West of The Leaving fame reminded me that I had asked her to keep me up to date on her work, which includes the release of a new short story.  I kind of wanted to say ‘no short story review’ because I only do books, but she’s just so darn nice and her writing is so lyrically edgy, I found myself saying, “Of course I will.”

Hmmm.  See the trend here?

Pat yourself on the back, because it took me a few days to realize that these two writers, while so very different, have compatible styles, and the subject matter for their short stories could combine for a really cool and different type of review.

So, I blew the dust off my finest nanny nanny boo-boo, and this post was born.

Short Story:  Far
Author:  Sarah Diemer
Publisher:  Self-Published

Far is the dystopian tale of Mana, who is the best Runner for the dark, oppressed, city without a name.  As a Runner, she uses magic to steal the souls of the recently departed from the purgatory of After, and its sketchy machine known as the Recycler.  Once the souls are returned to the city, she repatriates them with their lifeless bodies.  All is well, until she meets Far, a beautiful woman that makes her feel alive.  But Far is seemingly unimpressed by the love and devotion of Mana, and takes her own life in an attempt to be free.  A completely devastated Mana returns to After to retrieve Far’s soul, so they can be together again.  Far is furious with Mana for making her a Reanima, and refuses her attempts at love.  Mana takes one more job to get money to make a better life for Far, but is consumed by The Prehend.  Far realizes her love for Mana, and follows her into After, but what she finds challenges every notion of life, death, love, and forever.

Ah, I love a good dystopian zombie love story.

Far is available for purchase as a short story at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, but it will also be included in Ms. Diemer’s Love Devours:  Tales of Monstrous Adoration, a speculative/science fiction lesbian anthology scheduled for release in November 2011.

While deprivation, terror, and oppression are not part of my ‘feel good’ vibe, Far is an amazing little story that makes the dark journey worth while.  The story is beautifully written, and amazingly detailed.  The characters are surprisingly complex for such a short tale, and their relationship has a delicate hint of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi.  But, it is so very much more. 

The more I read of Sarah Diemer, the more I’m mesmerized by her vision and writing style.  I’m giving the short story Far a 5.1 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale – it’s dark but it’s a gorgeous piece of prose.

Short Story:  The Doge’s Daughter
Author:  Gabriella West
Publisher:  Self-Published

The Doge’s Daughter non-too-politely grabs the reader by the hand and drags us into the heart of 17th Century Vienna. Piero is a young boy from a poor family who is chosen by the priests of the Doge’s court to become a castrato singer in their choir.  For years he toils as a singer, maturing into a serious young man.  Because of the castration, he remains almost girlish in appearance.  One day, Elisabetta, the teenage daughter of the Doge, singles him out for special games.  Piero is surprised, but knows his place when summoned.  Elisabetta marries the handsome young Prince Michele, who embraces an open relationship with his new wife as a way to sustain their passion.  Of course, Prince Michele is as taken by the young Piero as Elisabetta.

As someone who reviews Lesbian Literature, I was so not prepared for a piece of erotic historical fiction that included castration, pedophilia, oral and anal sex, and a lusty bisexual menage-a-trois.  Nope, totally not prepared.

But, you know what?  This is a well written sort-of love story.  The kind of well written story that deposits the reader into the very heart of it.  Ms. West told a dark and gritty tale that addressed several taboo topics and a handful of others that aren’t mentioned in polite company, but she did it in a beautiful, lyrical style.  Ms. West is masterful at strong first-person narrative, and the reader is easily able to step into the shoes of Piero, and embrace his moments of joy, beauty, and discovery. 

One of the fun elements of this story is figuring out the roles.  Piero and Prince Michele are men, and Elisabetta is a woman.  Yet, Piero is a eunuch, and so many elements of attraction for Michele and Elisabetta are tied to his more girlish aspects.  Many, but not all. 

My tastes run strongly toward lesbian literature, so this short story wasn’t really in my wheelhouse.  Still, as a reviewer, I can’t deny that it is a brilliant piece of writing that deserves to be embraced by it’s intended audience.  I’m giving The Doge’s Daughter a 5.0 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale – as a lesfic reviewer, it’s not every day I get to use the words “eunuch” and “castrato”.

The Doge’s Daughter is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.


  1. Short stories, too.Very interesting to compare and contrast. They both sound unusual and kind of intriguing, especially given your previous reviews. Thanks for *stepping up*, The strapping on probably shows up in the latter piece. BTW, I like what you've done with the place. The new decorations to the blog are fun.

  2. Ms. MacBean is back! Ms. MacBean is back! It's fun to color outside the lines every now and then, and these two short stories were the perfect excuse. Glad you like the new interior decorations - wasn't sure anyone had noticed!

  3. What's a delight about stopping by here to see what you've reviewed is we always get not only well-written reviews, but reviews of material we might not normally find ourselves buying let alone reading. So thank you for saying yes to these two magical up-coming authors who, I predict, will have so much more to say! As, I hope, you continue to do.

  4. Ah, Ms. Wolfe! What an honor to have you stop by TRR. Many thanks for the kind words and support. [happy dance]