Carnation Books has a new queer paranormal anthology out (ace, bi, demi, gay, gender fluid, lesbian, nb, trans ftm): Imaginary Creatures.
Let go of the mundane and escape reality with four tales of strange, wonderful magic by up-and-coming authors in the realm of queer romance.
Imaginary Creatures by Shai Porter explores the relationship between two people who meet via online fandom. Loo isn’t asking for much from life, really. Just a safe place to start over with her daughter and cat, the occasional glowing comment on her fan fiction, and maybe even a washer-dryer. Anything else…well, that would be too much to ask of the universe. So when her online friend Tribs starts looking less like a friend and more like a potential partner, all Loo’s insecurities come to the surface. Meeting in person? Online friends do that sometimes. That doesn’t mean anything, does it? Besides, who could possibly want “something more” with someone who always finds herself falling short of other people’s expectations, when everything about her seems too complicated for someone to even acknowledge, let alone build a relationship with. Anyone wanting that with someone like Loo couldn’t possibly exist.
This Feast Fit For All by Regina Jade introduces us to Aidan, who lives out in the sticks with only his dogs and the fish in the river for company. Aidan works as underpaid adjunct faculty at the local college, and tends to be overburdened by his schedule, his students, and his demanding boss. When he notices an ad for meal preparation services, he figures anything would be better than his slapdash attempts at meals, and decides to give it a shot. He’s immediately spellbound by Duncan Carter, the owner of the meal delivery service. A former doctor, Duncan seems to be capable of magic when it comes to cooking, and his willingness to understand Aidan’s feelings of not belonging makes Aidan feel safer with him than he has with just about anyone before. Through his growing friendship with Duncan, Aidan learns that there is an entire world out there he has never known – and he is very much a part of it.
Blessings by Max Turner is another tale in which we meet a man who has fled to the outer reaches of civilization in search of a happy life. In Chase’s case, his decision to move to an isolated cabin in the mountains had to do with the intensity of his Blessing, a genetic ability that most people have. Chase can hear thoughts. It’s not an unusual Blessing, but the way that it overwhelms Chase is, and the only way he feels able to live peacefully is to live alone. Then, one day, John arrives at his doorstep, and Chase can’t hear a single one of his thoughts. Is it possible to find the one out in the middle of nowhere?
Come Take Me Out of This Dull World by Briony Hastings is a sweet, lighthearted tale of interspecies adoration. We are introduced to Etis, a faerie who lives mostly in the pond near a university. When Etis is interrupted in his maintenance of his pond one night by a drunken student named Sam, Etis is sure it’s a one-off meeting. Sam will think back on their meeting and dismiss it as a dream. When Sam returns, Etis knows he should refuse to interact – it’s law, among the fae, not to reveal themselves to humans – but he can’t seem to stop himself. Sam is fascinated by Etis. They never imagined a creature like that could exist, let alone that they would feel such a deep bond with one. Sam is determined to show Etis that they can be friends – or, ideally, more than friends.
From Blessings by Max Turner:
He took off his gloves and warmed his hands by the small fire, the light from the flames not quite reaching the corners of the room.
In truth, he preferred this.
The less illumination, the more crowded everything seemed, and the less alone he felt – which was a strange desire after wanting nothing but to be alone for so long.
It was easier to tell himself that there were things there if the light reached further; people and laughter and passion sitting just beyond grasp. He let out a shuddering breath and dropped into the overstuffed armchair in front of the fire. A comfort. One of few.
When Chase Adams had paid a few thousand dollars for this cabin, he thought he’d known why the price was low, even for this part of Alaska. It had a main living space of a fair size with kitchen and dining, a bedroom that fit a double bed and enough storage, a modest bathroom. Even a wet room at the back for fishing and hunting gear. The cabin was perfectly in order, built to last and well maintained. But it was remote. Far from civilisation and cut off entirely when the snow was heavy, as it had been for the last month.
These last things were also reasons Chase had bought the cabin.
Living amongst people had become too hard. As much as he wanted it not to be, as desperately as he craved company, it was too loud, too overwhelming. Too many thoughts in his head. He’d thought that, as he’d learned to control his Blessing as others did, things would get better. But his Blessing only became more amplified. He could read thoughts without even trying, until he could do nothing but read them.
All of them.
Every single thought anyone around him was having. About their life, their job, other people. About him. He winced at the memory.
He was a freak. He had the most common Blessing there was and yet others did not have this problem. They were able to limit it, control it. But for Chase it was just constant noise. By the time he was ready to put a bullet in his skull for some quiet, it felt like every thought was about him. Every judgement aimed at him. Every criticism meant for him, as people knew him for what he was.
Unstable. Out of control. Unable to rein in the Blessing he’d been given. That had been bad enough, but when others heard his thoughts there was so often judgement bounced back at him. He could hear strangers questioning whether he’d be able to control his Blessing if only he were ‘normal’.
He knew it wasn’t true. He knew being trans had no relevance to his Blessing or his control of it. Every paper ever written on the subject by the Science Council said the same – the type of Blessing a person received was random. And their ability to control it was down to the magnitude of the Blessing, not the person blessed.
Chase had just been unlucky to be so sensitive in his power. Unlucky enough to hear, over and over, the thoughts people had about him.
He let out a shuddering breath, his face damp as he realised tears had started to roll at the memories. He wasn’t crying so much as reliving those overwhelming emotions that he no longer had to deal with on a daily basis. Instead he had nothing. That had been his only alternative.
Chase woke with a start as the front door slammed open.
It wasn’t the first time. There seemed to be nothing wrong with the door, and yet somehow it would open now and then. Unlock and open. If Chase had alternatives he might let it worry him, but since he was stuck here, it was something he couldn’t allow to get to him. There was never anything there, so what did it matter?
Wind howled in and snow that had been piled at the door began to drift into the room. He’d known this storm was coming, had chopped plenty of wood and brought it in to dry out. But he hadn’t expected it to be quite so bad. He’d have to board up the door and windows, and worry about one of the nearby trees coming down on the roof. Chase strode to the door and began to push it shut against the wind, having to kick thick snow back from the bottom as he went. It was almost closed when he saw something. He thought it must be a bear, but then it was gone. This had happened before, too. He’d thought he’d heard or seen something and then there was nothing on the porch. He was likely just losing his mind out in the wilderness.
Chase shook his head and went back to pushing the door closed when something fell against it. He cried out in shock, falling back as it opened fully again, letting in more snow. Chase couldn’t keep his feet as the figure – not a bear – landed on him and sent him sprawling to the floor.
“Fuck!” Chase cried out, pushing and beating to get the body off of him before he realised that it wasn’t struggling at all – wasn’t trying to pin him down.
Teeth now chattering with the cold and nerves, Chase rolled the figure over and thought at first they must be dead.
It was a man, a little older than himself if he had to guess from the grey in his scraggly beard. He was dressed solidly in furs that gave him the appearance of an animal. But he wasn’t an animal. He was human, and Chase couldn’t hear a thing.
Chase let out a shuddering breath, finding himself mourning this stranger who had dropped dead at his door. This life that he’d never got to hear, even for a moment.
He considered what he should do, the snow building up in the doorway as he thought about pushing the body back outside to let the ice keep him until the earth thawed and Chase would be able to bury him. As much as he longed to be able to keep company with someone, even the dead, Chase wasn’t prepared to have a decomposing body trapped in the cabin. He stood and grabbed the stiff broom from the kitchen, pushing back the snow so that he could ease the door shut. When he decided it was clear enough, he went back to his knees to gather up the body, to roll him back out into the wild.
But then the body gasped. His eyes opened and stared, wild and crazed, at Chase.
He still couldn’t hear a thing.
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