One of my missions as the new managing editor here at Autostraddle is to expand and grow our literature vertical. We’re living in a very cool era for LGBTQ+ lit of all genres! I want to bring you more book lists and reviews, interviews with queer and trans authors, and so much more! I am also personally a big fan of short fiction, which never gets enough love.
Full disclosure: This post is slightly an experiment! I want to gauge our readers’ interest in short fiction roundups. I’m toying with the idea of creating recurring “short story playlists” where I pick a specific vibe/theme/etc. and choose about five stories that fit it to recommend. Does that sound interesting to you? Then let me know!
For now, here are some great queer tales available online for you to sink into this weekend!
“The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror” by Carmen Maria Machado, published in Granta
Back at the theater, Sabine lifted Maxa’s feet up onto the cot and then dragged her torso upright against the wall. She slapped her lightly on the cheek, and Maxa moaned. Sabine handed me the bottle. I poured out the liquid with a trembling hand and lay the spoon against Maxa’s tongue. She bit the metal and swallowed listlessly. Her eyes fluttered open and I felt like I was at the edge of the mouth of a cave, with every intention of jumping in.
I first encountered this story when reading the short fiction anthology Kink. It is, hands down, my favorite story in the book. This one’s for my theater kid freaks. But also my historical fiction freaks! It’s set in early 20th century Paris at Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, known for its horror shows. The horror of this story is subtle and leans psychosexual. Read it if you’re going for haunted vibes this weekend. And read more short fiction by Carmen in her v popular collection Her Body and Other Parties.
“Judy in Her Good Robe” by T Kira Māhealani Madden, published in Virginia Quarterly Review
It would be dishonest of me to say I didn’t sometimes feel romantic toward this other self of mine. Late nights with company will do that to anyone, rootlessly in and out of sleep, my own voice on the line saying, Still there? right into me.
In this slightly surreal, aching short story, a character starts receiving phone calls from…herself. Her life has been recently upended by the death of her wife, and these strange, impossible calls only further her disorienting and adrift feelings of grief. It’s sad, but it’s also funny in surprising bursts. If you haven’t read T Kira’s memoir yet, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!
“Five Wounds” by K-Ming Chang, published in Soft Punk
Lily stood up and walked to the aisles, kneeling on the carpet, and then she slumped onto her back and splayed her limbs, rattling her ribs into silver music, her mouth open and her tongue out, glittering the air with spit.
Like just about all of K-Ming’s fantastic work, this the language in this story is a perfect blend of violence and beauty. This one’s got it all: part-time ghostwork at a theme park, tongues and spit, and church.
Also, if you don’t have a lot of time to read this weekend but would still like to burrow away into another world for a short bit, K-Ming is a flash fiction wizard. Taste these bite-sized stories: “Filet-O-Fish,” “Gloria,” and “The Daughters Ding.” And get more of K-Ming from her novel Bestiary.
“Wild Ale” by SJ Sindhu, published in Electric Literature
“I finished my wild ale,” I say. “Want to know what I used?”
Adria cuts me off before I can tell her about the yarrow.
“We need to pay the credit card,” she says. “I just got the statement.”
“Okay.” My heart skips a step.
Here is another sad-funny story, this one about wives quarantining together during the early months of the pandemic and the hobby poisoning their marriage. It’s a homebrewing domestic horror story, and it’s also proof that people who still think no one should write fiction about the pandemic should shut :) up :)
Also, SJ’s got a new novel that just came out at the end of 2021! Check it out!
“Ground Fighting” by Venita Blackburn, published in Story
I hadn’t put much thought into how bodies are supposed to love each other. Maybe we had been lovers all that time, and I didn’t recognize it. We’d grappled in class, held each other down, tugged at our joints to the brink of separation.
This story about a young queer, intersex character is so tender and lovely and tinged with grief and longing. It grapples with parent-loss, high school sports drama, early crushes. There’s an X-Files reference! And the Southern California place writing is phenomenal. This story is part of the linked stories in Venita’s brilliant collection How To Wrestle A Girl.
Have you read anything good lately? Would you like to see more short fiction recommendations on Autostraddle? Let me know in the comments!