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Birds eye view shot of Reza getting out of a car carrying a gun by Goni Montes

Tonight it’s Shelly.

If I were capable of having feelings since Angie disappeared, I might have some for Shelly. Not because she’s finer than the rest of them—she is fine though, don’t get it twisted—but because at the beginning of the night, when she crawls into the back of my Crown Vic all prettied up and glittery, she always catches my eyes in the rearview mirror and asks me how I’m doing. Not in the concerned way but not in the throw-off way either: She really wants to know.

Anyway, I don’t think she’s into women, especially not middle-aged skinny butch ones with salt-and-pepper hair and angry lines in their faces and the memories of long lost lovers dancing around their subconsciouses.

And anyway, I’m not sixteen anymore, in fact I’m not even forty anymore and I’m not here for the quick thrill of teaching straight girls that what they really want is this, this, and this. Been there, done that. Far too many times.
And anyway: Angie.

Gee I wonder why I'm writing about this story. Ugh, Daniel José Older this was unfair - "Anyway: Angie" triple teamed me and took me down within the first few paragraphs. It pinged my chrome-ass women sensor, threw a dapper lesbian in my face and hit the big red 'emotions' buzzer with the simplest of phrases. 'And anyway: Angie.'; words that express true and strong emotional devotion as easily as a simple shoulder shrug. After I finished this story, I had to restrain myself from sending enigmatic midnight tweets like 'Weeping - this title is perfection'. I just hope Older knows that with great power comes great responsibility.

However, it wouldn't be fair to draw other readers in without handing out some spoilers about this story. Renay, you're going to want these spoilers. As you can see from the quote above, Angie is missing, and I'm afraid there is no happy ending for her here. Reza has lost the woman she loves, and there is a horrific scene where she finds Angie's corpse rotted and engulfed by dark water. It further emerges that Angie was a prostitute run by Reza and her business partner Charo. Shelly is one of their girls too. So, "Anyway: Angie" includes a dead female character who is a lesbian and a prostitute, and a lesbian romance with a tragic end. If that makes this story an absolute no go area for you then click back out of this review.

I know starting with a warning is an odd way to talk about a short story I said knocked me off my feet within a few paragraphs, but I'm afraid the review's going to continue that way. Probably unfairly, I would have felt more comfortable going into the darker parts of "Anyway: Angie" if a woman or an author of non-binary gender had written this story. This is totally a statement about my personal comfort, not a hard and fast solid rule or a judgement on who should write what stories, it's just that I've read enough male authored stories about dead prostitutes and prostitution in general to feel uneasy about continuing with "Anyway: Angie" once I knew where the story was going. I would also have felt less conflicted about this story if it had been written by a female author from the LGBTQ community. Is this fair? Well, go read Renay's excellent post about City of Stairs and the pattern of treatment of LGBTQ characters and decide for yourself.

"Anyway: Angie" is one of those cases where I kept reading because I wanted more of the central character, I loved the voice and the writing style just fit my personal tastes. The more SFFnal and spookier bits of the horror also captivated me (I'm just weirdly into SFF bugs right now). But I was always aware that at any moment I might have to slam my mouse finger down and click out to take a breather or just to ditch this story entirely. Reading on felt risky. And I worry that part of the reason I feel so much resonance coming off the phrase "And anyway: Angie" is because my brain is reacting to the way society codes tragic LGBTQ romances as something to 'swoon' over. I've had to do a lot of work to recognise when I'm reacting to an LGBTQ tragic narrative without factoring in the long narrative history of dead LGBTQ characters and I still have a long, long way to go.

At least "Anyway: Angie" feels like it's written with an awareness of the story frame it's being writing inside. There's absolutely no sexualisation of Angie's dead, and what appears to be naked, body. Reza makes it to the end of the story alive. The story even ends with Reza and Charo expressing their distaste for the way they've been running their prostitution ring and deciding to get out. Not only do they plan to stop pimping, but Charo has a plan to use the immoral business they've been running to run a revenge campaign against abusers and warlords:

This work has connected me to a lot of very powerful, very evil people. Even more evil than us I mean. People with genocide and child rape on their resumes. These are men that can nod and wipe out an entire village in Guatemala.”

He’s not just talking about other gangsters either. I’d steered clear of the corporate connections Charo sent the girls to, mostly because I had the feeling I might lose my cool with them and cause problems for the company, but I’ve heard stories.

“So you want to start a cleanup operation,” I say carefully.

Charo smiles. He likes that. “Yes. Cleanup. Exactly. A balancing of the scales, we could say.”

Let's kill all the creepy fictional dudes - kind of my jam right now.

I liked the emotion imbued in "Anyway; Angie" and the writing style but, like a lot of stories, it deserves some robust critical feedback about the story choices it makes. For me, it doesn't really change troubling story types enough. I can't get very excited about the idea that this story is subversive because it shows a female character, rather than a male character, motivated by the trope of the 'fridged' woman. I've seen that story type done by female authors and even then l still have too many feelings about that angle for my own good. I'd rather see two women walk off into the blood drenched sunset to hunt down men than one.

The Tor blurb for this story says it's set in the world of Older's upcoming Bone Street Rumba series and, even though I'm a huge horror wuss, if the books return to Reza and Charo I'd think about picking them up if I knew Reza was going to feature in them and survive. You're stronger than me if you can resist a gun toting security woman who says things like this:
Something else I’ve learned: I take power from my dapper. Perhaps I have some well-dressed angels watching over me, whoever they are, but when I have my slick on full charge I am unstoppable in combat. It’s just how things work for me.

You bet that quote has me imagining Reza and Kameron Hurley's Nyxnissa so Dasheem sizing each other up.

"Anyway: Angie" is available for free at

Date: 2015-03-20 07:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I certainly had similar Nyx related thoughts :) and also wasn't too enamoured of the fridged woman concept, but it was well done and certainly creepy enough with all those bugs.
And I guess as a set-up for a series about Reza it works, a woman with a past and all that.

Date: 2015-03-21 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's a bit disappointing, but maybe, as you say, she has a supporting role somewhere.


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