Glitter & Mayhem may just be the oddest collection of stories I have ever come across. I'm not talking avant-garde or surreal, as is so often the case with Bizarro fiction, just plain old . . . well, odd. As you may have guessed from the cover, if not the title itself, this is sex-crazed, drug-fueled, glitter-drenched science fiction and fantasy that is firmly embedded in the disco-esque party scene.
While seeing three editors attached to a project is sometimes a red flag, suggesting a sense of desperation or disagreement in attempting to fill the pages, here it's a sign of confidence. In reading through the stories, it's clear that John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas were all huge fans of the concept, with their collective efforts producing a surprisingly diverse collection of stories for such a specific 'niche' sort of theme.
'Sister Twelve: Confessions of a Party Monster' by Christopher Barzak really sets the theme, with a fairy tale band of 12 sisters who escape their needlepoint drudgery through a magic portal in the floor, emerging in a world of disco and dance, and returning home each morning with their slippers in tatters. The clash of genres, settings, and characters is almost ridiculously strange at first, but it all comes together in the end, leaving the reader primed for whatever madness might come next.
The next story, "Apex Jump" from David J Schwartz, goes about as far away from the first as possible, taking us to an alien roller derby in a galaxy far from Earth. 'With Her Hundred Miles to Hell' from Kat Howard takes us hurtling back to Earth - or, rather, below it - for a mythology infused historical adventure into Hades, while 'Star Dancer' from Jennifer Pelland catapults us into the hedonistic 80s with alien punks, bellydancers, and the music of Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure, and Madonna.
That much diversity and we're only 4 stories in. I think you get the picture.
The collection ends with "All That Fairy Tale Crap," a genre-bending tale from Rachel Swirsky that deliberately undoes the effort Barzak put into priming us for the party, taking us out of the scene with a Cinderella who deconstructs the traditional fairy tale and demands of us her own brand of happy ending.
Most surprisingly of all, the stories here never wear out their welcome. I honestly wondered how long I could go before becoming bored with the roller derby, night club, party scene excesses of fairies, monsters, and aliens, but that's just a theme, a common thread to bind the stories together, and not a plot device. The diversity here is surprising, and while there are always stories that don't work for me, I found the quality to be remarkably stellar.
Oh, and if you're looking for a suitable reading soundtrack, I suggest a mix of David Bowie, Sisters of Mercy, and Skinny Puppy . . . preferably on cassette, if you still have them. :)
Published August 15th 2013 by Apex Publications
Paperback, 346 pages