Publisher: Neon Hemlock Press
Publish Date: 15 September 2020
Page Count: 256 pages
Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die is an anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction published by Neon Hemlock, a small press specialising in speculative writing and queer chapbooks.
Last year I was lucky enough to receive three of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 releases, and I’m kicking myself for not checking them out sooner. Glitter + Ashes is absolute quality from beginning to apocalyptic end, and criminally underhyped.
“The end of the world didn’t stop people from being people; the bad, the painful, jagged desperate parts came out, but so did the gentle, kind, generous parts.”V. Medina. “For the Taking.” Glitter + Ashes
Editor dave ring describes the collection as “centring on queer joy and community in the face of disaster, via the amplified horrors of our current trajectory as well as more haunted and sinister ills.” While some of the entries are harrowing, most depict the salvaging of hope, beauty, and connection from disaster. At a time when most people are fatigued or overwhelmed by current events, this is a smart way to offer catharsis through a well-loved but perhaps increasingly relatable sub-genre of spec fic.
My love for this anthology is two-fold. Firstly, I was engrossed in discovering each author’s take on ‘post-apocalyptic’ and how they have envisaged societal collapse. From plagues to vampires, reality-altering toxins to spontaneous rainbow combustion, this collection examines how catastrophe could shape humanity in unique ways.
But as the title and editor’s note suggest, there’s hope to be found in ruin. Each piece of writing focuses optimistically on the experience of queer folk. Finding love, overcoming grief, creating art, and drag queen sorcery provide new beginnings in the end of days.
Figurative ashes and glitter aside, the diversity of the prose itself makes this collection impossible to put down. Works like Note Left on a Coffeetable by Mari Ness – which is exactly what it sounds like – and When the Last of the Birds and the Bees Have Gone by C. L. Clark, a sort of how-to lecture, are mixed in with conventional short stories, poetry, and even a role-playing game. It would be easy to tear through these, but I really enjoyed reading one entry at a time and mulling it over throughout the day.
With so much variety it’s difficult to pick my favourite piece, but I particularly loved this moment of tenderness in a dystopian short story about a city using mortal combat to allocate resources:
“When I’m there in your arms, swaddled in your strength, knowing you could kill me but trusting that you won’t–or when you’re there in mine, and I know, can feel it in your bones, that you trust me too. The only peace I know anymore is in that violence.”Elly Bangs. “Champions of Water War.” Glitter + Ashes
After reading Glitter + Ashes I’m very excited for Neon Hemlock’s 2021 anthology, Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness, which is about “the knife-edge between the sacred and the profane, and infinite darkness.”
Thanks again to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warnings: Death of family