Queer Fear II

Edited by Michael Rowe

(Arsenal Pulp)

Being the "Gay Crutch" at the Mercury is no easy feat. All day long my co-workers ask me questions about "the life." Like recently, in the span of an hour, I was asked about boy-on-boy anal sex, bedroom-remodeling advice, and why gay men always smell so good. As if I know all the answers about Gaydom! (Anal sex is kinda gross, don't paint the walls red, and we smell nice because we shower.) So when Queer Fear II, a collection of gay horror fiction, came through the Mercury mail slot, it was promptly put on my desk. "Read this, you're gay," read the pink post-it note. "Oh God," I thought, "Why do the powers that be (Justin Sanders for example) assume because something has the word 'gay' on it, that I'm going to shit my pants and say I'm daisy about it?" But like the good Midwesterner I am, I do what I'm told.

I tore through Queer Fear II's 300+ pages in a matter of days and found that for the most part it delivers the goods: FEAR! My favorite story was "Gaytown" by Robert Boyczuk. It embodies what I like most in a horror story: humor, tension and a payoff. In it, a gay couple are on a seemingly innocent road trip when, all of a sudden, they have car troubles just outside an actual small town called Gaytown--obviously named when the word "gay" was less loaded. The couple has to hunker down in Gaytown for a few days until the car is fixed. While there, they encounter some very strange goings on. The story culminates in a smart, funny and scary meditation on being closeted in this modern world of Will and Grace.

Other contributors to the collection include the Southern Gothic fag-hag from New Orleans, Poppy Z. Brite, and the Austrailian Sci-Fi writer Stephen Dedman. Their efforts read like well-written episodes of the Outer Limits or Tales from the Darkside, only with a gay twist, which, fortunately, isn't overbearing. The gay part of the book is actually kind of nice. It gave me the same feeling I had when I watched the entire first season of the British Queer as Folk (fuck the American version): a sense that it is ok for life to be all gay, all the time, sometimes. BRIAN BRAIT

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