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WesternSFA
Carniepunk
an anthology of new fiction
Gallery Books, $16.00, 440pp
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Carnivals: places where you go for fun – whatever you consider fun – and the risk of being played is as much a part of the experience as the rides and the noise. Places for the odd, the unusual, and the illicit. These fourteen stories show the seamy and the seeming of carnivals where magic runs as rampant as the desires of man.

A number of the authors have contributed a short story that features a protagonist or a premise from a popular series. Thus Delilah S. Dawson’s “The Three Lives of Lydia” is a Blud story; “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street” is an Iron Druid Chronicles story by Kevin Hearne; “A Duet with Darkness” by Allison Pang is an Abby Sinclair story; “Parlor Tricks is an Elemental Assassin tale by Jennifer Estep; there’s a Jane True mystery, “The Inside Man” by Nicole Peeler; a fresh Hell on earth episode, “A Chance in Hell” by Jackie Kessler, about her recently humanized succubus Jezebel, which is as cheerfully lewd as you would expect with such a protagonist (no one ever said she was reformed!); a Strays story called “Freak House” by Kelly Meding, which presents an upscale carnival for the very well-heeled, and the proprietor makes the same mistake that Mommy Fortuna made in The Last Unicorn; and Kelly Gay offers up a Charlie Madigan adventure in “Hell’s Menagerie.”

Other authors take a holiday. Seanan McGuire has contributed “Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea ”, which shows how loyalties and longings and our essential nature can be in conflict. “Painted Love” by Rob Thurman, is a neat piece of horror fantasy that reminded me of Ray Bradbury. Mark Henry offers up zombie horror with “The Sweeter the Juice.” Jaye Wells has cathartic fun with “The Werewife,” while Rachel Caine tells an eerie tale of desperation and redemption in “The Cold Girl.” Hillary Jacques, who has actually worked as a carnie, presents “Recession of the Divine” in which goddesses walk the earth unrecognized, but not entirely powerless. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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