Short Stories 366:154 — “In Search of Stars,” by Matthew Bright

coverI adore Matthew Bright, which is likely no secret to anyone around this blog. First off, he’s a fantastic editor (Threesome, The Myriad Carnival, Clockwork Cairo, and Gents). Second? He’s the talent behind some of my favourite covers, via Inkspiral Design. Third? He’s a fantastic author (especially of the fantastical).

Last year, he released his first collection, Stories to Sing in the Dark, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC, so I was reading this book long before most others and yes, I’m gloating, and yes, it’s just that freaking good.

“In Search of Stars” is one of those stories, and it struck me as so brilliantly apropos for Pride Month. We meet a man who is eyeing a door and trying to decide if he has the guts to go through, or if there’s a password, or what, exactly, it’ll take to make it across that threshold. This is such a queer moment, I cannot tell you.

Against this comes Bright’s wonderful trace of the fantastical, as the man picks up a trick, and then paints the trick (I don’t mean on a canvas here, but rather bodily painting the man in question) and things take a turn for the odd—and not for the better of the trick in question—but in a melancholy, magical, and wonderfully aching way that I just freaking adored. This set-up (which I refuse to spoil) repeats and repeats again, including for the finale of the tale, and by the time it was done I was just sort of sitting back and exhaling.

It isn’t a happy tale, but somehow it still has a sense of triumph to it, and sometimes I just love an aching triumph.

From the Author:

Somewhere after I wrote a Dorian-Gray-lives-through-the-AIDS era I decided to write a collection of stories taking Victorian sf characters and transposing them into queer stories through the century. I had several planned (Peter Pan and the Lost Boys in WW1 trenches; the Bride of Frankenstein modelling for Warhol…) and this is the only one I completed. I took an obscure French story in which a scientist invents gravity-resistant paint, and combined it with a recent experience going to a modern day speakeasy in which there was a secret entrance through the toilets (except we had our info wrong so ended up just several confused men in a toilet cubicle.) This story is my personal high-score for close-thing rejections before it was finally published – it made it to multiple final rounds, tantalising me through thirteen rounds of submission, before eventually finding a loving home with Glittership.

You can find Matthew Bright online at his website.

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