Short Stories 366:202 — “Medium Méchanique,” by Catherine Lundoff

coverSo one of the awesome things about knowing so many short fiction authors is sometimes I get to read their stuff and then pester them to tell me where the story came from. In today’s case, from Catherine Lundoff’s wonderful Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories, we get a disturbing—but ultimately truly satisfying—turn of a tale in “Medium Méchanique,” where a woman with both the desire to have one more conversation with a deceased loved one (and also a darker, ulterior motive) goes to see a medium during the height of the spiritualist movement.

So, where did this story come from? Well, Lundoff was kind enough to answer me when I asked.

The editors of the Gay City series fundraiser for Seattle’s Gay City Health Project asked for some steampunk horror (okay, that’s what I heard them ask for) at a time when I was reflecting upon the lack of suffragist characters in steampunk.

So, given that we’re talking Steampunk horror and suffragist characters, I want to underline two awesome things about this story: one, both the main character and the villain are so freaking well done. Both exist in a time and place where rights are few and far between, and in the case of the narrator seeking one last chance with her former lover, her queerness adds yet another layer of struggle to her reality. But it’s the steampunk that adds the flavour of horror to this story, in it is the method in which the woman realizes her loved one can be reached—but at a terrible price.

I often mention that horror isn’t usually my cup of tea, but “Medium Méchanique” is one of those wonderful exceptions by virtue of the ending. It’s the hopeless sort of horror that I find the most frustrating (in movies this is most often done with the last few frames showing us the evil wasn’t defeated after all, so all the heroic sacrifices and battle was pointless, just like the battles in the sequels will be), but here Lundoff, by virtue of the time and place she places this woman, has instead seeded a kind of awful power into her conclusion, and thus you get the idea that this woman has come out of this ahead. In a terrifying way, yes, but ahead nonetheless.

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