Short Stories 366:364 — “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,” by Christopher Caldwell

I was nervous picking up a book about apocalypse fiction given, y’know, everything, but happily, after reading the foreword, I knew to expect Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World that Wouldn’t Die would hit on the queer theme and a theme of triumph in the face of adversity. This wasn’t going to be an endless parade of relentless loss, but rather stories of coming together and survival, and that’s totally the kind of stories I love to read when it comes to apocalyptic worlds. “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” delivers exactly that in both tone and narrative: this isn’t a tale of loss and slow eventual decline, but of people standing up for each other, and guiding those more vulnerable to safety.

We enter a world post “Breaking.” With no real sense of what “the Breaking” was ever clearly stated, Caldwell nevertheless unfolds a world where everyone (at least, those who’ve survived) having gifts. It struck me as borderline X-Men as the tale unfolded: the main POV character having a gift for healing and plants agreeing to help someone he used to date collect and bring some youths to somewhere safer, where the Breaking isn’t as prominent and the world isn’t as warped. That his ex, Eli, has only appeared to these younger people as Eden, a grandmother-type leader whose abilities seem to bolster others while draining herself, is only part of their history of conflict, but together the two set out to do exactly that: bring the younger members of their group to somewhere safer.

I think this caretaking of the new generation is the thing I loved the most, and definitely felt so very queer. Thematically, it felt very much the queer elder sense; At one point, the main character learns one of the children is young enough not to remember the world before the Breaking, and he feels a kind of envy for not knowing what was lost, and wow, did that strike a chord. I also appreciated Caldwell’s balance of loss with hope and looking forward. All in all, after this story, I felt like this anthology was absolutely going to deliver what I’d hoped for, and I realized I was oddly looking forward to the rest of the various endings of the world.

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