The Myriad Carnival: Queer and Weird Stories from Under the Big Top from Lethe Press is a unique collection edited by Matthew Bright that brings a variety of works from a diverse group of writers.
First, a little insight about Lethe Press. Founded in 2001 by author Steve Berman, this award winning independent American publisher is a leading outlet for the LGBT community and the fandom of speculative fiction. As their website touts, “We know our fantasy, our science-fiction, our horror.”
Upon first glance, the festive cover art by Vanessa Gerrits gives the book a whimsical sense of Victorian Era entertainment. But the strategic splash of blood red on an otherwise black and white collage of carnival character silhouettes should also be a hint at the sharp edges and dangerous turns readers will find the pages within. And yes, some of the content is mature in nature.
True to the carnival spirit, The Myriad Carnival has something for everyone. We find out that life isn’t fair and bear witness to the illusions that blur between the magic of dreams and the horrors of reality. We cringe at lurking monsters and terrors – some true and some false. We feel the dread of missing children, question the existence of penny eating machines, discover how conjoined boys may not be so accidental, and how jealousy and murder can be hidden by the illusions of magic. Nobody is safe at The Myriad Carnival.
Though there are 17 works in all, the stories go by much faster than one might think. And as a bonus feature to add to the already diverse collection, a few of the entries are in the form of poems. The list of works includes:
Nettlestrings: A fairy Tale by Sarah Caulfield
September Song by Raymond Luczak
The Illuminated Omni-Palone by Nick Campbell
The Return of the Discombobulated Woman by Paul Magrs
El Amor Brujo (Love, The Magician) by Evey Brett
Armature by Mark Ward
Boxes by M. Regan
Our Scalloped Bitch by Michael Leonberger
Crackle by Roy Gill
The Sharpshooter by B.R. Sanders
Feeding Time by Kate Herrad
The Last Daddy-Daughter Day by Kelda Crich (first appeared in 2013 Cthulhu Haiku II from Popcorn Press – the first installment of Cthulhu Haiku was reviewed here at Amazing Stories)
The Liberating of the Devil Boy by Hal Duncan
As Mephistopheles Said… by Eric Alan Westfall
The Moon and the Devil and the Ace of Wands by Evan J. Peterson
Plague Automata by Daniel Hale
Myriad by Christopher Black
The carnival is an imaginary world, a social escapement where magical people throw up curtains to cloak the abhorrence we know as everyday life. More often than not, the human condition does not allow us to accept the differences that make us unique, no matter how horrid, fantastic of even beautiful. Yet, curiosity of these same contrasting elements always seems to draw us in. Just as the carnival calliope plays with the minds senses of anticipation, so do the stories found within The Myriad Carnival.
Like a barker luring unsuspecting marks, The Myriad Carnival takes readers into the dark shadows behind the curtain, introducing them to the mystical world of the strange, the remarkable, and the macabre.
So, step right up. Take a chance. Come inside and open your eyes to that which you hope for, but not what you expect.