[3 out of 5]
Queer Wolf, edited by James E.M. Rasmussen and available in both print and digital formats from Queered Fiction, is a collection of werewolf stories that runs the gamut of style, mythos, and talent. Each story plays with the rules of the genre–from the place of witches and sorcerers in the werewolf mythos to those of silver, wolf bites, wolf skins and lunacy, and even the place of drug-use. Not a single mythos unites the stories, which could cause some readers to stumble from one story to the next, having to reset the rules to another author’s conventions.
Some of the wolves in this collection are outcasts from their packs, some are lone wolves, and some have banded together to form queer packs where wolves like them can be safe. The allegory is obvious: these are the lives of gay men and women in modern society. In his less-than-informative introduction, Dr. Berhardt-House draws the parallel between the werewolf and the homosexual. The stories in Queer Wolf are clearly collected around this principle.
Talent in these stories, like mythos, varies. While some stories are abysmal, and others barely passable, the prize stories in this collection are: “Wolf Strap” by Naomi Clark, “Shy Hunter” by Gunn Hale and “In the Seeonee Hills” by Erica Hildebrand.
“Wolf Strap” pulls you in fast and hard–not just into the story, but into the collection as a whole. Both mystery and horror, this story tells of the struggle between pack and humankind–and of what some men will do to even the playing field with the perceived wolf threat. Clark gives us characters that we can understand in a world that we cannot.
“Shy Hunter” is both a beautiful story of the love of one man for another while also presenting a decent thriller as he faces the external manifestation (and source) of his inner demons. This story explores the feral, predatory nature both wolves and gay men; and it represents the struggles either community has in keeping these creatures at bay.
“In the Seeonee Hills” explores the difference between the natural-born werewolf and the afflicted. It is as much about wolf politics as it is about wolf personality–and how those politics collapse when two wolves from different sides fall in love. It is a lesbian, werewolf West Side Story.
Close behind these stories are “Wolf Lover” by Michael Itig, “Wrong Turn” by Stephen Osborne, “Leader of the Pack” by Robert Saldarini, “War of the Wolves” by Charles Long, “Night Swimming” by R.J. Bradshaw, and “A Wolf’s Moon” by Quinn Smythwood. While these stories are not superb examples of writing, they good examples and do the genre justice. The characters are compelling, and their stories complete—leaving just enough to imagine further adventures ahead.
Queer Wolf is a worthy attempt at doing the queer “monster” justice. It is the first volume in a series that will explore the uncanny lives of gay and lesbian creatures from all worlds. We look forward to reading more from Queered Fiction as they explore vampirism and science fiction in upcoming volumes.