Monday, November 1, 2010

Trysts by Steve Berman

Book 63: Trysts: A Triskadecollection of Queer and Weird Stories by Steve Berman, isbn 9781590210000, 148 pages, Lethe Press, $13.00

I first came across Steve Berman's work when I ordered his short novel VINTAGE from the InsightOut Book Club (an arm of the Book of the Month Club aimed at gay and lesbian readers). I enjoyed the book, as you can see from the review found here. I posted my review and discovered that Steve is here on livejournal, both on his own journal and through the journal for the publishing house he runs, [info]lethepress . This gave me the opportunity to seek out more of Berman's work, which has most recently appeared in the anthologies PAPER CITIES (his story reviewed here) and THE BEASTLY BRIDE (his story reviewed here). I ordered both of Steve's personal short story collections from Lethe, and have finally gotten around to reading the earlier of the two, TRYSTS.

There are twenty stories in TRYSTS, and several of them show the rough edges of a writer who is just starting out. These stories date from the late 90s through the collection's publication in 2001. Four of the twenty stories take place in Berman's dark-fantasy world of The Fallen Area, a section (or perhaps all) of Philadelphia that has been cut off from the rest of the civilized world because something has happened to change it -- magic works, people develop Talents or Afflictions, normal people struggle to survive a world they no longer hold primacy in. All four stories feature individuals new to the Fallen Area who find themselves in over their heads; some adapt better than others.

Not all of Berman's stories are Dark Fantasy / Horror. "His Paper Doll" is nearly whimsical and "Beach 2" isn't really supernatural at all. Some of the stories are homages to other authors. "The Resurrectionist" owes a lot to Poe (and perhaps Hawthorne), while "Path of Corruption" is positively Lovecraftian. A few of the stories didn't work for me (notably "Left Alone," which feels incomplete, and "Stormed and Taken in Prague," which seems too focused on the sex the main character has to really get across the kind of hole the character is potentially falling into) but even those stories don't lack for potentially interesting premises. I would recommend this collection for the Fallen Area stories in particular, and for a look at early Berman.

Reviews of the individual stories can be found here and here.

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