Gothic Revolution: Madame Two Swords by Tanith Lee

Nestled somewhere between magical realism and alternate history, this slim novella shows Tanith Lee working with the vast store of information she amassed about the French Revolution. She used most of the material for her lone historical novel THE GODS ARE THIRSTY. In many ways, MADAME TWO SWORDS is like a darker sister to that novel.

Set in an imaginary French city under English rule, the nameless narrator finds a slim book of poetry and essays in a used bookstore. Stuffed inside of the book is the miniature portrait of the book’s author, with whom she falls in love with. Lucien de Ceppays is a stand-in for the very real Camille Desmoulins (and the subject of TGAT), the doomed pamphleteer of the French Revolution. De Ceppays is a poet and author of the treatise on human rights in this alternate city, which also had a monarchy-ousting revolution that in turn inspired a rampage of political terror. Lee uses a series of Gothic tropes—ranging from spectral occurrences to the coincidences that happen in such fiction—to introduce a theme that one does not find in much of Lee’s fiction.  Bryonic heroes, destitute heroines, mysterious crones are all in the service of a tale about the narrator’s awakening sense of Social Justice.

It’s all told in Lee’s trademark decadent, ominous prose, which creates an intriguing subgenre—woke goth? She manages to capture both the horrid employment conditions of women in the turn-of-century and the fickle nature of mob-led movements as acutely as she did in that epic historical novel.

I am in possession of a signed and illustrated (by Thomas Canty) copy of this novella, which has been reprinted by Immanion Press.


I’ll be on a panel put on by the Baltimore County Public Library with authors David R. Slayton (White Trash Warlock), Alex Jay Lore (Empire of Light), and Barbara Ann Wright (The Noble and the Nightingale) on May 26. You can sign up for the free event here.

ONLINE EVENT: Beyond Afrofuturism — MAY 17

Join me and Black editors Eboni Dunbar (FIYAH Magazine),  Brent Lambert (FIYAH Magazine), Chinelo Onwualu (Omenana/Anathema), and LaShawn Wanak (Giganotosaurus). 

We’ll be discussing their journeys into editing and the role editors play in creating space for the voices of BIPOC communities in the speculative fiction field.

Moderated by Arley Sorg of Locus and Fantasy Magazine.

Further information and how to log on is here!

Queer Space Force: a zine showcasing DC-based Speculative Fiction Writers!

My story “The Magus Club” has been reprinted in Queer Space Force, a showcase zine of speculative fiction from writers based in or connected to DC, edited by dave ring, alongside work by Rasha Abdulhadi, Marlena Chertock, , Rashid Darden & Malka Older.

But wait! There’s more: On May 8th, there will be a group reading with the authors at 1 pm (EST).

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson (Book Review)

The plot of this novel is relatively simple. Set in the early 1980s, it follows Travis Stillwell, a lone drifter who kills young women to fill up some void within himself, caused by a broken family and a touch of PTSD. Stillwell meets Rue, a young woman in a honky tonk bar that is more than she seems. After a one night stand with Rue, he wakes up with a deep, strange and insatiable hunger. As he drifts through small towns in the Texas desert, he ends up at the Sundowner Inn, a semi defunct motel/motor lodge run by Annabelle Gaskins, a widow and mother to her ten-year old son Sandy. At the same time, a Texas ranger named John Reader is investigating the murders of young women who frequent honky tonk bars.

The characters are archetypical and accurately drawn. We head hop from Stillwell, whose life is filled with ugly memories of his family life and the Vietnam war to Rue, whose fate is changed with a chance encounter with a mysterious nomad who curses her with murderous hunger, to the more quotidian existence of Gaskins and her son. Davidson’s take on vampirism (never referred to as such in the text, has such verisimilitude that it almost seems natural. Conversely, the author imbues the Texas landscape with a magical quality. In the Valley of the Sun combines languid lyricism with scenes of brutal violence reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s work.