STORY REVIEW: Love among the Avatars in ‘Super Bass’ by Kai Ashante Wilson

Super Bass: A Tor.Com OriginalSuper Bass: A Tor.Com Original by Kai Ashante Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super Bass is a dense, ‘slice-of-life’ piece of fantasy fiction that’s also a love story. The prose is rich, sensual and deeply interior. It reminds of me of early Samuel R Delany, when he just throws you into an alien landscape and then challenges you to fill in the dots. The milleu has a vague Candomble feel, a lush tropical world where the gods inhabit/”possess” their chosen vessels, transforming them into supernatural healers. The story is about a consort to one of these god-vessels. Polyamory and same-gender relationships are the norm. The use of language reminds of me Kiini Ibura Salaam’s work.

“Love doesn’t take the burdens away, only makes them worth bearing.”

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The erotic tone-poems in Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam

Ancient, AncientAncient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story “MalKai’s Last Seduction” is an erotic tone poem that celebrates black queer love. The set up is deceptively simple. MalKai is a visiting alien who is gathering “human nectar”–a substance derived from orgasms. MalKai belongs to a race of moth-like beings, but is able to appear as human. His species communicates via movement, rather than words. MalKai meets Cori, a closeted black gay man, and seduces him.

Cori had no way of imagining a velvet people who spoke through balletic motions and muscle spasms, arced arms and bent necks. A nation that consisted of beings who were physically similar to humans but biologically distinct. A people who thrived on human nectar.

The bulk of the story is told through the alien’s eyes. But there is a point of view shift, when we understand the transcendence and healing that Cori feels through the encounter:

Cori’s entire life, it could be argued, was an attempt to avoid any event such as this one. For years, he discretely avoided eye contact with men who wore their privacy in public like an expensive coat of chinchilla.

Both creatures, human and alien, experience a hallicination-ridden orgasm that acts as an exorcism for Cori.

He couldn’t remember his closet…

He is freed by the sexual act. It is liberating. Salaam drenches the story in sensory overload, with sentences that sing.

Kiini Ibura Salaam finds the balance between visionary poetics and science fiction in this tale and others.

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