–SKIN DEEP MAGIC was on a couple of college syllabi, and I got to do two author visits with college students, and it was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.
–BEREFT, my YA novel about bullying, racism and homophobia, won a Bronze Moonbeam and a Silver IPPY Award
–I got to assist with editors choosing the fiction in QUEERS DESTROY HORROR.
–I got to go to WORLD HORROR in Atlanta, which led to several professional friendships.
–My novelette THE NECTAR OF NIGHTMARES was published and illustrated got good reviews
–My first collection, SEA, SWALLOW ME & OTHER STORIES was turned into an audiobook.
All are bucket list accomplishments.
The death of Tanith Lee. We used to exchange emails and she was very supportive of all of my work. I only met her once. We had planned a visit before her illness. I dedicated THE NECTAR OF NIGHTMARES to her.
Nina Simone (who I’ve written about before) was probably the inspiration behind the eponymous character, Coalrose, the final novelette in my collection Skin Deep Magic. The story is in the form of a chorus of vignettes—all recounting their encounters with Zoe Coalrose, who is a kind of dark muse/patron saint for outcasts. The cast includes: a lesbian junkie, a casting director for the Negro Follies, a tattoo artist, and gay widower. The piece is influenced by Geoff Ryman’s novel, Was, his fugue-like narrative that uses The Wizard of Oz as a touchstone. Ryman was an instructor during my time at the Clarion West Workshop in 1996, and he read and critiqued the first draft. Coalrose was immensely cathartic to write. I don’t know how to classify it—magical realism? paranormal? historical fantasy? Though it has darkness, I view it as a hopeful piece. It’s a homage to survival.
This story was commissioned for a young adult anthology that never came together. The anthology editor called me up with an idea to write an essay about an influential African American figure. I volunteered for Zora Neale Hurston for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, she was a fascinating, larger-than-life figure. You know the cliched stories about people who “run away and join the circus”? Zora actually did run away and join a traveling “Negro Follies” show! In addition to being a brilliant novelist, she was an anthropologist and her scholarship on Hoodoo (African-American folk magic) and Haitian Voudon is considered to be seminal. She had a humorous streak, evident in her letters. She was a fixture in the Harlem Renaissance/“Negro Arts” movement, and an artist whose talent only became appreciated posthumously.
The other reason I chose Hurston was this: the house I live in now is directly in front the house where she boarded as a student at Howard University. In other words,I live in the same house (even the same number), but on a parallel street. The coincidence was too strong to ignore. The story I wrote was one of those rare “channelled” pieces that rarely spring forth (most of my writing is hard work).
“Zora’s Destiny” is a completely fictional piece that imagines Hurston’s childhood and foreshadows her life’s work and legacy. I can only hope that Hurston might have approved of this tribute.
Over at Elisa Reviews, Felice Picano, a multi-awarding winner author and member of the influential Violet Quill group (a collective of important gay male writers), had this to say about Skin Deep Magic.
“These are wonderful, fanciful, fantastic stories in their nature and yet oh so real in the truths they convey. My favorites are “Mauve’s Quilt”, “Zora’s Destiny” and “Death and Two Maidens,” but they are all intriguing and fresh and totally individual. “Lyes” is probably the funniest of the lot. It had me and my friends howling with recognition and laughter!”
–Felice Picano, Author and Historian, 2010 winner of the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Pioneer Award
Over at GoodReads, Skin Deep Magic has its first review, and it’sa good one. James says,
Skin Deep Magic, the second short story collection penned by Craig Laurance Gidney, is a worthy follow-up to his first collection, 2008’s Sea, Swallow Me (Lethe Press). Once again mining his own unique vein of interstitial fiction (to use the author’s own description of his work), this collection continues his proclivity to depict stories that are simultaneously fantastic, folkloric, mythic, and sometimes horrific from the perspectives of oft marginalized social groups (in particular, LGTB people and African-Americans, or mixed variations thereof). Whereas his first collection mostly concerned itself with male protagonists, here the majority of his narrators and main characters are women, which makes for an interesting change of pace, and the fact that all of the ten stories revolves around the issue of race (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, sexuality) gives the collection a nice unity of effect.
The third story in my collection, “Mauve’s Quilt” is a kind of quilted narrative, weaving two story strands together. The quilt titular also serves as functional art: an (abstract) expression of an interior landscape and a sanctuary.