Tuesday, January 31, 2023

SLEAZE FEATURE: 'A GIRL'S GUIDE TO GUNS AND MONSTERS' (2010)

 



Bought this upon publication back in 2010 and promptly shelved it.  Just about the most Planet Motherfucker-y title a collection could have, but was it worth the wait?

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AGGTGAM is a spiritual (and, in one instance, literal) sequel to the craptacular Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies.  The cover's better than most paranormal romances, even without obligatory tattoos, straps, and cleavage.  Tales span chronologically from The Past to The Future.

) Jane Linskold starts off strong with "The Drifter", a western with monster-huntin' gunslanger Prudence Bledsoe(!) and some skinwalkers.  It's predictable, but inoffensively so, and offers a real sense of place with the descriptions.

) Prolific Buffy-verse contributor Nancy Holder provides "Our Lady Of The Vampires", a Depression-era tale about bloodsuckers both figurative and literal sprinkled with Holy Terror and orphanages.  Evocative and disturbing.

) Still chuggin' along comes Lilith Saintcrow's grimy ode to teenage sleuths, bad stepdads (and the shitty moms that love 'em), blossoming lesbianism, and more lowercase draculas.  Major Carmilla / Ginger Snaps vibes.

I'll Take Any Excuse To Rep This Poster


) "Elizabeth And Anna's Big Adventure", by Jeanne C. Stein, falls firmly in cute territory, but suffers from more bloodsuckin'; too many undeadlies in a row, like a mixtape with multiple songs by the same band, Editor.  At least they switch to human villains (WHICH WE KNOW ARE THE SCARIEST OF ALL!!!111!11!!!!1!).  The anthology starts to falter.

) Anton Strout's "Lupercalia" is goofy.  There's a Be-Bulleted Boss Babe of the most cliched, her hapless sidekick, and a metamorphic Olympian were-cherub out to restore divine mojo via Valentine's shenanigans who reveals to be ALL of B-BBB's dozen-plus exes.

I think?  That sounds right, maybe.  Wholly unclear whats and whys on first pass, and I couldn't muster enough interest for a re-read.  Embarrassed for the author, yo.

) "Murder, She Workshopped" is Kristine Kathryn Rusch's tale of a Papal assassin on a writer's retreat as cover to whack a dragon.  Again, firmly cute, even with the "writer as secret hero" trope.  Have no clue what the lead's name is, though, as I think it was only mentioned second-hand.

) Jim C. Hines' "Heart Of Ash" is, as The Kids say today, "wiggedy-wack".  An ancient Greek nymph (who uncontrollably shapeshifts into her partner's physical ideal, and harnesses lust into Monster-Slaughterin' Might) hunts incestuous-by-implication werejaguars in Arizona culverts.  But dryad's mojo fades because her relationship's Fiery Passion is transitioning to Solid-N-Secure-N-Stable Lesbian Domesticity, and she almost dies...

...until levelling-up by seducing her celibate priest handler and alters into a Lethal Latina that wastes weres and ghosts girlfriends in equal measure.

"THE ARISTOCRATS!!!"


The implications are gross and wrong and awful.  Pains me I kinda dug it.

) Elizabeth A. Vaughan's "Jiang Shi" is the even more infuriatingly in medias res-y sequel to her marsupialicious story from ZR&KB.  It's a confounding whirlwind of Ancient Chinese Secrets and Master Splinter-itis and hopping vampires and confused bikers and teleporting virgins and The Chosen Nameless Frump in the middle of the mayhem.  I would've been lost--even more, I mean--without those vague six-year memories of the prior work.  (Why do authors put random chapters of random novels in random collections?  It's a lousy sales tactic.)

Now, With More Possums!


) OG Urban-Fantasy-Before-It-Was-Even-A-Thang writer Tanya Huff offers a day in the life of her vampire PI from The Blood Books in "No Matter Where You Go".  Some goober goths trifle with Forces Beyond Mortal Ken, requiring a dracula to save 'em and ending with Rod Serling-grade pith.  Workmanlike from start to finish.

) "Signed In Blood" is P.R. Frost's eyerolling slice-o'-life story about a writer protagonist (named Tess, I think?--lots of entries gloss over intros) clearly from novels The Reader is supposed to know but I clearly don't.  There's imps and blood-ink pens and psychic, vampiric pookahs [spelled like that] with cartoon accents and grandiose titles ["I'm a Warrior of the Celestial Blade..." is supposed to be taken SERIOUSLY, y'all] and worldbuilding gobbledygook that sounds like D&D dorks flexing in a LARP-off.

Insufferable.

) "Broch De Shlang" is, quite simply, fucked up.

I thought it was gonna be another Gaelic nightmare like from ZR&KB--hah, I wish!  Thanks to multiple Google searches that weren't all that helpful, I gathered "BDS" is Yiddish for "serpent / penis curse"... which is verified when the *protagonist* ultimately Googles the same way I did, down to the search description.

And what a curse.  The women in Protagonist's lineage apparently die via snaky trauma.  Which is definitely bad enough, but Protagonist is a single mom with a severely disabled Eldest (Trisomy 13 / Patau's Syndrome... leaving the vegetative child so toneless and limp she... slithers... out of wheelchairs unless restrained) and a perfect Youngest, and she's alone because the saintly dad (ugh) bailed but still shows up above and beyond standard custody to smother Youngest with attention while wholly ignoring even basic humanitarian care for Eldest.

Oh!  The only way to break The Curse is for The Curse's Host and The Snake to die at the same instant…

...which leads to a beautiful resolution where Youngest breaks The Curse and saves Protagonist from The Snake by annihilating both The Snake and Eldest--who is drooling in blissful slumber in a giant crib, natch--with a Mossberg.

Sniff.  So.  Touching.


Dad is gonna come back, too, to a now-perfect family.  Cue inspirational sunrise.

"Broch De Shlang" is gonna haunt me, y'all.

) Part of me hates Alexander B. Potter's "The Wooly Mountains" on principle, because it takes The Mos Eisley Approach to monsterizin'.

A Wretched Hive, Yadda-Yadda.


There's our spunky, backwoods lesbian with more-trouble-than-worth, oh-so-hilarious cowardly sidekick (BUT GAY!!!) in a whirl of werewolves, dragons, satyrs, shamans, *and* 'squatches.  The world is plagued by Troubles With Supernaturals That Came Out In A Big Event But The Beleaguered Humans Are The REAL Terrors that we've all seen before.  The plot is simple and obvious.

But part of me begrudgingly--BEGRUDGINGLY, yo!--liked it.  The yetis had Big Boggy Creek Energy, which always delights.  And all of Vermont becoming a cryptid wildlife preserve that is also full of gung-ho human secessionists makes me laugh.

) The collection ends with Nina Kiriki Hoffman's sci-fi "Invasive Species".  Imagine if Ellen Ripley and Newt were space-exterminators on a space-liner dealing with space-snatchers... -body, that is.

"Draw Me Like One Of Your Brain-Enslaved Girls"

TV episode plotting aside, it's an innocuous palate-cleanser.

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AGGTGAM offers some neat stories, some adequate ones, and a smattering of duds, with too many vampires and--worse--too many "Trying Too Hard" beasties.

But, as with all collections, there's discarded extra-crispy nuggets in the greasetrap.  A reluctant three Ellens Ripley outta five, but going to the used bookstore with a vengeance.