This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.
Stunted Queer Adolescence, Covid Loneliness, and Winter Fantasy
by James Finn
Prism & Pen is fiction heavy this week! Did you know we started over two years ago as a “guest” fiction writers’ collective in other publications? It’s fun to see our roots showing sometimes — if you’ll pardon a groan-worthy pun.
I’m featuring two superb fiction pieces in our editor’s choices this week instead of one, because choosing between the two was more impossible than usual.
But don’t overlook the rest of our fiction, which is outstanding. And, as always, we have creative essays and poetry on tap, all from the perspectives of a talented crew of queer and queer-allied creative writers.
Editor’s Picks —
J. S. Richards
Queer people are sometimes said to miss out on adolescence, or at least on some kind of ideal of adolescence. In his beautifully evocative and painful debut story, J. S. Richards shows us how that works. And feels.
Saturday. This is where we are. In the family room of my house, stretching out on a massive sectional. We are 16. Bradley sleeps perpendicular to my feet. I lay silent. His gentle breath whispers over his head. I notice the rise and fall of my chest. I imagine lying closer. I wonder if he would deny me. I hope he would open his arms, eyes barely open, and pull me to his chest. We fall into a deep sleep. The vision arouses me, then drifts into comfort. I fall into my own sleep. Only here, I am alone.
We’ve got some great fiction on P&P this week, and not just these two pieces. But each time I tried to choose one, I wanted to pick the other. Finally, I threw my hands up in the air and went for a double. Both stories unwind among ice and snow — Esther’s a fairy tale and Abbie’s high fantasy. Each will transport you, if only for a few moments, into another world.
I flicked my own blonde locks aside, flipped my jewelled and magicked eyepatch into place and drew my bow. Our malefactor was close and was watching. This was no passive ward. The magic here had greater direction.
Moonlighter had read the situation as I had and pulled back, stowing his axe and drawing instead his lute. As he plucked, the notes caressed the air, and we all stirred.
On a day that began like any other, a traveler came to the palace. This was exciting in itself as they had few passersthrough, but to everyone’s delight the visitor was a polar bear who spoke as a human. The king of Summerland invited the polar bear to stay for dinner and it accepted with a bow as graceful as an enormous beast could manage.
Taking inspiration from poet Mary Oliver, Don calls on the wisdom of faeries in crying the pain of the Brothers of Tenderness. No excerpt this time from me. Don’s poem is short and I don’t want to spoil your pleasure in reading it.
Creative Non Fiction Selections —
Has covid-19 left you feeling lonely and isolated? It has me, and as Evan points out, single people who live alone are particularly vulnerable. But dating goes on in a covid-isolated world, human nature being what it is.
This pandemic has been particularly lonely for single people, especially those of us who live alone. I have, at times, been so desperate for human connection that I will step outside donning my mask and a coat just to feel like I’m part of something bigger than the contours of the apartment walls I’ve memorized.
Come on! You know it is delicious to play around under the covers next to a gorgeous woman whose tasty skin requires lots of love to stay warm. Instead, even though winter has come, I have to make my way through sunny days that force me to drink lots of cold mineral water with a slice of lime. ¡Ah, así es la vida en el desierto mexicano!
When I started HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as part of my MTF transition two years ago, I researched all of the possible effects. I was trying to find any possible reason to reject being transgender and my need to transition …
BUT OH MY GOD!!!
One of the other side effects that is never, ever pointed out is that …
In the late 80s and 90s a significant number of people I knew were dying from [the AIDS pandemic]. In the early years, many families and friends were so frightened of the disease that they left their loved ones to die alone. Although I am glad we didn’t have Trump at the time, Reagan was equally callous in his failure to recognize the threat to millions of people, whether it was called pandemic or epidemic.
I’ll never forget the moment when we [medical students] arrived at the bed of a young man who was actually strapped down. He was suffering (we were told by our psychiatric mentor) from Homosexual Panic, a mental disorder typified by ‘perverse sexual cravings’ which could often become uncontrollable.
At this point most of the students took a small step back from the bed.
Fiction Finds —
The end of winter had come. Imbolic was upon them and they had little time to appease the ice goddess that had blessed them with life. They erected a shrine to Her, and now they came to the question everyone dreaded. Who to sacrifice?
Linora raised her arms and declared, “the time has come to choose? Who will gift themselves to the goddess and bring us an extra month of snow? Please step forward if ye be worthy.”
With my white boy perm picked to perfection and a periwinkle bandana tucked in the back right pocket of my 501s, I pay the two bucks and head into I-Beam’s legendary Sunday afternoon T-Dance, ready to celebrate my 22nd birthday.
I buy a beer and land on a spot near the dance floor, packed with twinks dressed in Village People inspired garb, still coming down from their Saturday night highs.
The first rule of Grindr is to not question the existence of the “straight” setting. The second? Your profile pic is your abs. If showing your abs isn’t an option, you can use your face, your feet, or some random meme. I’ve been working out lately, so I opted for the obligatory torso shot. All I had to do now was find what tribe I belonged to and set up the rest of my profile.
The First Rule of Grindr: Blast From the Past
A young gay man and his oddly familiar hookup
Poetry Picks —
There was that time it snowed,
a Florida winter day,
the air colder than the ground,
you ran outside,
barefoot in pajamas, catching
ice crystals on your tongues
before they melted in their
not enough for a ball,
much less a snowman.
Tomorrow sees the end,
Tomorrow we call time;
The siege is as its close, and now we draw the line.
Four long years of fear, an eternal term of hate,
— Was it really all that Great? —
Writing Queer Workshop —
Prism & Pen is hosting a short series of free workshops on LGBTQ mystery writing. These are likely to be of interest to both experienced writers and would-be writers of the genre. Mere readers of the genre may enjoy it too.
Here is creative writing professor and P&P writer David Wade Chambers’s first interactive workshop. P&P writers are encouraged to participate, but everyone is welcome.
That’s it for this week, guys! I hope you find some stories that move, inspire, or educate you. More in the queue already so keep an eye out. Oh, and writers? Don’t forget we have a challenge running. One more week to go for The Frosty Wars: Snowmen Amok, probably our most weirdly specific (but fun?)prompt ever.
See you guys next week. Happy Sunday!
Esther Spurrill-Jones, BFoundAPen, Zayn Singh, Ainsley L, Kathy Lee Tolleth, Brian Pelletier, Fred Shirley, Ikedi Oghenetega, neil chapman, David Wade Chambers, Artemis Shishir, alto, Sean Stephane Martin, Gabriela Penelope Carolus, Lois Shearing, b.henriques, Carl Rebeiro 🏳️🌈, Rodney Frazier, Simon, Carl Rebeiro, Brian Fehler, Deneishia Jacobpito, Chris Hedges, Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle, Kathy Lee Tolleth, Brian Pelletier, Alex David Bevan, Ikedi Oghenetega, David Wade Chambers, Sean Stephane Martin, Gabriela Penelope Carolus, Lois Shearing, Valentine Wiggin, b.henriques, Carl Rebeiro, Rodney Frazier, Simon Z. Brian Fehler, Cassie Brighter, Deneishia Jacobpito, Ronald C. Flores-Gunkle, James Patrick Nelson, Brigid Maloney, Gabriela, Presley Thomas, Evan McCoy, Loren Olson, Ken Wilson, Chandler Myer, NaNa’sworld, Arabelle J., Liam Heitmann-Ryce, Edis Rune, Prickly Pam, Dawn McGrath, Jonathan | sex & theology, Tabitha Lowndes, Emma Nwosisi, Melissa Speed, Dr. Thomas J. West, Till Kaeslin, Dave Smurthwaite, Ellie Rebecca, Zoey Milford, Edris Quinn C., Dennett, Michael Constable, Jim Martens, Stephen Foster, Kravitz M. Kristen Nadel, William Kuhn, Denisa Bogdan, MSci, Rafaela Mempin, Tre L. Loadholt, theoaknotes, Rachel Brindell, Elle Fredine, Jess Darnell, Emma Holiday, Gabe Evaristo, Joshua Mackey, Steve Alexander, Stevie Wilkinson, Andy Killoran, Nick Bundarin, ElMehdi El Azhary, Bradley Wester, Stella Luna (they/she?), Chuy G. Gonzalez, MS, Aaron W. Marrs, Zada Kent, Tima Loku, Cam, The Transgender Therapist, Sean Bennett, Ty Bo Yule, Abbie Drake, Alessia Autumn, Allen R. Marquez, Spencer James, Mary-Ellen Maynard, Gaby Spadaro, Elena Joy Thurston, Mina Krane, Jason Masters, Jeff Harvey, Laurence Best, Don Stouder, J. S. Richards,