It’s back! The blog advent calendar. I enjoyed last year’s blog theme last year—re-reading twenty-four books of my youth—so much, so this year I’m applying the same approach to short stories, trawling through a myriad bunch of collections and anthologies I’ve read in the last few years.
December 12th: Wetside Story by Steve Vernon
Tell me about your first time: There’s a ton of great stories in the Wilde Stories 2013 but I’ve never forgotten this story. It’s an unapologetic, unpretentious, gloriously insane bit of brilliance. And don’t get me wrong: I love a moping queer magic realist epic as much as the next time, but sometimes you just need some gangster squid.
Sum it up: A pair of squid private eyes are enlisted by the FBI (the ‘pinks’) and a local mob boss to tangle with the Nazi fish that run the bay…
Give me a quote: “Bucky grinned me back a picket fence full of pleasure. The toxic waste that riddled his cavities gave them a wonderful fluorescent neon gleam. His scales glittered as prettily as those of the dead mackerel had. My heart went thump.”
Second reading: So, the first time round I almost definitely missed a lot of the references that are folded into this story. There’s swipes at Lovecraft, swipes at old monsters movies, and gangster films. There’s even an explanation for exactly why this town is full of tentacly monsters knocking around the place, but none of that’s really important, because what was–and remains– the genius of this story is the language, which trawls up a myriad assortment of film noir slang, slaps it around a bit, shoves it full of fish jokes, and then gleefully soaks the whole story in it. And it is just. completely. wonderful.
And if I haven’t persuaded you by now, I don’t know what will. (Oh wait? The squid is gay. There you go.)
Where can I read it: I read the story in Wilde Stories 2013, though I assume that means it also appeared somewhere else before.