I was excited about reviewing Broken Metropolis, a collection of queer urban fantasy edited by Dave Ring, and happily I was not disappointed. By running with the idea that urban environments allow LGBQTA+ people to create their own communities and find themselves, the various works in this collection create a moving and powerful testament to visibility, validation, and love – all things deserved and needed by the queer community in this day and age.
There is a lot on offer here, in many styles and flavours. M. Raolee opens with a sweet romance and tale of acceptance, “Neon”, in a fantastical alternate future. D. M. Rice provides evocative free verse in “Dissonance, Part I”; Meghan Cunningham and kx carys dish up intriguing vignettes of queer and magical life in the city in the eerie and dreamlike “The Strange Places In The City” and “Familiar”, respectively. H. Pueyo’s “Perseus on Two Wheels” is also a good deal of fun, riffing on Greek mythology, transposed to the adventures of a trans-man in a South American favela. There is very much something for fans of all manner of fantasy, and literature in general.
As ever, some stories in the collection deserve special mentions, and Broken Metropolis has a high proportion of these.
“The City of Cats” – Victoria Zelvin
A very touching story about a couple’s morning ritual turning out to have more power than at least one of them might have expected. The premise is simple, but its charm and warmth really bring this story to life.
“Venus Conjunct Saturn” – Claire Rudy Foster
In this astrology-laced story, a trans lesbian faces up to her fears of being rejected by her partner should she reveal her transness. This is built on with a real sense of liminality – her working to cure HIV, long associated with being pushed to the edges of society; her being a Greenpeace supporter but engaging in labwork involving animals. The protagonist finds her place in who she is, in a powerful story that (rightly) challenges trans-exclusionary feminism.
“The Plague-Eater” – Caspian Gray
An interesting example of what I can only describe as queer folk horror. When one of them is dying of cancer, some of their closest friends explore how far they are willing to go – and with what powers they are willing to engage with – to save them. The overarching theme of their friendship group being a “family of choice”, of those who accept one another for who they are, makes this especially moving.
“Your Heart In My Teeth” – V. Medina
Medina displays excellent command of the second person in this viscerally emotional tale of loss and grief. The protagonist’s loss of their partner leads them to a place of utter, well-articulated depression and despair, but nonetheless they find their way forward. The ending is very uplifting, yet with more than a little of the darkness of folk-tale about it.
“Under Her White Stars” – Jacob Budenz
On the face of it, this is an entertaining sting caper, a witch taking it on themself to defeat the Bad Guy that no one else can. But it becomes more than that – an exploration of hubris, love and trust – and, most importantly, how one prioritises oneself within a relationship
Broken Metropolis is a very enjoyable read, but it’s more than that. It’s one of those collections that feels very necessary, in its celebration of queerness and its refusal to allow LGBTQA+ characters to be figures of tragedy or powerlessness. Here, they live, and love, and have power. And that is as it should be. Recommended to all fans of short form fantasy, especially urban fantasy.
(This review was given in exchange for a free PDF of the ebook)
(Edit note – the pronouns of the protagonist of “Under Her White Stars” have been changed to reflect their being gender-neutral)