Wednesday, April 14, 2021

SSW: "Feast for Small Pieces" by Hailey Piper

 "Feast for Small Pieces" is a fantasy that is this close to being a straightforward conte cruel, a story as well as a purgative. A woman finds herself the object of the "affections" of a variety of horrible men, and she finds a use for helping to heal the women (and girls) around her.  Published in June 2019 in Sandra Ruttan's online The Bronzeville Bee (alas, folded), it is the lead story in the 2020 volume of The Year's Best Hardcore Horror, edited by Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax. 

Yes, I'm dipping back into annuals of recent vintage again---I'm feeling too far out of touch. 

The Piper story involves a woman who seems, even more than most, to inspire a certain kind of mopey predation in certain kinds of men, who, as noted in the story, when writers or other sorts of artists, choose to see or at least metaphorize her as the Belle Dame Sans Merci or the Vampiress etc., when for the most part she's simply the woman trying to get through her day, buying groceries or riding the subway (the story was sparked by a particularly striking example of a man who refused to take no, thanks for an answer from a woman he was trying to pick up on the train, as observed by Piper). However, our protagonist has a certain use for such men, when they become particularly obstreperous. 

George Kelley has selected "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" by "James Tiptree, Jr." (Alice Sheldon) as his choice of short story this week, and that story has a certain kinship with this one, except that this one doesn't quite imply all men are predators...and the Sheldon kind of does. (There is too much evidence, of course, that entirely too many men, at very least, can be and are; and Sheldon more than Piper lived through the times when entirely too often this was widely considered more a feature than a deadly virus.) Piper's protagonist isn't quite gentle with her conquests, but perhaps a bit more nuanced in how she deals with them than were the women in Sheldon's future, as can befit a story that has the Sheldon as a previous model. Among many others. 

As far as I know, in English anyway, this is the youngest of four annuals digging explicitly into horror that are still producing new volumes, with Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones and Paula Guran editing the other three (though publisher changes have driven some beginning-again with numbering for Datlow and Guran). 

For more of today's stories, please see Patti Abbott's blog.


George said...

Todd, I didn't know about THE YEAR'S BEST HARDCORE HORROR. I'll have to track down a copy! HOUSTON, HOUSTON DO YOU READ? knocked me out when I first read it back in the mid-1970s. It still has the power to send me reeling today when I reread it!

Todd Mason said...

It is an impressive story, though I think she did much better ones. It is sad to think that the least misogynist male character would probably throw in as he does without there being a true there isn' first.