Format: Short Story
Series: 7&7 Anthology
Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)
Bonus: Free on publisher’s site
Rating: 0 stars (out of 5)
DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of J. Inman’s short story is the vice of gluttony.
They need a fucking trigger warning.
I have two extremely negative reactions to this story. The first is this is an extremely horrific “historical” folk story, but the publisher provided basically no warning of its content. Even worse, the horrors in the story are sharpened by taking the most intimate fears, desperation, and longing hopes of a very often disdained subgroup in the LGBT community and viciously and maliciously exploits them for a cheap thrill.
Upon reflection, this story reminds me a bit of the brilliant but depraved story The Lottery. Whereas The Lottery was a sick but pointedly insightful critique of human social customs and potential for cruelty, The Rendering takes a horrific folk/fairy tale and targets an often troubled, marginalized, and disrespected group in the LGBT community.
It’s really a horror story (despite how the publisher only lists as historical or fantasy as possibly relevant genres) and I find many horror stories to disturbing, and some extreme ones, such as The Rendering, to be way beyond the pale for me, and therefore I obviously personally avoid them if at all possible. I understand and respect that there are fans who find these types of stories to be engrossing and entertaining, and I do not begrudge authors for writing them or readers for liking them. I do expect authors and publishers to provide fair warning and clear labels, and in this case I believe they clearly failed.
There are several genre headings listed on the publisher’s website for this anthology (Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal, Science Fiction), but not one of them is horror. The book’s description does warn the exploration of virtue and vice could “sink to the darkest and most perverse depths.” But they go on to say the stories “explore the call to good and evil – and the consequences of answering it.” So one could reasonably expect there to be no horror in this collection, and any “consequences” fit whatever “evil” is explored. What I take from this is the consequence of an exploration of the “evil” of a gluttonous gay man’s deepest, most intimate, and most fervent yearnings is to be tantalized, lured, led on, and teased until they find a fate of torture and slow, agonizing death. Having little or no warning about this type of content is pretty disturbing.
It was pretty clear from the start of this work – the title is obviously indicative – what was set-up to happen, but I thought surely they would end up with a surprise, since most of the other works in the anthology included a significant a twist at the end. Not this one. I couldn’t believe an LGBT-friendly publisher would go to such a hateful, shaming, horrific place with no warning (this is historical and a consequence of gluttonous “evil”?). I thought this telegraphed ending to be especially unlikely given how lightly the other vices were dealt with in this anthology (except for one other, which unfortunately I read last after I had recovered from this one), which makes a lack of any real warning extra-galling. Their story on anger has one guy unilaterally impacting another’s business, and the “anger” response is one slightly brusque conversation. But they turn the fat gay guy into an extraordinarily gluttonous pig but extremely sympathetic and endearing in his yearnings and needs – and then treat him much worse than, well, it’s hard imagine a worse emotional or physical fate (and I’ve read plenty of edgy, non-con and torturous works over the years).
There was one other horror story in the series, but it didn’t bother me personally nearly as much. However, I imagine other readers might find it even worse than The Rendering, making me doubly question the publisher’s publicist’s judgment and sensitivity.