cover image Inkweed


Nat Buchbinder. Pink Narcissus, $15 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-1-939056-19-1

Buchbinder debuts with an inventive and intimate duo of queer, fantastical novellas bound by a common theme of escape from oppressive communities supposedly designed for their denizens’ protection. In the title novella, “bad air” has sent humanity underground into communities such as the vertical Emmons Cooperative, where the less well-off work thankless factory jobs. Against this backdrop, Niko follows his lover, Bill, into the lucrative, illegal trade of the addictive drug Inkweed, collected surreptitiously from the surface. “The Mellification” follows trans man and self-made vampire Holly as he grows disillusioned with his secret vampire community underneath a Brooklyn cemetery after its leader refuses to allow him to participate in a sacred rite of passage. Buchbinder’s wild worldbuilding brims with fascinating but underdeveloped ideas, like the mysterious creatures hiding in a factory that produces tinned meat in “Inkweed” or the process of ritually preparing a corpse with honey in “The Mellification.” These ideas dangle at the edges of the small, personal stories of Buchbinder’s protagonists, hinting at whole societies underpinning the tales. Though both novellas are complete enough on their own, readers will wish they got to see more of these worlds; each of these settings could easily sustain a complete and more complex novel. There’s lots to chew on here. (June)