Schemers is the latest genre-crossing anthology of new short fiction from Stone Skin Press. From the classic myths to the pages of the Bible, from Shakespeare’s stage to the yellowed pulps of yesteryear, literature runs red with tales of plotting and betrayal. If to perform the act of reading is to enter into a conspiracy with the writer, certain stories remind us of the danger of trusting professional dissemblers.
Nick Mamatas slashes the art world with a rusty razor in “If Graffiti Changed Anything It Would Be Illegal.” The disconnectedness of its collective voice declares a destabilizing wrongness from the start, leaving the reader to unravel its nasty truth.
Wilson Demeny’s Three Starving Children? A masterpiece. Not since the days of Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ and Chris Ofili’s dung-daubed painting The Holy Virgin Mary had the public remembered how much it was supposed to hate any art more complex than a still life with flowers. Three Starving Children, performed nightly at the Spufford Gallery, fueled a week of outrage. Demeny spent one hour a night eating a Chinese takeout meal from paper containers while sitting on a well-worn futon couch. He watched TV and as he watched he muttered, rolled his eyes, and every night seventeen minutes into the performance he dropped a potsticker, leaned down and picked it up from the floor with his chopsticks, looked surreptitiously around, and popped it into his mouth.
On the television were three starving children. Two girls and a boy, all brown-skinned, all thin-limbed, all limned with grief and gristle, not meat, on their bones. They were being held in an undisclosed location. They had access to water thanks to a leaking faucet and a half-crumpled pie plate, which had been a toy for the three children in the first two days of the show. They appeared to be held in an unfinished basement with a dirt floor. Occasionally the boy could be seen digging in the dirt. On the fourth day, he found a snake and ate it.
On the fifth day, Wilson Demeny appeared on the floor of the gallery, having once again somehow evaded both the police and the crowds of picketers outside, turned on the television and the children had been replaced. With three other starving children.
For the rest, get Schemers from Stone Skin Press.
Nick Mamatas is the author of a number of novels, including the fantasy-noir Bullettime and the full-on noir Love is the Law. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Weird Tales, and Best American Mystery Stories, among many other venues, and his art criticism has appeared in New Observations, Art Papers, and Artbyte. A native New Yorker, Nick now lives in California.