From Nightmare Magazine May 2017- A Very Open and Interesting Conversation with Alyssa Wong
A few days ago I as kindly given a review copy of a forthcoming soon anthology, The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman. I was completely shocked by how much I liked the beautiful lead story, "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong. Last month I first read the surrealistic short fiction of Leonora Carrington. If April 2017 was for me the month I "discovered" Leonora Carrington, then quite possibly May will be observed as the month I first read Alyssa Wong. I know this sounds hyperbolic but I can for sure visualize Leonora being stunned by "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, i certainly was. I was on first reading mesmerized by the sheer elegance of Wong's prose combined with the very ugly and evil story she tells.
Told in the first person by a young woman out on a first date with a man she met online, a Harvard alumni he claims, the setting is Manhattan. She is from Taipei.They are on their way to dinner. We soon learn the woman can read thoughts. The man is trying to impress her by telling her of his penthouse complete with a Jacuzzi. Most women would be frightened to learn their date was a serial killer was eagerly looking forward to splitting her body open. I want to share enough of Wong's style to give my readers a fair sample of her style, which I just love:
"As we cruise uptown toward his fancy-ass penthouse, I ask him to pull over near the Queensboro Bridge for a second. Annoyance flashes across his face, but he parks the Tesla in a side street. I lurch into an alley, tottering over empty cans and discarded cigarettes in my four-inch heels, and puke a trail of champagne and kale over to the dumpster shoved up against the apartment building. “Are you all right?” Harvey calls. “I’m fine,” I slur. Not a single curious window opens overhead. His steps echo down the alley. He’s gotten out of the car, and he’s walking toward me like I’m an animal that he needs to approach carefully. Maybe I should do it now. Yes! Now, now, while the bitch is occupied. But what about the method? I won’t get to see her insides all pretty everywhere—I launch myself at him, fingers digging sharp into his body, and bite down hard on his mouth. He tries to shout, but I swallow the sound and shove my tongue inside. There, just behind his teeth, is what I’m looking for: ugly thoughts, viscous as boiled tendon. I suck them howling and fighting into my throat as Harvey’s body shudders, little mewling noises escaping from his nose. I feel decadent and filthy, swollen with the cruelest dreams I’ve ever tasted. I can barely feel Harvey’s feeble struggles; in this state, with the darkest parts of himself drained from his mouth into mine, he’s no match for me. They’re never as strong as they think they are. By the time he finally goes limp, the last of the thoughts disappearing down my throat, my body’s already changing. My limbs elongate, growing thicker, and my dress feels too tight as my ribs expand." She changes briefly into his appearance, before she leaves his body near a dumpster, not knowing or caring if he is still alive.
This is not the first man whose life she has ended. "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" shows us the sexual love of our narrator, her roommate and a high fashion woman she meets for each other. We also meet the narrator's mother, a hoarder whose house is shoulder high packed with junk, including jars containing the essences of men she has killed, including our narrator's father. Her mother advised her it is best just to go for common criminals as no one will make a big effort to figure out why they disappeared. There is a deep feeling of evil in the story, hidden by the beautiful prose and the elegance of the women.
Wong says she wants to write stories in which the chief characters are Asian American lesbians. There is much in the story I have not touched upon, I want first time readers to not have too much advanced knowledge.
Bio Data from the collection
Alyssa Wong’s considerable reputation rests on only the handful of stories. Still in her mid-twenties, she is the youngest author to appear in this collection. Her work has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Black Static, Tor.com, and Lightspeed: Queers Destroy Science Fiction. Her first published story, “The Fisher Queen,” earned immediate acclaim and was nominated for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson awards. Wong’s fourth story, “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” was published the following year to even stronger acclaim, winning the Nebula and World Fantasy awards, and was nominated for the Shirley Jackson and the Bram Stoker awards, and was a finalist for the Locus Award. She was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2016. She lives in Raleigh.
She is the first author of Filipino ancestry to win a Nebula Award.
I will be reading and posting on seven more of her stories.
If just a few of the stories in The New Voices of Fantasy are close to this good, it is well worth acquiring.
Leonora Carrington, best known broadly for her paintings had a very long, seventy years or so, creative career. I wish the same for Alyssa Wong.