marie c lecrivain is the edtior of The Whiteside Review:A Journal of Speculative/Scifi Fiction, and poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles....read more Her short stories, poetry, and reviews have been published online and in print, including in Nonbinary Review, The Poetry Salzburg Review, Clockwise Cat, and many others. She's a photographer, jewelry designer, and writer-in-residence in her apartment. For more shenanigans, she can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
We live in the age of excess with a smorgasbord of literary offerings. This wasn’t the case when I was a teenage girl nerd devouring Asimov, Heinlein, Norton, McCaffrey, and Ellison in school, and on the weekends holed up in my room while I ignored my chores.
Life on the Periphery contains nine stories (six short stories/three novelettes), that span the gamut of hard science fiction: “Think of England”, an unexpected story about first contact; speculative, in “Für Wissenschaft!”, a cautionary tale about monstrous transformation in the most unlikely place; and light fantasy with “His Cooks, His Bakers”, a feminist hero’s tale retold in the tradition of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Cunningham, an artist and filmmaker, brings his visual storytelling gifts into a literary gem that's delightful and thought-provoking. There’s something here for anyone who loves quality literature, and who can appreciate the fusion of old school/new school tropes in scifi/fantasy.
The intimate narrative tone of Cunningham’s prose, which, while isn’t first person, drops the
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reader right into the landscape of each story with the sense that they’ve been there all along. There's no apologies or punches pulled in Periphery, which is punctuated with erotic undertones and graphic scenes of horror that, thanks to Cunningham’s cinematic background, rise full-fledged within the mind’s eye, as in the short story “Join Us For the Coming Feast”, a disturbing and acutely uncomfortable new take on alien invasion:
Charlotte shrieked. One of them slammed into the window, grasping the frame with its talons. It was big, over seven feet tall, covered in a short blackish brown fur. It was thin, yet muscular. Its arms were extended into long, leathery wings; that flexed as the creature struggled against the glass. Its head was tall, sharp pointed ears over a screaming jaw. It had a pig’s nose and a shark’s eyes. It had a manic, frustrated manner, unable to understand the nature of the barrier keeping it out of the office. It was staring directly at Dave, and he came to realize it was not looking at him in anger. It was looking at him with hunger.
I’ve always admired and championed the outliers in literature, and Life on the Periphery definitely falls into this category, though I suspect, not for long. My advice: Read Life on the Periphery with an open mind, the lights on, and during the daylight hours… and then, try it again at 3 am with a flashlight, and alone in your house… you’ll not forget one word. Not one.