Title: Salt Slow
Genre: Sci-Fi, Lesbian Literature
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: May 28, 2019
I want to preface this review with the statement that I don’t normally enjoy horror. I hate how women become objects for punishment and titillating unnecessarily graphic violence. I often find the character’s decisions stupid and lacking a blind chicken’s sense of self-preservation.
Salt Slow, a collection of eerie, horror-tilted, speculative fiction short stories by Julia Armfield has none of the shortfalls that often make me put aside stories of this theme.
The titles include
The Great Awake
Stop your women’s ears with wax
Cassandra After salt slow
All of these stories explore with lyrical sensitivity and raw feeling a different facet of uniquely feminine horror. Despite this, there is an undeniable sense of empowerment. There is also a delightfully bald-faced assumption that women prefer the company of other women as friends and as lovers. In a wash of books and horror where heteronormativity is not just the norm its a staple, this was a refreshing delight.
In these stories, women are not the beautiful punching bags of loved ones or masked men or horrors unspeakable. In these stories, girls metamorphosize from struggling disjointed girlhood into beautiful monsters themselves and devour the boys pressuring them for sex. Women are allowed to embrace the grotesque and heedlessly follow an all-woman band of beings, guised as humans, whose siren songs urge their all-girl roadies to turn Maenad, like the wine and blood mad followers of Dionysus. They wreak unspeakable horrors on the men around them in paroxysms of joy. There was something almost Morrigan and threefold goddess about the band that fascinated me. I think it was the crow feathers and the whispers of murder and atrocity that follows in their wake like bloody streamers.
This is a collection of stories for every woman who’s struggled with the grotesque realities of life. They are as much about metaphor as the speculative monster being unveiled one layer at a time. The entire collection is threaded together with little callbacks to other stories, like echoes. There is a fascination with curiously clinical collective nouns, such as smack of jellyfish and an intentional lyricism and beauty of language that makes the spare descriptions of dismemberment and ruin seem all the more shocking.
I cannot recommend this read enough, I hope it leaves you feeling strange and wistful and a little bit more monstrous.