Review: “Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy,” Hailey Piper

Rating: 5 out of 5

Hailey Piper’s Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy is a brilliant collection of (mostly) LGBTQ+ horror stories filled with incredibly strong women (and a few others). It includes a variety of horror elements, from cosmic horror to body horror, with beautiful touches of humor, courage, and love.

Some stories give us a satisfying resolution to those unwanted advances that men make on women who are just minding their own business. There’s a fascinating tale of reincarnation and ghosts and the lengths a person might go to in order to escape the attentions of a man. There’s a Halloween-night exorcism that doesn’t go as expected, and it’s an excellent, funny, creative story.

In another tale, a woman determines to rid her two girlfriends of their obnoxious boyfriends–for good–and finds a fascinating magical means by which to do so. This one has unexpected consequences! There’s a strange tale of (aliens? cosmic horror creatures?) who are known simply as “aristocrats.” They find particular young women to be very sweet, and society has evolved in unique ways to support them.

There’s a young person who takes a remarkable set of steps in order to escape the coming fate of the world, attempting ancient magics to bring a creature of Faerie who will take her away. In another tale, young Miguel loves Omar, who is unfortunately straight. When several young men are lured by a mysterious woman beneath the light of the moon, Miguel is the only one who sees what’s coming.

A rather fascinating tale called “Seven Signs He Doesn’t Love You” has section headings like “he didn’t even ask” and “it’s not your imagination.” The ending didn’t quite work for me, but the tale in general shows how important it is for people to watch for the red flags that maybe their significant other doesn’t exactly care for them. Another story shows us a world in which many women are witches, and they are imprisoned for “rehabilitation.” A horror/sci-fi story called “Hairy Jack” takes place on a colony ship, at a time when a woman is found guilty of witchcraft and the witch-hunters plan to space her from an airlock once they find her black dog.

One odd and fun tale has a dog for a main character–Daisy–who is being chased by a vicious boy. In another story, a deaf woman realizes that her hearing daughter has listened to an old and seemingly cursed cassette tape, and she’ll do anything to save her child.

A strange story involving an “ice cream man” who really isn’t what he seems, and a young trans woman who’s unceremoniously told she should use the men’s bathroom. I don’t really know exactly what happened, but it was fascinating, and made me not want to eat any ice cream! Another story with a trans man as the main character sees him getting involved with the “Horned Brotherhood.” Their espoused desire to embody some sort of primal image of man appeals to him, and their automatic acceptance of him feels good. But of course, they’re up to something down in the basement.

There are a couple of other stories with some humorous elements to them, such as a witch who keeps killing a “devourer of species” who’s obsessed with her, and in another story, a woman who’s fleeing someone (clowns are involved).

The best story in here, bar none, is the final one–“Recitation of a First Feeding.” Alex is haunted by a ghost girl who does things like stealing his sisters’ makeup, and his parents don’t believe him. He decides to make use of one of his grandma’s unusual stories and summons the Culinary Court. They can eat anything–emotions, memories, personality traits. But once you start feeding them, you can’t stop, lest they make you their final course. It’s like a story of the Fey with their complex rules, crossed with cosmic horror. It’s an amazing blend that I can’t get enough of!

The only even tiny sliver of not-perfectness that I experienced was the couple of stories where I didn’t quite get the ending. Overall it’s a brilliant collection with a particular eye toward the inner experiences of trans people.

Content note: mutilation, skinning, body horror, mild gore. Also, characters coming to grips with their own gender identity.

Sometimes forgetting a thing doesn’t mean it starves.

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