Thursday, February 6, 2020

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe

With a promise of body-horror fairy tales and blue-collar queer resistance, with 2 stories that were featured in Lambda Award winning Transgender anthologies, I was excited to get an early glimpse at Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe.

The stories contained here are what I would refer to as literary speculative fiction, dystopian tales that often put theme and symbolism above character development or plot. That is not a complaint, and not a knock against them, just an observation. They are powerful tales, stories that really make you step back think about consequences, with many also being very odd stories, tales that make you stop and ponder what it all means.

Many of the stories are not obviously transgender in theme, but instead use weird metaphors and absurd exaggeration to explore gender/sexual identity and body transformation.

"The Marks of Aegis" was a very short story about body mutilation that, in its exploration of emotional anguish and physical pain, is actually kind of beautiful. "The Nothing Spots Where Nobody Wants to Stay" was probably the most straight-forward in the collection, a story about relationships and social pressures. "The Heavy Things" was one of the weirdest stories here, a horrific imagining of puberty, periods, and pregnancy.

My favorite story was “Estranged Children of Storybook Houses,” which uses the fairy tale idea of changelings and stolen children to explore identity, fitting in, and bonding over shared differences. "My Noise Will Keep the Record" and “I Am a Beautiful Bug!”were two of the weirdest tales, but they both do a fabulous job of exploring what it means to transition or transform, and how the world alternately exploits or alienates us for doing so.

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel is one of those collections that grows on you, that plugs deep into your subconscious and pokes away at your feelings to expose the thoughts beneath.

Julian K. Jarboe is a writer and artist from Massachusetts. They are the recipient of a Writers' Room of Boston Fellowship (2018), a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop (2018), an Honorable Mention from the Tiptree Fellowship (2018), and a residency from The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (2016). They graduated from The Massachusetts College of Art and Design with Academic Honors (2012).

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