Kelly Link's latest short story sneaks up on you — at first you think it's just a concentrated dose of weirdness, a jarring head-trip like being suspended by your ankles over the ocean. But then her strange world-building starts to make sense, and you think the whole thing is becoming a demented thought experiment.
It's only when you get about two-thirds of the way through that you fully appreciate how sad and beautiful and poetic Link's "Valley of the Girls" really is. And by then it's got a hold of you. This is one of the coolest stories I've read in ages. It's part of the "Special YA Issue" of Subterranean Magazine, guest-edited by Gwenda Bond, which also features stories by Malinda Lo, Karen Joy Fowler, Tobias Buckell, Alaya Dawn Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan.
Here's my favorite passage from Link's story:
[Vyvian] is twice as rich as God. She's a year younger than us, but her pyramid is three times the size of [Hero]'s. She kisses like a fish, fucks like a wildebeest, and her hobby is breeding chimeras. Most of the estates around here have a real problem with unicorns now, thanks to [Vyvian]. They're territorial. You don't mess with them in mating season. I came up with this variation on French bullfighting, Taureux Piscine, except with unicorns. You got a point every time you and the unicorn were in the swimming pool together. We did Licorne Pasteque, too. Brought out a sidetable and a couple of chairs and set them up on the lawn. Cut up the watermelon and took turns. You can eat the watermelon, but only while you're sitting at the table. Meanwhile the unicorn is getting more and more pissed off that you're in its territory.
It was insanely awesome until the stupid unicorn broke its leg going into the pool, and somebody had to come and put a bullet in its head. Plus, the Olds got mad about one of the chairs. The unicorn splintered the back. Turned out to be an antique. Priceless.
"Do you remember how [Vyvian] cried and cried?" [Hero] says. Even this is part of the happy memory for [Hero]. She hates [Vyvian]. Why? Some boring reason. I forget the specifics. Here's the gist of it: [Hero] is fat. [Vyvian] is mean.
Read the whole thing at the link. [Subterranean Magazine]