It begins with a rip, the tearing sound of velcro—mix and match nipples kick off this delightfully strange collection of speculative fiction, trans body-horror, and water-logged zombies. Calvin impressed me last year with his part in Meanwhile, Elsewhere, revisited here as the excellent Rent, Don’t Sell. This story explores a world in which bodies are traded for a time for fitness or fetish and how trans people deal with this faustian bargain. Another tale invites us to an isolated cabin for a wedding party that begins to fray at the edges in a blizzard. And, while every story isn’t is a life-or-death one, but the weight of mortality permeates each page.
Whether the reader is wandering a bathhouse, stumbling through the streets, newly minted as a middle-aged-man, we are reminded each time that the world doesn’t quite fit us. Invasions captures the feeling of being trans, even in innocuous settings. It’s never Cronenberg, but regardless of how wild the twist, it’s grounded and bodied in a way he couldn’t imagine. Occasionally, a story follows an ostensibly cisgender person, to probe the space around a trans life, and to me these are the most speculative: “What do they see in us? What do they think?” To answer this question, one protagonist even employs a psychic talent to sift through memory and desire in those around him, even through their final moments.
This collection also challenges ideas around surgery, queer bodies, and perception. In Eternal Boy, we meet a queer person figuring out their gender, but at odds with their presentation as a boy; they’re uncertain about the way women see them, but also willing to overlook those feelings for a chance to hook up. These characters are complicated; they’re often anti-heroes, or even villains. We need more trans villains in a world of trans characters that are almost always a sob story or a heartwarming tale. I’m here for the dirty, confused, angry, and alien.
One of closing stories is about a surgery center full of the wild variety of trans folks I’ve met: from older late-transitioning women, to confident girls with their moms. Not content to let cis people be the only foil for trans protagonists, Calvin writes the interplay between intergenerational and intergender conflict and love wonderfully. On the heels of You Wouldn’t Have Known is the more general body horror of pregnancy and a failure of the healthcare system.
Invasions is one of the best collections I’ve read in quite some time, and I can’t wait to see Calvin’s next book or collection. Pick up a copy today. This writer is one to watch, and tell your friends about—a real trans-writers-writer. He delivered on the promise of his story in Meanwhile, Elsewhere with gusto, and blew this reader away.