Monstrosity by Laura Diaz de Arce lives and breathes within that space inside us all that is predatory, hungry, and filled with rage. She dedicates her short story collection to “anyone who was too much in a world was not enough,” and this idea represents the characters living and breathing within the twelve stories. The collection, published by Smoking Mirror Press in July, is divided into three sections--Hominum (Man/Mankind), Mutatio (Change), and Monstrum (Monster). Each contains four stories of bold, dangerous, and unpredictable characters, some human, others something else.
The majority of the stories have a female protagonist, yet these women are vastly different. They range from a swamp queen to a teenage girl with a goddess growing inside her to an AI prostitute gaining self-awareness. Not all of these women are likable, but you empathize with them; Diaz de Arce makes the fragility of their humanity, even when they aren’t entirely human, shine through the darkness and chaos. The female characters in this collection may be classified as monsters by society’s standards, but what Monstrosity seems to be arguing is that these women are fighting to survive in a monstrous world, and sometimes that mean evolving into something ugly or terrifying.
Laura Diaz de Arce’s writing is reminiscent the work of Joyce Carol Oates, Angela Carter, and Kelly Link. The stories range from folk tales and fairy tales to science fiction and horror, yet they fit seamlessly together, the stories connecting to a larger idea--the monster that lives and breathes inside all of us, and how the world draws it out.
One disclaimer to make is that Diaz de Arce does not shy away from graphic detail and scenes. This collection is not for the faint of heart. I personally found the the graphic element to heighten my reading experience and my understanding of these characters. It made them feel more alive, more authentic.
My favorite stories in Monstrosity are “Without Him (and Him, and Him) There is No Me,” “Three Beats Per Measure,” “A Promise,” and “The West Hamberline Bordello Opens at Five.”