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Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction

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Magic is more than skin-deep. It hides in the folds of a haunted quilt and illuminates the secret histories of Negro memorabilia. Magic reveals the destiny of a great storyteller and emanates from a sculpture by an obscure Harlem Renaissance artist. Magic lurks in the basement of an inner-city apartment building and flourishes in a city park. Magic is more than skin-deep; Magic is more than skin-deep. It hides in the folds of a haunted quilt and illuminates the secret histories of Negro memorabilia. Magic reveals the destiny of a great storyteller and emanates from a sculpture by an obscure Harlem Renaissance artist. Magic lurks in the basement of an inner-city apartment building and flourishes in a city park. Magic is more than skin-deep; it shimmers in the ten stories in this collection. "Craig Laurance Gidney love words... sensually, sexually, omnivorously. He streams out floods of them in his stories so that you, too, can taste their deliciousness. He wields them with abandon and precision to create little worlds that rise off the page and engulf you in snow globes of sparkling beauty and perceptiveness." --The Fix Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the Lambda Literary Finalist collection Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories and the novel Bereft.


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Magic is more than skin-deep. It hides in the folds of a haunted quilt and illuminates the secret histories of Negro memorabilia. Magic reveals the destiny of a great storyteller and emanates from a sculpture by an obscure Harlem Renaissance artist. Magic lurks in the basement of an inner-city apartment building and flourishes in a city park. Magic is more than skin-deep; Magic is more than skin-deep. It hides in the folds of a haunted quilt and illuminates the secret histories of Negro memorabilia. Magic reveals the destiny of a great storyteller and emanates from a sculpture by an obscure Harlem Renaissance artist. Magic lurks in the basement of an inner-city apartment building and flourishes in a city park. Magic is more than skin-deep; it shimmers in the ten stories in this collection. "Craig Laurance Gidney love words... sensually, sexually, omnivorously. He streams out floods of them in his stories so that you, too, can taste their deliciousness. He wields them with abandon and precision to create little worlds that rise off the page and engulf you in snow globes of sparkling beauty and perceptiveness." --The Fix Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the Lambda Literary Finalist collection Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories and the novel Bereft.

58 review for Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Another excellent collection of stories. Gidney's writing is magical, sinister and evocative, and his ideas haunting. Particularly loved the crossover as Baron Samedi haunts a Victorian opium den. The proofreading on this leaves something to be desired, sadly, the author deserved better. But the quality of the stories is really strong. Another excellent collection of stories. Gidney's writing is magical, sinister and evocative, and his ideas haunting. Particularly loved the crossover as Baron Samedi haunts a Victorian opium den. The proofreading on this leaves something to be desired, sadly, the author deserved better. But the quality of the stories is really strong.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Peters

    There's not much queer about the stories in Gidney's collection, which came as something of a surprise. But there is a lot to enjoy. Most of the stories are told from a Afrocentric (mostly straight) female POV, and the characterization is crisp, clever and charming. The worlds span from the roaring '20s to the present, the Deep South, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, DC, the UK, and more. These are stories of private griefs and tenuous lives that touch on the impact of racism and the strug There's not much queer about the stories in Gidney's collection, which came as something of a surprise. But there is a lot to enjoy. Most of the stories are told from a Afrocentric (mostly straight) female POV, and the characterization is crisp, clever and charming. The worlds span from the roaring '20s to the present, the Deep South, New Orleans, New York City, Washington, DC, the UK, and more. These are stories of private griefs and tenuous lives that touch on the impact of racism and the struggle to survive. Paranormal situations serve as an escape and in some cases a way of finding power in a world largely stacked against Gidney's heroines. I loved that approach and loved dissolving into the multi-sensory descriptions of place, character and magic. My favorite story was "Lye," concerning a PhD student writing a dissertation on black stereotypes in advertising. Caricatures from pancake mixes and whitening creams come to life to menace her at first and find redemption. A close runner up was "Inscribed," which takes the perspective of the straight, biracial son of a recently deceased white, gay dad. There, a bit of mythology and paganism offers a chance for atonement and connection. A really lovely group of stories.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bina

    Beautiful writing with a touch of the fantastical. I especially loved the stories about the grad student and the advertisement characters come to life, the quilt connecting across time and Zora's fate. Excited to read more by this author! Beautiful writing with a touch of the fantastical. I especially loved the stories about the grad student and the advertisement characters come to life, the quilt connecting across time and Zora's fate. Excited to read more by this author!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Hanson

    I first encountered Gidney's writing on an internet mailing list that discussed all kinds of music, but primarily that of creative, female, ethereal singers and songwriters. His music reviews reflect the music he writes about--they are ethereal, beautiful, edgy, dark, and wildly innovative. His short stories also contain these magical elements. While his stories are mainly set in contemporary settings, his characters are often haunted by their racial past--the folks, myths, and legends that may I first encountered Gidney's writing on an internet mailing list that discussed all kinds of music, but primarily that of creative, female, ethereal singers and songwriters. His music reviews reflect the music he writes about--they are ethereal, beautiful, edgy, dark, and wildly innovative. His short stories also contain these magical elements. While his stories are mainly set in contemporary settings, his characters are often haunted by their racial past--the folks, myths, and legends that may not even be consciously aware of, but somehow still shape their lives. In this collection, focusing on female characters, Gidney continues exploring themes of identify, race, sexuality, and the influence of the past. One of my favorite stories, Lyes, is also the most humorous--which is perhaps what makes it stand out amidst a collection of fairly dark stories. Lyes is the story of an overworked college student, haunted by the Afro-American advertising images she is researching for her thesis--including a grandmotherly Aunt Jemima/Mrs. Butterworth style pancake-flippin' mammy, and two almost harpy-like beauties hawking skin-lightening cream and hair straightener who try to convince the poor student that their vision of beauty is the only real beauty. Gidney's ability to mix in the African American experience, whether it be the Harlem Renaissance, slavery, Zora Neale Hurston's childhood, the Northern Migration, or Caribbean-flavored voodoo to contemporary life is what gives these stories their real magic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Adams

    A beautiful collection of supernatural short stories. Craig Laurence Gidney covers a refreshingly wide range of eras and locations with his fiction, and integrates a wide variety of real-world and supernatural elements into his stories, from traditional African folklore, Greek mythology, and old-fashioned ghost-stories of the American southern tradition. The language Gidney uses in his tales is exotic, sensual, and evocative, creating an illusory, dream-like atmosphere for his tales of struggle, A beautiful collection of supernatural short stories. Craig Laurence Gidney covers a refreshingly wide range of eras and locations with his fiction, and integrates a wide variety of real-world and supernatural elements into his stories, from traditional African folklore, Greek mythology, and old-fashioned ghost-stories of the American southern tradition. The language Gidney uses in his tales is exotic, sensual, and evocative, creating an illusory, dream-like atmosphere for his tales of struggle, corruption, redemption, and transformation. I would compare his work in some ways to Anne Rice and Tanith Lee; not precisely horror, fantasy, erotica, or historical drama, but a well constructed blend of them all. Magic Realism may be a fitting label for it, if it helps readers and fans of the genre to find this unique voice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Miss Susan

    please don't read this as an insult: the cover is the best thing about this collection look at it. it's beautiful. even if the stories weren't good i wouldn't regret picking it up for the cover alone luckily that is not the case! skin deep magic is a collection of fantastical stories centering black women. there are a few historical, mostly contemporary, all set in the 'real world' with a touch of magic winding through it. i think they're a little more literary than my typical reads -- i was strug please don't read this as an insult: the cover is the best thing about this collection look at it. it's beautiful. even if the stories weren't good i wouldn't regret picking it up for the cover alone luckily that is not the case! skin deep magic is a collection of fantastical stories centering black women. there are a few historical, mostly contemporary, all set in the 'real world' with a touch of magic winding through it. i think they're a little more literary than my typical reads -- i was struggling for words to describe the stories and the best i could think of was the experience felt closer to how i feel when looking at an art gallery than the kind of feelings laden immersion i experience with most books i like. except for lyes. lyes drew at an 'awww' from me by the ending. 3 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    'Nathan Burgoine

    Reading as part of my Short Stories 366 project. Individual stories will appear under this tag. Reading as part of my Short Stories 366 project. Individual stories will appear under this tag.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Craig Laurance Gidney’s Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction is a most excellent collection of magical short stories centered around, primarily, black women. Content note for slurs, suicide, and brief sexual material. A couple of stories include gay characters. Some stories are very brief slices-of-life. “Psychometry, or Gone with the Dust” is one such–we get a brief glimpse into the life of Margo. She cleans up the homes of dead people, and sometimes gets impressions off of objects she finds there. Th Craig Laurance Gidney’s Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction is a most excellent collection of magical short stories centered around, primarily, black women. Content note for slurs, suicide, and brief sexual material. A couple of stories include gay characters. Some stories are very brief slices-of-life. “Psychometry, or Gone with the Dust” is one such–we get a brief glimpse into the life of Margo. She cleans up the homes of dead people, and sometimes gets impressions off of objects she finds there. This particular house has a collection of rather racist items. “Zora’s Destiny” involves Zora, who goes to reputed witch Hattie for a headache cure for her mother, and gets her fortune read. It feels like the first chapter in a novel that I’d like to read. Transformation is a repeating theme in this book. “Sapling” sees young Mabel start to come into her own. She meets a very odd man who inhabits a park near her home, and then she starts to change. “Sugardaddy” introduces us to Tasha, who meets another strange man no one else can see, and like Mabel, starts to change into something… else. “Lyes” sees Sheri writing a thesis on the images of African Americans in advertising. When some of the women from her ads start to come to life and are determined to make over her life, she has to enlist the aid of another iconic advertising figure. “Death and Two Maidens: The Sad Fate of Prothenia Jenkins” shows us the life and death of Prothenia, and what happens to her afterward. “Coalrose” is my favorite of the stories in here, although it had to do battle with “Sugardaddy” and “Sapling” for that honor. In 1930, Etta goes to the big city because she wants to be an actress. Of course, roles for black women are scarce and not entirely appealing. She reinvents herself as Zoë Coalrose, using her mysterious ability to affect people’s minds to become a cult favorite. We get to see how she touches a handful of the lives around her over the course of 30 years. I absolutely love this set of stories. There are so many strong women in here, living such magical lives. It’s a delightful anthology. Original review posted on my blog: http://www.errantdreams.com/2019/08/r...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lamar Latrell

    I don’t have enough superlatives for how much I enjoyed this book. Psychometry , or Gone with the Dust- Cute, if a bit heavy-handed with horrible white people are Sapling- OMG, so good. Mauve’s Quilt- Again, so beautiful. I’ve been sewing a lot lately, so I really loved this one Lyes- Kinda like Spike Lee's Bamboozled, but personal and centered on a woman. Oh, and reclaiming mammy. Sugardaddy- This guy wrote Candyman but better. I mean, it's a lot easier to write that story if you're not a white english g I don’t have enough superlatives for how much I enjoyed this book. Psychometry , or Gone with the Dust- Cute, if a bit heavy-handed with horrible white people are Sapling- OMG, so good. Mauve’s Quilt- Again, so beautiful. I’ve been sewing a lot lately, so I really loved this one Lyes- Kinda like Spike Lee's Bamboozled, but personal and centered on a woman. Oh, and reclaiming mammy. Sugardaddy- This guy wrote Candyman but better. I mean, it's a lot easier to write that story if you're not a white english guy. Zora's Destiny- Cute fantasy origin story for Zora Neale Hurston Death and Two Maidens- This was rough. There was a lot of (emotional) violence (and some physical too) in this one and the payoff wasn't as fulfilling as I wanted it to be. The Inscribed Man- An interesting take on generational trauma in the form of an idee fixe passed from father to son. Still don't understand what happens when Hermes is three times as big Coalrose- Rasputin as a woman. Sexy, enthralling, magical. To meet her is to be changed by her.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jarla Tangh

    I adore short stories, especially fantastical ones. My acquaintance with Craig Laurence Gidney's work actually begins with the YA novel, Bereft, but that's another book to mention in its own review. I knew I needed to read Skin Deep Magic when I saw the cover. There's a dark-skinned Black woman's face with eyes closed framed by gold leaves and blossoms. I'm old enough to remember when it wasn't common to see a Black woman on a cover. Even the great departed Octavia Butler was not safe from a Mar I adore short stories, especially fantastical ones. My acquaintance with Craig Laurence Gidney's work actually begins with the YA novel, Bereft, but that's another book to mention in its own review. I knew I needed to read Skin Deep Magic when I saw the cover. There's a dark-skinned Black woman's face with eyes closed framed by gold leaves and blossoms. I'm old enough to remember when it wasn't common to see a Black woman on a cover. Even the great departed Octavia Butler was not safe from a Marketing department that believed no one would buy a book with a picture of a Black person on the cover. I must be an anomaly then, because I am one of those Readers who is often enticed by the cover first to sample what's inside the book. And I wanted to buy books with characters who resembled me. And sure 'nuf' here is Brotha Gidney writing 'bout some most powerful Sistahs in these stories. (Ebonics totally intentional.) I felt like I wanted to be or had been some of these women. And it IS a magical thing when a male writer hangs up his own gender like a coat and dons another dreaming herself into the Reader's reality. (Pronoun Gender switch is totally intentional.) I believed in these women and the gents who graced these pages. Mighty fine writing if you ask me. The African Descended have long utilized the power of the word. For those of us who identify as Black, our being ignored or belittled subject matter is in escapable as gravity or the call of mortality. I simply wanted to provide the context of why this short story collection so moved me. At some point, a well-meaning person decided that the trope of the Magical Negro was to be scorned. In the context of the Black character who serves no other purpose than to illuminate a white character that person is absolutely correct, however, magic and Blackness are often inseparable and it is to that truth that the tales in Skin Deep Magic speak to. *Spoiler Alert* Her Tangh-i-ness greatly appreciates pithy plot summaries. However, for those who must have a virgin reading experience, read no further, and eyeball elsewhere. *Spoiler Alert End* Psychometry, or Gone with the Dust A mountain of Black memorabilia in a dead woman's home yields some disturbing clues about each piece's origin when touched. As someone who has had real-life experiences with Psychometry, I wouldn't even call this piece fiction. Gidney is simply telling how these things be. Sapling Maybe this is the story that inspired the book cover. A young woman learns she is the daughter of a tree spirit and that joining her absent father in the local greenspace is the highpoint of her existence. This story also features a theme that often crops up in Gidney's work: a conflict due the stranglehold Christian belief on the Old ways of knowing/being. Mauve's Quilt Two lonely people on either side of a quilt exchange worlds. Eventually, Mauve returns to the known world after a motherless Quentin is drawn into hers. Ahh, the power to be found in stitches. Lyes I had to giggle at this story. Graduate Students under pressure. No one expects trademark imagery to take life and start haunting them. Sheri never suspected her strongest ally would be the one person who could have called the country bumpkin. I need one of those Caution: Educated Black Woman T-shirts. Conjuring Shadowa This is one of my favorite pieces. Back in the day where men loving men gathered, a guardian stood with them. Even when the boys in blue come to bust up the party, they too find themselves pressed man to man and mouth to mouth in 1926. Zora's Destiny Here Gidney pays homage to one of his literary forebears. Zora calls upon an Elder to ease her mother's suffering and by story end learns her own path lies in tale-telling and root-working. This is the second of the Christian Vs. Old World Belief themed stories. Death and Two Maidens One dead female house servant meets with a living one and both are pestered by the same top-hatted, skull-faced gent. Only a fellow goddess can bring them any defense. Follow the machinations of the Loa whose territories range far outside not only Africa but also the human heart and head. Sugardaddy The highlight of this story is the unflinching look at some of the uglier aspects of Urban Life. The daughter of an abusive addict takes matters into her own hands once she becomes a huntress herself. Who knew toxins and additives could taste so good? One might say the moral of they story is to be kind to those big, fat girls. You never know what they might be capable of. Inscribed A deceased, gay, white father and a dead black mother join forces to protect their adult child from an ancient patron of thieves whose modern-day vehicle is a pc game. The question I pondered the longest as I read was did the child even want to be saved? Coalrose This is one of my other favorite stories from the collection. Let's deconstruct. What is Negritude? What is a stage performance? What is the performer? What happens when the sensuality of Josephine Baker combines with the rawness and blackness of a Nina Simone? Raise your hand if you thought of Coalrose. Note: This copy of SkinDeep Magic was a hard copy edition purchased by the reviewer. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aurora

    First half: two stars. Second half: three stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    PeaceXoom

  13. 5 out of 5

    carmie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erica

  15. 4 out of 5

    Neile

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill Hsu

  17. 4 out of 5

    Courtru

  18. 5 out of 5

    Thad

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ian Rafael Titus

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  25. 5 out of 5

    Denis Lockhart

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anders

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

  28. 5 out of 5

    Daynamarie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andyhat

  31. 4 out of 5

    Craig Laurance

  32. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

  33. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Mangan

  34. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  35. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  36. 4 out of 5

    Vykki

  37. 4 out of 5

    SARIT

  38. 4 out of 5

    Janice

  39. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  40. 5 out of 5

    Callie

  41. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

  42. 5 out of 5

    Seanna Yeager

  43. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  44. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  45. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  46. 4 out of 5

    Wendi Dusek

  47. 5 out of 5

    Sweetpea

  48. 4 out of 5

    Katie Harder-schauer

  49. 4 out of 5

    Sage

  50. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Hall

  51. 5 out of 5

    Dana

  52. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Zitsch

  53. 4 out of 5

    Alice Taylor

  54. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Pooser

  55. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  56. 4 out of 5

    LLL Reads

  57. 4 out of 5

    Kay Butz

  58. 4 out of 5

    Jason

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