The first anthology from Allegra Press — Wicked Little Girls, edited by Christina Sng — is a mixed bag of stories and poems involving female children who are “made of sugar and spikes and everything >nothis< ungodly hunger/that beggared us…his voracious appetite/that brought the witch's wrath upon us." I also enjoyed Simon Bestwick's sf/horror piece — "Emily's Song: A Life Cycle in Three Parts" — which may be the best story in the anthology. It's about a little monster named Emily who takes over the body of the president in a parasitic fashion, leading to grotesque and genuinely surprising ends. Bestwick manages to balance gross-out humor against the story's political allegory in an expert fashion. Jonathan William Hodges' excellent contribution, "Deep in the Gloom of Lights from Rescue Squads" is an extended prose-poem, written in a hypnotic weave of prose that moves in and out of reality in quite a bizarre but eloquent fashion. Indeed, poetry sneaks into the prose where you least expect it in many of the stories in this collection. For example, when I first read Robyn A. Hay's "Scrapbook" I almost read right past the rhyme that recurs in paragraphs like this one — "'How's the knee, Bea?' Rodney asked his wife quietly" — even though the over-reliance on adverbs in the dialogue tags made the creative writing teacher in me writhe.
Because the collection's premise is about "wicked little girls" almost every story's ending was telegraphed to some degree: I always already assumed that the little girls of the stories were going to do something wicked or horrible. Perhaps this is why a few of the stories didn't work for me. One might think that this premise is the book's limitation, but with characters ranging from daughters to dollies, and settings from Africa to alien worlds, Wicked Little Girls has enough variety to make it an enjoyable read all the way through, regardless. If you're looking for something on the alternative side, get your copy direct from Allegra Press — or through the small press distributor Project Pulp — for about $6 postpaid.