The story is a celebration of food and resistance, and as fellow speculative fiction writer A.C. Wise noted, a love letter to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities.
It’s hungry work
As you might have guessed from the title, there is a lot of food in this story. Primarily tamales of all sorts, but also Caribbean icys and oxtails, Indonesian nasi goreng, Puerto Rican pernil … reading this will make you hungry.
Andrea Johnson interviewed me about Las Girlfriends for Apex, and asked about why I made food the magical conveyance in this story. The interview goes live on the site on March 11, so you can read my full response there. But, really, at the heart of it is that I’m a foodie and every aspect — from growing to cooking to ingesting — is imbued with ceremony and ritual and incredible power.
No surprise that as a foodie, I love reading about food — and not only cookbooks. I once toyed with the idea of putting together an anthology of short speculative fiction in which every story features tamales … but I need another project like I need a hole in the head. Still, if reading Las Girlfriends leaves you wanting more literary food, I urge you to read Gina Ruiz‘s Tamales and Rayguns: A Choloverse Story, Alyssa Wong‘s Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, or Ezzy G. Languzzi‘s Soledad (in the forthcoming Speculative Fiction for Dreamers).
Welcome to Magical Philadelphia
Las Girlfriends is one of a number of stories of mine in which Philadelphia — magical and mundane (but never ordinary) — is as important a character as any of the human ones.
Johnson also asked me about this in the interview (go read it, when it goes live!) and the truth I just think Philadelphia is amazing. And, yes, I do think magic truly happens in the city.
Las Girlfriends themselves — a trio of more-than-middle-aged Latinas who sell magical tamales (tamágicos) from their food truck — have been secondary characters in two earlier, related Philadelphia stories:
Published at Tor.com and edited by Carl Engle-Laird, Skin in the Game follows Officer Jimena Villagrán (daughter of Las Girlfriend’s Rosa Marta) as she deals with monsters, magical con men, discarded needles and a rash of murders in the Zombie City-La Boca del Diablo encampment in Philadelphia’s Kensington/Fairhill neighborhood.
Part of Outland Entertainment’s Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology, this story was edited by Alana Joli Abbot and Melanie Meadors, and follows El Barrio’s most notorious flim-flam artist (and Las Girlfriend’s collective boyfriend) on an adventure — from Kensington/Fairhill to Puerto Rico and back again — which calls for all his magic and changes him forever…
My other “Magical Philadelphia” stories (so far) include El Cantar of Rising Sun at Uncanny Magazine and St. Simon at 9th and Oblivion (historical speculative!) forthcoming in the Speculative Fiction for Dreamers anthology. While neither of these stories involve Las Girlfriends’ coterie, if you get to the end of the tour of eateries in Las Girlfriends — the “When food is home” entry — the photo header shows a a mural “in memory of Loco” — who is Alonso’s and Amor’s father in El Cantar. (Yes, I love easter eggs 😉.)
So … if you haven’t yet, go read Las Girlfriends Guide to Subversive Eating, and share it widely. Also, comment on it at the Apex website and show editor Jason Sizemore and managing editor Lesley Connor some love for taking a chance on this interactive story of mine.
And, as always, thanks for reading!