“The Queer Ones” by Leigh Brackett

 “The Queer Ones” reminds me more of stories by Stephen King or Zenna Henderson or Sharyn McCrumb, stories set in a rural America that makes its own rules. Hank Temple and his friends run into a badly beaten child who heals well and has a blood type that’s not found anywhere. I mean, anywhere. How he came about is the plot of the story; why he gets beaten is the meat of the story. What they decide to do about it is the heart of the story.

I won’t spoil it for any of you. Brackett relies on her strong characterization, her Western and Mystery backgrounds, and her sense of place to make this story feel original and somewhat chilling.

In “Mars Minus Bisha,” I mentioned the casual racism in Brackett’s work. That shows up here, in “The Queer Ones,” not because of the title, which is the old usage of the word “queer” (meaning “weird” or “uncanny”), but because of other terms, properly used, and no longer said in polite company.

Brackett’s point with the terms here, however, is to look at the Other and to see it as valued and worthwhile. She just couches it in language that’s difficult to stomach these days. The story’s too long to use in the Baen women in sf anthology, but I suspect I’ll use it in something else in the future. I’m making a long, long list of great stories…

Found in The Best of Leigh Brackett, edited by Edmond Hamilton, Nelson Doubleday, 1977.

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