The great thing about Palumbo’s story (well, one of the many great things) is the complexity of the relationships in it. “The Pull of the Herd” appears in issue 5 of Anathema, the title of which should already give you a hint about their editorial focus: to provide a home for the “exceptional work of queer people of colour (POC)/Indigenous/Aboriginal creators.” And, as a publication which describes art as a bruise, Anathema strikes true with Palumbo’s tale, which is both delicate and painful. The latter description also describes the unique beauty of the doefolk, the people to whom our narrator belongs.
The story is a fascinating spin on the skin-changer motif, one Palumbo uses to effect as a metaphor for her narrator’s liminality. The narrator, Agni, is a self-declared “outsider,” not only to humans but to her own kind despite her deep and binding ties to individuals of both worlds. These ties have been created by a lifetime of kind and unkind deeds that Agni must struggle against in the face of even bigger threats, hunters who smell of metal and blood.
A compelling and gut-wrenching story. And the expert use of names (Vashti as Agni’s sister) to echo the theme is a nice touch.