So, in which corner of a circular reading room would you put Extraordinary Deviations? Would it be shelved under High Fantasy, sci-fi or erotica? Historical? Paranormal? Horror? Neo-paganism? Genderqueer? It’s the kind of exercise that would drive an obsessive compulsive pedant mad. But sanity seems a small price to pay for the thrill of discovery, the pure narcotic rush of sudden illumination and deep insight to be found here. These eight well-crafted short stories bend genre and gender with equal virtuosity, running a sublimely eclectic gamut of mood and voice, time, place and theme, drawing on everything from ancient Greek and Norse mythologies to the far-futuristic limits of speculative fiction, virtual reality and quantum theory, which, in the end, seem an awful lot like magic. In some ways, this suggests a kind of closed circle; the same forces which have been at work since the beginning of time have not gone away, but are simply known by other names, manifested in new, more relatably-sophisticated guises and forms for each successive eon.
Kaldera revels in the divine fluidity of gender. (If there is a unifying theme in the collection, this is probably it.) The gods may take whichever form they choose, after all. Theophany has almost always been portrayed as a very private, intimate phenomenon, whether it’s the constant horny-god-on-cute-mortal bed-hopping in the Theogony of Hesiod, Zeus impregnating Danäe in a mystical shower of gold, Odin seducing the maiden Gunnlöo to obtain the Mead of Poetry, or the angel-like nephilim referenced in the sixth chapter of Genesis, mating with the daughters of mortal men (a myth masterfully explored in Madeline L’Engle’s 1986 YA novel, Many Waters), the gods (and god-like) have always been a busy lot, though their trysts aren’t always purely celebratory. More often than not, these encounters come with a hard lesson, an insight into the nature of humanity and the divine itself. Kaldera picks up the thread of this tradition in his opening story, Only Fate, which transposes the ancient theophany narrative into the realm of dystopian-future sci-fi. And again in Lover of the Whore of Babylon, a mysterious god-like entity temporarily possesses human bodies to gratify the narrator and its own BDSM fantasies: