Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good
Sharp and Sugar Tooth is a horror anthology edited by Octavia Cade for Upper Rubber Boot Books exploring food and womxn’s experiences. You may well find your flavour in this unusual box of delights…
A woman turns into a Bounty after a spell cast by a jealous ex-boyfriend. A mother instructs her son on the best way to serve her corpse. A woman consumes her ex-lover in gingerbread form.
Food is fraught, especially for women. It is not simply a way to stay alive or a composition of ingredients. It is how we demonstrate love and affection, show passion and wield power. It is our culture and it is our heritage.
Sharp & Sugar Tooth, part of the Women Up to No Good anthology series, is a collection of short stories focussing on the dark side of what we eat. Feminist-focussed horror is very much my brand so I was excited to dig in.
The variety and diversity of the stories is staggering, tales spanning courtly England to modern day Nigeria to the streets of New York. However strong themes do emerge. Many of the writers drew heavily from children’s tales to inspire their work. In Red, From The Heartwood (Penny Stirling) Astrid cannot resist eating the apples that come from her lover’s tree form, disturbingly referencing the childhood myth that eating an apple pip will cause a tree to grow inside you. In I Lie You Give, And Thus I Take (Damien Angelica Walters) a controlling relationship plays out inside a gingerbread house.
While some stories draw on children’s tales for inspiration, many others have a distinct sci-fi bent; What the Bees Know about Discarded Girlish Organs by Jasmyne J.Harris is an utterly unique creation about a world in which relationships occur when two people consume each other and become a symbiotic creature. In A Year Without the Taste of Meat Erin Horáková takes us through a community with a very different and potentially horrific way of consuming meat. .
Incredible worldbuilding was a highlight in this collection. The Lily and the Horn by Catherynne M. Valente presents us a world with distinct Game of Thrones notes where poison is currency, whereas H. Pueyo creates a convincing post apocalyptic universe in I Eat.
However my favourite stories were those that linked food with spurned loved. Characters overeat, gorge themselves on food that is bad for them In Gimme Sugar by Katharine E.K. Duckett – a woman devours the gingerbread form of her ex-girlfriend, sickening herself as he does so. In Candy Girl by Chikodili Emelumadu visceral, sickly descriptions of sweet chocolate mix with a relationship and an ex-boyfriend better left forgotten. The Honey Witch deals with themes of rejection, heartbreak, bereavement and how uncontrollable we are in these states.
Of course Sharp & Sugar Tooth is an incredibly broad array of stories which meant that not every story appealed or worked as well for me as others. However those were few and far between, with my favourites in the collection being strong enough to carry me through. I don’t know how appropriate it is to liken this collection to a rich stew, given the context, but that really is what it is.
Folklore, feminism, science fiction and sex – from the desperately sad to the wickedly funny to the downright creepy, Sharp & Sugar Tooth has something for every taste, whatever that may be.
Buy ‘Sharp & Sugar Tooth‘ from Upper Rubber Boot Books.