What I'm Reading, Queer SF Anthologies Edition

“Room 506,” he said, as he stood up.  “And if you’re not there by nine, we’re starting without you.”

Given that I’m interested in representations of bisexuality in literature, especially SF literature, I was interested in  Scheherazade’s Facade, edited by Michael M. Jones, a collection of “stories of those willing to blur or transcend the traditional gender roles.”

Although publisher Circlet Press is most well-known for their SF and fantasy erotica, this is their first release on their new Gressive Press imprint, which “publishes sex-positive science fiction/fantasy outside the binary, which celebrates genderqueer, genderbent, transgender, polygender, bisexual, bigendered, and other identities outside the boxes set by mainstream understandings of gender and sexuality.”  Which is to say that, while these are often very sexy stories, they’re not erotic stories per se.

It’s a really refreshing anthology for me.  I didn’t like everything in it, and nothing blew me away, but nothing bored me either, and that’s really saying something.  A few of the stories, bless their hearts, bothered me but provocatively, and I’d much rather something fail provocatively than mundanely.

Stories I found of special mention: “The Daemons of Tairdean Town”, by C.S. MacCath, which has both the most sympathetic portrayal of genuinely religious people I’ve ever seen in SF and the most telling subversion of religion.  “Kambal Kulam”, by Paolo Chikiamco, for being pure crack-fic.  “Keeping the World on Course”, by Tanith Lee, for the symmetry of it.  “Going Dark”, by Lyn C.A. Gardner, for being genuinely all of cool, sympathetic, and creepy.  “The Cloak of Isis”, by Sunny Moraine, for the sheer beauty of its writing.  “How to Dance While Drowning”, by Shanna Germaine, for creepiness.  “Treasure and Maidens”, by Sarah Rees Brennan, for identification right up until the last page or two.  And “Lady Marmalade’s Special Place in Hell”, by David Sklar, for sheer exuberance.

A lot of these stories are still working out the usual narratives of queer stories — the closet, coming out, transitioning, social opprobrium, unsupportive parents, and at least one AIDS story.  While a lot of us are still wrestling with those things, I want to see stories too which take queer relationships as fact and try to figure out what’s beyond the usual narratives, because that is, for the lucky among us, increasingly part of our reality as well.  (Queer people who are watching their culture fragment as it gains mainstream acceptance can commiserate with SF fans who are watching their culture fragment as it gains mainstream acceptance, and vice versa.)

Even if it doesn’t go as far as I would like, it’s an excellent and provocative anthology.  Highly worthwhile.

One thought on “What I'm Reading, Queer SF Anthologies Edition

  1. Thanks for the insightful and honest review, Kellan. I’m really glad you were able to find so much to enjoy in Scheherazade’s Facade! Discovering this review today made for a nice, unexpected gift. :) It’s nice to know that so many of the stories resonated. Hopefully, this will nudge the doors of publishing open a little wider, so future stories can go that extra distance.

    -Michael

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