“Queers Destroy Science Fiction!” is a special issue of LIGHTSPEED featuring nothing but LGBTQ sf. At only 4 bucks for 500 pages and change of shorts, flash fics, interviews, and essays, im diving in. ive had great luck with queer sf. i especially have to recommend BENDING THE LANDSCAPE co-edited by Nicola Griffith, which has a piece called “Dance at the Edge” that was just beautifully written.
This post will journal the original print stories with links to the ones hosted online. An asterisk * denotes an extra good read.
John Chu, “勢孤取和 (Influence Isolated, Make Peace)”
You know what they say about artificial intelligence and Go? i hear that a computer can beat at human at Chess, but they can’t beat a human at Go. Too much art in it. But an interesting scene in this story involves Go as played by a cyborg, bringing humanity along with computer-speed processing. It is the peacetime after some kind of war, with the protagonist being an ex-super soldier who now must to pass for human. An m/m beefcake romance in the future, with thoughts on how it is to be oppressed for merely being exceptional. There’s also an ingenious “prison break.” i liked Chu’s Hugo-winning story on Tor even more. (Audio version)
Kate M. Galey, “Emergency Repair”
Another one involving robotics. i was put off by the writing voice, which kept the emotions right on the surface. But it’s an intense and clever mix of medical procedural and eroticism, bringing out the sexy in gore and the viscera out of intimate contact.
*Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, “Trickier With Each Translation”
Once again i had reservations bc of a style dominated by high pathos. i dunno what my deal is with emotional prose; im a crybaby in real life. But anyway this is a nice and complicated piece. The narration is a little disorienting as it involves time slippage and it’s hard to tell what is real and what is dream logic. The protagonist seems to have a strange ability to make her wishes come true — there are moments when these wishes seem too good in that i couldnt see how they would realistically be brought off, but there you go. These powers certainly dont make negotiating bi/pansexuality or poly relationships any easier. A richly textured story about young people with special abilities dealing with the more prosaic issues of power that plague male-female relationships. If a dude ever puts his fingers to your lips to shush you in an attempt to be romantic, do what this lady does and chomp down!
*Chaz Brenchley, “The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal”
Now here is a fun psychedelic romp in an interesting story world: We follow a collective of gay dudes, all or some of them Irish, living a marginalized life on Mars in some sort of interplanetary Pax Britannica. (One of them is Oscar Wilde, and ive since learned that steampunk sf stories that cast him are a thing.) A cop offers them a chance to become guinea pigs for an experiment in communicating with these other entities on Mars, who go through multiple and extremely different life stages, in exchange for relaxed surveillance. This was a very cool and thought-provoking short on representation; the inadequacy of language and mapping. The ending is fine, but the story and writing were so good that i wish it were longer.
Felicia Daven, “The Tip of the Tongue”
A traumatic opening in which a police raid empties Alice’s apartment of all her books, and she realizes that the totalitarian city government has lobotomized her so that she can no longer read. Regimes are always threatened by a literate public; i was tickled by how this one co-opts a pomo attitude about the “inherently deceitful nature of representations.” Alice ends up joining a resistance group, and the story takes a sensual lens to the rediscovery of reading and its pleasures. Vivid writing and a very sweet f/f romance.
Rose Lemberg, “How to Remember to Forget to Remember the Old War”
War and conflict change when you switch the perspective to people other than grown men. The protagonist is compounded with pressures to hide: their traumatic memories of being a soldier in a grisly interstellar war which intrude on their current life in an office job, and their binding to conform to one gender. The post-traumatic episodes are intense and there is strange and lovely imagery throughout. This was a nice meditative piece about silence, from the self and the broader community, in the face of such damaging collective memory.
*Jessica Yang, “Plant Children”
A funny dialog-driven story in which a student turns her apartment into a greenhouse of sentient plants for a thesis project. The author nails the interactions that happen in a Chinese family, with the added absurdity of advanced household appliances and a somewhat eco-topic story world. The calm, quotidian narrative was pleasant and refreshing like a summer breeze.
K.M. Szpara, “Nothing is Pixels Here”
The gender dysphoria narrative at the center of this one is a bit routine in that it’s the kind pushed by liberal/assimilationist groups, but it’s probably what would happen if you’ve spent 15 years in the matrix inhabiting your ideal body, only to unplug and come up against reality. i wasn’t too wild about this story. The interracial m/m relationship was haut and i was invested in their trial, and the writing is good, but i guess it was a bit too plain. Still, it conveys the intensity of physical experience vs. virtual reality, and explores self-destructive behavior.
Amal El-Mohtar, “Madeline”
The title character is probably the one i projected onto the most. After losing her parents to disease in a short window of time, she distracts herself with critical theory and literature. But after volunteering for a trial run of an experimental drug, she starts experiencing memories, as the cookies triggered Proust, that are so vivid they are like full-on hallucinations. Or is it clairvoyance? Or even time travel? Some elements of behavior came off as stock bits but the real meat is in the introspection. And there’s a very sweet romance like in the Daven story.
Tim Susman, “Two By Two”
This one opens with a long road trip across the southwestern US, now a fundamentalist separatist nation, and the landscape is even more ruinous than it is today. The earth is ecologically barren, cannibals roam the plains, and the only chance for salvation for the gay cismale couple we follow is a spaceship funded by bigots. The writing gave an extra edge to the characterization which made the dialog fraught with stuff unsaid and desires/values that characters cant get out. The grandma was great.
Susan Jane Bigelow, “Die Sophie Die”
A flight of fancy based on a very real issue. Sophie Sanchez wrote an article about sexism and video games and is now being doxxed by the gators and the rest of that misogynist terrorist ilk. But among the violent and harassing tweets and shops is a distress signal from what could be aliens. This short was thin on most fronts except of course the rage and despair at the bullshit perpetuated by entitled menz and the complicity of the rest of society. But still a tender ode to the value of kindness when the reactionary fires keep on burning.
So all in all a pretty nice collection. None of the stories is mind-blowingly good, but many of these writers are being published for the very first time, and i almost find more value in getting work by new people out there. Pretty much all of them had excellent dialog. ill get to the reprints in a future post.
P.S. No amount of rainbows on the Internet is gonna make me forget that this week Jennicet Gutiérrez’s protest against Obama was ridiculed and ignored as the white LGBTQ “community” cheered on using words like “rude” and “disrespectful” when they should have said “badass,” and saying “it’s easy to criticize an ally!” Haw, the leader of this police state that is a blight on the planet is an “ally” for the queer “community.”
White property-loving gays throwing the queer women of color who started the movement they ride on under the bus so they might be welcomed into the fold, regardless of the excessive violence it brings onto undocumented queers, is my takeaway from this week. Nothing’s changed. Stonewall was a counter-assault against the police and the system they defend, the same system into which these transmisogynists now supplicate for inclusion. Fuck homonationalism and Gay Inc. and fuck their parents.