Book Radar: “Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction,” ed. Bogi Takács

Editor Bogi Takács and Lethe Press have assembled another critically lauded anthology of speculative fiction that centers transgender characters.  It features stories from some of my favorite authors (and colleagues), as well as newer voices.

Transcendent

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As with the first volume of Transcendent, Lethe Press has worked with a wonderful editor to select the best work of genderqueer stories of the fantastical, stranger, horrific, and weird published the prior year. Featuring stories by Merc Rustad, Jeanne Thornton, Brit Mandelo, and others, this anthology offers time-honored tropes of the genre–from genetic manipulation to zombies, portal fantasy to haunts–but told from a perspective that breaks the rigidity of gender and sexuality.

Table of Contents:

“Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy” by Charlie Jane Anders
“Skerry-Bride” by Sonya Taaffe
“Transitions” by Gwen Benaway
​ “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad
“Three Points Masculine” by An Owomoyela
“The L7 Gene” by Jeanne Thornton
“Rhizomatic Diplomacy” by Vajra Chandrasekera
“The Pigeon Summer” by Brit Mandelo
“The Road, and the Valley, and the Beasts” by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
“About a Woman and a Kid” by M Eighteen Téllez
“Sky and Dew” by Holly Heisey
“The Nothing Spots Where Nobody Wants to Stay” by Julian K. Jarboe
“Lisa’s Story: Zombie Apocalypse” by Gillian Ybabez
“Happy REGARDS” by RoAnna Sylver
“The Way You Say Good-Night” by Toby MacNutt
“Her Sacred Spirit Soars” by S. Qiouyi Lu

Book Radar: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

I’m in the middle of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s mannerpunk novel in preparation for an author interview. The Beautiful Ones (St. Martin’s Press), released this week, is quite different from Moreno-Garcia’s contemporary work. I’d describe it as Vanity Fair with telekinesis. Manipulation is the major theme: of objects, and of feelings. The imaginary country the author conjures has elements of the Belle Epoque-era France; you can see the ormolu clocks, rococo architecture and hear the frou-frou rustle of silk. It’s billed as “romantic” but a Machiavellian undercurrent of social climbing runs through the novel. Plus, kudos for the allusion to a Prince song.

Beautiful Ones

 

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Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society in hopes of landing a suitable husband. But Antonina is telekinetic, and strange events in her past have made her the subject of malicious gossip and hardly a sought-after bride. Now, under the tutelage of her cousin’s wife, she is finally ready to shed the past and learn the proper ways of society.

But Antonina, who prefers her family’s country home to the glamorous ballrooms of the wealthy, finds it increasingly difficult to conform to society’s ideals for women, especially when she falls under the spell of the dazzling telekinetic performer Hector Auvray. As their romance blossoms, and he teaches her how to hone and control her telekinetic gift, she can’t help but feel a marriage proposal is imminent. Little does Antonina know that Hector and those closest to her are hiding a devastating secret that will crush her world and force her to confront who she really is and what she’s willing to sacrifice.

 

Gidney interviews Theodora Goss about fairytales and monsters @ the Washington Independent Review of Books

My interview with Theodora Goss, author of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, is now up at the Washington Independent Review of Books.

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At first glance, Theodora Goss’ debut novel, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, is a mash-up genre novel in the vein of the TV show “Penny Dreadful” or the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The cast Goss works with includes cameos from iconic characters from classic gothic fiction and the mystery plot concerns the gruesome murders of women in the backstreets of London.

However, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is multi-layered and much more subversive than the “elevator pitch” blurb might lead one to believe.

Read the rest here!

BOOK RADAR: “Strange Is The Night” by S.P. Miskowski

Critically acclaimed weird/horror S.P. Miskowski has a new collection out from Journalstone, called Strange Is the Night.   Miskowski has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award many times.

 

Strange is the Night

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Over cocktails an executive describes to a friend the disturbing history of a strangely potent guardian angel. A young mom tries to perfect and prolong her daughter’s childhood with obsessive parenting. A critic’s petty denouncement of an ingénue’s performance leads to a theatrical night of reckoning. A cult member makes nice for a parole board hearing years after committing an infamous crime.

A multiple Shirley Jackson Award nominee, S.P. Miskowski serves up an uncompromising collection of thirteen modern tales of desire and self-destruction. Strange is the Night offers further proof that Miskowski is—as Black Static book reviewer Peter Tennant notes—“one of the most interesting and original writers to emerge in recent years.”

Book Radar: Light Both Foreign and Domestic by Darin Bradley

My colleague Darin Bradley has a new collection of short fiction out this week– intriguingly entitled Light Both Foreign and Domestic (Underland Press). Bradley writes intellectually rigorous speculative fiction, informed by acute sociopolitical analysis and his background in literary theory. I interviewed him a few years ago.

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Over the last decade, Darin Bradley has been dissecting the future—from the prophetic Book that heralded the arrival of Salvage Country in Noise, to the impending repossession of our education in Chimpanzee, to the harrowing world of voyeuristic terrorism in Totem. Now, with Light Both Foreign and Domestic, he presents a collection of stories that reveal the persistent light of the human spirit, no matter the harrowing darkness that presses down on us.

 

Book Radar: The Fissure King by Rachel Pollack

Rachel Pollack has a new book out, called The Fissure King (Underland Press). In addition to writing award-winning speculative fiction that centers queer and transwomen (her novel Godmother Night won the World Fantasy Award), she is one of the foremost experts on the Tarot.  Also, Pollack was one of my instructors at Clarion West over 20 years ago. I can’t wait to read this!

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From the back cover copy:

Inspired equally by the classic TV noir Western, Have Gun, Will Travel, and Vladimir Nabokov’s most daring novel, Pale Fire, multiple award-winning writer Rachel Pollack brings us the adventures of Jack Shade, occult “Traveler” and modern shaman for hire. Jack has a secret, and this hidden part of his past sends him on a journey through spells and gateways to other worlds, each one stranger than the last, filled with such figures as professional Dream Hunters, gangster magicians, an invisible spirit fox named Ray, an elegant Jinni named Archie, and the Queen of Eyes—holder of all oracular power in the world. From the high stakes poker table in the Hôtel de Rêve Noire, to the deadly Forest Of Souls, to a cave where he must trap a sixty-five thousand year old demon, Jack flows in and out of this world. Even when his own dream duplicate hires him to kill himself, Jack is mercury in motion—Jack the Nimble, Jack the Quick—until he runs out of tricks and must face his greatest fear.

“34” Tanith Lee ( writing as Esther Garber): Darkly erotic queer fantastika

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Immanion Press has reprinted 34 in an extremely handsome edition that even has illustrations and pictures. 34 was written Lee, who claimed to channel the work of the enigmatic Esther Garber. The novel is a darkly surreal lesbian quest, part Colette, part Angela Carter.

I wrote about 34 when it first came out in 2004.

If you are expecting a straightforward dive into lesbian erotica by Tanith Lee (or Esther Garber), you will be pleasantly disappointed. This brief, dense and somewhat experimental book explores the erotic imagination, the nature of memory and mediates on aging. Sexual obsession is the focal point through which many discursive images and ideas flow.
The plot finds 17-year old Esther fleeing London after her mother’s dramatic death. She absconds on a boat across the Channel, and ends up in drab hotel in rainy Paris slum. The amoral and jaundiced Esther is mistaken for a prostitute by the front desk clerk and her services are bought by a virago named Julie, who poses as a man. The sexual chemistry between them awakes passions in Esther, who leaves after the tryst. Thus begins Esther’s quest, almost mythic in scope, to find Julie.
If “34” is not a fantasy, it does not happen in the real world. Rather than a traditional `other world’, the action takes place in the clouded, magical world of memory and perception, as the first person narrator encounters patently incorrect or wrong things (such as a dog that is part wild boar) or too surreal (such as a Gothic mansion).
The main narrative is interrupted by glimpses into a distant childhood past in Egypt and visions of a future Esther, who is going through menopause in London, and may or may not have a sister (or alter-ego, Anna). Both the future and the past Esthers live in a reality closer to `normality.’ The child faces loss and dislocation; the old woman is trapped by her illnesses and indolence. Both are prone to extensive fantasizing.
All of these disparate threads are held together by hypnotic, feverish prose and a dark, sardonic wit. Mythology intersects reality-Demeter, Persephone and Isis all have cameos here. Female ciphers, villains and strange children cavort on the stage. Eroticism and desire infuse everything, obliterating logic and reason.
This novel isn’t for everyone, though. The vaporous, meandering storyline and the disturbing, politically incorrect sexuality on display here will stop many a reader. But those who like sophisticated erotica and experimental fiction will find this Angela Carter meets George Bataille work entrancing.