I first came across Storm Constantine’s work in the early 90s, at the local gay bookstore. Her Wraeththu novels were post-apocalyptic fantasy that featured androgynous post-humans who all looked like a cross between David Bowie and members of an 80s goth band. The novels featured a fairly explicit sex-based magic(k) system that was groundbreaking to me. As much as I enjoyed the Wraeththu novels, it was her stand-alone novels that really grabbed me. Novels like Calenture, A Sign for the Sacred, and Hermetech were full of gorgeous prose, homoerotic imagery and dream-logic plots. They were New Weird before New Weird was a thing.
We got in contact when Storm started publishing Tanith Lee novels through the publishing house she founded, Immanion Press. In addition to bonded over Lee’s later work, Storm also let me write blog posts and blurbs for the reprinted collections, ultimately letting me write the introduction to Love in A Time of Dragons & Other Rare Tales.
Storm Constantine was a trailblazer in Queer Speculative Fiction and neo-Gothic/neo-Decadent fantasy. Her work explored eroticism, gender and ultimately, found family. She will be missed.
The critic/author Lee Mandelo has a new article about their Queering Science Fiction and Fantasy column, where they asked authors about the advances made in queer representation in the field. I’m included along with Carmen Maria Machado, Liz Bourke, Charlie Jane Anders, Nicola Griffith, Cheryl Morgan, José Iriarte, Sunny Moraine, Yoon Ha Lee, Nino Cipri, Sam J. Miller, Mary Anne Mohanraj.
I’m really enjoying this novel, which would best be described as New Weird fiction. The world is dank and decayed and full of factions with really odd nomenclatures. The mood is one of the blackest gallows humor. The magic (here called ‘enchantments’) is bloody and messy. But don’t be fooled by the baroque grotesqueries. This is a character driven novel, full of memorable weirdos, such as a knife-crazy poppet, a drugged addled transman, and a mysterious trans enchantress who has a dead bear as a sidekick. It’s funny, gross and full of dark wonder.
Forget the Sleepless Shores by Sonya Taaffe
Taaffe and I run in the same circles but it was only last year that I found out that she is a massive Tanith Lee fan. Her new collection was graciously sent to me by Lethe Press (the publishers of my debut). I’m not far into this large collection of short fiction, but Taaffe has a dense opiated prose style (reminiscent of Lee), and her plots mines darker mythopoetic tropes. It’s rich writing, something to be savored.
I’ll be reading with Melissa Scott (author of Shadow Man, the City of Astreiant Series); Brit Mandelo (author of We Wuz Pushed: On Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling and numerous short stories); A.M. Dellamonica (author of The Hidden Sea and Indigo Springs series). It will be moderated by Lara Elena Donnelly, author of the deco punk novels Amberlough and Armistice. Hope to see you there!
Today is the release day for The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller. I haven’t read it yet, but I met Sam last summer at a workshop and read the first draft of his 2018 novel BLACKFISH CITY and can vouch for his mad fictioneerin’ skillz.
The Art of Starving sounds intriguing: magic, queer identity, and eating disorders. It’s available at the usual suspects.
I first encountered the work of Science Fiction Grandmaster Samuel R. Delany (1942 – ) when I was in my late teens. When my older brother left for college, he left behind a copy of Dhalgren. You know that classic Bantam Edition, the one with the ruined city and the swollen and sickly orange sun. I read the book over a summer, enthralled with the topnotch phantasmorgia, the alternative sexuality and, perhaps most of all, the dream-logic poetic prose. Bellona is as vivid and haunting a creation as Mieville’sBas Lag or Ashton Smith’sZothique. The journey of the poet through a kind of underworld-like city has strong resonances with the Orpheus myth. That book, a masterpiece of liminal fiction, bridges the gap between “low” speculative fiction and “high” post-modern literature; between pornography and art; between prose and poetry. I maintain that Dhalgren is one of the key works in my personal cannon.
Years later, when I found out that Chip Delany was going to teach at UMass-Amherst), which was a part of the 5-College Consortium (I went to Hampshire), I jumped at the chance to take his class, which was about Comparative Literature. I remember we read The Man Without Qualities byMusil and Death Comes for the Archbishop by Cather. I can’t recall much of the class, but I remember with fondness the times I met with Chip during his office hours, and spending the time chatting about Science Fiction and writing.