Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book reviews: Bending The Landscape - Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

Obviously a different cover -
my copy of the 'Fantasy' volume is
quite a large paperback that I found locally.
(Haven't been able to buy the other two within NZ)
The Bending The Landscape trilogy of queer anthologies, edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel, are extremely good, covering Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction. They all include lesbian stories, but probably less than half of the stories in each anthology are about women (hardly intentional, just a reflection of who wrote for the anthologies, I guess).

The editors commissioned a wide variety of writers specifically for these volumes. The authors range from straight folk writing about gays, to gays writing about straights, but some kind of LGBT-theme is evident in every contribution. Some of the authors are famous, some less so. The editors themselves are noted authors (and you'll find several of Nicola Griffith's books in the Crimes/Mystery and the Sci-Fi categories).

Awards (Individual Volumes)
Reviews of the individual volumes: Science fiction, Fantasy and Horror

  1. Bending the Landscape: Original Gay and Lesbian Writing: Science Fiction

This is the first of the three that I read, and I was fully expecting the Science Fiction anthology to be simply another rag-tag collection, thrown together around a central 'theme.

But no. This anthology is fantastic. This is one of those must-reads. It is mostly science fiction (obviously), covering time travel, robots, alternate realities, virtual worlds, space ships and the future - although it wavers over past the semi-illusionary edge of Fantasy, on occasion.

It has a few let downs - especially near the beginning - where they belabour the 'gay' issue at the expense of much story. But the rest of it? Amazing. One of those multi-genre award winning masterpieces that one hopes for with every Anthology and rarely gets.

  • "Introduction";
  • "Sex, Guns, and Baptists" by Keith Hartman;
  • "Half in Love With Easeful Rock and Roll" by Rebecca Ore;
  • "Powertool" by Mark McLaughlin;
  • "Time Gypsy" by Ellen Klages;
  • "Lonely Land" by Denise Lopes Heald;
  • "The Rendez-Vous" by Nancy Johnston;
  • "Silent Passion" by Kathleen O'Malley;
  • "Sun-Drenched" by Stephen Baxter;
  • "The Flying Triangle" by Allen Steele;
  • "Brooks Too Broad For Leaping" by Charles Sheffield;
  • "Dances at the Edge" by L. Timmel Duchamp;
  • "Love's Last Farewell" by Richard A. Bamberg;
  • "On Vacation" by Ralph A. Sperry;
  • "The City in Morning" by Carrie Richerson;
  • "State of Nature" by Nancy Kress;
  • "The Beautiful People" by Wendy Rathbone;
  • "A Real Girl" by Shariann Lewitt;
  • "Who Plays With Sin" by Don Bassingthwaite;
  • "Surfaces" by Mark W. Tiedemann;
  • "Stay Thy Flight" by Elisabeth Vonarburg;
  • "Free in Asveroth" by Jim Grimsley;
  • "About the Editors"; and
  • "About the Authors."
  • Lambda Literary Award, Lesbian and Gay Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror;
  • Best Other Work, Gaylactic Spectrum Award 1999
  • Stonewall Book Award: Literature (finalist)
The Fantasy volume is good, but not quite as mindblowing; it also won two awards. It is also technically the first in the series. It is just as well loved by the Amazon reviewers as the Sci-Fi volume, at 4.5/5 stars, so it appears to be a personal preference. I think the main problem was the rambling nature of the anthology - I like fantasy, but it offered everything from myths and fairytales through to horror, psychics and ghosts to nearly-'hard' sci-fi. The gay themes varied from explicit sex to background noise and coming out stories. The focus again, was mainly on male characters (although lesbians were more obvious when I reread it).

Generally, the writing and settings are less impressive than the Science Fiction anthology, but it's still a seriously good collection of stories on its own merits, gay themes aside. Gay themes included, it's a rare gem!

  • "Introduction" by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel;
  • "Frost Painting" by Carolyn Ives Gilman;
  • "Gary, in the Shadows" by Mark Shepherd;
  • "Prince of the Dark Green Sea" by Mark McLaughlin;
  • "Water Snakes" by Holly Wade Matter;
  • "Gestures Too Late on a Gravel Road" by Mark W. Tiedemann;
  • "The Fall of the Kings" by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman;
  • "Cloudmaker" by Charlee Jacob;
  • "Magicked Tricks" by K. L. Berac;
  • "The Sound of Angels" by Lisa S. Silverthorne;
  • "The King's Folly" by James A. Moore;
  • "Beside the Well" by Leslie What;
  • "The Home Town Boy" by B. J. Thrower;
  • "Expression of Desire" by Dominick Cancilla;
  • "There are Things Which are Hidden from the Eyes of the Everyday" by Simon Sheppard;
  • "Full Moon and Empty Arms" by M. W. Keiper;
  • "Mahu" by Jeff Verona;
  • "The Stars are Tears" by Robin Wayne Bailey;
  • "Desire" by Kim Antieau;
  • "Young Lady Who Loved Caterpillars" by Jessica Amanda Salmonson;
  • "In Memory of" by Don Bassingthwaite;
  • "In Mysterious Ways" by Tanya Huff;
  • "In the House of the Man in the Moon" by Richard Bowes; and
  • Contributors' Bios.

    I can't get the Horror anthology either in bookstores or library, in New Zealand, but it did win a Gaylactic Spectrum Award. This could, of course, simply reflect the lack of offerings eligible for that year.

    The reviewers on Amazon are rather less impressed with this anthology, giving it only 3/5 stars. Apparently the overall tone is negative, without quite making it to 'real' horror, and while some of the contributions are outstanding, the rest are a mixed bag. Buy this anthology to complete the series, or for the fact that it's about gay characters, authors and themes, rather than entirely for its own sake.

    • Introduction (p. 7);
    • "Coyote Love" by Kraig Blackwelder (p. 13);
    • "Explanations Are Clear" by L. Timmel Duchamp (p. 19);
    • "What Are You Afraid Of?" by Simon Sheppard (p. 46);
    • "The Lost Homeland" by Cynthia Ward (p. 54);
    • "The Man Who Picks the Chamomile" by Mark McLaughlin (p. 76);
    • "Love on a Stick" by Carrie Richerson (p. 81);
    • "Triangle" by Ellen Klages (p. 109);
    • "Memorabilia" by Holly Wade Matter (p. 121);
    • "Blood Requiem" by Gary Bowen (p. 150);
    • "In the Days Still Left" by Brian A. Hopkins and James Van Pelt (p. 165);
    • "Broken Canes" by Alexi Smart (p. 186);
    • "Keep the FAith" by A. J. Potter (p. 199);
    • "The WereSlut of Avenue A" by Leslie What (p. 211);
    • "Kindred" by Alexis Glynn Latner (p. 219);
    • "'Til Death" by Barbara Hambly (p. 240);
    • "If I Could See Lazarus Rising" by Kathleen O'Malley (p. 257);
    • "The Waltz of the Epileptic Penguins" by Keith Hartman (p. 278);
    • "Passing" by Mark W. Tiedemann (p. 293); About the Editors (p. 327);
    • About the Authors (p. 329).


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