Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lesbian Knights in Fiction

There is a very short list of  in historical romance or historical fantasy featuring lesbian knights, but luckily they're all pretty good. If you love knights in shining armour riding to the rescue, wandering knights errant, gallantry and romance, and mediaeval fantasy, then check out the fiction below.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: The Princess Novels by Jim C. Hines

Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty
Cover of The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

The Princess novels by Jim C. Hines are a wickedly fun example of adult fairytale fantasy. Similar in style to the typical young adult fairy tale retellings, with the same familiar stories and faces, the content is still suitable for teens - but the writing is aimed at adults. Basically, it's an awesome fun, modern fantasy series that isn't particularly high brow, and more focussed on action that analysis, but has some amazingly good characters. Including a very well written lesbian who is as much as main character as her co-protagonists.

 There are four books in the series, and they are splendidly parodies, wonderfully feminist, and full of all kinds of dark and twisted fairy stories (and a few happy endings). The first story is the lightest, the last one the darkest - and doesn't stand alone as well as the other books, so read them first.

The four published books in the series:
  1. The Stepsister Scheme
  2. The Mermaid's Madness 
  3. Red Hood's Revenge
  4. The Snow Queen's Shadow

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Short Story Review: Far by Sarah Diemer

 Far is a science fiction horror dystopia zombie fantasy short story by Sarah Diemer that starts off as one thing, turns into another, and has the love between two girls as the strong guiding centre all the way through.

Why did I pick this story up? Well, after reading her novel, The Dark Wife last week, I promptly bought two of her short stories. (Sadly, the other short story I picked up, Hallow's Eve: A Halloween Fairy Tale, isn't a lesbian one, though it is a very nice short story about a nice young witch who is much better at cupcakes and has to spend Halloween fixing a love spell gone (un)deadly wrong).

Far looked like it might be a good addition to the very short list of non-vampiric lesbian horror. The first half definitely is, in a dark The Genetic Opera-style city of death and hopelessness, but it turns into something else at the end - more of a metaphorical science fiction dystopia.

 Essentially, it's a love story between Mana and Far. It opens with Far dead and Mana going to rescue her soul from the After before it is recycled - luckily Mana is one of the best Runners in the city. Unfortunately for Far, she succeeds, and her beloved is trapped in a corpse, trapped in a city she has been desperate to leave, and cheated of her death.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Heroine Addiction by Jennifer Matarese

Heroine Addiction by Jennifer Matarese is a really fun superhero murder mystery, with great characters, a fairly over-dramatic evil villain plot and a marvellous main character.

Vera Noble is the owner of a small cafe in a quiet town that finally accepts her bisexuality without spitting in the street when she walks past. She's got major break-up issues with her last girlfriend, and crush on the writer guy in the corner. Sure, she hasn't spoken to her family in five years, but that's mostly because Vera's one of the most balanced members of the family. Oh, and an annoying case of supervillains, especially the guy her dad's secretly dating, who likes to drop by and upset her customers and her.  Otherwise, everything's pretty good.

Except - did I mention? Her parents are two of the most powerful superheroes in the world. And they're living a brittle show for the cameras, that somebody is bound to exploit sooner or later. And this being a superhero universe, it's not going to be something as prosaic as blackmail.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2nd Annual Lambda Literary Awards 1989

2nd Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners and Finalists
All annual awards
1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 1992 |1993 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 
 2003 | 2004 |2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

1989 Categories
  • Lesbian
    • Anthologies, Debut Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction (Studies) Science fiction/Fantasy
  • General LGBT
    • AIDS, Humour, Poetry, Young Adult/Children's Book Award
    • Gay Men's
      • Anthologies, Debut Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction (Studies) Science fiction/Fantasy
    • Other Awards
      •  Editor's Choice Award, Publisher's Service Award, Small Press Book Award

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Book Review: The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer

    The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer
    A mere five minutes into The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer and I had forgotten that I was supposed to be critically reviewing it, I was so completely caught up in the story. An enchanting and powerful retelling of the traditional myth of Persephone, this tale casts several key characters as lesbian women and Zeus as heedlessly destructive, selfish and far too a powerful figure overshadowing everyone's lives. It stays very true to the original Greek mythos - beauty and cruelty go hand in hand, as the gods mingle with mortals, each other, and the variety of fantasy creatures that orbit them. And, while adapted to the story, they are all recognisable.

    In the original myth (for those who aren't familiar) Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest and fertility (basically, an earth mother figure). On day, while she played in a meadow, the ground splits open and a chariot appears, bearing the terrifying figure of Hades, god of the Underworld. He snatches up the beautiful girl and bears her down into his realm. There, whether he rapes her, courts her or ignores her is mostly skipped over, but eventually she eats either three or six pomegranate seeds. Sometimes by mischance, but often because he tricks her.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    YA Book review: Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

    One of the oft-recommended books on the short list of lesbian teen books, Empress of the World by Sara Ryan is the first person story of a smart and analytical 15 year old who spends the summer at a University course and falls in love with the beautiful and somewhat broken Battle.

    Nicola ('Nic') is attending a special summer course at the University of , for high school students. She's studying Archaeology.  A quiet, creative and balanced girl, she comes from loving and slightly eclectic parents and has a tendency to over-categorise everything ( least according to some people). Her first day, she spends the welcome speech sketching people around her, which leads to the enthusiastic Katrina pouncing on her and the other subjects and deciding they should all associate with each other. One of them is the reserved, gorgeously green eyed Battle (at least, Nic thinks she's gorgeous. We don't get outside confirmation of this).

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Book Review: Snuff by Terry Pratchett

    Terry Pratchett's latest book, Snuff came out this week and I had to promptly abandon everything on my reading list to go follow Vimes into the country side and chase around after smugglers and slavers and murderers.

    To my delight, there was actually a brief appearance from a lesbian couple, meaning I get to gush about Pratchett again.

    The lesbians were one of the members of the local self-styled magistrates and her partner (who may or may not also have been part of the group - we never see much of the magistrates, so it's unclear). They are not the good guys and we don't see much of them at all, they're just 'there' - they turn up to a dinner party and Vimes notices one of them wears a tie and man's shirt, and later another character notes in passing that they happen to live together and that's their own business.

    Pratchett is LGBTQ-friendly and covers a lot of gender issues in his books - although often subtly, sneaking them in matter of factly, rather than making a big deal out of relationships or crossdressing or gender identity (except in the case of the dwarves, when it's a fairly big deal - for his other most lesbian-friendly, cross-dressing and gender focused book, read my review of Monstrous Regiment, which is basically a parody of Don't Ask, Don't Tell).

    As for Snuff itself?

    The main parodic themes for Snuff are Pride & Prejudice-style gentry, traditional English feudal estates, Miss Marple 'murder mysteries in the countryside!' and the goblins. Which aren't exactly parody, as they're played straight, but are a very good case of accepting other races as actual people. True, Pratchett's done that a lot lately - but the goblins are just the sideshow, and the underlying issue, rather than being followed around and talked about constantly. Vimes has also been introduced to snooker at some point, it seems.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Book Review: Christabel by Karin Kallmaker

    Christabel by Karin Kallmaker is a reincarnation romance set in Manhattan, about a true love between a settler and a native American, who come together in the modern world of fashion and finance.

    Like her other fantasy and scifi fiction, it was originally published under the pen name of Laura Adams (back in 1998), but has since been revised and republished using her real name. The blurb is dreadfully misleading, though, as it doesn't really ever say 'hey, this has magic and multiple lives and so on in it!'. I really, truly expected a standard romance between an abused celebrity model under the thumb of her manager, and the high-flying professional accountant.

    got a multiple narrative story of past lives, true love, spirituality, psychics and demons. Also, generations of suffering, which made for a very grim undertone. So be warned, while there is sickeningly sweet happily ever after and perfect true love at the end, most of the story involves fear, danger and abuse.
    Dina is a highly ambitious career woman, part of a high flying accounting corporation who helps get customers financed and sold to buyers. She's hired to help sell Leo Goranson. Unfortunately, the guy turns out to be a manipulative and sadistic slimeball - with the breathtakingling lovely, albeit oddly resigned and helpless, Christabel under his thumb.

    Way back when the first European settlers where first co-existing on the island of Manhattan with the local native Americans, Christabel was born, and met the native American woman, Radohnee under a great tree. And they secretly fall in love, while the local Reverend increases his intolerant grasp, until the entire colony is in a frenzy of witchhunting, and he has backed Christabel into a corner.

    Christabel was reincarnated all the way down through history, constantly hunted and tormented by the demonic Reverend in his various forms, until the present day, when she finally meets up with Dina (again). Interestingly, while she apparently looked the same (or very similar), and the Reverend lusted after her, it is only the modern Christabel's astonishing good looks that are ever mentioned.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    YA Book Review: A Hole in the World by Sophie Robbins

    A Hole In The World is a young adult lesbian fantasy (still a very small category!) written by Sophie Robbins. A Hole in the World is a fantasy story about a teenager in the UK who climbs through a hole between worlds and brings home a bubbleheaded princess who was waiting for her Prince Charming.

    I couldn't really tell what kind of story it was from the brief description - which is one reason I ultimately read it, in my latest 'buy all the lesbian Kindle books to review!' spree, so I knew if I was putting it into the right categories in the bookstore.

    Bianca is a middle class British teenager who gets expelled from her expensive boarding school for something she didn't do, but goes along with it because she hates the place. And right from the get go, I can tell she doesn't have much of a future in the 'real world' - it never even occurs to her that that kind of thing sticks around.

    She's smart enough, supposedly, but happily skips school and isn't really interested in studying; is slightly overweight - or thinks she is, much like she always uses makeup; has a fairly stable family life, but is basically ignored by, and tries to ignore, her parents; has few friends locally, and is happily - though very quietly - lesbian. In other words, she's your average self-conscious, slightly defiant teenager, who is more interested in hanging out with her best mate than her family or school.

    Except for this mysterious hole in a wall, that has been calling to her all her life. And one night she jumps through it and discovers a stereotypical fairytale princess in a cage, rescues her - and ends up with a naive and magical princess on her hands. Bianca, her best friend and his mates band together to protect Alexandra, sneaking her into school and enthusiastically introducing her to the myriad of weird and exciting things in their world - from toast to cinemas.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Book Review: Shadows of Aggar by Chris Anne Wolfe

    I highly recommend Shadows of Aggar by Chris Anne Wolfe to all readers of lesbian fantasy and science fiction. It's a very well written story and an interesting and engaging romance.

    Shadows of Aggar is the first book in the Amazons of Aggar series, named for the 'Shadows' who dedicate their lives to adventure and supporting a specific person. The two Amazons of Aggar books by Chris Anne Wolfe are a particularly well known lesbian science fiction series from a groundbreaking author. Sadly, she died of cancer, cutting her writing career far too short, and leaving the last book in the trilogy unwritten.

    Aggar is a fairly medieaval world kept in controlled seclusion from the wider galaxy - it exists in an uneasy quarantine within the Terran Empire, and sits very near the contested border to another galactic empire. The reclusive and mystical Council do their best to keep the Terran Empire out, without actively jeopardising the truce, and to guide the various planetary cultures and peoples into balance and towards a more harmonious and enlightened future. Keeping the existence of the wider galaxy secret is an integral part of this.

    When an operative of the Terran empire crashes on Aggar while returning with information of a pending assassination, the Council is moved to act - not only to prevent an invasive Terran rescue mission, but to avoid cultural contamination, while hurrying to retrieve the spy in order to avert galactic war between the two empires, which Aggar would be caught in the middle of.

    So they decide to allow and assist a single undercover offworlder  to go after the missing man - and to give them a Shadow, Elana. They pick the Amazon - Diana n'Athena, or Di'nay - as they trust her over the Terrans.

    Time Travel Lesbian Fiction

    This is a quick round up of all the lesbian time travel fiction I can find. Most are romances across the centuries, or modern day women thrown back into the 19th and early 20th century. A few are science fiction stories of time travellers bouncing happily around the past and the future. Very few involve actually travelling to the future. Many, but not all, of these books also appear in the lesbian historical fiction list.

    The dates are listed in the direction of travel (E.g. 2050-2010 means a traveller from the future who came back to 2010, while present day - 1907 means someone who went back into the past from about nowish).
    • Christabel by Karin Kallmaker (Manhattan; early colony-present day)
      • Read the review
      • About two girls who fell in love when one of them wandered outside her little colony and met a beautiful native American girl. Unfortunately an evil man destroys them and traps them in a magical fate, bound together in endless reincarnations until they finally manage to meet again in modern day New York, in the world of fashion and business.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      The Lythande Stories by Marion Zimmer Bradley

      Lythande (1986)
      Collected stories
      [read the review]

      Marion Zimmer Bradley published several short stories about the mysterious sorceress, Lythande (pronounced Lee THOND) as part of Robert Lynn Asprin’s Thieves’ World shared-universe series, which began in 1978. Sadly she is now dead, so there won't be any more. Now there's a fun way to start a review!

      They are a very enjoyable collection of sword and sorcery-style fantasy books about a cross dressing, 'socially transgender' woman. Lythande is an adept of the Blue Star - an extremely powerful and immortal sorceress, who has chosen her side in the final battle of Good versus Evil (which takes place at the end of time and isn't really an issue in most of the stories, as everyone is still quietly maneuvering and picking sides over the course of centuries).

      There's a twist, of course - each of the blue Star Adepts has a secret, and hers is the greatest of all - her sex. She cannot reveal her face or true name to, nor eat in the presence of, any human man. Long term readers of lesbian subtext have no difficulty spotting the loophole there. The only real friendships she can form are with women - women she trusts never to reveal her to another.

      So she wanders around the world, hooded and mysterious, occasionally rescuing people through magic, other times passing as a minstrel. She's centuries old by the time we meet her, and quite composed, formidable and adept at remaining undiscovered.

      3rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards 1990

      3rd Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners and Finalists

      The Lambda Awards by year:
      1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 1992 |1993 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 
      2002  2003 | 2004 |2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010

      1990 Categories
      Overview of yearly categories
      • Lesbian
        • Anthologies, Debut Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction (Studies) Poetry, Science fiction/Fantasy, Small Press Book Award
      • General LGBT
        • AIDS, Humour
      • Gay Men's
        • Anthologies, Debut Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction (Studies) Poetry, Science fiction/Fantasy, Small Press Book Award
      • Other Awards
        •  Editor's Choice Award, Publisher's Service Award

      Monday, October 3, 2011

      Book Review: Bending the Landscape: Fantasy

      Bending the Landscape: Fantasy edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel

      Bending the Landscape: Fantasy is a fantastic anthology of gay and lesbian themed fantasy short stories edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel. Part of a series of three, the Bending the Landscape anthologies are very worth checking out. This is an overview of the lesbian stories in the fantasy anthology.

      The Fantasy anthology contains twenty two stories by gay and lesbian writers, or by straight authors about gay and lesbian characters. Some of the authors are 'big names' (e.g. Ellen Kushner, Mark Shepherd and Tanya Huff), while others only have a few short stories published. There's a nice section of biographies at the back, so you can read more about any authors that catch your eye (bear in mind that it's nearly fifteen years out of date now).

      Sometimes the 'gay' aspect is very subtle, other times it is the main focus of the story. There's an overview of the Bending the Landscape series among the very first reviews on this site, if you're interested in the other two books (the science fiction volume is absolutely brilliant).

      The short stories themselves are generally very good, quite aside from any issues of sexuality.  Unusually, in GBLT anthologies, this one is not dominated by gay men, instead being exactly half and half. However, the lesbian stories are frequently much more understated, so I barely noticed them the first time I read the book (now I know what to look for, they're pretty obvious, but the gay men's ones tended to be much more open and in your face about the sexuality of the characters).

      Saturday, October 1, 2011

      Book Review: Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest

      Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest

      Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest is considered one of the great landmark lesbian romances, a true classic. So, I looked forward to a dry, overhyped novel that was more famous for daring to mention women kissing in 1983 than for its romantic merits.

      It was beautiful. Turns out, I do like romances - it's just that my standards are too high, and this is one of the few books that makes the simple interactions and affections of two people worth reading, with no other real plot or distraction.

      Best selling, a masterpiece, classic of lesbian literature - there is a multitude of praise out there for this book, but none of them say that it's so beautiful (or at least, not the ones I saw, I'm probably going to come across a dozen or so as soon as I finish writing this review).

      Diana is dragged out to a lodge by her friend for a week of skiing and gambling in breathtaking Lake Tahoe, joining several other women - various acquaintances of the women who owns the cabin. She also meets Lane, and can't take her eyes off her. Cool, reserved, gorgeous and intimidating Lane opens up a shared passion and sensitivity for beauty and photography to gentle Diana and soon, they're sharing rather more. Neither woman expects it, and both have a steady history of relationships with men (actually, Lane is aware that is capable of being attracted to women, but has never really pursued it, Diana has never even considered the possibility).