Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Short Story: O Captain, My Captain by Katherine V Forrest

"O Captain, My Captain" is an amazing, captivating and sensuous science fiction vampire story by Katherine V. Forrest. Found in an old anthology of hers called Dreams and Swords (reviewed here), it's a gem that isn't as easy to find as it deserves to be. I've picked this story out of the anthology for a separate review, because it really doesn't deserve to be lost among the dry, average and mostly very short stories that make up the rest of the collection.

This story also appears in Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Tales, a more intellectual collection of lesbian vampire stories that focuses on the more realistic side of being a female vampire (so less in the way of sex scenes, more in the way of female empowerment).

Harper is a part of the galactic military, assigned to a ship with a single captain, on a salvage mission into a dangerous asteroid zone. Alone with her unusual host for days, she falls into her thrall - and then discovers that her host isn't exactly... human.

Book Review: Dreams & Swords by Katherine V Forrest

Dreams and Swords by Katherine V. Forrest is an old anthology of ten short stories from a successful lesbian mystery/sci fi/ fantasy/ romance author, some of which are a bit dated. Most of them are more vignettes than proper stories - short exercises and scenes, that are either too short or are basically all recap from somebody, telling you about a longer period of time. The only two of any real length are a short murder mystery featuring the detective Kate Delafield, and the science fiction vampire story, "O Captain, My Captain". The latter is worth buying the entire book for.

Most of the science fiction ones are set in a future dominated by the ExxTel corporation, where sexual freedom is the norm and the few Trad (traditional) colonies are the last remnant of 20th century prejudice.

There is a wide range of situations, characters, voices and approaches and the lesbian element varies - though it's always positive. This would be a fantastic book to pick up for debates on gender and other social studies and to study writing styles. The stories are often too short for narrative satisfaction (it's hard to lose yourself in them) and don't actually explore most of the implications and issues properly, but simply present them. For example: mental disability and whether it's right to try and 'fix' it, euthanasia/suicide, homosexuality as normal (obviously) and homosexuality as better, and physical disability.

Book Review: With Her Body by Nicola Griffith

With Her Body (Conversation Pieces, Volume 2)  by Nicola Griffith is, like all her work, worth the money. The Conversation Pieces series are collections of feminist science fiction short stories from Aqueduct Press.

A book of intimate, fierce, intellectual stories about real women,  they all follow the theme of the title: a dancer who uses her body to make music and command attention, a woman whose body has betrayed her and who learns to stop letting it rule her, and a woman who learns to open herself up to the physical, and her companion who falls entirely into the realm of nature.

Because there are only three stories (plus an essay), it's not worth paying too much for. But because of the quality of the stories, it is worth paying rather more than you would otherwise. All of them are powerful, and I had to stop and put my Kindle down for awhile after each one, letting it sink in and pass through me. They are all science fiction, or fantasy, and all focus on women, with the protagonists being lesbians with experiences both exclusive and powerful enough to drown out other voices.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mystique:The Bisexual Shapeshifter

Mystique by Brian K. Vaughn
Ultimate Collection
Mystique (Raven), the sexy mutant shapechanger from Marvel's X-Men has a long standing relationship with another woman, the oracle-telepath Destiny. However, for many years, there was a blanket ban on any obvious GLBTQ characters at Marvel, so various authors and artists had to sneak her bisexuality in (her creator states that she always was Destiny's lover). More recently, it has become an official canon (as much as an comic character has a single canon).

Destiny (Irene) also probably counts, but she tends to be a background character, while Mystique is vey prominent throughout the X-Men storylines.

Most of her male love affairs lacked in emotional depth and were for the purpose of producing children. While she is definitely bisexual, the fact that she can shapeshift into anyone (or anything, apparently), makes her gender identity extremely ambiguous.

Transgender Young Adult Fiction (Also Genderqueer, Intersex, Cross- Dressing and So On)

Transgender Penguin shirt
Transgender Penguin by fightcancertees
Like bisexual fiction, transgender, intersexed, and general gender identity books are as likely to be about girls as boys, if they're about any identity in particular - and by nature, they generally cover both! 

There's also no reason that a transgender or otherwise genderfluid teen can't also be lesbian, or think they are before figuring out what they actually are, and many lesbians may be wondering if they are actually transgender. At least as far as I'm concerned.

 There aren't many YA books on transgender people anyway, so they might as well be included here, especially given the difficult of drawing the line along the spectrum. Books are grouped under FtM, MtF and 'Everything Else' (e.g. intersex, cross dressing).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Review: Crimson Dawn by Ronnie Massey

 Crimson Dawn by Ronnie Massey is 'yet another vampire story' - one that I actually had to stop reading because snarky internal monologue was drowning out story. This was a pity because not only did it nag at me and interfere with everything else I tried to read (yes, I am shamelessly blaming this book for the recent dearth of reviews) but it ended up being pretty good.

In fact, it was weirdly inverted - all the lesbianism, best parts of the plot (as opposed to running around reacting) and depth of world building came in the second half. But the actual story and various fantasy races are quite fun, the action is fast paced, and our female lead is kick ass. This novel comes with two prequel short stories, and I suspect it would have read much better had I read them first. Because not only does it dump you into the Irulan-Valeria friendship without much character building but I spent the first half of the book thinking the author didn't really want to write a real lesbian main character (both of which are addressed in the prequels) and this left me feeling cheated and annoyed. But it does eventually deliver on everything you expected when you first picked it up.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Asexual Lesbians/ Asexual Women in Fiction

Asexual Flag & Triange Badge Pin button
Asexual Flag & Triange Badge Pin by NewEnglandAces
See other Asexual Buttons
Asexual characters are rare and difficult to accurately identify, but they do exist in fiction. This is a list of all the female asexual characters and Asexual lesbians* in novels and other books, whether roaming singly or in a 'Boston Marriage' (a 19th century term for two women committed to each other in a non-sexual relationship).

*(Obviously romantic asexual female pairings are also all female asexual characters, it's just a bit tricky trying to define them without using a whole sentence!)

For the purposes of this list, only characters inside a sexual canon displaying asexual traits should be counted as asexual (i.e. they have to be presented with an opportunity to display sexuality, not just 'never have sex'). Some of these characters may generally be assumed to be 'lesbian', but often that's only because they're obviously 'not straight'.

Most of them are fantasy, and are usually asexual due to magic, oaths, or utter dedication to a cause. This may reflect a stereotype of sexless women - or it may simply be that these women are more likely to be forced to declare their lack of sexual interest (almost all the titles below are written by women, if that matters).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lesbian Shapeshifter Fiction

Werewolf Woman print by Nightmareartist
on Zazzle (support an artist!)
Looking for a list of lesbian werewolf novels? Look no further!

Shapeshifters are a lot of fun - from the traditional werewolf to modern fantastical variants. They can be loners, terrifying and misunderstood, or relaxed and secure in their pack. From secretive to bestial, glorious to vicious, werewolves tend to appeal to those seeking a sense of freedom and power, as opposed to the control and seduction of vampires.

Sadly, the list of exclusively lesbian werewolf fiction is a very short one (and feline shifters are even rarer yet - and that's about it for types) - many the shifters in the titles below have to share their stories with lesbian vampires as well!

Note: Books that happen to have a lesbian secondary character are not included. Both the werewolf (or other shapechanger) and the lesbian have to be primary parts of the plot and not thrown in as a token character, or part of the background, however well written. These are books for reading about lesbians and shapeshifters, not books that 'happen to have a lesbian werewolf in one scene'.

These titles took a while to track down - if you know of any more, please share!