Thursday, September 7, 2017

Meanwhile, Elsewhere edited by Cat Fitzpatrick & Casey Plett (#trans #scifi #gender)

Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers is, in a word, brilliant. You want other words? Okay, how about fantastic, original, engaging, wondrous, amusing, exciting, arousing, and intellectually stimulating. Fair enough, that last one was two words, but it needed to be said.

Multi-author anthologies are always a hit-or-miss proposition, even when built around a theme, but Cat Fitzpatrick & Casey Plett have done an astounding job here. Sure, there were a few stories that did not really resonate with me, but there were so many that had me committing the cardinal sins of dog-earing pages and highlighting passages that I can hardly complain.

Rather than run through the whole collection, I would like to do something different, and count down my fave fives in the collection . . . only, there is no way I can pick just five, so I guess we will have to settle for the more clich├ęd top ten.

10. Rent, Don't Sell by Calvin Gimplevich - This one starts out with the old staple of body-swapping, but puts some interesting twists on it. There is the typical joyriding by the rich, a creative means of personal training, and what seems to be a brilliant solution to gender dysphoria . . . but with a final emotional twist that I adored.

9. What Cheer by RJ Edwards - A weird bit of sci-fi, this one puts a more thoughtful, heartfelt spin on the idea of alien body snatchers. What would you do, if a perfect clone of yourself hatched before your eyes, and only had a few short days to experience humanity?

8. Control by Rachel K. Zall - On the surface, this is simply the story of an illicit affair between transgender lovers from different sides of the tracks, but the Orwellian influences give it a perfect edge that carries over into their frantic eroticism. It also had some of my favorite images and descriptions, including this gem:
Specks sparkled in the moonlight; they could have been tiny diamonds of miniature polished skulls. She fell through the glittering cloud and landed on top of him, grabbing his hair and smashing her lips into his. His little cock was hard between his thighs; her clit was tenting her skirt.
7. Gamers by Imogen Binnie - This one had a definite nostalgic element for me, and one that really just tickled my fancy. I have never really been a gamer, but I do have an old-school passion for Zelda, so Samara's story . . . well, it just made me smile.

6. Thieves and Lovers by Emma Addams - This is a story about role playing, costumes, identities, secrets, and more, but with a sci-fi twist. Imagine if you will a world of wearable holograms, one where themed genre bars exist. There is a lovely story here of attraction and seduction, contrasting dreams with reality, and it all just clicks.

5. The Gift by Ryka Aoki - This is probably the least progressive story in terms of technology, but the most progressive in terms of attitudes. It was a sweet, easy-going, uplifting story of coming out as transgender and being immediately loved and accepted. My heart still swells over this one.

4. Delicate Bodies by Bridget Liang - When being transgender is so often treated by like a disease, and when so much of society treats you as a monstrous freak, maybe becoming a sentient flesh-eating zombie isn't such a bad thing. This was a fantastic story, equal parts dark and quirky, with a truly brilliant final paragraph.

3. Themyscira by Colette Arrand - I think a big part of the appeal here was in how it subverted my expectations. Here we have an island of voluntary exiles, with one young woman feeling out of place due to being the only one with a penis - at least, until another transgender girl washes up on shore. This one pairs well with Delicate Bodies, looking at gender as a disease, and exploring how it infects those around us.

2. Matchmaker by Dane Figueroa Edidi - In terms of sheer story, this is far-and-away my favorite in the collection. This could have been a blockbuster sized epic novel, and I still would have wanted more. A magic-fueled urban fantasy, full of colorful characters, plot twists, and betrayals, it hinges on the simple idea that a transwoman could be close enough to the Goddess to be a witch, but it is so much more than that.

1. Satan, Are You There? It's Me, Laura by Aisling Fae - No other story in the collection amused me, delighted me, and entertained me quite like this. This is a gloriously blasphemous story about a girl who tried to summon Satan and got God in disguise, and who then goes on to play matchmaker for the star-crossed lovers. It is full of so many little moments, so many clever deconstructions of religion, but it all boils down to this:
"What do you think people would think, if they knew their terrible Devil was some tranny and their God a fag?"
Perhaps the best collection of transgender fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading, Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers has only one small flaw, and that is the absence of author biographies. Maybe they are just missing from the ARCs, and will show up in the finished product but, damn it, I want to know more about my sisters!

Casey Plett wrote a column on transitioning for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and contributed to the Topside Press anthology The Collection: Short Fiction From The Transgender Vanguard. Her work has been featured in Plenitude, Two Serious Ladies, Anomalous Press, and other publications. She is from the Canadian Prairies and the Pacific Northwest and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Cat Fitzpatrick teaches in Newark, at Rutgers University. She is also an editor at Topside Press, and the founder of the Trans Poets Workshop


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