The First Book that Spoke to Your Lesbian Essence

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My journey toward self acceptance as a lesbian (prior to taking on the mantle of “queer”) involved an exploration of lesbianism through the words of others — coming out stories, biographies, memoirs, journals, novels, short stories, magazine articles, anything I could find. Some of those works came recommended (Woman on the Edge of Time; Rubyfruit Jungle.)  I gravitated to a few books because they were about women I idealized in some way, (Virginia Woolf’s journals or Gertrude Stein’s works.)  Early during my coming out journey, if the word “lesbian” appeared anywhere at all, I grabbed it.

Yet very few of those books ever spoke to me, to my life experience. When I finally found one, I cherished it; re-reading it over and over — practically memorizing it. The book was Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison. That book seemed to tell the story of my life. In so many ways, from the nuances of dialect, specific childhood events, family dynamics, even the main character’s hopes and dreams, Bastard Out of Carolina captured me, eerily, memories included.

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The main character, Bone, struggles with intensity, humor, and hard-wrought rejection of self-pity, which spoke to this adult, formerly abused child.   Allison’s style, so reminiscent of Harper Lee or Flannery O’Conner, captures all five senses, effortlessly taking the reader into the world, the mind of Bone.   While the novel does not explicitly explore Bone’s growth into adulthood, so her life as a lesbian may or may not be the case, Bone’s aunt Raylene Boatwright is a strong lesbian matriarchal figure.   Raylene who not only protects Bone, but demonstrates to the reader that even impoverished, under-educated women, can rise above the label of “trash” and represent the strong, wise lesbians who live openly, independently, and generate the respect of every member of the family as well as the community around them.

As a lesbian author, Dorothy Allison uses semi-autobiographical material to create a powerful story of “otherness” on a plethora of levels, and upon each I felt connected.   For the first time, I felt understood.   For that, I cherish both Allison and my copy of Bastard Out of Carolina.

 

 

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Hands Down: the Best Historical Speculative Fiction Novel

wind and dreamHands down the best historical speculative fiction novel that I have read thus far. When I opened Wind and Dreams, I was immediately reminded of works akin Mary Renault and Marion Zimmer Bradley — that fantasy mythos blended with the astonishing attention to historical detail. Linda’s writing, simultaneously phenomenal, provocative, and thoughtful to culture, grabs the reader in with the first sentence and captivates her from beginning to end. If I were to categorize this novel further, I would add the possibility of Steampunk with its attributes of Victorian Age sensibilities beside the Egyptology phase in archaeology. Of course, the characters personalities, the realism that Linda creates in emotion, conversation, and the dream-real dichotomous thread all add to the beauty of this book. Linda’s writing is fantastic. I cannot say that I enjoyed Wind and Dreams more than I did her book, Deep Merge, since they are completely different genres, to my mind. Still speculative, still with incredible attention to detail and wonderful character development, but they follow paths so differently, that they are incomparable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Interview with Susan Thompson

Queerly Reading Lesbian

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Susan Thompson’s Fractured Futures was one of the first lesbian science fiction books that I read. Susan addresses all of the dark, post apocalyptic themes that stir my sci-fi soul: a futuristic landscape reminiscent replete with provocative social themes, perhaps akin to Orson Scott Card, incredibly sensual imagery, and strong, determined female characters.   Fractured Futures so entranced me, that I decided to read Susan’s newest book, Destination Alara.  Again, Susan’s writing proved stellar (no pun intended.)   As I enjoy her work so much, I reached out to Susan for a bit of insight into writing science fiction.  She agreed, and the interview is below:

QR: Assume that the readers don’t know much about you and your works. What would you like to tell them? As a reader/writer, I prefer the non-publisher version of background information.   The non-publisher or promotional packet information seems intrepid, approachable.   So…

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Interview with Susan Thompson

ice planet

 

Susan Thompson’s Fractured Futures was one of the first lesbian science fiction books that I read. Susan addresses all of the dark, post apocalyptic themes that stir my sci-fi soul: a futuristic landscape reminiscent replete with provocative social themes, perhaps akin to Orson Scott Card, incredibly sensual imagery, and strong, determined female characters.   Fractured Futures so entranced me, that I decided to read Susan’s newest book, Destination Alara.  Again, Susan’s writing proved stellar (no pun intended.)   As I enjoy her work so much, I reached out to Susan for a bit of insight into writing science fiction.  She agreed, and the interview is below:

 

QR: Assume that the readers don’t know much about you and your works. What would you like to tell them? As a reader/writer, I prefer the non-publisher version of background information.   The non-publisher or promotional packet information seems intrepid, approachable.   So, if you were to introduce yourself to someone at a party, how would that differ to your professional introduction?

ST: I’m pretty shy when it comes to talking about myself. I do so with my website and publisher because it’s required. If asked, I’d say that I’m former military and law enforcement. I’m retired (early) and just like to spend time at home with my animals. I’d focus in the fact that I love animals, most any kind, and that I’ve rescued and re-homed so many cats I’ve lost count. I’d say that I love to write because it allows me to explore possibilities I’d never be able to experience in person. I dream in color and many of my stories are inspired by them. Last of all, I’d have to admit to being a bit of a hermit. It’s hard for me to come out of my shell.

 

QR: Every writer has to be asked this question: who were your biggest literary influences?

ST: Dean Koontz, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Piers Anthony. 

 

QR: Did you read science fiction or fantasy as a kid? If so, who were your favorite authors? If not, when did you start reading this genre?

 

ST: Yes, I did. I read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. G. Wells and Isaac Asimov when I was a kid.

 

QR: What led you to science fiction? Was it real world events, like space travel, or something else?

ST: I love science fiction because it allows me to create my own realities. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination. Space travel is a fascinating subject for me. I still watch all television shows related to the cosmos, space travel and futuristic inventions. I think shows I watched as a kid like “Lost in Space” and “Star Trek” captured my interest the most and led me down this path. 

 

QR: Science fiction, as a genre, is fraught with important, real world issues, like big government, war and imperialism, oppression (gender, class, race), exploration of sexuality, and possible futures, including that based on technology.   Your books explore these themes, undoubtedly. Do you do so purposely or unconsciously?   That is, do these ideas come out in your plots because such things are important to you already and thus, come onto the page, or do you have ideas that you wish to explore? Another way to put this would be: what moves you to write about such themes; perhaps as a reaction to society in its current state of affairs?

ST: It’s a little of both, I suppose. While some issues such as women being devalued by a patriarchal society is a definite sticking point with me, other themes/issues may arise subconsciously and I perceive only after the fact.

 

QR: Do you think that science fiction or fantasy is marginalized as genre? Why or why not?   Within that scope, do you think that women writers of the genre are even more marginalized, relegated to “chick lit?”

ST: In a way, scifi/fantasy is a marginalized genre. When someone says a person is a “fantasy” writer, one immediately has an image of a person not in touch with or grounded in reality. I disagree. The person who can pull off good scifi or fantasy is a person with a great imagination. It is far easier to imagine “real world” events and make them believable than to create worlds solely from the author’s mind. I do not, however, believe women writers are even more marginalized. I think lesbians in particular can relate to products of the imagination and appreciate the work that goes into such creative endeavors. 

 

QR: Is writing in the sphere of les-fic particularly important to you?   Why so? Do you think that becomes a limiting factor in readership to your detriment in some way? Writing les-fic is definitely important to me. Good lesbian fiction tells the story of “us”.

ST: Through our stories, we illustrate the lives we live and get those tales out to the world at large to overcome the stereotypes and discrimination with which we’ve been afflicted by the mainstream. I do believe it restricts my audience as some people will not read gay/lesbian literature through concern that others will “label” them as homosexual. Until people stop worrying about what others will think of them, this will be true.

 

QR: I think that your writing is deeply philosophical in a multitude of ways. If you were to think about that statement, how would you respond?

ST: I don’t believe I strive to make my work philosophical. I am a huge fan of the action, scifi/fantasy movie and when I write I’m basically seeing a movie in my head. If philosophical issues arise, it’s usually through an unconscious process.

 

QR: Lighter question: what are you reading right now?

ST: I just finished Marie Castle’s “Hell’s Belle”. It’s amazing!

 

QR: Do you have a playlist that you go to while writing?

ST: In a way…I put my television (I have satellite), and listen to classical music. Music with lyrics is far too distracting.

 

QR: Anything that you would like to say in parting?

ST: As a former Marine, I’ve been in Beirut and Grenada. I’ve seen my best friend murdered by snipers while there. I was a deputy sheriff in San Diego, dealing with gangs, drugs and dead bodies. Despite the horrors, I like to think that I see the positive side of things. That’s why my books will always have a happy ending. The killer/bad guy might get away, my heroines may be severely wounded, but good will always win out. Some might call that sappy or unrealistic. I say that I get enough of reality on a daily basis.

Deep gratitude to Elizabeth Hodge for asking me to participate in her interview. 

QR: Absolutely my pleasure.  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

 

 

 

Interview with Linda North

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When I started the search for lesbian writers of fantasy/ science fiction, a significant number of readers, as well as author of the genre suggested Deep Merge, by Linda North.  With many positive recommendations, I had to check it out.  Instantly I fell in love.  How wonderful:  Deep Merge contained my favorite themes: dystopia, space travel, space-society, and time-travel.   Even better, the plot was lesbian focal.   Imagine my glee.

After reading Deep Merge, I felt compelled to review it, first on Amazon, then on this blog.  I passed the word in a host of FaceBook groups.   In short order, not only did I become a Linda North fan, we became friends, as well.

In the course of a few conversations, I asked Linda if she would be willing to answer a few questions about writing science fiction, as that is my main area of focus.   She agreed to do so.

The interview, by way of questionnaire, takes place below:

 

QR: Assume that the readers don’t know much about you and your works. What would you like to tell them? As a reader/writer, I prefer the non-publisher version of background information.   The non-publisher or promotional packet information seems more intrepid, approachable.   So, if you were to introduce yourself to someone at a party, how would that differ to your professional introduction?

LN: I’m retired since 2010. I worked for the state of Florida in various social work related fields. I have been writing since 2006. I started out writing Star Trek Voyager fan fiction under the name cygirl1. My main focus was pairing B’Elanna Torres with Seven of Nine. I also wrote two Janeway/Seven stories. Writing was a way for me to relax after a strenuous workday. It was never an ambition of mine to be an author. I’m an unabashed romantic and believe in happy endings. My Star Trek Voyager stories can be found here. http://janewayandseven4ever.com/

WIND AND DREAMS is a combination of a historical novel (1901-1902) combined with the fantasy of a secret kingdom deep in the Sahara Desert ruled by a female pharaoh. It also delves into reincarnation and the role the ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses play. Rose McLeod is very much an all American woman of that time period. Merytneit, the ruler, believes in the ancient Egyptian Gods and Destiny. Her culture is a reflection of ancient Egypt around the 4th century A.D. She rules supreme, her will is law, and she is arrogant and feels entitled. Cultures and beliefs clash. Each woman must push aside many of their cultural biases if love is to prevail.

DEEP MERGE takes place in this time period and involves an alien abduction of an Earth woman. Antonia Kaye Lorne (Toni) finds herself in a situation where she has to put aside her fears to assist an alien, Kaesah, in reaching her home world with vital information to prevent a possible extinction of her species and possible dire consequences for Earth. Kaesah doesn’t like humans, but to reach her home, she must form an amicable bond with Toni. This is not just a story about cultural differences and acceptance, but also about earning trust.

QR: Every writer has to be asked this question: who were your biggest literary influences?

LN: For science fiction there was Frank Herbert’s DUNE series, James Tiptree Jr., and Ray Bradbury. Also, Analog and Galaxy magazines. They contained stories by many well known science fiction writers.

 

QR: Did you read science fiction or fantasy as a kid? If so, who were your favorite authors? If not, when did you start reading this genre? As a kid I read thousands of comic books.

LN: As a kid I read thousands of comic books. Wonder Woman, Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Super Man, along with other heroes and heroines. I read all the SPACE CAT series written by Ruthven Todd. During my teen years, I started reading science fiction novels and short stories.

 

QR: What led you to science fiction? Was it real world events, like space travel, or something else?

LN: Science fiction opens up the imagination to “what ifs” and other possibilities, some outside the limits of nature and the natural order as we know it. What if Earth is invaded by aliens? What if someone invented a time machine and stopped Alexander the Great from invading Persia. What if we discovered faster than light travel.

 

QR: Science fiction, as a genre, is fraught with important, real world issues, like big government, war and imperialism, oppression (gender, class, race), exploration of sexuality, and possible futures, including that based on technology.   Your books explore these themes, undoubtedly. Do you do so purposely or unconsciously?   That is, do these ideas come out in your plots because such things are important to you already and thus, come onto the page, or do you have ideas that you wish to explore? Another way to put this would be: what moves you to write about such themes; perhaps as a reaction to society in its current state of affairs?

LN: Both purposely and unconsciously. In DEEP MERGE, I touch on homophobia, technology, religion, and to some degree, sexuality. This was necessary as the story deals with an alien culture and the culture of a segment of American society rooted in southern religious beliefs. My main characters are shaped by their culture, as are humans in general. When my characters discuss aspects of their cultures with each other, they let go of many beliefs they took for granted.

 

QR: Do you think that science fiction or fantasy is marginalized as genre? Why or why not?   Within that scope, do you think that women writers of the genre are ever more marginalized, relegated to “chick lit?”

LN: Truthfully, I’ve never delved into this subject with any great thought. I write what I want to read. I don’t worry about an audience for what my stories.

 

QR: Is writing in the sphere of les-fic particularly important to you?   Why so? Do you think that becomes a limiting factor in readership to your detriment in some way?

LN: I’m a lesbian and like to read stories about lesbians. Since I write what I want to read, and lesbians are the main characters, I think my stories would appeal mainly to lesbians. If that limits my audience to mainly lesbians, so be it. I think stories written by lesbians for lesbians and about lesbians are important to lesbians in general. To me as a reader a lesbian author shares an identity and experiences that I can relate to on a more personal level and this is often found in the lesbian stories they write.

 

QR: I think that your writing is deeply philosophical in a multitude of ways. If you were to think about that statement, how would you respond?

LN: My characters, in a lot of ways, have a little of reflections about myself at various stages in my life. Naturally, my stories contain some of my philosophy on life.

 

QR: Lighter question: what are you reading right now?

LN: THE VIKINGS. VOYAGERS OF DISCOVERY AND PLUNDER.

 

QR: Do you have a playlist that you go to while writing?

LN: Sometimes. I like classical and New Age instrumentals. Songs with vocals distract me.

 

QR: Anything that you would like to say in parting?

LN: To you who want to start writing, write from your heart and soul the stories that you want to read. Don’t worry about what is popular. Write for yourself.

Thanks for letting me participate.

QR: No, thank you!

 

 

Binge Reading and Bias: Detecting Dominance, Recovering the Female and Perceiving Lesbian

Queerly Reading Fantasy and the Dark Side of Things

Finding my way to Lesbian Science Fiction Writers — Part 1, Bookshelves

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The binge/path that lead me to search for lesbian writers of fantasy and science fiction,  took a fairly classic path, literally. I decided one day to re-read the Hobbit.

Of course, after the Hobbit,  I, had to re-read every other work by Tolkien. Hobbit1

Upon finishing Tolkien, Ray Bradbury caught my attention.

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Bradbury sparked my desire to re-visit Orwell.

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Orwell reminded me that I really enjoyed Asimov.

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Asimov propelled me back Herbert’s Dune…

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The Dune series lead me to checking out a bit of Orson Scott Card.

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Deciding that post-apocalyptic darkness was appealing for a time,

I went to read a bit of William Gibson.

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So I went down a path of cyberpunk and dystopian tales for a time.

Feeling that the dystopian perspective highlighted my own nihilistic tendencies, I picked up Terry Goodkind.

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While in the bookstore…

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Interviews with fantasy/sci-fi authors

 

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An excellent part of reviewing books is meeting the authors.   What’s even better, is when authors agree to participate in interviews — not as a means for book promotion, but as a means of helping out another writer with her research.  In the coming days, interviews will be posted by authors who have agreed to help me with my book on the genre of Fantasy, especially on the dark side of that spectrum.

To date, Linda North, author of Deep Merge  and SY Thompson, author of Fractured Futures and Destination Alara have agreed to participate.   The interviews, along with links to their books and reviews thereof, will be posted next week, beginning Monday, 7/14.2014 with an interview with Linda North.

 

 

 

If I Die Before I Wake, debut novel by Liz McMullen

 

 

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If I Die Before I Wake, debut novel by Liz McMullen

Rarely does a novel captivate me, grab my attention within the first few chapters, and keep me spellbound from beginning to end.   Liz McMullen’s novel,  If I Die Before I Wake,  did just that.   For a book to have the capacity to touch this writer on such a deeply personal level seems remarkable enough; however, given that the novel possesses a paranormal nature, makes that connection quite eerie.   Perhaps Liz McMullen has a touch of witchcraft in her writing.    Needless to say, before even reviewing the plot, I admit that I absolutely love the book.   It will be on my shelf to be reread, with a few other novels that strike a personal chord.

Certainly If I Die Before I Wake contains all the elements of a good paranormal horror novel: death of a beloved grandparent, an heirloom that bridges the real world and the world in-between, ghosts, witches, darkness. These elements are well crafted into a storyline that reaches beyond the standard paranormal horror tale, not just with the addition of an extremely sexy lesbian romance, but in how McMullen links the pieces together.   McMullen develops a highly symbolic tale beginning with the title, (the main line of a prayer that many children recite in order to ward off nightmares,) to the names of the characters, which symbolically connect to that prayer, as well as to the necessity for uttering such words.   In doing so, a magical sense of continuity evolves. In this writer’s opinion, the ability to create such a sense of connectivity, not as allusion, but in such a subtle manner that one wouldn’t even notice unless struck by it, goes beyond simply being good authorship, but wonderful story-telling.

While Liz McMullen may already have a great following in her blog, The Liz McMullen Show, she should continue writing novels. Her following will continue exponentially if she does so.   She definitely had a fan in me.

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Review: Surviving Reagan

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Just the title, Surviving Reagan, provoked emotion in this reader. Perhaps, my age set the stage for a host of thoughts about those extremely homophobic years, the ultra conservatism, and the growing apocalyptic view within a militaristic framework, not even touching upon the economic issues fraught within that administration. Certainly, this romance doesn’t precisely touch upon such things, per se, although the unsettled Middle East, a present day context of extreme misogyny and a war machine does work well as a setting to maintain my initial reactions.   Additionally, the events that occur to the protagonists, Chad and Reagan, bespeak of a world still battling with these issues.   However, Surviving Reagan is a romance tale, one that reaches readers on a variety of levels. If one seeks a well-written romance story filled with the emotional turmoil extant between lovers whose love has destiny wrapped around it, intrigue and adventure, then Isabella’s writing fills that bill.   Alternatively, if one seeks a novel that raises provocative issues, social issues that beset every lesbian, while cast within a love story, issues that are at once humorous and devastating, then this novel can serve that purpose as well.   Isabella delivers a deeply intense novel that is well written, filled with dynamic dialogue, compelling on a multitude of levels, and highly evocative.  

 

 

Reading on The Dark Side: The Compiled List of Series Devoured in 18 Months

Queerly Reading Fantasy and the Dark Side of Things

Women Authors of Series (Only That I Have Read In the Last 18 Months)

Notes and Caveats:

  1.  While I did rate each series, I refrained from reviewing , giving only a quick snippet of the elements/themes focused on within the series.   The series was rated as a complete series, not via individual book.
  2. This list includes anthologies, within which many of the authors are contained.  I did not rate the anthologies.
  3. Included in the list are series & authors that I merely skimmed over or read one book only.   These remain unrated,  as insufficient information available for a fair rating.
  4. Excluded from this list: authors of multiple, single novels which may be connected by theme or genre, but are not series per se.
  5. Male authors are purposely excluded.   Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Terry Goodkind, George R.R. Martin specifically

 

Armstrong, Kelley            …

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