Thursday, June 21, 2012

Queering the landscape

Over at, Brit Mandelo ponders the place of Bending the Landscape in the queer speculative fiction firmament:

In the late nineties, Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel produced a landmark series of anthologies collecting gay and lesbian speculative fiction: the Bending the Landscape books, published by Overlook Press. These books have become, in a real sense, classics of queer speculative fiction, and so I’d like to talk a little about them—honor their contribution to the conversation, and introduce them to new readers, too.
The series is made up of three books, each featuring a different genre: science fiction, fantasy, and horror. They were published from 1996-2001. Between them, they won a World Fantasy Award, two Lambda Literary Awards, and two Spectrum Awards—as well as being finalists for an ALA Stonewall Award and a Locus Award. “Time Gypsy” by Ellen Klages, from Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction, was a nominee for the Hugo for Best Novelette in 1999, and for the Nebula in 1998.
It's an interesting piece. I'll look forward to reading more.

I've talked before about putting these books together. They were an enormous amount of work but I'm proud of them. They broke new ground. For some of the writers, it was their first published work; for others, it was their first published f/sf; for yet others, it was their first queer fiction. As Mandelo points out, I was trying to do several things at once.

However, I think the Horror volume was less than a perfect success. This is partly because horror combined with queer leads to some unhappy story confluences: a lot of shame about being different. Not a great message to send, but I had to trust readers, after two pervious volumes, to see the characters as human, not types. Also, to be frank, I'm just not a big fan of horror--for some of the same reasons I don't much care for noir (which I think is the horror fiction of the crime genre). The tropes lead the protagonist and therefore reader into a descending spiral, and removes the possibility of hope. And I like hope, in life and in story.

So the volume as whole wasn't perfect, but there were some truly superb stories. In my opinion the strongest was L. Timmel Duchamp's "Explanations Are Clear." In an alternate universe we lead with that story, and it gets the attention it deserved. But the book is what it is, and, on the whole, it's worth reading.

One day I'll have to see about getting them all back into print. I think they'd make nifty ebooks.
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