Bending the Landscape: Fantasy
Reviewed by Carl Cipra
Edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel
Rating: none given
The first volume of Bending the Landscape, a new three-volume
anthology of gay/lesbian F&SF short fiction, hit the bookstands about
a month ago. It's called Bending the Landscape: Fantasy; and if this
book is any indication of what the entire series will be like, then I'm
really looking forward to the upcoming two companion volumes (reportedly
entitled BtL: Science Fiction and BtL: Horror).
In this volume's Forward, editors Nicola Griffith and Stephen
Pagel say that their intention was to have "queer writrs write fantasy
for the first time and genre writers explore queer characters" and to feature
works by "a group of talented newcomers and award-winning genre veterans."
And, to my mind, they've made some great choices for this anthology!
This is a collection of well-written fantasy with "queer themes" by authors
who seem to have a "feel" for the genre - not just gay/lesbian erotica
with a thin veneer of fantasy slathered on.
In case the names of the editors seem somehow familiar to you, just
let me remind you that Nicola Griffith is a two-time winner of the Lambda
Literary Award in the category of "Fantasy and Science Fiction" (for her
novels Ammonite and Slow River); and Stephen Pagel is Director of Sales
at White Wolf Publishers (known for publishing fine works of F&SF),
as well as a frequent Gaylaxicon guest.
Bending the Landscape: Fantasy features an excellent collection
of 22 all-original pieces of gay/lesbian short fantasy fiction. Virtually
all aspects of "fantasy" literature are explored: contemporary urban
fantasies, a vampire tale, a few "Orientalist" fantasies, some ghost stories,
some classic "high fantasy" tales - as well as a couple of stories that
I personally would have classified as "science fiction."
It's always difficult to figure out which of an anthology's stories
to include in a review, so I'll just mention a few of my personal favorites
here. There's K.L. Berac's witty little magical mystery "Magicked
Tricks," in which some friends try using unfamiliar magick to solve the
apparent murder of a one-night-stand. There's Lisa Silverthorne's
"The Sound of Angels," the poignant tale of a lesbian couple's last moments
together - just the two of them, a mind-link, and a pod of killer whales.
In "Expression of Desire," Dominick Cancilla relates an eerie story about
a lesbian vampire-artist's unique "closet lifestyle." For fans of
the "Thieves World/Sanctuary" shared universe, Robin Wayne Bailey has written
a new story about the gladiator/lovers Dismas and Gestus; it's entitled
"The Stars Are Tears" and it's definitely a new twist on the old "boy-meets-?"
story. Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman have teamed up (and what a
high-powered team it is!) to co-author "The Fall of Kings," which is set
in the same world as Kushner's fabulous novel Swordspoint - but two generations
later. And then there's perhaps my favorite, Tanya Huff's "In Mysterious
Ways" - a delightful new story about Terizan the thief and her intrigues
with the powers-that-be in the Thieves' Guild, this time involving the
theft of a creatively-vengeful godling's eye.
There's some very entertaining reading in here! Not a clunker
in the lot! If you're looking for enjoyable, well-written fantasy
stories featuring gay and/or lesbian characters, then this book is a "must
read." And definitely look for Bending the Landscape: Fantasy (and
probably it's companion volumes, too!) among future lists of Lammy nominees!