A review of my story “Cold” brings up the question: What is LGBTQ literature?

Broomstick Aviation by Nicc Balce (cover for Crossed Genres Year 1  anthology)In the middle of yesterday’s Anchorage Assembly biz, I got word of an exciting development for my pals at Crossed Genres — & indeed for me. Hence,  in the midst of my Anchorage Assembly livetweeting last night, this tweet:

Tangent is a top review magazine of short science fiction & fantasy; the book they reviewed, Crossed Genres Year One, is collects 12 stories selected from each of the first 12 issues of Crossed Genres — including my short story “Cold,” which was originally published in Crossed Genres Issue #12, the LGBTQ issue.  (You can still read my story online through October.)

Here’s what the review at Tangent, by KJ Hannah Greenberg, says about the anthology:

Cross genre fiction, unlike other sorts of tales, is narrative that aims to succeed, simultaneously, in two or more distinct classes of literature. While there is a deluge of free and often worthwhile speculative fiction available on the Web, sometimes it behooves folk to buy a book or two. In the case of this first volume of Crossed Genres, the anthology’s ten dollar cost is easily justified.

This compilation, which consists of stories culled from the webzine’s site, is, in the least, entertaining, and at its best, provocative. Each month (from the debut issue in December of 2008) provided a different theme, said theme to be crossed with some aspect of science fiction or fantasy. Within Crossed Genres’ covers, fantasy and science fiction mix it up with romance, with crime, with horror and with additional literary foci. The resulting assortment of tales is as weird and wonderful as is chocolate mole liberally spiced with chili peppers or as is a dried beef-based dessert. Simply, the samples offered here will be different from most of the other ones encountered by the majority of readers and if for no other reason are desirable.

Greenberg goes on to review each story in the anthology, concluding,

From lovers whose needs suck away others’ life forces to the foibles of superheroes past their prime, Crossed Genres makes a tasty break from ordinary speculative fiction. This twisted group of stories both inflames and amuses. At ten bucks a pop, it is hard not to recommend its purchase.

I agree!  You can get your own copy of Crossed Genres Year One in print from Amazon or Createspace for $9.99. Or, you can buy it as a PDF download directly from Crossed Genres.

Review of “Cold”

Cold and Long Dark

In spite of my overall pleasure at the good press for CG1, I admit to having mixed feelings about Greenberg’s review of my story. It was overall positive, but to my mind was confused about a couple of things:

Issue Twelve: LGBTQ

Less frightening [than the previous story, which came from CG’s “Horror” issue], but equally alarming is “Cold,” by Melissa S. Green. This story, on the one hand, can be read as a general coming of age story. On the other hand, it can be read specifically as a tale about social groups and their outcasts. Simply, a young lady returns to the neighborhood from which her parents were exiled. Unlike her parents, she experiences a frosty homecoming. Whereas she has matured from her difficult experience, her childhood friends have remained frozen in a system valuing glitzy externalities over fortitude and loyalty. In the end, her best friend, who possibly was also a former lover, thaws a bit toward the main character. The two of them walk off the page toward warmer interpersonal climes.

I had kinda expected that a magazine devoted to reviewing science fiction/fantasy would have attended at least somewhat to the story’s science fictional elements.  Thus, it wasn’t exactly a “neighborhood” that Boleyn and her family returned from,  but from a remote facility on a planet that is being terraformed, & whose human population still cannot live outside the artificial biospheres — out in the Cold of the story’s title.  That setting is important to the story.  Really.

It’s true enough that the story is a coming of age story, & a story about social groups & outcasts.  But it’s not only that.  If you based your knowledge of my story solely on Greenberg’s discussion of it, you wouldn’t even know it was a science fiction story.  Maybe because Greenberg was more focused on whether it was a bona fide genuine fer-true LGBTQ story… which brings us to the part of her review that really bugged me:

I’m a little confused, though, as to why this story is labeled as a “LTGBQ/speculative” cross-genre fiction. The main character’s conflict over the relative importance of trying to fit in is not an experience limited to kids struggling with gender assignment, choice or identification. Most teenagers teeter at that juncture.

Um… so?  Since when was LGBTQ literature limited to themes of struggling with gender assignment, choice, or identification?  And where in hell in my story, anyway, was there any evidence that either Bai or Boleyn were struggling with sexual or gender identity?  Don’t us queers get to have stories that in which we are completely who we are vis-a-vis sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity without even having to comment on that fact?  Sure we do.

And that, of course, is the LGBTQ relevance of my story.  Of course most teenagers struggle about fitting in; why should Bai & Bolyen be any different?  They’re just a couple of lesbian characters inhabiting the story.  Hello? Just as most of us real everyday LGBTQ people live our lives every day without struggling about our sexual or gender identities.

Honestly, most of our struggles are thanks to those non-queer people who can’t deal with us being who we are, in the first place.  I like writing stories in which the non-queer neighbors are just as cool with us, as we are with them.  (And I’m grateful that the world I actually live in is becoming more than way too.)

Greenberg’s review continues,

Further, although Green gives readers a likable protagonist, she does so more through telling than showing. I would have enjoyed this tale more if the writer had been less blatant in her use of metaphor and more subtle in her decrying adolescent traumas.

Well, as the writer in question, I don’t really agree, but read the story & judge for yourself.  And overall, this makes me happy:

Regardless, Melissa S. Green is good at her craft.

Thank you!

I predict that within the next decade, we’ll be reading increasingly sophisticated works from her.

I’d be happy just to ensure that you’ll be reading more works from me, period.  So I’ll get cracking.

Despite my reservations, I appreciate the review.  Kiitoksia paljon.

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