November 1, 2014

‘Best Gay Stories 2014′ Edited by Steve Berman

Posted on August 27, 2014 by in Anthology, Reviews

Lethe Press, the independent press that publishes the annual Best Gay Stories anthologies, takes its name from the river of forgetfulness and oblivion in Greek mythology. With the publication of Best Gay Stories Lethe’s name becomes a bit of a misnomer for two crucial reasons. The first is that most of the twenty stories collected in the 2014 edition deal with memory, to the extent that “memory” means the absence of forgetfulness. Only three of them are in the still-cutting-edge present tense; the rest are firmly in the past, confronting issues of wanting to forget the traumas and stigmas of growing up gay in the previous generation, but also of nostalgia. As editor Steve Berman writes in his introduction, “The men you will meet in these pages are pained by the realizations that they are no longer young boys who can leap off rocks into a swimming pool or can happen upon a tryst without consequence. Some are at the precipice of adulthood, some are already across the great divide of years[...]”. The second reason for the name’s irony is simpler: most of these stories are truly quite memorable and attentive. (more…)

‘Love Burns Bright: A Lifetime of Lesbian Romance’ edited by Radclyffe

Posted on February 11, 2014 by in Anthology, Romance

Many of us grew up with stories which ended with the words, “and they lived happily ever after.” We never knew the rest of the story… how  they managed to live happily ever after. Love Burns Bright is a compilation of short stories which tell the rest of the story. These are mature couples who show, in the words of singer Judy Fjell, “love that goes the distance.” In the story “Sepia Showers,” author Andrea Dale writes, as one of her characters copes with her mother’s dementia, and wonders how she and her partner will age, “Someday, down the line, we might forget the person… but we can never forget the love.” In “Forever Yours, Eileen,” Rebekah Weatherspoon writes about two African-American women who are finally together again after nearly fifty years. Through all those years, they faithfully wrote to each other, staying in touch, but not able to touch each other.

Some of the stories are quite erotic, while others, such as Radclyffe’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” are sexily sweet. Some of the women are living the American dream with a house, jobs, and kids, and yet still working to find ways to keep their love and passion alive. In “Waiting For the Harvest,” Sommer Marsden’s characters successfully explore their passion for each other by using very creative and erotic tools.Chris Paynter’s “Full Circle” begins with two women meeting  at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 and then returning to that special place in 2009, to celebrate forty years together.

Each of these eighteen authors is very skilled at creating characters who are fully developed, and have a compelling story to tell. Many times their situations are very real, as in Dena Hankin’s “Cooling Down and Heating Up.” Her two characters live in a lovely 180-year-old farmhouse  in North Carolina. They are restoring what they can, and going without what they can’t afford, including air conditioning. As the story begins, it’s summer, and one of the characters groans, “I love you sweetheart.  Don’t touch me.”  How they solve their sweaty situations is creatively funny. Catherine Paulssen’s “The Way to a Woman’s Heart” has her characters, Matilda and Olivia, finding some alone time by sending the kids to Matilda’s mother for a vacation.  How the two women handle their alone time is both creative and sexy! English writer Rachel Randall, in her story “Ravens,” gives readers a sex scene in the Tower of London! It happens  in the cell where Sir Walter Raleigh was housed. Randall plays with fantasies as well as a curious raven.

Author Derek Shannon’s two characters include one who is in the Army and deployed. Counting the days and hours until she returns, the couple keeps in touch via telephone calls, some of which are quite sexy! Again and again, the different authors show loving relationships which are held together by creative passion and caring. These are not couples in trouble, but couples who have stayed the distance and made their unions work. They are about women who are growing older together, and experiencing the physical changes that come with aging. In these well-written stories, readers are treated to mature couples who have made their unions work. As more and more states  recognize gay marriages, books that support and celebrate successful relationships are important to couples who are together for the long haul.


Love Burns Bright: A Lifetime of Lesbian Romance
Edited by Radclyffe
Cleis Press
Paperback, 9781627780001, 242 pp.
December 2013

‘Suffered From The Night: Queering Stoker’s Dracula’ Edited by Steve Berman

Posted on December 17, 2013 by in Anthology, Speculative

In the past year, Lethe Press has “queered” Sherlock Holmes (A Study In Lavender, Joseph DeMarco, editor) and Edgar Allan Poe (Where Thy Dark Eye Glances, edited by Steve Berman) and this October turned their queer eye at the original prince of darkness, Dracula. Fourteen authors (some veterans of the earlier volumes and some new) set about exploring the possibility of gay characters in the world Bram Stoker created in his seminal novel, eschewing (for the most part) any version of the Dracula story outside of Stoker’s original. (more…)

‘Boys, An Anthology’ edited by Zach Stafford and Nico Lang

Posted on November 1, 2013 by in Anthology, Nonfiction

Initially, the choice of title, Boys, An Anthology (Thought Catalog), appears merely a cultural response to the way in which Lena Dunham has challenged society to rethink what it means to be a girl. Indeed, an earlier Thought Catalog book explicitly set out to offer alternative female narratives, to widen the discussion that Dunham began. In many ways, that was the intention of Zach Stafford and Nico Lang – “to bring together gay men to tell their stories,” especially those voices that remain marginalised even within the gay community. Nineteen stories from nineteen self-identifying men from around the world, with proceeds from the anthology benefitting the Lambda Literary Foundation. (more…)

‘Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories’ edited by Sacchi Green

Posted on July 18, 2013 by in Anthology, Erotica

When it comes to erotica, and especially erotica anthologies, there’s not a lot of wiggle room; people tend to like them or lump them all together. Since Wild Girls, Wild Nights has the potential to win new readers to the fold, consider this review both an evaluation for the seasoned fan and a welcome to the newbie alike. There’s much here for both of you. (more…)

‘Best Lesbian Romance 2013,’ edited by Radclyffe

Posted on June 5, 2013 by in Anthology, Romance

Best Lesbian Romance 2013  (Cleis Press) is edited by Radclyffe—renowned author and founder/publisher of Bold Strokes Books. In her introduction, Radclyffe discusses how often the words “love” and “romance” are used as though there is no difference in meaning between the two words. She then goes on to discuss and show examples of each of the words. At the end of the introduction, Radclyffe gives her opinion: “Love and romance may defy simple definition, but every story in this collection speaks to the universal thread that binds lovers everywhere—possibility.” What follows are seventeen stories about love and romance. The first story in the collection is set in a small, dusty Spanish village. Ana has returned home to help her mother, who is suffering from old age dementia. Vika, who met and became lovers with Ana in America, has followed her to Ana’s village in Spain. What follows is the delicate rebuilding of their relationship and the rekindling of love. The next selection takes readers to Reno, Nevada. When Sandra and her husband separate, she leaves the small desert town where they lived and moves to Reno.There, Sandra has her first sexual encounter with a woman and discovers passion. The story “Sgt. Rae” explores the possibility of love and romance with two veterans, one disabled. The tenderness and caring in this story shows how love can flourish in very difficult circumstances. “The Loneliest Road” takes the reader back to a famous empty highway in Nevada, and the meeting of two very different women.

‘Who’s Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners’ edited by Jim Elledge and David Groff

Posted on December 16, 2012 by in Anthology, Reviews

Writing may be one of the loneliest professions, but as Velma said to Roxie, we simply cannot do it alone.  That’s the premise of Jim Elledge and David Groff’s eclectic anthology, Who’s Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners (Terrace Books).  The editors have collected essays from a diverse group of gay writers on the people who have inspired them, from literary heroes to those closer to home—including, in more than one case, an actual daddy. (more…)

‘Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscence from the Road’ edited by Michelle Tea

Posted on November 25, 2012 by in Anthology, Reviews

I first saw Sister Spit perform in Portland, Oregon in the early 2000s. Michelle Tea and her gritty gang of dyke writers and poets were legends. Everyone had a story about the crew, who jacked off to what zine, who had gotten high with who before getting sober, or what punk houses had hosted the tour in years previous. There was a scratched Sister Spit CD that we all ripped copies of at the one punk house with a computer capable of doing the job. I remember sitting cross-legged in dirty work pants and a ratty t-shirt on the concrete floor of an underground venue the night of their show—it was magic, and proof that a bunch of dirty fuck-up queers like us had a chance of making it someday. A lot of time has passed for me since that first Sister Spit show, and the days when I listened to their CD recorded over the telephone at full volume on my Walkman, and yet the power of Sister Spit was as magical as ever when I began reading the new Sister Spit anthology: Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscence from the Road (City Lights). (more…)

‘For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home’ edited by Keith Boykin

Posted on October 6, 2012 by in Anthology, Reviews

Despite the social and political progress made by gay men in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, some things—like bullying, bigotry, suicide (attempted and successful), and self-loathing—are constant reminders that there is a need for further change. (more…)

‘The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard’ edited by Tom LĂ©ger and Riley MacLeod

Posted on September 30, 2012 by in Anthology, Reviews

It is difficult to estimate the number of transgender people in the United States. People do not indicate whether they are transgender on a Census form; they will check a box either for their biological sex or intended sex. Some transpeople simply identify as straight men or women, especially if they have completed their transition, and want no further discussion of their previous life. Other transpeople still identify as queer in one way or another, and may always identify as transgender whether or not they choose to transition. For other transpeople, their racial, ethnic, religious, cultural, or professional identity will come before their gendered one. It is a matter of personal choice. For these reasons, while no one has determined the number of transpeople in the United States, if the American transpeople stood up to be counted, they would compose an extremely diverse group of people, impossible to categorize. (more…)