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There are dozens of new books to choose from each month if you’re a fan of f/f or m/m romance, never mind the m/f romance that’s been booming for decades. But what if you want to read a “happily ever after” or “happy for now” story that includes a trans person? Or someone who is asexual and/or aromantic? Those are much harder to find, especially if you want stories that don’t fling themselves (sometimes willfully, it seems) into the pitfalls of stereotypes and damaging, or even triggering, representation.
Queerly Loving (Volume 1) is a short story collection that gives happy endings to a range of LGBTQA+ characters, by authors who themselves are from across the LGBTQA+ spectrum. The nine stories are so varied in style and content that there is sure to be something for everyone. Want to read a fluffy contemporary YA story with a Jewish trans boy and his crush? It’s in there and it’s called “Miss Me With That Gay Shit (Please Don’t)” by Sacha Lamb. How about a science fiction story with lesbians, nonbinary people and a trans woman, that features a poly triad rescuing their friend’s girlfriend? It’s in there too, and it’s called “A Gallant Rescue” by A.P. Raymond! Best of all, because the stories celebrate queer love in many of its possible forms, nobody dies or gets their heart broken, and it’s glorious.
Unless you’re particularly interested in the theme of an anthology, it can be hard to know whether you’re likely to enjoy one or not. It’s not unusual to pick up a collection only to find one or two excellent stories, a few very good ones, one terrible story, and the rest falling somewhere in between. Not so with Queerly Loving, where all of the stories are engaging and interesting, and many of them warm and lovely.
The writing style and genres vary from story to story. In addition to the contemporary YA and science fiction stories I just mentioned, readers are treated to fantasy worlds with magic and dragons, teen girls in the 80s who bond over typing tournaments, a short one-act play about young girls in 1879, and a grad student and a park ranger finding lust and possibly more in the mountains of contemporary Colorado. No two stories are alike, even when they share the same genre—except, of course, that they all deliver a happy sigh by the end—because they each explore queerness in different ways.
Particular standouts include “First Light at Dawn” by Nyri Bakkalian, told in email form from one trans veteran to another, sharing how her life has changed since they were in the service together; “Dragons Do Not” by Evelyn Deshane, about a woman who learns that not everything she’s been told about her companion dragon is as true as she was led to believe; and “Birthday Landscapes” by E H Timms, about an aromantic warrior with magical powers and his family as he comes home to celebrate his twins’ birthday.
Because the stories aren’t connected by anything except that they all provide a happy ending, no matter the characters’ sexual orientation or gender presentation, the shift from genre to genre can sometimes be jarring. Readers are moved between contemporary, historical, and futuristic settings, with a third of the stories being fantasy. Starting a new story requires finding your feet each time in a way that’s different than it might be when reading an anthology with a tighter theme, but each story is so lovely that discovering them is a delight. The heat level in the stories also varies, with many of them having no sex and a couple with explicit sex on the page, always in a way that’s fitting for the each story being told.
The blurb for Queerly Loving says “Get ready for your queer adventure,” which is an apt catchphrase. Each story is sure to make your heart happy and full of hope that everyone can have a happily ever after. You won’t be able to read these stories without a smile and many of them will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading them.
Queerly Loving (Volume 1)
Edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz
Paperback, 9783955339517, 190 pp.