Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction

Edited by K.M. Szpara. Lethe, $20 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-59021-617-0
First-time editor Szpara shoots the death-obsessed conventions of transgender narratives into space with this splendid collection of 15 speculative works by trans authors, starring trans characters, and/or featuring themes of transformation, placing gender’s many permutations under a warm and welcoming spotlight. Beginning with Nino Cipri’s “The Shape of My Name,” a nonlinear, barely binary tale of coming out via time travel, and ending with Penny Stirling’s “Kin, Painted,” a search for self through paint and myriad gender identities, Szpara stitches together a collection that feels like a cozy blanket for trans readers who long for inclusive fiction (and for cis readers who may well wonder why there’s so much gender-essentialism in everyday SF/F). Though some of the works are either a little overwrought or a touch underdone, the breadth of voices is dazzling, and many stories are outstanding; highlights include Alexis A. Hunter’s “Be Not Unequally Yoked,” about an Amish boy learning to live with the mare who literally lives inside him; A. Merc Rustad’s “Where Monsters Dance,” in which a cis woman rescues her trans girlfriend from a fairy tale gone wrong; and Molly Tanzer’s “The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad,” a foray into gender-twisting Lovecraftian horror. This is a timely (which is to say long overdue), wide-ranging, and highly enjoyable collection. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2016
Genre: Fiction
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