Creating Utopia in Love After the End edited by Joshua Whitehead

“Tomorrow will be kinder,” I whisper as I am swept into the rushing river of my dreams. 

—”The Ark of the Turtle’s Back” by jaye simpson 

Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, edited by Joshua Whitehead, is a follow up to the anthology Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time. These nine stories offer visions of the future that showcase hope and resilience in a ruined world.

Regarding the decision to focus on utopia rather than dystopia, Joshua Whitehead describes it as “…an important political shift in thinking about the temporalities of Two-Spirited, queer, trans, and non-binary Indigenous ways of being. For, as we know, we have already survived the apocalypse—this, right here, right now, is a dystopian present. What better way to imagine survivability than to think about how we may flourish into being joyously animated rather than merely alive?”

In these stories, topics often treated as theoretical in post-apocalyptic fiction are highlighted as realities of Indigenous people. For example, in “History of the New World,” Adam Garnet Jones shows a family being given the “opportunity” to move to another planet. As the protagonist is well aware, she is being asked to leave her ancestral home in order to colonize a planet that has been recently confirmed to have intelligent life—and does not trust her government’s plans for this “new” world and its inhabitants. Her wife, who is a white woman, brushes aside these concerns, insisting that leaving is the best thing for their young daughter. The fissure this creates in their family shows how even in the future, history cannot be ignored. Meanwhile, in “The Ark of the Turtle’s Back,” jaye simpson takes a different tack with the concept of humans moving to another planet, imagining a future in which a select group of people plan to form a healthy and mutual relationship with their new, uninhabited home. 

Not every story grapples with the fate of humanity. In “Eloise” by David A. Robertson, virtual reality allows people to live out whole lifetimes in the span of a few minutes. A young woman who has been ghosted grapples with what another woman is willing to do rather than return her calls. I liked how this story showed that even in a future where technology creates so many grand opportunities for both good and ill, people are still dealing with something as personal as rejection.

As a fan of Darcie Little Badger’s writing, I also enjoyed “Story for a Bottle,” in which a girl is abducted under mysterious circumstances and writes a letter to her sibling. While she tries to escape, she uncovers the secrets of a floating city called New America. This story’s suspense and worldbuilding kept me intrigued through the end. Another story that I found intriguing both in its premise and how it is told is “Seed Children” by Mari Kurisato, which opens with its cyborg protagonist dramatically narrating her situation while bleeding out.

Overall, the stories differ in style as well as apparent audience, with some leaning more YA and some more adult. Though readers may thus end up favoring some stories over others, this anthology has a particularly solid thematic through line that makes it feel like more than the sum of its parts. The protagonists’ worlds have been stolen from them, and they must seek out space to heal and start anew. These characters are searching for security, connection, and home. If any of this resonates with you, I recommend this anthology, which also contains the works of Nathan Adler, Gabriel Castilloux Calderón, Kai Minosh Pyle, and Nazbah Tom.

Though these content warnings aren’t comprehensive, be aware that this anthology contains themes of climate change, colonialism, violence including state violence, bigotry including anti-Indigenous racism, children in peril, and an allegory for conversion therapy. 

10 Sapphic YA Horror Books to Read In October

With fall finally here, you might be looking for some spooky books to read in October and to get you in the perfect eerie mood. Featuring ghosts, aliens, demons, and zombies, these books are a great way to get in touch with your sinister side and prepare yourself for the best night of the year: Halloween!

Before we get into it, it’s important to remember that, as readers, we owe it to ourselves to respect our boundaries and know our limits. This is especially true with horror books, as they can address some heavy topics and depict different levels of gore and bloodshed. Young adult novels are a good way to ease into the genre, but that doesn’t mean that they are free of any type of violence or pain. Make sure to read the content warnings and don’t hesitate to draw the line in the sand if necessary.

That being said, turn off your lights, burn a candle, play some ominous music, and curl up under your blankets. Here are 10 spooky sapphic YA horror novels to check out!

the cover of Night of the Living Queers

Night of the Living Queers: 13 Tales of Terror Delight edited by Shelly Page and Alex Brown

In this YA horror anthology, authors explore a night when anything is possible under the blue moon: Halloween. Featuring queer characters of colour written by queer authors of color, this collection puts some fresh spins on classic horror tropes and tales. The stories are told through the lens of different BIPOC teens, including many sapphic main characters, as they experience the night that changes their lives forever.

This is perfect for people who are still discovering horror and looking to figure out which subgenres they find most entertaining, which messages speak most personally to them, and which themes they’d like to explore further. The anthology touches on a whole plethora of topics such as grief, guilt, race, gender identity, and complex family dynamics, and it features a wide array of subgenres including paranormal horror, monster horror, body horror, and horror comedy.

Content warnings: body horror, gore, blood, suicidal ideation, animal cruelty, death, child death, death of a parent, homophobia, transphobia, violence, racism, grief, blood, bullying, abandonment, mentions of substance abuse, alcohol addiction and drug overdose.

the cover of Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Set in the Alien universe, Alien: Echo follows Olivia and her twin sister, Viola, as their family settles on a new colony world, where their xenobiologist parents expand their research into obscure alien biology. One day, an alien threat unlike any other is seen and, suddenly, their world is ripped apart. Their colony collapses into chaos, and Olivia has to use the knowledge she’s picked up over the years following her parents around the universe to escape the monster and protect her sister, all while grappling with the discovery of a shocking family secret.

This is the perfect novel for sci-fi fanatics, as it really delves into the science at the core of the story, in a way that is suspiciously believable.

Content warnings: body horror, blood, violence, gore, death, child death, death of a parent, animal death, xenophobia, grief, bullying, discrimination, severe injury.

the cover of This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

This Delicious Death by Kayla Cottingham

In this horror comedy, four best friends venture out into the desert for one last music festival before graduation. The twist? They’re zombies. A few years prior, an unknown pathogen was released onto the world, causing certain people to undergo the Hollowing: a transformation that made them intolerant to normal food and unable to gain sustenance from anything other than human flesh. While humanity slowly returned to normal after scientists were able to create a synthetic version of human meat that would satisfy the hunger of these “ghouls”, one of the girls goes feral at the festival and accidentally kills another attendee. The group suspects that someone is drugging them to turn them feral, but can they figure out who it is before they all lose themselves too?

A horror comedy is a great way to get into a spooky mood while still being able to sleep at night. With an all-queer cast, including a bisexual main character, a trans and bisexual love interest, and lesbian and bisexual side characters, this is perfect for people who are looking to sink their teeth into mess and chaos.

Content warnings [as listed by the author]: alcohol consumption by minors, anxiety disorders, blood and gore depiction, body horror, cannibalism, captivity and confinement, dead bodies and body parts, deadnaming, death of a grandparent, death of a sibling, drugging, drug use, fire, grief and loss depiction, gun violence, intrusive thoughts, murder, needles and syringes, nightmares, parental neglect, pandemic, scars, sexism, suicidal ideation, transphobia.

the cover of Burn Down, Rise Up

Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

This is the story of Raquel, a young sapphic Afro-Latina from the Bronx whose mother has recently come down with a mysterious illness that the doctors can’t explain. At the same time, multiple Black kids have been disappearing from the city without a trace, and the police are doing very little to investigate, not particularly concerned about these children’s whereabouts. One day, Raquel’s crush, Charlize, asks for her help to find her recently missing cousin, and the girls end up following an urban legend called the Echo Game, which leads them down to a sinister, unknown, underground part of the city.

This debut novel is a deep dive into the racist policies of the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s, including the redlining, the slumlords, and the gentrification. It is the epitome of “disgusting” and will keep you on edge from start to finish.

Content warnings: gore, violence, death, racism, gun use, police brutality, discussion of cannibalism, fire injuries/burns, missing family members, sick family members, homophobia.

the cover of We Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado

We Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado

In their second novel, We Don’t Swim Here, Tirado tells the story of two Afro-Latina cousins, Bronwyn and Anais. Anais lives in Hillwoods, a small, secluded town to which Bronwyn is forced to move, as her family wants to be near her grandmother in her final moments. However, Bronwyn struggles with the move, as the people in Hillwoods are predominantly white, particularly weird, and eerily standoffish. Her cousin also warns her about some unspoken rule that exists within the town which bans anyone from swimming—a big issue for Bronwyn who was a competitive swimmer back home. The story follows her as she tries to navigate this unsettling community, as well as Anais who tries to keep her cousin in the dark as much as possible and protect her from the town’s sinister past.

If you love sapphic final girls who feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, or characters who try to fight back against the idea that they do not belong or are not allowed to belong in certain spaces, you will love this novel.

Content warnings: body horror, blood, murder, grief, death, child death, racism, hate crime, gun violence, kidnapping, medical content.

the cover of Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill Girls is the story of very different girls who live in a small community on the island of Sawkill Rock. As beautiful as the town may seem, behind the campfires and blue waves crashing against the shore, there lies a dark secret. For decades, girls have been disappearing inexplicably, allegedly taken away by an inhuman spirit. But what happens when the awkward, plain new girl, Marion, unwillingly joins forces with Zoey and Val to fight this legendary evil and save the girls in their community, including themselves?

Featuring a cast of sapphic and asexual main characters, this book is perfect for people who are all about dismantling decades-long, misogynistic traditions and who like a weird, genre-bending twist to their stories. 

Content warnings: gore, violence, blood, murder, aphobia/acephobia, loss of a loved one, grief, child abuse, cults, fire, pedophilia, sexual assault, animal death.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould cover

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Courtney Gould’s debut novel, The Dead and the Dark, is set in smalltown Snakebite, Oregon, where everything seems to be going wrong. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and the community seems hellbent on blaming it all on Logan’s two dads—hosts of a popular ghost hunting TV show—after they’ve decided to return to town. Although Logan has never lived in Snakebite before, she agrees to help Ashley, whose boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, in her investigation into the town’s deepest secrets. As they uncover the truth about the people in their community, they also start to uncover the truth about themselves and their growing feelings for one another.

Great for readers who are looking for some romance in the horror stories they pick up, this book will put you in the perfect eerie mood, while also reminding you of the power of family and love.

Content warnings [as listed by the author]: homophobia, child death, murder, claustrophobia, drowning, slurs.

the cover of Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould

Where Echoes Die by Courtney Gould

In this second novel by Courtney Gould, we follow Beck, a young lesbian who has been struggling since her mother’s death, desperate for things to return to the simpler, happier days of her childhood. Wanting to understand more about her mother, a brilliant but troubled investigative reporter, Beck travels to Backravel, the town that was the center of her mother’s journalistic work for years. Followed by her younger sister, Riley, Beck soon realizes that there is something off about the small, secluded town. Although everyone’s memory seems to be filled with holes and missing information, the people seem eerily at ease with the otherwise inexplicable happenings of their community. With the help of the daughter of the town’s enigmatic leader, Avery, Beck must uncover the secrets of Backravel before her or her sister get hurt… or before she loses herself completely.

Touching on the struggle of death and grief, this novel packs an emotional punch, while keeping its readers guessing from the first page until the very last.

Content warnings [as listed by the author]: death of a parent, death of a loved one, emotional abuse, gaslighting, emetophobia/vomiting.

As I Descended by Robin Talley cover

As I Descended by Robin Talley

In this modern, dark academia retelling of Macbeth, Maria and Lily are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them. The only thing that stands in their way towards a perfect future together is the golden child of their school, Delilah. Maria needs to win the Cawdor Kingsley Prize, as the scholarship money would allow her to attend Stanford and keep her relationship with Lily alive. The problem is that Delilah is seen as the presumptive winner of the award. What she doesn’t know is that Maria and Lily are ready to do anything to make their dreams come true, including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on their school campus.

This book is filled with ghosts, Shakespearian tragedy, and queer teenagers quickly delving into chaos. Featuring a disabled lesbian and her sapphic girlfriend as the main characters, this story will have you questioning the limits to which people will go for love and victory.

Content warnings: blood, gore, death, violence, self harm, suicide, murder, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, lesbophobia, forced outing, forced drug usage, panic attacks, psychosis, racism, slavery, grief, child death, emotional abuse, religious bigotry, bullying, car accident, fire.

the cover of Damned If You Do

Damned If You Do by Alex Brown

Heavily inspired by Filipino folklore, this horror comedy features Cordelia, a high school stage manager who spends her days focusing on the school play, trying to keep up with her grades, and desperately pining over her best friend, Veronica. One day, the demon to which she sold her soul seven years ago comes back to see her under the guise of her new school guidance counselor and requires that she pay back the deed. The two must work together to defeat a different, more powerful demon who looks to harm her hometown and all those in it.

This book features the perfect amount of entertaining high school drama and fiendishly clever demons, all while it explores the type of trauma that some children face at the hands of a parent and the ever-lasting impact that it has on them and those closest to them.

Content warnings: child abuse, murder, violence, gore, blood, body horror, depictions of verbal abuse, mentions of physical abuse, loss of a parent.


Looking for even more sapphic horror books? Check out the Lesbrary’s horror tag for many more sapphic horror recommendations! You can also browse just the YA horror reviews. Happy Halloween reading!

Til reviews The Gathering Dark edited by Tori Bovalino

the cover of The Gathering Dark

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The Gathering Dark is a collection of folk horror short stories. I went into this book expecting the folk horror short stories. The queerness of those stories came as a delightful surprise. I will own outright that whether or not this counts as a sapphic read is debatable.  To me, it does. Out of ten stories, five feature explicitly queer main characters, four of whom are girls. In this review, I will only be addressing those four stories—though the others are solid reads for fans of horror.

The identities and situations are as much a mix as the stories. There’s a character who self-identifies as bi, others who are attracted to other girls and don’t feel the need for definition. Love saves. Love haunts. Love finds itself excluded in favor of a gruesome murder/kidnapping. The book delivers exactly what a short story collection should: varied experiences under a shared theme. Intentionally, that theme is horror. Coincidentally, another theme is queerness.

As with most anthologies, the quality varies. I enjoyed some stories more than others.

Erika Waters’ “Stay” employed the unseen to a haunting and unsettling degree. I still can’t get the implication out of my head.

Hannah Whitten’s “One-Lane Bridge” tapped into the raw rage that serves as both salvation and destruction to far too many girls. It definitely was for me!

And Tori Bovalino’s “Loved by All, Save One” embodied both the fear of a home invasion thriller and the all-too-potent feeling of trauma that might be inherited or ingrained from being a woman in a world and genre that sees female bodies as ripe only for exploitation. (I love horror, but I’m well aware it took a long time to acknowledge girls as anything other than penetrable objects.)

While I felt less connected to Allison Saft’s “Ghost on the Shore”, I can see the appeal in a horror story built around a need that seems fated be, eternally, unrecognized.

I recommend The Gathering Dark to readers looking for a diverse, sapphic, spooky collection. That’s not a mix we often see executed well, and this book was a pleasant surprise!

Susan reviews Alone in Space by Tillie Walden

the cover of Alone In Space

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Alone in Space is a collection of short comics and standalone pieces by Tillie Walden. Some of the pieces have already been released as graphic novels, so they might be familiar to you already.

“The End of Summer”

A royal family and their servants lock themselves away to survive three years of unending winter ahead of them, and the entire family unravels at the seams… I’m not gonna lie to you, I don’t get this one. I understand what is happening, I get all of the individual threads and events, but not the point that it’s building to. And I expect that to a certain extent with Tillie Walden’s work! She’s very good at stories where internal conflict is externalised into a fantastical landscape! I’m quite happy to let them wash over me and figure out the meaning once I’ve got the full picture. But I’ve read The End of Summer three times now and I still can’t tell you what it’s about.

All that said: the art and composition is fascinating. The backgrounds are detailed and intricate, the figures are rougher. The amount of space the cold, swooping architecture takes up on any given page compared to the characters really enhances the loneliness and isolation of the story! And it means that the contrast when the characters are constrained to smaller spaces or places with more texture or a hyper-specific close-up really stands out. I can’t work out if the characters being so much rougher than the objects was an intentional part of the storytelling – a way to show their impermanence or self-destruction, maybe? – but thanks to that I found it hard to tell the characters apart visually. It’s definitely a story that I’ve pondered over, as you might be able to tell. I think I like it on a technical level; I can definitely appreciate it as a demonstration of skill. But on an emotional level, it left me cold…

WAIT, NO, THAT PUN WAS NOT INTENTIONAL —

“I Love This Part”

I’ve been wanting to revisit my review of “I Love This Part” for a while now. It was my first ever review for the Lesbrary, waaaay way back in 2016, and at the time an unhappy ending for queer characters felt like a betrayal of trust. (If anyone else remembers the conversations about dead lesbians in media we were having that year: it made an impression!) Seven years later, I’ve read a lot more media with happy queer characters, so I can better live with the sad ones. I’ve read more of Tillie Walden’s work, so I recognise a lot more about the themes and logic behind her narratives. And with that perspective, I feel like I was unfair about “I Love This Part”. Characters ripping themselves apart on their own internalised homophobia? Still not my preference! But now I can appreciate what the narrative is doing and accept that it’s just not for me, rather than it being a fatal flaw in the work.

This is still a great visualisation of how a relationship can make you feel like the only ones who matter, still a short introduction to Tillie Walden’s style of surreality. It’s just not one that I’m the target audience for, and that’s fine.

“A City Inside”

I’ve also “A City Inside” before, and I’m going to stand by that initial review. It’s full of quiet and melancholy and hope, and I’d definitely recommend it on its own.


The rest of the book is mostly one or two page comics. Some of them are assignments from her studies at the Center for Cartoon Studies, some of them are posters or art pieces. (It blows my mind that Tillie Walden is willing to share the comics she made when she was a teenager. Respect for that courage!) Generally the art and the composition is really good – even the stuff from when Tillie Walden was a teen, what the hell – and it’s really cool to see elements from her later works taking root in these pieces. The limited colour pallettes are often a stand-out piece in her art, so seeing where they started sparked joy for me.

I will say that I had a harder time wrapping my head around some of these stories. They’re all visually striking, and the stories about teens and children feel realistic in their voices! Just some of them need a bit more thinking about. I will say that “Lars and Nemo” and “What It’s Like to be Gay at an All Girls Middle School” are my favourites of the short comics. “Lars and Nemo” shows the protagonist of “The End of Summer” meeting his giant riding cat (!!!), which is obviously great. As for “What It’s Like to be Gay at an All Girls Middle School”: I too went to an all-girls secondary school, so this was uncomfortably familiar! I was surprised by how frankly Tillie Walden showed using heteronormativity as a cudgel to pass under the radar, despite having read Spinning and knowing how upfront she is in her autobiographical works.

Long story short, Alone in Space is a very technically accomplished anthology that’s a great snapshot of how Tillie Walden’s art and storytelling has evolved over her career. If you want to see her short works in context, or if you’ve read On a Sunbeam and want to know what her other stories are like, this is a really convenient collection! But tonally most of the stories are bleak, so be aware of that before you go in.

[Caution warnings: abuse, bullying, confinement, mental illness, terminal illness, murder, suicide, child death, animal death, homophobia, off-screen rape and incest]

Susan is a queer crafter moonlighting as a library assistant. She can usually be found as a contributing editor for Hugo-winning media blog Smart Bitches Trashy Books, or just bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.

Maggie reviews Queer Little Nightmares edited by David Ly and Daniel Zomparelli 

the cover of Queer Little Nightmares

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Queer Little Nightmares, an anthology edited by David Ly and Daniel Zomparelli is a fun and sometimes terrifying collection of queer horror writing. The Lesbrary was provided with a review copy, and I was more than happy to spend time with this collection. Queer Little Nightmares let writers experiment with queerness and horror in a variety of ways. I highly recommend getting your hands on this one if you want some innovative horror writing.

As with any anthology, some stories caught my attention more than others, with my favorites being “Wooly Bully” by Amber Dawn and “Glamour-Us” by Andrew Wilmont. 

“Wooly Bully” is a story about coming of age, queer awakenings in a small town, and werewolves. I absolutely loved all the sensory details, the limits of the narrator’s community, and how deeply she feels within that setting. The enforced gender roles as they learn agricultural skills, the way she is put off by the boys but is fascinated by Brenda, the slow realization that the feelings are real and reciprocated—it is a delightful story of teenage growth and queer desire, and the setting was filled in to perfection. The sort of story where the 4-H fair culture of my youth is turned slightly on its head. 

“Glamour-Us” is at the other end of the spectrum, about a future where it is possible, for enough money, to purchase either a synthetic body or a self-projection that can be customized, with the rich of course using it as a form of eternal youth. Within the LGBT community though, there is immediate debate as to whether that sort of glamour is a brilliant way for people to transition without struggle or for people to experiment or for people who don’t see themselves as one particular gender and want to flip between projections, and whether such technological assistance is exploitive and something the community doesn’t need. I think the story does a great job of bringing into a short story both an echo of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but make it trans,” the sort of inner community debate that would absolutely happen in these circumstances, and how the threat of bigotry is still a horror that always lurks, no matter the technology.

But I enjoyed much of this anthology, and it’s the sort of collection where everyone will have immediate favorites but those favorites will be wildly different. This plays to the biggest strength of this collection which, in my opinion, is the whole range of horror presented, in both prose and poetry format. Horror and monster standards such as werewolves, devils, and creepy carnivals make appearances, but authors also explore how horror interacts with queerness in novel ways, from body horror to love and desire. The editors put together a stunningly broad collection that doesn’t leave you bored. I never knew what sort of story was coming next, and it was a very fun read. I also appreciated that they included both short stories and poetry. I think it presented a varied picture of the complex themes and manner queerness interacts with horror.

In conclusion, if you’re a horror fan you could certainly do worse than picking up Queer Little Nightmares. The range of material gives full scope to queer imagination, and perhaps you will discover new fav authors to follow in the future.

Content warnings: It’s hard in an anthology, particularly a horror anthology, to be comprehensive with warnings but you will find gore, bigotry, body horror, cannibalism, sexual assault, and death at various points within this collection.

Danika reviews Fools In Love: Fresh Twists on Romantic Tales edited by Rebecca Podos and Ashley Herring Blake

Fools In Love cover

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What I love about this collection is that nowhere on it does it say it’s a specifically LGBTQ anthology, but if you read sapphic YA, you’ll recognize those two editors and know you’re in for a treat. This is a collection of stories from fantastic YA authors (Rebecca Barrow, Ashley Herring Blake, Gloria Chao, Mason Deaver, Sara Farizan, Claire Kann, Malinda Lo, Hannah Moskowitz, Natasha Ngan, Rebecca Podos, Lilliam Rivera, Laura Silverman, Amy Spalding, Rebecca Kim Wells, and Julian Winters), each inspired by a romance trope, like Enemies to Lovers or Snowed In Together (a personal favourite).

While these are all love stories of some kind, they cover a range of genres, including fantasy and superhero stories. The first one, “Silver and Gold” by Natasha Ngan, may be my favourite. It’s a second chance F/F romance set during a fantasy dog-sledding competition. Well, wolf-sledding. Across treacherous terrain, and interrupted by a sea monster. And then she gets snowed in together with the competition. Who can resist that?

The first few stories were F/F, which I, obviously, loved. It turns out that there are very few M/F romances in this collection. Most of them are F/F, a couple are M/M, and a couple are M/F. It delights me that this isn’t being marketed as just LGBTQ, because we all know romance anthologies that include no queer people at all, or only one story, so this is a nice reversal. There also wasn’t, if I remember correctly, any homophobia faced in these stories.

As with all anthologies, the range of stories means there are some you’ll enjoy more than others, but overall I really liked this collection. Romance short stories can be tricky for me, because there’s so little space to get to know the characters, but most of these pulled that off and offered satisfying glimpses into these relationships.

Most of the stories play with a few different tropes, despite being assigned to one. There’s a M/M superhero/villain fake dating forbidden romance that’s also childhood friends to lovers, for instance.

Some of the other premises of the stories:

  • a F/F romance where the main character is too awkward to explain to her crush that she is not, in fact, her rideshare driver, so she just drives her to her location. Relatable.
  • a polyamorous M/M/F triad relationship that melted my heart
  • a summer camp where the fat femme main character cosplays as a fairy and falls for another fairy–and also she’s cursed to only tell the truth
  • a cute M/F fake dating at Passover story
  • a girl goes back in time to kill the man who murdered her mother. Instead, she meets the murderer’s daughter and falls in love, before being yanked back to her time
  • a trans M/M boy band romance
  • a F/F scifi princess in disguise romance
  • It’s (probably) the end of the world, with a comet on its way to Earth. What else do you do but break into the zoo with your ex girlfriend to pet the giraffes?

This has all the fuzzy feelings I expect from romance stories, but with a sprinkling of drama and even some action. The variety in genres kept it feeling exciting, and I really liked the tropes format–in fact, I would definitely read anthologies based on just one of many of these tropes (did I mention I am obsessed with the Snowed In Together trope?) If you want a cozy romantic read this December, this is a perfect choice.

Sash H reviews Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers edited by Cat Fitzpatrick and Casey Plett

Meanwhile, Elsewhere cover

Science fiction shows us worlds of great technological advances and sweeping social changes. It shows us worlds similar to ours where a few fundamentals have changed, or lands beyond the stars vastly different to our own. But it does not always show us what it is like to be trans or queer in those worlds.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere compiles 25 stories from trans writers in a contemporary anthology so amazing that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I put it down.

Each story has a trans protagonist and often queer/lesbian/sapphic relationships are a significant point, though not always. Sometimes those relationships are just in the background, but they’re still as vital to the characters in making them who they are. Sometimes a character is just a lesbian in passing, but the narrator isn’t part of that relationship. This collection affirms so many ways to be queer and interact with other LGBTQIA+ people in our communities and around us. It’s a delight to read.

“What Cheer” is a soft, half-sad but half-hopeful story about being with yourself (who sort of isn’t yourself) for a day. “Delicate Bodies” is a darkly humourous take on coming to terms with one’s body and getting over your exes during a zombie outbreak. “Satan, Are You There? It’s Me, Laura” deals with its surreal events in a matter of fact way that it takes you along for the ride. “Heat Death of Western Human Arrogance” is a love story between an alien and her lover dealing with their very different paths through life.

There really is something for everyone. And it all feels incredibly thoughtful, gripping and honest, with each writer in the anthology contributing a unique voice and prose style. Nothing feels same-y and, with the massive variety of stories, there isn’t a weak link in the bunch.

Of course, queer sci fi isn’t entirely new. The lesbian vampire novel Carmilla was written in the 1800s, and Melissa Scott has been writing LGBTQ sci-fi since the 1980s. As television and movie visibility for queer characters in these genres increases, so does the variety of stories we are able to tell, experience and see ourselves in. Meanwhile, Elsewhere contributes something of excellent quality to this list.

For anyone who is some flavour of queer and is feeling underrepresented in this genre, for anyone who wants to read more work with a non-cis, non-straight, non-male protagonists, for anyone who simply wants more science fiction with a refreshing variety… read this book.

Rating: *****

Kayla Bell reviews Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology edited by Celine Frohn

Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology edited by Celine Frohn

Gothic fiction is my jam. I love the slowly building sense of dread that is the cornerstone of the genre. If I could have the job of any fictional character, it would be the creepy groundskeeper of the haunted manors in gothic ghost stories. I also (as you can imagine from me writing for this website) love queer stories. Looking back, my favorite horror and gothic books have consistently been those with queer elements. So as soon as I saw Unspeakable on the list of books up for review, I knew I had to read it. I’m happy to say that this short story collection lived up to my high expectations.

While all of the stories include gothic elements, they are all very different. The stories run the gamut from classic, historical gothic horror to modern-day shapeshifter romance. This collection is stronger for the diversity in storytelling that it holds. I loved the ones that had explicit sapphic relationships, but the ones without them were just as good, too.

One feature that really stood out to me in this collection was the setting. As I said, I love classic gothic stories. So every story that took place in an old, desolate home overlooking a grey sea made me very happy. The stories that I thought used setting to their advantage the most were “Hearteater” by Eliza Temple and “Quicksilver Prometheus” by Katie Young. Both of these stories used the grey, dark classic gothic setting to show the inner minds of their main characters. “Quicksilver Prometheus” also stood out to me because of its brilliant use of historical elements. That was definitely one of the best stories in the collection for me. Other stories that had amazing settings were “Moonlight” by Ally Kolzow and “The Moon in Glass” by Jude Reid.

Three of the other stories also stood out to me as being exceptionally good. The first was “Laguna and the Engkanto” by Katalina Watt. This sea creature horror story incorporated the culture of the Philippines to create a truly unique and horrifying tale. Watt’s writing was also featured in another one of my favorite recent anthologies, Haunted Voices. I will definitely be seeking out more of her work.

“Homesick” by Sam Hirst almost made me cry. I wasn’t expecting such a profound and beautiful love story between two ghosts. In my opinion, it also had the best opening line in the book (and maybe of any short story I’ve ever read). This one was simple, but incredibly beautiful. It will certainly stick with me.

Finally, “The White Door” by Lindsay King-Miller turned a classic story on its head and proved that gothic stories can absolutely work in a fantasy setting. I was impressed by how well this one drew on standards set by classic works in order to create something completely unique. It also had an amazing and very chilling ending.

Overall, I really loved this anthology. I can see myself rereading it at night in October, waiting for something spooky (and potentially even sapphic) to happen.

Kayla Bell is the pen name of an author, reviewer, and lover of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. You can catch up with her on Instagram @Kreadseverything for more book reviews and updates about her writing.

Danika reviews Love after the End edited by Joshua Whitehead

Love After the End edited by Joshua WhiteheadLove after the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit & Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead is a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories by Indigenous authors. It’s edited and introduced by Joshua Whitehead, the author of Jonny Appleseed and full-metal indigiqueer. In that introduction, Whitehead reflects on the intersection between Indigeneity and queerness: “How does queer Indigeneity upset or upend queerness? Are we queerer than queer?” He goes on to explain that originally, Love after the End was going to be a collection of dystopic stories, but they pivoted towards utopias: “For, as we know  we have already survived the apocalypse—this, right here, right now, is a dystopian present.”

The introduction alone is thought-provoking and sometimes intimidating. Whitehead brings his study of theory to this work, and some of the ideas went over my head. I appreciated being introduced to these ideas, though, and it definitely left me thinking, including his mention of “contemporary erasures and appropriations of the term Two-Spirit by settler queer cultures who idealize, mysticize, and romanticize our hi/stories in order to generate a queer genealogy for settler sexualities.” Besides, this is an anthology by and for Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous people; as a white settler reader, I know I’m not going to understand every reference. The authors are from many nations across North America, and many stories include untranslated words from different Indigenous languages.

Although the introduction is academic, the stories themselves are written accessibly. They cover a lot of different topics, but many come back to the idea of space travel, and especially of evacuating a dying Earth. In one story, a portal is made that allows travel to an almost identical, uninhabited planet. The main character has a white partner who doesn’t understand the main character’s reluctance to leave, or her distrust of the supposedly peaceful government’s settlement of a “new world.” The Earth is ravaged, and left for dead by most–Indigenous communities are some of the few people who are willing to stay. Another story has the characters’ escape hinge on space travel that will use the Earth’s kinetic core energy to fuel it, leaving the planet destroyed. Each character has to decide whether they will stay or go, and what that means for their identity and relationship with place.

As I was reading Love after the End, I was reminded just how colonialist SFF often is as a genre, whether it’s about “conquering new worlds” and literally establishing colonies, or centring Medieval England in fantasy stories, or just holding up white, straight, cis, male protagonists as the heroes. This collection is such a refreshing change of perspective. These stories include a relationship with the land that isn’t common in science fiction stories. They assume a greater responsibility for protecting the Earth than I’m used to from a dystopia. The question of whether to stay on a planet that’s been destroyed by (white, wealthy) human activity is very different here than in a typical white space travel story.

“How to Survive the Apocalypse for Native Girls” is about a “Native girl who loves other girls” writing a manual on how to survive in this post-apocalyptic landscape. It’s also an exploration of what systems would replace the white colonial system once it collapsed. She explains, “See, when the borders broke, people decided that Kinship should be our main law instead. Except the problem was that Kinship means different things to different people. And sometimes people who should see each other as kin, inawemaagan, reject each other.” She loves and respects her culture, but is also critiquing this new system of power: who is left out? She find that Two-Spirit people, including her friends, are not always respected the way they should be. She grapples with the idea of what it means to be kin, and who decides.

Many of these stories use Nation-specific language for identity, which doesn’t neatly map onto white, European categories:

“The boys made fun of Kokomis ’ shirt. They said I’m a girl and girls shouldn’t wear men’s clothes. They said I’m wrong.” Her mother crooned. She gently grasped her face. “When you were born, your Kokomis held you in his arms and he looked at me with tears running down his face because he had been waiting his whole life for another îhkwewak like him, and there you were, I gave birth to you, and I was never more grateful for anything else in my life. You are a gift, Winu. And people are often jealous of gifts that are not for them.”

Reading this collection also reminded me of what I’ve read about Indigenous survivance. Gerald Vizenor, the Anishinaabe scholar who coined the term, says: “Native survivance stories are renunciations of dominance, tragedy, and victimry.” I recommend reading more about it, including at survivance.org. The stories in Love after the End position Indigenous people in the future, instead of the past. They frame Indigenous nations as not only subsisting, but using traditional knowledge and culture as strengths in current and future societies.

… There’s also an m/m romance story between a teenage boy and an AI who is also a cyberengineered super-intelligent rat! (In this story, same-sex relationships are accepted, but human/AI romantic relationships were the “the sort of thing that was whispered about, something that lived in the shadows.”)

I really enjoyed this collection, both as an addition to queer lit and as a much-needed collection of SFF. This is a great way to be introduced to a lot of talented authors, some of whom also contributed to Love Beyond Body Space and Time and some who are new to this collection. Usually in an anthology, I concentrate on the sapphic stories, but because Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer identities don’t neatly fit into white western categories of sexuality, I’m not going to try to separate those out. I will say that I think this collection is definitely relevant to Lesbrary readers, and it left me hungry for more Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer SFF!

Danika reviews Be Gay, Do Comics!: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from the Nib

Be Gay, Do ComicsBe Gay, Do Comics is an anthology with more than 30 contributors, all discussing some aspect of queer life. This was a refreshingly diverse and thought-provoking collection. Most anthologies in this vein that I’ve read have played it pretty safe: they’ve usually been very white, and mostly focused on gay cis men, with the overarching message being one of acceptance. Be Gay, Do Comics covers a wide range of topics from a lot of different voices, including many artists of color and trans artists, and includes comics about queer liberation and resisting assimilation.

There is a mix of one-page comics and longer pieces, with some being fairly simple one-off jokes or observations and others looking at queer history. I was especially interested in the comics that looked at queer history and culture that is lesser known, including looking at gay characters in Puerto Rican TV shows, comparing that to the history and present state of LGBTQ rights in Puerto Rico. Another explores how LGBTQ people have been treated in the Philippines, pre-colonialism up to the present. There is also a comic including interviews from queer parents raising kids in Malaysia.

Some comics are biographies of queer people in history I wasn’t aware of, including Gad Beck, a gay Jewish spy, and Baron von Steuben, an openly gay military leader in the American Revolution. Some of these figures at larger than life, others are everyday. Others look at events, such as Hazel Newlevant’s comic about queer uprisings that preceded Stonewall, or an explanation of the Lavender Scare, or the history of the rainbow flag.

Of course, there are also a lot of personal stories included. Some talk about exploring their gender, or coming out. One is about being non-binary while taking folk dancing lessons. Another talks coming out in their late 30s, and the pride and embarrassment and mourning of that–mourning for their younger out queer self who never was. While I’m used to LGBT anthologies being mostly cis gay men, there were lots of trans comics in this one, and even an intersex contribution. There was also a variety both in identities and politics, including a comic about gay Republicans, comics about gatekeeping in the queer community, and one about gay liberation.

It’s hard to speak about an anthology like this in a cohesive way, because they are all so different: in art style, tone, topic, and identity. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Although as always there were some comics I liked more than others, there weren’t any that I felt were weak. It’s a great opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different artists as well. This is one I would happily recommend. It’s not focused specifically on lesbians and bi women, but there is definitely sapphic representation. I’m happy to see that queer anthologies are expanding to be a little more challenging and diverse than they were just a handful of years ago.