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The Future is Queer: A Science Fiction Anthology by Richard Labonte
Review by Cathy Green
Arsenal Pulp Press Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1551522098
Date: 01 November, 2006 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The Future Is Queer, edited by Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel, collects eight stories dealing with gay, lesbian and transgender identity. The collection features one very well known author, Neil Gaiman, collaborating with artist Bryan Talbot (The Tale of One Bad Rat, Luther Arkwright) and seven less well known authors with L. Timmel Duchamp and Rachel Pollack being the best known of the rest. This should in no way be considered a negative, as one of the reasons for buying anthologies or year's best collections is to read authors with which one was previously unfamiliar. Hopefully this anthology will give some of the authors the wider audience they deserve.

The first story "Obscure Relations", by L. Timmel Duchamp is as much about the ethics of cloning as it is about sexual identity. The story starts out with one of the clones of a well-known, rich politician killing the original and taking over his life. The politician kept a compound full of clones, none of whom are considered people in their own right and all of whom have had their personalities adjusted and modified to suit their former owner, including having their sexual desires "turned off". The story deals with the clone's struggles pretending to be his former master while attempting to exert his own will, and his burgeoning sexual desires and interaction with the other clones. Given that all the people in the story are clones, in many ways the sexual desire is more like an extremely extroverted form of self-love, but one of the points the story gets across is that despite growing up in the same environment and being treated exactly the same way, the clones all have different personalities.

"Instinct" by Joy Parks is an interesting take on identity politics that posits that acceptance of the fluid nature of sexuality by society as a whole could actually destroy the gay community because an essential part of queer identity is the outsider status and the risks and costs that go with it. In the story, the lesbian protagonist, unlucky in finding love in a society where anything goes, resorts to a form of time travel in order to find what she craves. "The Chosen Few" by Caro Soles is a gays in the military story, and in my opinion the least successful story in the book, although it does drive home the point that soldiers will do their duty regardless of to whom they are attracted. "...the darkest evening of the year..." is an interesting holiday celebration story by Candas Jane Dorsey in which the gender of the protagonist is deliberately left ambiguous until about two-thirds of the way through the story. Neil Gaiman and Bryan Talbot's four page comic book makes the point that without gay people and their contributions, we wouldn't have much in the way of culture. Diana Churchill's "My Long Ago Sophia" is a sad tale of a failed relationship and the poisonous pressures put on those perceived to be outside the norm. Hiromi Goto's novella "The Sleep Clinic for Troubled Souls" is the most fantastic and SFnal of the stories in the collection. It is a tale of fractured identity in which Desdemona goes to a very peculiar sleep clinic and ends up literally releasing her inner child. The collection wraps up with "The Beatrix Gates", a transgender fairy tale by Rachel Pollack.

The collection also includes two excellent introductions by each of the editors and several pages at the end containing biographical information about the contributors, including other stories and novels they've written and where to find them.

Highly recommended.

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