Time Well Bent: Queer Alternative Histories

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For as long as there’s been such a thing as sex, alternate sexual identities have been a fact of life. So why have we been so nearly invisible in recorded history and historical fiction? Now editor Connie Wilkins, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, has assembled fourteen stories that span the centuries—from ancient times to the Renaissance to the modern era—and explore alternate pasts. More

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About Connie Wilkins

Connie Wilkins always intended to write speculative fiction, and did place stories in such venues as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, Strange Horizons, and several anthologies including two of Bruce Coville’s books for children. Then somewhere along the way she got sidetracked by the erotic side of the force. Her alter ego Sacchi Green has published short fiction in dozens of erotica anthologies, including seven volumes of Best Lesbian Erotica. Many of these have had historical settings, and a few have included specfic elements, the true loves that she’s been overjoyed to combine in Time Well Bent. She has also edited or co-edited five anthologies of lesbian erotica, Rode Hard, Put Away Wet; Lipstick on Her Collar; Hard Road, Easy Riding; and Lesbian Cowboys (all with Rakelle Valencia, the first two being finalists for the Lambda Award), as well as Girl Crazy: Coming Out Erotica.

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Review by: Christopher Moss (formerly Nan Hawthorne) on March 18, 2011 : (no rating)
I am convinced that historical fiction is how you take a series of recorded events and illustrate them to make them real by speculating how it may have been for the people who lived through it. One of my favorite examples is Anel Viz's Memoirs of Colonel Gérard Vreilhac where the experience of living in Paris during the storming of the Bastille but in another part of the city may have been like: how did you find out about it? what did you think? Were you afraid? Did you have a loved one you worried about? Nothing about the sequence of the notable events will give you that insight. That's where the historical novelist comes in, lending his or her empathy, imagination and intelligence to color an otherwise gray set of facts.

How more poignant then that whole communities of people are rarely represented in historical fiction? I am, of course, talking about gays and lesbians here. I remember reading an Amazon review of Brandy Purdy's The Boleyn Wife where the reader was shocked and dismayed at the portrayal of the gay members of the Evergreen Gallants. How much worse was it to be one of those fellows, or others if they were not gay, and knowing that simply becuase you loved and desired a person of your gender could result in your being torn apart and killed. This anthology of "what if" stories about gay and lesbian people, historical, interpreted or fictional, seeks to address that gap in our understanding of the human race and its history. Here, finally, that overlooked insight into what had so much impact on so many lives.

"What if" -- that is what every story in this mulitperiod selection of historical short stories asks. What if T. E. Lawrence could come to grips with his sexuality and realize that he was most effective and fulfilled while helping the people of the Aravbic world? What if Thomas Jefferson had insisted the right to marry as one wished was in the Bill of Rights? What if Isabella had known and loved a Moorish woman when she was young and as a result not pushed for the expulsion of non-Catholics from Spain? What if, instead of Marlowe, the man killed in Deptford was William Shakespeare, and Shakespeare's plays after that were written by Marlowe.. and Shakespeare's twin sister Judith? Those are the famous examples, but the book is full of more ordinary people. What if the woman chemist who parachuted into World War II Brittany had been responsible for the infamous explosion that destroyed a bridge and the Nazi munitions stored there? What if some Dutch mariners discovered that Coleridge's Xanadu was very real?

These stories are fun, insightful, challenging and sometimes quite moving. Of the last, my choice is Emily Salter's A Happier Year, in which a bereaved man seeks out E. M. Forster in the years after World War I because the author's novel allowed him to have a short period of utter contentment with the lover who died on the battlefield. That Lawrence might find contentment and completion made this old fan happy with At Reading Station, Changing Trains by C.A. Gardner. And don't tell me you can resist wanting to know Sandra Barret 's take on what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke!

Not every story is A+ material, but they are nevertheless compelling. Along with Wilkins' astute introduction they combine to make speculative historical fiction, one of my favorite genres -- though isn't all historical fiction speculative? -- more complete and inclusive... and full of life, love, and hope.

This was originally published in That's All She Read allsheread.blogspot.com
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

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