Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellAnah Crow and Dianne Fox are a winning pair of authors, I think I haven't still found a book by them that I didn't like. I particularly like the fact that they are able to tell ordinary stories with ordinary characters, bringing us extraodinary love stories. And then they often use the multicultural lovers and the May/December relationships themes that I like so much. So please welcome Crow and Fox!
Anah Crow and Dianne Fox's Inside Reader List
Thank you to Elisa for giving us the opportunity to share a few of our favorite books. Both of us are eclectic in our reading habits and that definitely shows in the lists below, though neither list is in any particular order. Our diverse literary backgrounds have given us both a good foundation for our writing and, in writing, we've become more demanding of the books we read.
Spotlighting these favorite books has been a learning experience for us, in and of itself. The process of choosing books and describing why they were important to us reminded us that one of the reasons we write queer fiction is because we believe in the importance of seeing aspects of yourself in what you read. We found that in these books, and hope to offer the same thing to other readers with our stories.
1) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Dorian’s beauty is both a blessing and a curse, but it was the artist who intrigued me the most. Basil adores Dorian and pleads with Lord Wotton not to ruin him. I was in high school when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray and Basil’s sort of hopeless crush was very familiar to me, as was its ultimate result in misery -- though none of my crushes ever ended in death!
Mass Market Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Bantam Classics (December 1, 1982)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553212549
Amazon: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Flamboyant and controversial, Oscar Wilde was a dazzling personality, a master of wit, and a dramatic genius whose sparkling comedies contain some of the most brilliant dialogue ever written for the English stage. Here in one volume are his immensely popular novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray; his last literary work, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” a product of his own prison experience; and four complete plays: Lady Windermere’s Fan, his first dramatic success, An Ideal Husband, which pokes fun at conventional morality, The Importance of Being Earnest, his finest comedy, and Salomé, a portrait of uncontrollable love originally written in French and faithfully translated by Richard Ellmann. Every selection appears in its entirety–a marvelous collection of outstanding works by the incomparable Oscar Wilde, who’s been aptly called “a lord of language” by Max Beerbohm.
2) Magic’s Pawn (The Last Herald-Mage series) by Mercedes Lackey. I put Magic’s Pawn here, but it’s actually the first of a trilogy and I’d say that the entire series is on my “favorites” list. Vanyel, the main character of this trilogy, is both an incredibly powerful mage and a young gay man in a world where being gay is not exactly celebrated. He does find acceptance from some people, though, and finds love, as well.
The Last Herald-Mage trilogy is part of a larger Valdemar series from Mercedes Lackey, which was how I stumbled across it and managed to read it in middle school without raising eyebrows from my mother. That Vanyel found a home, and was valued for his abilities, was reassuring to me as I was dealing with my own burgeoning sexuality.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: DAW; later printing edition (June 6, 1989)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780886773526,00.html?strSrchSql=0886773520/Magic'#39;s_Pawn_Mercedes_Lackey
Amazon: Magic’s Pawn
In Magic's Pawn, an ancient age in the history of Valdemar comes to life--an age when the kingdom was ravaged by the ungoverned fury of bandit warlords, ferocious ice dragons, and the wild magic of wizards. A new addition to Lackey's Valdemar kingdom--and her most powerful series to date!
3) Carnival by Elizabeth Bear. In Carnival, the queerness of the characters is actually a key piece of the story. They’re not simply gay so that the author can be edgy or write ‘the other’ or something of that sort. Vincent and Michelangelo are chosen for the mission that is the story because they are gay -- something that has caused them serious problems in their home government but makes them ‘safe’ on New Amazonia.
Even so, the queerness of the characters doesn’t separate the book from its genre – this is a social science fiction novel that takes a close look at the failings of not only the society we are prepared to dislike (the home government that shuns Vincent and Michelangelo for being gay), but also the matriarchal society that we initially expect to be presented as paradisiacal.
Mass Market Paperback: 392 pages
Publisher: Spectra (November 28, 2006)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553589047
In Old Earth’s clandestine world of ambassador-spies, Michelangelo Kusanagi-Jones and Vincent Katherinessen were once a starring team. But ever since a disastrous mission, they have been living separate lives in a universe dominated by a ruthless Coalition—one that is about to reunite them. The pair are dispatched to New Amazonia as diplomatic agents Allegedly, they are to return priceless art. Covertly, they seek to tap its energy supply. But in reality, one has his mind set on treason. And among the extraordinary women of New Amazonia, in a season of festival, betrayal, and disguise, he will find a new ally—and a force beyond any that humans have known…
4) Blood Price (Vicky Nelson series) by Tanya Huff. This is another series marked by only the first book. I loved this series as a whole and it was only in writing this up for Elisa's Inside Reader feature that I discovered there is both a spinoff trilogy AND a short-running television series. Guess what I'll be doing after I finish writing this?
Henry is not the main protagonist of the series, but he is fascinating. He's a hundreds-year-old vampire, the bastard son of a king, bisexual, and a romance novelist. From the start, I was enchanted. A romance novelist! And it wasn't presented as a BAD thing! Apparently, he also features heavily in the spinoff trilogy...
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: DAW (September 25, 2007)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780756405014,00.html?strSrchSql=0756405017/Blood_Price_Tanya_Huff
Amazon: Blood Price
Vicki Nelson, formerly of Toronto’s homicide unit and now a private detective, witnesses the first of many vicious attacks that are now plaguing the city of Toronto. As death follows unspeakable death, Vicki is forced to renew her tempestuous relationship with her former partner, Mike Celluci, to stop these forces of dark magic—along with another, unexpected ally… Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, has learned over the course of his long life how to blend with humans, how to deny the call for blood in his veins. Without him, Vicki and Mike would not survive the ancient force of chaos that has been unleashed upon the world—but in doing so, his identity may be exposed, and his life forfeit.
5) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin. I read this in college, as part of a class on science fiction literature. Not only is the writing superb, but the story just drew me right in. What I remember most, though, is this book presenting me with my first opportunity to really talk about what it means to be a woman or a man or neither or both, what it means to be straight or gay or bisexual. If nothing else, this book is the perfect starting point for some fascinating, NECESSARY conversations.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Ace; 43rd THUS edition (March 15, 1987)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780441478125,00.html?strSrchSql=0441478123/The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness_Ursula_K._LeGuin
Amazon: The Left Hand of Darkness
When The Left Hand of Darkness first appeared in 1969, the original jacket copy read, "Once in a long while a whole new world is created for us. Such worlds are Middle Earth, Dune—and such a world is Winter." Twenty-five years and a Hugo and Nebula Award later, these words remain true. In Winter, or Gethen, Ursula K. Le Guin has created a fully realized planet and people. But Gethen society is more than merely a fascinating creation. The concept of a society existing totally without sexual prejudices is even more relevant today than it was in 1969. This special 25th anniversary edition of The Left Hand of Darkness contains not only the complete, unaltered text of the landmark original but also a thought-provoking new afterword and four new appendixes by Ms. Le Guin. When the human ambassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by those outsiders who have experienced its arctic climate, he thinks that his mission will be a standard one of making peace between warring factions. Instead the ambassador finds himself wildly unprepared. For Gethen is inhabited by a society with a rich, ancient culture full of strange beauty and deadly intrigue—a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither. This lack of fixed gender, and the resulting lack of gender-based discrimination, is the very cornerstone of Gethen life. But Genly is all too human. Unless he can overcome his ingrained prejudices about the significance of "male" and "female," he may destroy both his mission and himself.
6) The World According to Garp by John Irving. I read this book when I was far younger than I should have been -- about ten -- but I was glad I read it. It became important to me at the time because of Roberta Muldoon, a transsexual ex-football player, and Jenny Fields, Garp’s assexual mother. In TWAtG, the combat zone is the mine-strewn landscape that lies between the heterosexual characters. Jenny and Roberta were not only characters that mirrored parts of me that I saw nowhere else in fiction or non-fiction at the time, but they were my first validation of any kind that sexual variants outside the male-female sex/gender dyad existed at all. I had suspected it, knowing that I existed, but I was also unsure as to whether or not I was the only one who did.
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (June 23, 1997)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780345418012
Amazon: The World According to Garp
This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields, a feminist leader ahead of her time. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes, even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with lunacy and sorrow, yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries–with more than ten million copies in print–this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”
7) Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I read this a few years after Garp. (I hope we can all begin to see the irony that I was raised in a house without that dreadful thing called television.) This book is quite the trip, and it travels through territory strewn with kink. My first glimpse of kink, for sure. The book, while salacious, didn’t touch on kink with any more moralizing than it used in touching on fascism, castration, warfare, hetero/vanilla sex, betrayal, armageddon. Gravity's Rainbow makes an art of salacity. The things that startled or disturbed me in the book, didn't include any of the kinks, even the most hardcore examples. I remember the feeling of “well, that makes perfect sense -- if you think/feel/need X, you'll enjoy Y” and I also remember being mildly concerned because I knew that I probably ought to be “shocked, shocked, I say!” and it just never happened.
Paperback: 768 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics; Later Printing edition (June 1, 1995)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780140188592,00.html?strSrchSql=0140188592/Gravity'#39;s_Rainbow_Thomas_Pynchon
Amazon: Gravity’s Rainbow
A few months after the Germans' secret V-2 rocket bombs begin falling on London, British Intelligence discovers that a map of the city pinpointing the sexual conquests of one Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, U.S. Army, corresponds identically to a map showing V-2 impact sites. The implications of this discovery launch Slothrop on a wildly comic extravaganza.
8) The Adventures of Una Perrson and Catharine Cornelius in the 20th Century (as part of the Jerry Cornelius series) by Michael Moorcock. Lesbian lovers, one a stand-in for the eternal revolutionary, one a perpetually-dissatisfied submissive on a quest for fulfillment. Need I say more? I wanted to be both of them, I wanted both of them to be real. I adored them both as main and minor characters throughout the Cornelius books. Passionate, independent women who never suffered the usual punishment of my favourite characters -- death by tragedy, of course, so that one never got any Big Ideas. Una and Catherine were provocateurs of my big ideas and my heroes during my early teen years and beyond.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Grafton (May 15, 1980)
Amazon: The Adventures of Una Perrson and Catharine Cornelius in the 20th Century
The erotic and exotic adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius. Friends, lovers, revolutionaries...Through the years and across the continents of real and imagined pasts, presents and futures...Enjoy this trip - it's a white knuckle ride...
9) When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger. I read this right when it came out in 1987, in hardcover, and it remains one of my favourite books as well. I think it’s no mistake that these books are all in my ‘best loved for every reason’ pile. While there’s not a lot of time for sexual politics, that’s not the focus of this book. However, the main character’s lover & beloved is Yasmin, a transitioned MTF who makes an excellent, unapologetic living as a prostitute. I identified most with Audran but was likewise smitten with Yasmin. For its vision of science turning gender into something liquid and yet still essential -- as well as all the other reasons there are -- I loved this book and it bolstered an isolated part of me at a time when gender roles were severely polarized in my external life.
Mass Market Paperback: 289 pages
Publisher: Spectra (December 1, 1987)
Amazon: When Gravity Fails
In a decadent world of cheap pleasures and easy death, Marid Audrian has kept his independence the hardway. Still, like everything else in the Budayeen, he’s available…for a price. For a new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghetto, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. And Marid Audrian has been made an offer he can’t refuse. The 200-year-old “godfather” of the Budayeen’s underworld has enlisted Marid as his instrument of vengeance. But first Marid must undergo the most sophisticated of surgical implants before he dares to confront a killer who carries the power of every psychopath since the beginning of time. Wry, savage, and unignorable, When Gravity Fails was hailed as a classic by Effinger’s fellow SF writers on its original publication in 1987, and the sequence of “Marid Audrian” novels it begins were the culmination of his career.
10) The Cage (as part of The Fifth Millenium Series) by S.M. Stirling w/ Shirley Meier (& Karen Wehrstein in other books). The main characters of The Cage are lesbian/bisexual lovers and the entire series presents cultures with a range of views on sex and gender. Polyamory, in the sense of multi-party marriages that may or may not include sexual connections between all partners, is also part of the main culture in the book. I just loved this both as escapist low-fantasy/post-apocalyptic fiction and for the two very different female characters who were far from being stereotypical lesbian or bisexual women. All deconstruction/criticism aside -- because I just can’t help doing that and there is always stuff to critique in books -- I adored this book and read it over and over again, like it was a blanket of comfort I could wrap around myself. It was good to have a place to go where, as a gender-fluid bisexual, people like me existed.
Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Baen (March 1, 1991)
Publisher Link: http://www.baen.com/series_list.asp#T5M
Amazon: The Cage
Habiku Smoothtongue corrupted everyone and everything that ever meant anything to Megan Thanesdoom--including Megan herself. But now Megan has returned, and she's not alone. Backed by barbarian warrior Shkai'ra's sword, Megan is ready to claim her rightful status in the world.
About Anah Crow & Dianne Fox: Anah and Dianne have been sharing a sandbox since 2003 and their only regret is that they didn’t meet many years ago when the amount of time they spend in their imaginary worlds would have been considered perfectly normal. Dianne organizes their shared toys and makes them pretty, Anah blows them up (or buries them or drowns them or drops meteors on them). Fortunately, their escapades have translated quite well into story format and together they have written a number of well-received novels and shorter pieces.
In other aspects of life they continue to illustrate the old adage that “opposites attract”. Dianne is owned by her cats, Anah is at the mercy of her dogs; Dianne can’t do without her beloved Macs, Anah carries on an illicit relationship with a trio of PCs behind her Mac’s back; Dianne spends her days chasing children, Anah avoids them whenever possible. The main thing they have in common, after their writing, is their fondness for each other.
You can find out more about them and their stories at their websites -- www.anahcrow.com and www.foxwrites.com -- or by signing up for their monthly newsletter at www.foxwrites.com/newsletter
Tatterdemalion by Anah Crow & Dianne Fox
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (May 18, 2010)
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/tatterdemalion
Deep runs the world of magic—and desire.
Lindsay Carrington is a prisoner of his life—first in the mundane world, then in the military testing facility where his parents sent him to have his magic dissected, studied and “fixed”. When he finally escapes, freedom comes at great cost. The man who rescues him from near death in a dark alley is far from a savior. He’s a feral mage nearly as broken as Lindsay himself.
Dane knows better than to argue with the wind that summoned him to Lindsay’s rescue, but playing nursemaid isn’t the role he envisioned for himself in the battle to end the human campaign to control his people. In spite of his resistance, he is bound to the delicate, skittish mage who unwittingly harbors one of the greatest magical powers ever known.
Lindsay desperately hides his growing desire, sure that Dane could never reciprocate. Yet Dane lays his life on the line to protect him, restoring the one thing Lindsay thought was gone forever: hope.
But true freedom to live—and to love—will elude Lindsay until he can regain his magic and win Dane’s complete devotion. And survive long enough to do both.