Dates: An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction Stories edited by Zora Gilbert & Cat Parra

Dates Volumes I and II, featuring one (1) good cat butt.

As a queer historian and fiction lover, the Dates anthologies are basically literary catnip for me. The art and writing in these volumes is absolutely exceptional. It is clear that the authors and editors put an immense amount of love and care into producing the works in these books. 

While the stories in these two volumes hardly shy away from the difficulties that present themselves in queer life, the stories are first and foremost, uplifting. These are not stories about the sadness and tragedy of being queer, they are here to bring happiness. More than just that, in a world where we are inundated with tragedy porn from cisgender heterosexual creators, happy queer stories by queer creators is incredibly important.

Volume one runs into some of the standard issues that a first volume can have. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it makes up for those rough edges time after time with the content it provides. Starting out with a comic set in prehistoric times, volume one of Dates really does have something for just about everyone, there are women who love women and men who love men, trans people of all sorts, asexuality, everything.

Volume two takes this even further, the few rough edges that I found in volume one are not present in volume two at all. It’s a longer book, which means it has room to fit even more than the first volume did. This is particularly noticeable in two stories. “The Ibex Tattoo” and “Intersexions.” 

“Intersextions,” you might be able to intuit, is a comic about an intersex person. Having admittedly read the two volumes a couple months a part, I do believe this was the first instance of a story featuring an intersex person in Dates. The importance of “The Ibex Tattoo,” comes from a different place. The point of view character suffers from some sort of chronic pain. It is as much a story about the place of disability in a relationship and a community as it is about the lesbian relationship this character is part of.

Before I wrap this up I want to talk briefly about themes. There aren’t super explicit overarching themes in each of the Dates volumes. There’s no subheader saying “Love” or “Acceptance” or anything like that, but as I read through the second volume and reflected on my reading of the first a few things popped into my head. The first volume, in my reading, seemed to hold stories that were particularly involved in seeking acceptance, either self-acceptance or acceptance from others and the second volume seemed to deal more in stories of transformation, of making choices, of change. Now this is by no way concrete, as I learned when trying to sort my own writing into categories, queer stories, by definition, tend to defy the ability to be categorized, but it’s something to consider if you’re trying to figure out which of the two volumes you might prefer, if you’re only looking to get one of the two.

You can find both volumes in both print and ebook form here.

ALSO: The Kickstarter for Volume 3 is live! So support it for more top tier queer content!!!

No snaps this time.

An Anthology of Fiction by Trans Woman of Color edited by Ellyn Peña and Jamie Berrout

[Edit: Originally posted on April 11, 2016]

I wish there was more. 

I cling dearly to every work of trans created literature I own. Which now includes two anthologies, one of poetry and now this one of fiction.

I loved all the stories, they felt real and intense and were beautifully crafted, every one. Some of them were realism, they took place in the real world, dealing with the struggles and the lives of trans women of color in the world. Jasmine Kabale Moore’s The Girl and the Apple was like that, but there were others that dip into genre fiction, like the two stories I’ve reviewed more in depth below.

Lisa’s Story: Zombie Apocalypse by Gillian Ybabezabout a trans woman who ventures out of her home for the first time after the start of a Zombie apocalypse. She has a run in with a zombie who used to be a cop, and a store owner who tried to salvage what he could from his store after it was raided after everything started. And Lisa’s transness? Vital to the story. Her choices throughout the story reflect the fact that she is a trans woman of color, and it wouldn’t be the same story without it. I don’t think I’d be interested in reading the story without it. But I would read a whole novel about Lisa. I’ve never been the biggest fan of zombie stories, but if there’s any way to get me into a genre it’s to give me something with a trans character.

There was another story that I felt like I wanted to read a whole novel of and that was Space Hunters by Lulu Trujillo. It kind of reminded me of the television show Firefly, but like, a million times better. The four person crew of the ship The Arbiter are looking for their next job. Penny’s impatient but the captain, Gretchen, has something lined up. It was short and fun and even with the shortness of the piece we were given a bigger universe behind the story. There was history. A single line about a war between humans and an alien species that had occurred “only a century before”. That tells us so much about the history of the universe these characters live in. We don’t get told about the war, it’s not important to this particular story, but like all history, it’s still there. It let’s us know that there’s more to this world than just an isolated story, we just don’t need the details. To me, it says, “Look at this universe, things could happen here again.” When I write science fiction, this is always the part I struggle with the most, so when I see it in other peoples work I try to stop and look to see how they’re doing it.

Update 5/19/22: Sadly, this specific collection is no longer available for purchase, but you may still be able to get an updated (and expanded) edition through Amazon.

More information about the anthology can be found at their blog @twocfictionanthology

Related Reviews: Falling in Love with Hominids

No snaps this time, because it’s an e book, which I haven’t figured out how to get good relatively clean snaps of.