I should confess up front that I love this book simply because it exists. If the stories in it were not very good, I’d still be asking you to buy it. And no, I don’t think there’s any sign of a new Kelly Link or Ken Liu among the writers featured, but it is a good collection of stories, and an important one.
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time is one of those theme anthologies. It is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with LGBT themes, which I’m sure you are all used to by now. It is also an anthology of stories by Native American writers. That’s rare enough on its own, but put it together with the SF&F and the LGBT and you are talking about a pretty small and little-known population.
Thankfully LGBT Native Americans do still exist, despite the furious efforts of European colonists to wipe them out. I mean, they did their best to wipe out the entire native population, but they reserved special ire for the LGBT folks. Thankfully, new ones keep getting born with every new generation. And now they are once again able to stand proud.
From my point of view, the most interesting part of the book is the Introduction by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair. That’s because it is about the history of LGBT Native Americans, and I’m an historian so I’m always pleased to add to my store of data. My thanks are therefore due to Niigaanwewidam for the story of Ozawwendib, a person of the Anishinaabe people (in fact the child of their chief). Ozawwendib, despite being assigned male at birth, lived openly as a woman and was over 50 years old when encountered by a fur trader called Alexander Henry, who wrote up the story in his journal.
This was in 1801, decades before Europe started to think seriously about the scientific bases for sex, gender and sexuality. No one from that time can be definitively identified as “trans” because the specific identity did not exist for them to claim. Nevertheless, many people lived lives that we would regard as trans-like, and doubtless many of them had the same sorts of feelings about themselves as modern trans people. Native American cultures were far more supportive of such people than those of the savages from across the Atlantic.
The book uses the term “two spirit” for people who live lives outside of the gender binary. However, it carefully notes that this is an invented term (only adopted in 1990) that covers a wide range of cultural beliefs and behaviors. There are over 100 distinct cultural groups among Native North Americans, so it is impossible and ridiculous to say that a single view of trans natures was held by them all. It is also worth noting that two spirit has a cultural meaning as well as a gender one. Mari Kurisato (who has a story in the book) was noting recently on Twitter that some Native North Americans don’t identify as two spirit because they feel closer to Western ideas of transness than their tribal version.
There are nine stories in the book so it is fairly short (112 pages according to the publisher). That, presumably, is in part due to the shortage of potential contributors. My favorite story is “Perfectly You” by David A. Roberston, which is a clever science fiction story about a lesbian woman using an experimental VR system to experience time with a lost love. However, I worry that this story speaks best to me because David has a lot of Celtic ancestry alongside the Cree. Native American story-telling styles can be very different from what us Europeans are used to, and I feel I need to re-read the stories to try to connect to them better.
Anyway, all of the stories are interesting and readable. I am very grateful to Hope Nicholson, who appears to be both editor and publisher, for making this book available to the world.
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