This pair of stories begins with an introduction from the author stating that they were inspired by a transsexual sex worker he met socially....more3.5 stars
This pair of stories begins with an introduction from the author stating that they were inspired by a transsexual sex worker he met socially. "She exuded an aura of almost overpowering sexual control and had a talent for telling tales about men she had met in the business."
The first story, "White Walls," was inspired by the woman the author met. It tells the tale of a man who comes to see a woman who can dominate and overpower him. This story read very much like a stream of consciousness from the male client's perspective. It's a visceral experience, getting deep inside the thoughts of this man and the result is quite erotic. The man gets exactly what he so desires and the reader is taken along for the ride. This story is short as it is only one scene, but packs quite a punch.
"All Dressed Up" is the second story and is quite different from the first. In this story, inspired by one of the tales told by the woman the author met, Greg has arranged a date for Elizabeth. Greg is a cross-dresser and Elizabeth is his female persona. She is on her way to a date with Tina who she can revel in being a woman with as they have sex. This story is not so much about the sex, it is about the experience for Elizabeth, to be with someone as a woman. To be used by a woman. This is a very interesting view into another type of man who is searching for a very particular type of sex worker. I especially enjoyed this story, seeing how Greg slips so completely into a different form of himself, and how it fits into his everyday life.
This is a very intriguing set of stories, quite different from other tales written by the author. I especially liked that the transsexual woman is not shown here as weak or a victim, she is the one in control, the one with the power, making for a very unique and interesting read.(less)
Engineer Smith has a real connection to computers, especially the Artificial Intelligence system Larn who Smith talks to on a regular basis. Larn has been learning to be more "human" thanks to the interactions with Smith, while Smith struggles with a multitude of worries and the state of the relationship with lover Nell. The answers Smith seeks will be found thanks to the help and insight of Larn, but it is up to Smith to embrace and apply the information.
Engineer Smith is an intriguing short story set in a futuristic setting where computers can be programmed to learn and adapt to be quite human. The story is well written and provides necessary details while remaining vague about many points. It's a story that most definitely needs to be read more than once to pick up on the subtle nuances, and to better understand the character of Smith. With each reading, more is pulled out of the tale and the economical style of writing falls in line with the underlying theme of the story.
The central aspect of this story is Smith, an androgynous being who is clearly transgender, though the gender of the character is never revealed. The story remains vague on this point throughout, and considering the internal struggle that Smith is wrestling with this is understandable. The effect it has is to leave the reader guessing, but it also provides a particular insight into what Smith deals with on a daily basis.
Though a computer program, Larn is a critical character within the story and the dialogue and insight presented from it, or him if you accept the anthropomorphistic possibilities, never lets the reader forget that Smith is interacting with a computer program. At the same time, it's hard not to be fascinated by how Larn breaks down Smith's issues to clear pieces in a way that is both human and inhuman.
This is a quick story but one that is quite interesting. It doesn't focus directly on Smith struggling with gender identity, but the uncertainty with a relationship and worries over life in general are undoubtedly connected to that theme. This is a unique examination of a transgender individual's quest to be happy with life, and how a computer program can help a human learn to be human. (less)
The possibilities are endless when you combine science fiction and sexual ambiguity, the ability to choose your own gender or not have to pick just one. The five stories in this anthology each take a very different approach, but each invariably plays with the restrictive limits that society places on gender. Here nothing is as simple as female or male, or being stuck with the gender you're born with when you know with every cell in your body that it's the wrong gender. These stories provide a more fluid approach to gender identity and sexual awareness that is sometimes serious and touching and at other times playful and over the top.
"Only for Myself: Japan, 2043" by Zachary Jernigan introduces Masami who is enjoying a brilliant orgasm when she is interrupted by young 'herman' Katsumi who wants to share the experience with her. This is a futuristic tale with a twist, where people can be rewired, and our main character, with the help of a pill, conjures up Masa who answers Masami's ultimate desires. The story is a play on the teacher/student dynamic where the young student doesn't understand the relationship the teacher is in, and the teacher is unwilling to give up the relationships that fulfills all her needs.
"Fair Play" by David D. Levine is a quick fire conversation between two people, one being a very unusual girl with a new adaptation that she decides to play with. The conversation goes back and forth very quickly and is over before you know it, and it's easy to miss something if you're not paying attention. In just a few pages, Levine sets up an alluring premise that sends the imagination running wild to fill in more details once the conversation ends.
"Transplant" by Ellen Tevault is based in a futuristic world where the US is split into the Right Republic and the New Repbulic, where all of the 'freaks' have been sent. The story focuses on Katrina, formerly Lance, as she reflects back on her life leading to where she has been matched for a sex reassignment transplant. Her match is Chad, and when they meet just before their surgeries they decide to spend the night together, getting to know one another better. Katrina and Chad come from very different backgrounds, but they bond over the shared desire to change their bodies so they can feel complete.
"Passage" by Anya Levin begins the night before Maya's Second Passage as she worries that her partner Sira will no longer be attracted to her after the change. They enjoy each other and celebrate one another, while Sira reassures Maya that their love will remain, despite how Maya is changed. No details of the technicalities of the Second Passage are given, and what this story focuses on instead is the emotional and physical changes that result and the bond between two people that overcomes.
The final story "The Ontolocial Engine, or, the Modern Leda" by Vinnie Tesla is set in the Victorican era, and Daedalus Tesla is carrying out bold experiments using a Ontological Engine, powered by the 'Vital Energies' emitted upon sexual orgasm. It's impossible to anticipate what this story holds in store for readers and it is a unique tale filled with twists and turns, orgasmic peaks and the generation of new and strange creatures. The voice and style of the story is perfectly in tune with a Victorian novel and it's impossible to avoid making comparisons to The Prestige. The ending is shocking yet humorous and ends the anthology on a high note.
All of the stories in Up for Grabs are very well written and quite thought provoking. Each author has a thrilling take on exploring the world of gender, and the stories are all intensely erotic and some are beautifully romantic. It's impossible to anticipate what's coming next with any of these stories, and that's a large part of the fun while reading. You simply sit back and enjoy the wild ride as the stories just get better and better.
My personal favorites from this collection are "Transplant" and "Passage," each of which explores a world where there is a unique option available to transgendered individuals. Each story delves into the emotional needs of the person to have a body that matches the soul, and the ramifications of making that change on other relationships. In "Transplant," Katrina has been disowned by her mother while Chad's mother is the exact opposite. In "Passage," Maya is concerned about her lover still being attracted to her new body. The physical changes are one thing, but these stories choose to delve into the other changes that are inevitable and as such are extremely engaging and moving.
This is a wonderful anthology with stories that cover a wide spectrum yet each share a common theme. Readers who are open to the flexibility of gender will surely enjoy this collection of stories. These stories will stay with you for some time after reading, and I definitely recommend this book.(less)