Shira Glassman's Reviews > Capricious: The Gender Diverse Pronouns Issue

Capricious by Andi C. Buchanan
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it was amazing
bookshelves: trans, nonbinary, sff-speculative, teen, poly, dragons

I see a lot of people looking for nonbinary rep in SFF, and I sincerely hope that this anthology gets sufficiently signal boosted that a significant number of them see that it exists. Because it's quality. Several of the stories are good enough and satisfying enough that I'd say they're worth the cover price all by themselves. And a good portion of them are "cozies", i.e. my favorite kind of SFF, where the focus is on character interaction rather than battle scenes or escaping from aliens.

I am absolutely committed to clear and coherent worldbuilding that immediately makes me invested as a reader, and this anthology is super good about fitting through that gate. Several of them actually used the worldbuilding itself as the medium to discuss gender or other related issues, such as one of my favorites, "Sandals Full of Rainwater" by AE Prevost. The main character left their homeland and came to a new city to find work, and is having a hard time remembering when to use which pronouns with the residents there because they come from a society without gender. Their difficulty managing this alien function of their second language reminds me of an English speaker's struggling to learn how gendering works in a gendered language like Spanish or German or Hebrew.

It's quickly revealed, however, that the setup is far more complicated than my initially assumed "what if someone from a society without gender came to my society?" In fact, the rainy city to which they've moved has a complex, shifting system of genders that involves both parties in an interaction. It's a wonderfully creative exploration of what gender is and what it could also be, woven into a sympathetic tale of migrant workers from different lands coming together to form a family. (Plus, it has succulents!)

Like many of the stories in the issue, it's written on a very intimate scale, with most of the interactions taking place between two or three people who are often related. Another story like this is Bogi Takács's "Volatile Patterns", in which a couple, both nonbinary, travel to another planet to solve a mystery involving labor unrest in the local textile industry.

The twist explanation for the riots actually shocked me as I read, and it's going to be hard to discuss the story without spoiling it. But I can say that it was inspired by the author's reaction to real-life cultural appropriation, and that we are of the same ethnic background, and that I felt everything the story was saying so deeply even before I got to the author interview that discussed the initial inspiration. It's a clever little mystery but one with the depth of an important message.

I also really enjoyed the teen ghost story "Glitter and Leaf Litter" by Rae White, although I do have to triggerwarn for a trans suicide in the past. However, the story, which has three nonbinary leads and one supporting cis character, is all about making up for the past and giving the character a happy ending anyway. In some ways, this story follows in the footsteps of other classic "teens explore a haunted house" YA lit, but this time the teens are nonbinary and in a queerplatonic relationship, the setting is Australia, and the focus is total trans and nonbinary affirmation.

Also, I have to give this story because one of the teenagers calls out the cis character for arguing with pronouns...and she's a ghost. Yes, someone calls out a ghost. I live for this shit :P

Another one of the anthology's finest is "Walking the Wall of Papered Peaces" by Penny Stirling. It's a gut-wrenching romance/magical realism about an asexual woman and the nonbinary, allosexual fiancx she's decided she can't marry until she finds her peace, in this case represented by a literal tangible object hidden far off in isolation. It has a happy ending--sorry if that's a spoiler--as well as gorgeous and in some cases surreal prose. This is a story that focuses on ace identity and respecting an ace partner, and I'm definitely not the most qualified person to comment on it but it seemed very good to me, in an aching kind of way (I mean you are right there for a lot of the two characters' emotional pain before everything is resolved, and it jumps off the page and feels very real. It was very very beautiful but I'm not sure I could bear to reread it.)

The anthology abounds with other creative explorations of gender in magical or speculative settings. For example, "Incubus" by Hazel Gold is set on a spaceship and stars a tech who seems to need some reminding not to impose a specific gender on the ship's personality even though they, too, are nonbinary. Maybe the theme of this is that even those of us inside a group need a little help in the right direction sometimes.

And "Grow Green by Ren Wigmore is a fragment of magical realism, a conversation between a fae and a human, as the human gardens. It had really neat worldbuilding including the fae's pronouns changing in accordance with the season (the human is also nonbinary.) It left some threads unwoven in the human's life and I know it's just preference but I would have liked to see them resolved. But this is the way Wigmore wanted it.

"Phaser" is a great spiel against the idea that only fixed identities deserve respect, but there are bits I found personally distressing - warning for homophobic mom at the beginning, and it may give you pause if you have trouble with stories that depict past you and present you and future you being able to converse. (This is probably such a specific personal issue that I don't expect anyone to need this second warning, but, hey, nobody is paying me to write these reviews so you get what you get.)

And of course, as I'm sure some of you are hoping it would, the anthology includes some stories where nonbinary characters just plain old adventure, the way binary and overwhelmingly binary cis characters have been allowed to do in mainstream lit for ages. For example, there's a variation on The Little Mermaid called "Island, Ocean" by Lauren Mitchell that's haunting in a way that only a lighthouse setting can bestow.

Also in this category is "The Thing With Feathers", which starts with tragedy; the transmasc nonbinary lead has lost the woman ze was going to marry, to a dragon sacrifice. But the straightforward hero's journey of going after the dragon turns into something else, something more spiritual and the-earth-is-all-connected-y. This typical sort of "hero's saga" almost seems reminiscent of oral tradition legends, it's just that this time it happens to star a trans person. Please bear in mind trigger warnings for this one related to the dead fianceé.

I can't leave out the batshit narrative style of the first story, "Ad Astra Per Aspera" by Nino Cipri, in which the protagonist's gender has gone missing "in Kansas." That reeled me in right away, with constant asides to the fourth wall, lots of meta, and deep truth amidst all the smirks. Well done, and a good way to start the issue.

I'm so glad a collection like this exists. One of the values of an anthology, especially when answering an underrepresented group's needs, is that there are several chances to make readers happy. I hope you find a few of yours among them, and maybe some new authors to check out more of their works as well!
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Reading Progress

January 15, 2018 – Started Reading
January 15, 2018 – Shelved
January 15, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
January 15, 2018 –
page 12
4.92% "Absolutely loving the batshit narrative style of the first story, "Ad Astra Per Aspera" by Nino Cipri, in which the protagonist's gender has gone missing "in Kansas.""
January 15, 2018 – Shelved as: trans
January 15, 2018 – Shelved as: nonbinary
January 15, 2018 – Shelved as: sff-speculative
January 15, 2018 –
page 30
12.3% "Bogi's story Volatile Patterns is powerful in a way I can't describe without spoiling it :P"
January 15, 2018 –
page 44
18.03% ""Island, Ocean" by Lauren Mitchell is haunting in the way that only a Little Mermaid retelling set in a lighthouse could be."
January 16, 2018 –
page 70
28.69% ""Sandals full of Rainwater" has the most amazing worldbuilding when it comes to comparing two cultures' approach to gender that I've ever seen., And NEITHER one is like the conventional Earth binary. Really, if you have any interest at all in nonbinary SFF, or a conversation about what gender is and what it could also be, it's worth the whole issue for this one story. Also there are a lot of plants. I like plants :P"
January 16, 2018 –
page 93
38.11% "Phaser is a great spiel against the idea that only fixed identities deserve respect, but there are bits I found personally distressing - warning for homophobic mom at the beginning (the other thing I had a hard time with is too personal to be of relevance and unlikely to apply to anyone else.)"
January 17, 2018 –
page 120
49.18% "Grow Green by Ren Wigmore is a fragment of magical realism, a conversation between a fae and a human, as the human gardens. It had really neat worldbuilding including the fae's pronouns changing in accordance with the season (the human is also nonbinary.) It left some threads unwoven in the human's life & I know it's just preference but I would have liked to see them resolved. But this is the way Wigmore wanted it."
January 17, 2018 –
page 120
49.18% ""Walking the Wall of Papered Peaces" by Penny Stirling is a gut-wrenching romance-or-something magical realism about an asexual woman and the nonbinary, allosexual fiancx she's decided she can't marry until she finds her peace, in this case represented by a literal tangible object hidden far off in isolation. It has a happy ending (and I'm sorry if that's a spoiler) as well as gorgeous & in some cases surreal prose."
January 17, 2018 –
page 120
49.18% "have i convinced enough of you yet lol"
January 24, 2018 –
page 120
49.18% ""Incubus" by Hazel Gold is set on a spaceship and stars a tech who seems to need some reminding not to impose a specific gender on the ship's personality even though they, too, are nonbinary. Maybe the theme of this is that even those of us inside a group need a little help in the right direction sometimes."
January 24, 2018 –
page 135
55.33% ""The Thing With Feathers" stars with tragedy; the transmasc nonbinary lead has lost the woman ze was going to marry, to a dragon sacrifice. But the straightforward hero's journey of going after the dragon turns into something else, something more spiritual and the-earth-is-all-connected-y. Typical sort of "hero's saga", almost seems reminiscent of oral tradition legends, that just happens to star a trans person."
January 24, 2018 –
page 145
59.43% "in "Glitter and Leaf Litter", a living teenager just called out a ghost for arguing with pronouns

They CALLED OUT a GHOST

i'm living :D :D :D"
January 24, 2018 –
page 145
59.43% "pg 146 Glitter/Leaf Litter tw suicide mention - not the called-out ghost, a different ghost. TW because it was because of not being able to live openly trans"
January 24, 2018 –
page 150
61.48% "ok that was all way cuter than I was expecting

did I finish? AM I DONE?
ok go buy this while I sit on my ass and forget to review it for a week"
January 24, 2018 – Finished Reading
January 27, 2018 –
page 243
99.59% "I WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY REVIEW Y'ALLLLLL

ok go buy the thing"
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: teen
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: poly
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: dragons

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Bogi (new) - added it

Bogi Takács Thank you so much for the review! It makes me happy that you enjoyed the anthology, and also specifically my story :) I'm waiting for my print copy to read, which might already be in my PO box (I just need to physically go to my PO box) but this is all super enticing!!

(In fact it makes me want to basically RUN to my PO box, but I can't go out right now because people are putting up shelves. Laterrrr?)


Shira Glassman may want to talk to the pub about getting print and kindle linked on Amazon if they aren't already


message 3: by Bogi (new) - added it

Bogi Takács It is supposed to be linked, but takes a while sometimes for Amazon to process? Thank you! I will try to ping them if it doesn't join them in a week or so.


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