Greg's Reviews > Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction

Beyond Binary by Brit Mandelo
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's review
Apr 26, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: bookclub, fiction-glbt, structure-short-stories, format-ebook, 2012

For a book that claims to be "beyond binary" and "genderqueer," the almost complete lack of either in this anthology is astonishing. (Doubly so since it's full of reprints.) Most stories paid lip service at best via some bisexuality (and often fleeting at that), and for a book that promised no surprise reveal of genitals as a punch line, one of the stories in fact does just that.

The best thing about this book is Kelley Eskridge's "Eye of the Storm" which really is just reminding me that I've had a copy of her short story collection (in which this is also included) for ages and need to read it. Sandra McDonald's "Sea of Cortez" is likewise strong, although its sf/f content is minimal for those who worry about that sort of thing.

The second half of the anthology in particular feels ill-formed and fragmentary; lots of stories that are more along the lines of mood pieces than fully fleshed out creations.

My rating for this book is really a 1.5 star rather than 2 star rating. It's not an awful book (which is what the 1-star rating is for, and makes me wish that we had both half-stars and 0 star options), and a handful of stories are well worth reading, but on the whole this feels like a nice idea that was ineptly executed.
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Reading Progress

April 26, 2012 – Shelved
April 26, 2012 – Shelved as: bookclub
September 20, 2012 – Started Reading
September 20, 2012 – Shelved as: structure-short-stories
September 20, 2012 – Shelved as: fiction-glbt
September 20, 2012 – Shelved as: format-ebook
September 21, 2012 –
September 24, 2012 –
September 25, 2012 –
September 25, 2012 –
September 26, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
September 26, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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ambyr Oh thank god, it's not just me. Story after story that leaves me going "...and the point of that was?" It's not even necessarily that they're bad stories, just that a) they're not the kinds of stories I like to read and b) they're definitely not the kinds of stories promised by the collection's title.

Greg I can get when it's the first problem, but considering that this is all reprints, the second one is a bit troublesome and puzzling for me... Ah well.

message 3: by ambyr (last edited Sep 27, 2012 10:30AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

ambyr I was baffled at the lack of stories that used aliens to explore non-binary possibilities, ala LeGuin (who she even mentions in the introduction) and Butler and Gilman. I think it was a deliberate choice on the part of the editor to focus on more "realistic" portrayals of gender fluidity, but I feel like the application of aliens as metaphor is one of science fiction's great strengths when it comes to subjects like this. If you don't want to use it, why try to put together a speculative fiction-themed anthology at all? (Arguably, she doesn't try; Sea of Cortez was a perfectly fine story but I have no idea what it's doing here, much less as the opener.)

Even in Prosperine When it Sizzles--which I thought was otherwise a serviceable if not stunning story--which has aliens, they are explicitly gendered as female (small [slug-like], focused on reproduction) and male (large, outgoing, the side of their species that does all interaction with humans). Talk about reinforcing an unquestioned binary. They're a throw-away background element, there's no reason for them to be gendered at all, and yet. Kinda ruins any points the author would have won from me for having a trans protagonist, if I were a score-keeping type.

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