Some books are just like a delicious treat that you want to savour for as long as possible. Love Beyond Body, Space, & Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology is one of those books. It’s a slim volume of short stories that I could have powered through in a few hours, but I drew out my reading of it, reading one story at a time, managing to stretch the reading experience over three weeks. Alas, it finally had to end, but here I am writing this review to spread the word about this fabulous book, so all is not bad!
First of all, this is just a great anthology of stories. Of course I enjoyed some more than others, but there honestly isn’t a weak story in the bunch. Although the sub-title specifies the book is a collection of science fiction stories, I’d actually label the stories together under the bigger umbrella of speculative fiction, or at least say they’re science fiction and fantasy. Some of them—in fact, my favourites in the book—are solidly sci fi, with settings in space and play with fun, inventive future technologies. But others feel more like fairy tales or myth and a few feel like magical realism or a realism through a distinctly non-Western / Indigenous lens. So if you’re not into tech-heavy hard sci fi, there will definitely still be some stories in this anthology that you’ll enjoy!
Another thing to enjoy about Love Beyond Body, Space, & Time is the variety of author backgrounds represented: Anishinaabe, Lipan Apache, Cree, Cherokee, and more! All the authors are Indigenous, and most of them identify as LGBT and/or two-spirit. Two essays introducing some two-spirit history and what these writers find powerful in speculative genres precede the stories themselves; if you’re new to the idea of two-spirit and especially if you haven’t read other two-spirit anthologies like Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-Spirit Literature, these essays might provide some crucial context and background for you. But don’t be put off by the academic tone, especially of the second one. If the essays don’t jive for you or you’re two-spirit yourself and already know lots, you won’t miss anything by jumping into the short stories!
Oh man are you in for a treat with these stories. Check out the beginning to Cherie Dimaline’s “Legends Are Made, Not Born,” a story full of dark humour and magic:
My mom was a Catholic halfbreed who named me after a pack of smokes, Semaa-tobacco. She died in a fiery blaze of glory winning a snowmobile race.
Have you ever read an opening to a story that intrigued you more than that??
“Né Le!” by Darcie Little Badger (Lipan Apache) was one of my favourite stories and is one of most science fictiony of the anthology. Dottie is a veterinarian from Earth on her way to immigrate to Mars. It was one of those desperate maybe not entirely wise decisions you make after a bad break-up. She’s supposed to be sleeping in a stasis pod for the months-long journey, but the pilot Cora has to wake her up early because of an emergency on board this spaceship involving dogs who are also being transported to Mars (pets are still important, even if you live on Mars!). After being awakened, Dottie realizes Cora is a fellow Indigenous lesbian. (Dottie is Lipan Apache and Cora is from the Navajo Nation, who have their own off-Earth space colony that’s sovereign Navajo territory called Diné Orbiter). This is an adorable queer romance story, with smart, interesting details about what women meeting and dating might look like in the not-too-distant future.
“Perfectly You” by David A. Robertson (Cree) is another inventive take on the future of queer dating. Emma is a young queer Cree woman participating in the trial run of a ground-breaking new piece of virtual reality technology. Emma is kind of obsessed with this girl Cassie, who she has a crush on after sharing a table with her at a crowded coffee shop. Emma is paralyzed, though, in that stage where her crush is still this ideal, unknowable person; she has Cassie’s phone number, written on the back of a school photo of her, but she hasn’t called her. The VR, called a “vacation,” is supposed to be like a dream that feels completely real and feels like it lasts a really long time. What better opportunity to explore what it might be like to actually be with Cassie, without any of the risks or ruining the illusion? Except, as you might be imagining, the experiment doesn’t go exactly as it ought to…
“Imposter Syndrome” by Mari Kurisato (Cote First Nations Ojibwe) was my absolute favourite in the anthology. It’s a really great example of the power of science fiction to indirectly address so many of the social in/justice issue of “the real world.” The story is a brilliant interrogation of so many of the complex issues related to trans identities without ever indulging in simplification or drawing uncomplicated allegories. The story opens with this sentence: “Aanji almost passed for human.” What follows is the tale of Aanji, a “noncitizen” making her way through a surveillance state where “citizens” enjoy immense rights and privileges. She’s in the process of transforming herself, in a process that is at once a specific, unique invention in Kurisato’s futuristic world but one that has undeniable parallels to trans journeys of hormone replacement therapy and gender confirmation surgery. THIS STORY BLEW MY MIND in the way it sucked me into its world and simultaneously made me think about the one I live in.
This is just a taste of some of the writing you can look forward to in Love Beyond Body, Space, & Time. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ll also recognize the name Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee Nation), who’s the author of the brilliant high fantasy trilogy The Way of Thorn and Thunder. His beautiful story “The Boys Who Became the Hummingbirds” will tear you apart and then lovingly put you back together. Fans of The Lesser Blessed by Tłı̨chǫ author Richard Van Camp will also be thrilled to see that the collection’s opening story is written by him. If you’ve already read this book, let me know in the comments which stories were your favourites, and why!
[Trigger warnings for scenes of transphobic, homophobic, and racialized sexual violence in “The Boys Who Became the Hummingbirds” and “Imposter Syndrome”]
Bonus! Did you enjoy this post or find it useful? Consider supporting me on the Patreon for Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian! Patreon is a site where creators of all sorts of things can make some money via subscription payments from their readers/etc. It can be as little as a dollar a month! Help me continue to be able to devote time to this site and you can win stuff like queer books and postcards with personalized book recommendations! Click on the link for more details and to sign up.