Today on the site we’re taking a look inside Lofty Mountains ed. by J.S. Fields, an anthology of Sapphic fantasy stories that released on October 10th from Space Wizard Science Fantasy! Here’s the gist:
Look to the skies!
Brave adventurers face new relationships and adversity in all sizes, from steampunk dirigibles to harpies, giant bees to garden gnomes, and winged dinosaurs to sky pirates.
Isolated mountain peaks, clifftop cities, and battles in the sky abound in this sapphic anthology focused on overcoming challenges awaiting in the clouds.
And here’s a little more insight into the stories from its contributors and illustrator!
“Piracy is Not a Five Year Plan” by J.S. Fields
I’m a sucker for spaceships. I’m terrible at zero gravity physics, however, and Lofty Mountains gave me a chance to try airships for the first time. I’ve loved airships ever since watching She-Ra back in the 1980s, when Sea Hawk flew his pirate ship around, flirted with She-Ra, and ignored Adora. I wasn’t in the mood for magical girls this time around, but am always in the mood for pirates. And dinosaurs. And enemies to lovers flirting. Really, this short has most everything I love about fiction, all wrapped up in one ridiculously silly airship-pirate-dinosaur-bad-banking-decisions story. I hope it makes you laugh, because I had an absolute riot of a time writing it.
“The Aerial Gardeners Shop” by Rebecca Kim Wells
My favorite thing about writing short stories is getting to play around with different tones and genres without committing to them for a full novel. Lofty Mountains is a speculative sapphic anthology (a category very much in my wheelhouse!), but instead of writing bloody and dark, I decided to take a sharp turn into snarky and light. “The Aerial Gardeners Shop” is an ode to bad retail jobs featuring an ambitious young woman stuck in a dead end job with an annoyingly apathetic coworker. Of course, they’re forced to work way above their pay grade when some odd things start happening on their mountain. This story is silly and fun and features a flying garden gnome. I wrote it entirely to amuse myself, so I hope it amuses other people!
“Cloudbreaker” by Maya Gittelman
It was a bright, basic sort of morning when I looked out the window and daydreamed vaguely about the shapes in the clouds, and that’s when it hit me. That’s the thing about clouds. You see whatever you want in them. From there, the concept of “fuckboy cloud goddess butch lesbian” came easy—the sort of player who takes the shape of your most secret, desperate sapphic desires, makes your dreams come true, and walks out of your life. I’ve always wanted to spin a queer Hades/Perspephone HEA in which a quarter of eternity is anything but hell. In which she chooses to stay. In which they choose each other.
This is also a story about running away, and running toward. I wanted to write about the specific queer divinity inherent in helping growing things grow. While the plot took some tweaking, I kept the best parts of my original concept. I set the story in one of my favorite mountain ranges near my family’s home in Batangas, drawing texture from the landscape and paying my personal homage to Philippine icon Maria Makiling. I’m half-Filipina. The sort of love that makes you the best of yourself, when you’re with them or when you’re not—I wanted to give that to Filipina queer woman, to Filipina lesbians. I wanted to write magic Filipina women with agency and power, character and chaos, figuring themselves out, and falling in love.
“Don’t Look Down” by Rosiee Thor
When I first heard about Lofty Mountains and began thinking in earnest about what it would be like to live up on a mountain, my immediate thought was how bummed out I would be not to be able to garden. I took that feeling and ran with it, creating a character from a mountain community with seasonal affective disorder who desperately wants to live in a sunnier climate where she can grow tomatoes and lemons, but who is afraid to leave behind the only family she’s ever known. Putting her opposite a pacifist harpy who defies her own cultural norms of violence created such a fun dynamic for me to write: two angsty sapphics slowly coming to find the acceptance they’ve never gotten from their families in each other.
“Climb Every Mountain” by Carmen Loup
“Climb Every Mountain” is about a young alien nun who falls in love with the person who was sent to assassinate her Superior Mother and decides to renounce her renunciation in favor of tasting all life has to offer. “The Sound of Music” was a favorite of mine growing up, and as I began to formally study Yoga and meditation, I learned that sound truly has some remarkable spiritual qualities. I’ve always waffled between devotion to spiritual life and devotion to exploration of living, and this story represents the insight that all paths are spiritual when seen through the lens of pure devotion to being. It explores the power of sound, love, and physical intimacy through an alien lens.
“Flight of the Megabee” by William C. Tracy
I’ve been keeping bees for a few years now, and I’m continually amazed at the hive structure, and how the individual bees work as a part of the whole. They’ve started to make their way into my writing as an interesting plot device. We often think of the queen bee as the “head” of the colony, but most often the workers are the ones who decide when she needs to be replaced and a new queen raised. Both are necessary to the colony, and I’ve had colonies fail both because of lack of the queen, and because of lack of workers. In Flight of the Megabee, I imagined a culture where bees and humans live together, both adding to the robustness of the hive. Of course, then human politics gets in the way! Add that to a pastiche of the star-crossed lovers (except sapphic) from Romeo and Juliet, and I came up with a fun story about rival megabee rider colonies, and how even in times of war, love often wins.
“The Cerulean Princess” by Robin CM Duncan
My story is a sequel to “The Vermillion Lady,” in Space Wizard Science Fantasy’s previous anthology Farther Reefs. In that story, Astrid—then a clerk at a dusty institute—discovered adventure, unlooked for and unexpected love, and the power of flight imbued in her mother’s amulet. Now, Astrid and her lover (and captain) Mehdina Taradel, hunt the heinous pirate Vermillion, who stole the magical source of the nation’s power. Their voyage takes them and Mehdina’s crew across an island nation beleaguered by rebellion to a climax in an undiscovered paradise. I wrote the kind of swashbuckling adventure that I love to read, and I hope the readers love it too!
“Featherton’s Claws” by Sara Codair
I’ve been trying to write a queer magic school novel on and off for years, and never gotten past a shaky first draft. I had much better luck writing a magic school short story, especially once I added cats to the mix. A lot of cats. Talking cats. “Featherton’s Claws” is a cozy-ish story about two magic school professors falling for each other while trying to find a lost cat in a flying magic school, with the help of more cats. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it!
“Into the Churn” by N.L. Bates
I love writing highly competent characters. For “Into the Churn,” I made the protagonist not only good at her job, but one of the only people who can do her job. After all, it takes a certain type of person to domesticate, train, and manage herds of animals several times bigger than you are. If this world had a book on flying dinosaurs, Kirin would have written it. Then I took that highly competent protagonist and threw her, well, into the Churn: a collection of floating islands and bad physics that tries to kill anyone who enters it. There are maelstroms. There are falling rocks and burning rains. And of course, there’s another extremely skilled woman. Natasa has spent her entire career surviving the Churn, salvaging pieces of history from its stormy skies. But even experts need flying dinosaurs occasionally, so Natasa gets Kirin involved. Sometimes they clash. Sometimes there are sparks. Mostly there’s dinosaurs, adventure, and women being great at what they do. Also, rhinestone pants.
Illustrations by Katie Cordy
As the main illustrator for Lofty Mountains, I was tasked with the challenge to bring these amazing authors’ visions to life. In kindergarten, I drew unicorns in crayons in a stubborn attempt to educate my fellow students in what I considered their gross ignorance of magical equines. Over the years, my passion to paint the fantastical has only grown. I love using illustrations to catch people’s eyes to stories they might not have otherwise read, and to use this spotlight to emphasize the action, emotions, and overall spirit of incredible worlds and characters. In this anthology, it has been a treat to push my artistic talents in new ways, from learning about the differences of Italian queen bees and Russian honey bee drones to pre-colonial Filipino fashion. May these illustrations catch your eye and encourage you to dive into these beautiful, heartfelt stories.