Today on the site, we’re saying howdy to Queer Weird West Tales ed. by Julie Bozza, which releases tomorrow!
Frontiers have always attracted the Other – where they find that the Other is always already there. These 22 stories explore what happens when queer characters encounter weirdness on the edge of the worlds they know.
Authors include: Julie Bozza, J.A. Bryson, Dannye Chase, S.E. Denton, Miguel Flores, Adele Gardner, Roy Gray, KC Grifant, Peter Hackney, Bryn Hammond, Narrelle M Harris, Justin Warren Jackson, Toshiya Kamei, Catherine Lundoff, Bunny McFadden, Angus McIntyre, Atlin Merrick, Eleanor Musgrove, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Lauren Scharhag, Sara L. Uckelman, and Dawn Vogel.
Per editor Julie Bozza, “In this edition of LGBTQ Reads’ “Inside An Anthology,” ten of the contributors to Queer Weird West Tales share insights into their choices of character, weirdness, and setting, and why this mix of themes is so intriguing.”
“Magic Casements” by Julie Bozza (editor)
I think this combination of Queer, Weird and West/Frontier works so well because all three elements resist – or are at odds with – the “norm”. Whatever that is! My friends and I have been saying “Normality is a dead concept” for decades now, but I think that is part of the charm of these genres, whether written together or separately. There is something that goes against the grain in all of us; there are social and cultural expectations that we all chafe against at times, to say the least. Which I think is at least partly why we identify with or at least enjoy reading about outsiders.
Maybe we are all the Other.
“Rumblings” by Roy Gray
The inspiration for my story was reading a book, The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time by J. Richard Gott. His description of a jinni, a sort of time loop – and in particular the information jinni – was one of the ideas that meshed with speculation about climate change, supervolcanoes, asteroid impacts and how our descendants might cope with the fallout of such.
“Handguns” by J.A. Bryson
I love the Weird West combination, the sort of miso and maple syrup of it, and have experimented a good bit of late writing Wild West Fairylands. There’s unexpectedness and umami so-to-speak, tropes to embrace and subvert. I love it. As for the queerness, that’s just the icing on the proverbial cake (pardon the mixed metaphor/flavor palates).
I very much enjoyed reading Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, which was steampunk but with a wild west flair and Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted, which was pulp western near future. I wanted to riff off these in my own work, and you know, lean into the weird.
“Twin-Sun Bayou” by Peter Hackney
My inspiration was not actually all that deep, at least not for this story. Very simply, I wanted to write a story about an out there romance in an out there place; one that would challenge some of the simpler tropes we often associate with things like space adventures and science fiction. Honestly, the very first thing that came into my head was the image of my characters sitting side by side on deck chairs, wearing matching straw hats and fishing as the sun(s) went down.
“A Truce with Evil” by Bryn Hammond
In my story I have a contrast of cultural values between competition and cooperation. That had its seed in a fascinating book I read years ago, Darwin Without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evolutionary Thought by Daniel P. Todes. It’s about 19th-century Russian scientists’ reception of the competition theme in Darwin. The ‘struggle for existence’, animal with animal, was a key concept for evolutionists in England and France, but in Russia did not translate well or tally with the observations of naturalists. Darwin had observed animals in populous places and warm climates, whereas in the cold spaces of Russia’s non-European hinterland, the usual struggle animals faced was against conditions, not each other. Pyotr Kropotkin is famous as an anarchist but was also a forerunner to the study of emotions and the beginnings of ethics in animals. His Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902) has a host of examples of the sociability of animals, cooperation across species, as witnessed in the vast landscapes of Siberia.
I meshed that with the ideas around evil in my story. I’ve wanted to explore the cultural relativity of evil ever since I wrote a sentence in my novel Against Walls: “We’re defined by our definition of evil.”
“Bleb Central” by Justin Warren Jackson
My main character is a gay man whose job is to cater to others. He thinks he runs things because he keeps everybody in one piece, literally. Only as the story progresses do we see that there is a larger picture and that what the main character does is just one piece of this. A moral of the story: No one is indispensable, though each of us can play a pivotal role. Especially after an alien invasion.
In my story, the queer characters are no more outsiders than any other human. With all characters equal in this regard, they also have equal agency in transforming their hostile environment into some semblance of home. Ultimately, their effectiveness depends not only on how much effort they put in, but also on how attuned they are to the larger picture.
“Grimwood” by Catherine Lundoff
I’m fascinated by the impact that the spiritualist movement had on both American and British society in the nineteenth century. It was an impetus for the founding of the abolitionist and the women’s suffrage movements: a lot of the female leadership combined their interests or moved from one to the other as they learned to give speeches, organize and be active outside the domestic sphere. I start off with a woman, a lesbian, who’s lost the love of her life and has exhausted what mediums and spiritualists can do for her, so she’s looking for a wilder, older magic.
“A Fearful Symmetry” by Angus McIntyre
My story is set in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century. It’s very much a time of transition. So the characters are ‘at home’ in the sense that they can function well in that environment, but there’s a growing tension between the old and the new. As the frontier increasingly opens up and loggers and miners and city builders move in, it’s creating a very different world.
The North America of my stories isn’t a comfortable place. There’s a dark and eerie side to it, and there really are sasquatches and wendigos and worse in those trackless woods and swamps. No one’s ever really ‘at home’ there. But my protagonists, like the Native people of the region, have learned how to fit in, how not to live at odds with nature, and how to manage those particular dangers. They’re going to have a much harder time coping with the new, rapidly-industrializing America that is coming their way.
“Set in Stone” by Eleanor Musgrove
My story is set on Hadrian’s Wall at the time of its building. This was (arguably!) the edge of the Roman Empire at the time, and for my Roman main characters, it’s where the fairly stable, predictable Empire they’ve always lived in gives way to wild weather and strange peoples. In my story, at least, there’s so much that they don’t know about the world beyond the Wall that they can actually use that to their advantage in some ways!
I chose this particular frontier because when I was younger, my dad was involved in Roman reenactment, so I learned a lot about the Romans on weekends and holidays, usually through visiting castles to watch their displays of marching, weapons, and even mock battles. I was a little worried that this particular frontier might be a bit too distant from other people’s for this anthology, but I’ve since learned that mine is actually not the farthest-flung! I love that we got to include a range of different frontiers, and I’m glad I could add to that variety.
“The Frontier of the Heart” by Sara L. Uckelman
I grew up watching Star Trek, so of course the first thing I think of when I hear “frontier” is “Space: The Final Frontier”. Even as a child, I remember finding that a perplexing phrase, because surely the frontier moves as it is explored, so how could any frontier be the final one? That was the inspiration for the story: A far-future space-exploration where every new planet is its own frontier to be explored. And then, of course, my characters had to face their own personal frontiers, the boundaries they thought they’d never be strong enough to cross.
For more information: https://juliebozza.com/book/queer-weird-west-tales
Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/u/3kLRAn