Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 41 (previously 19c) - Book Appreciation with Ellen Klages - Transcript
(Originally aired 2018/02/17 - listen here)
Heather Rose Jones: Last week, we had Ellen Klages on the show to talk about her own writing. In this segment she’s here to talk about historical fiction featuring queer women that she has particularly enjoyed, written by other authors. Welcome, Ellen.
Ellen Klages: Why, thank you. Lovely to be back.
H: So, why don’t you tell us about some book that has particularly stayed with you or that you really enjoyed.
E: The author that keeps coming to mind is a woman named Sarah Waters.
H: Oh yes, she’s a favorite.
E: … Who’s British. And I read The Paying Guests. Actually, I have to confess, I didn’t actually read it, I listened to it on books on tape because I was sick, and I was in bed and I had hurt my back and so I couldn’t sit up and read. And so, I listened to it on tape. And I am actually really glad that was my introduction to Sarah Waters, because it was a British narrator and I think I would have missed the class differences between the main characters, if it hadn’t been someone narrating them with completely different accents, so I could tell that one was well-educated and wealthy, and one was not. And she makes it clear but listening to it is very different from reading it. And I have since gone back and read… I’m not sure I’ve read everything that she’s written, but I’ve read three or four more. And The Paying Guests is, I think, still my favorite.
H: That’s interesting because usually when people mention her books, they go straight for Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith, yeah. Which, of course, are the ones that have been made into mini-series.
E: Yeah, Tipping the Velvet’s been made into a mini-series? I didn’t know that.
E: Well, I love The Paying Guests because it’s set in post-war Britain, I think it’s… I can’t remember if it’s post WWI or post WWII.
H: I think it’s post WWI.
E: Yeah, I think it’s like in the ‘20s. And I am not particularly enamored with the 19th century or anything earlier. I am a very 20th century-ist when it comes to historical fiction. So, that was a time period that I have written about and have read extensively about and could identify with. So, it was a good gateway drug to Sarah Waters, but she’s just somebody that, sentence by sentence, I would love to be able to write like her. I mean, it’s just gorgeous prose.
H: Uh huh. Do you have any other books you’d like to mention?
E: I love Nicola Griffith’s work. Hild was not expressly queer, but it was, I think it’s my favorite of her books, just because it’s a big, thick book about the 7th century and I was on a jury and I thought, “Oh, I have to read this but it’s going to be pain.” And I read it in about 23 hours without… I think I slept in the middle, but I couldn’t put it down. And it’s just brilliant. And pretty much everything that she’s written, I’ve loved. The Aud series…
H: Which, of course, isn’t historical per se.
E: It isn’t historical, but it’s queer, and it’s… Well, at this point it’s historical, because it was like… in the ‘80s. But Nikola has just gotten the rights back to it and she just blogged about the fact that there’s going to be two more Aud books sometime in the next five year, which just excites the hell out of me. Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint and the Tremontaine series, which is, I don’t even know what you’d call it… It’s from SerialBox, so it’s not…
H: Yeah, it’s… I listen to it on audio, but it also appears in print. But yeah, it’s a serial.
E: Well, it came out, you could listen to it, you could read it online, and afterwards, it came out in print, which is very non-traditional.
H: And it’s set in a… you can’t really call it directly historical, but it’s very clear that the setting is very 18th century. Very European 18th century. At least that’s how it reads to me.
E: Well, it’s historical but it’s not necessarily our 18th century. It’s a multi-verse kind of thing.
H: Yes, and almost everyone is queer in some fashion.
H: So, Ellen, are there any other resources for queer historical fiction that you think our listeners might be interested in?
E: In the current political situation, I know that all of us are concerned about gender issues in a way that we probably haven’t needed to be for, you know, a decade or more. And I would like to point people to the Tiptree award, which is www.tiptree.org. And we’re in our 27th year and it’s an award for the science fiction and fantasy that best explores or expands gender roles. And if you go to the website, there is 27 years of lists of books that have been recommended. Obviously, what we think of as exploring or expanding gender has changed over a quarter of a century, but books that are currently exploring what it means to be queer or trans or just non-binary, and if you go back 27 years, you can look at the books that were cutting edge then. So, for people that want to, some of them are historical, some of them are not, but for people that are actually interested in a wider exploration of gender in genre fiction, the Tiptree Award is an absolutely fabulous resource.
[Editorial note: The Tiptree Award was re-named the Otherwise Award in 2019 and can now be found at otherwiseaward.org.]
H: Thank you so much, Ellen, for sharing some of your favorite books with us. The titles we talked about will be in the show notes along with links to your own work.
E: Great, thank you so much for having me.
In the Book Appreciation segments, our featured author will talk about one or more favorite books with queer female characters in a historic setting.
In this episode Ellen Klages recommends some favorite queer historical novels:
Ellen also talks about The Tiptree Award [note: now the Otherwise Award] for genre fiction that expands or explores gender roles, which has long lists of recommended books going back 27 years.
Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
Links to Heather Online
Links to Ellen Klages Online