Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 29a - On the Shelf for December 2018 - Transcript
(Originally aired 2018/12/01 - listen here)
Welcome to On the Shelf for December 2018.
December starts with a reminder that the podcast will be open for fiction submissions during the month of January. We’re looking for lesbian-themed historic short stories of up to 5000 words. We pay professional rates both for the story and to the narrators. See the link in the show notes for full details and please publicize this call to other venues so we have an even harder time choosing among the wonderful submissions than we did last year.
If you’re interested in the geekier academic side of researching and writing historical fiction, you might want to know about the Historical Fictions Research Network. They have a website and online journal at historicalfictionsresearch-dot-org and will be holding their fourth annual conference in Manchester England in February 2019. The website says the following about their conference:
“The Historical Fictions Research Network aims to create a place for the discussion of all aspects of the construction of the historical narrative. The focus of the conference is the way we construct history, the narratives and fictions people assemble and how. Recent keynotes have explored the experiences of excavations at Treblinka; the use of DNA to reconstruct historical narratives; explorations of memorial practices at battle fields; cookery as a means to explore the past; new insights resulting from a computer based re-construction of the battle of Trafalgar; and a discussion of new approaches at the Petrie Museum. We welcome both academic and practitioner presentations. We welcome people working on prose, drama, visual art, reception studies, musicology, museum displays, film, tv, gaming, wargaming, graphic novels, transformative works and any other areas engaged in the construction of narratives of the past.”
Publications on the Blog
In November, the blog started off with a mini-theme of classical Greek romance novels, starting with a translation of The Babyloniaka by Iamblichos, discussed in the podcast on sexuality in classical Rome, and a Christian adaptation of the genre for the apocryphal acts of the saints, where the romance arc is mapped onto two Christian women, Xanthippe and Polyxena.
Following this, I began a series of articles about the late 18th century to go along with last month’s essay on sculptor Anne Damer. These included the social and political forces that resulted in the Sex Panic of the 1790s, which precipitated a shift in English images of the feminine ideal to a domestic, sexless maternal figure. Another article looked into the contents of the French Mémoires secrets, a sort of politically-tinged gossip rag about doings at the French court in the time leading up to the Revolution.
Continuing the 18th century theme in December, we have an article on representations of sapphism in 18th century English literature. And as a contrast to sexuality among the middle and upper classes, Theo Van der Meer digs through legal archives in Amsterdam to turn up case histories of women who ran afoul of the law in the context of sexual relations with other women.
I haven’t settled on what publications to cover at the end of the month, but I have a couple of books on the history of same-sex relations in India that would go nicely with the last of our original fiction series for 2018: “At the Mouth” by Gurmika Mann. Mann has written a delightful, if bittersweet story of young love and making hard choices.
Book Shopping! Oops, Movie Shopping!
I have no new book acquisitions to talk about, so I’ll take the time to talk up a new movie that listeners should definitely track down. The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone is a costume drama set in the early 18th century about England’s Queen Anne and her romantic friendships with two of her courtiers: the brillliant and politically savvy Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and Churchill’s protégée and eventual rival for the queen’s affections, Abigail Masham. I can guarantee you at least a bit of homoerotic tension, possibly even more. It’s hard to know without having seen it yet. The movie is likely to have limited distribution in art-house theaters, though it’s already won some major awards, so do your research and track it down before it goes away.
And because it’s as good an inspiration as any other, I’m going to do the December essay on Queen Anne and the rumors of lesbianism that surrounded her intimate circle of favorites. I’ll have a book recommendation or two that tie in with the topic. And I may possibly rope in a guest to discuss the movie with. No promises, but I’ll do some sort of review to let you know what I thought of it. Would listeners be interested in regular episodes about historic movies of lesbian interest? Let me know--I have quite a collection on video, and if there’s enough interest I could do mini reviews on occasion.
This month’s author guest will be Carrie Pack, whose YA novel Grrrrls on the Side looks back at the riot girl movement of the 1990s and the rise of zine culture. The ‘90s may seem just a blink of an eye ago to some of us, but for the target teenage readership of the book, it’s ancient history. Carrie will also be doing our book appreciation show this month.
Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction
For this month’s list of new and forthcoming historical fiction, I’ve turned up 9 books, starting with several I missed when they came out in October. Because lesbian books often don’t have Amazon listings or advance publicity until they’re actually released, the timing of when I put these shows together means that I may not be able to mention a book until the show two months later. If you know of any upcoming lesbian historical books, or if you have one coming up that has a scheduled release date, drop me an email to make sure I include it. People are starting to get the word that the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast is a go-to resource for information about books, and I’d like to make it as complete as I can.
Back in October, we have book 2 in Olivia Lark’s “The Flowers” series, published by Three Bunny Farm Press. The title is Lavender Inn and it’s an independent story from the first of the series and is set in the 1890s somewhere on the Atlantic Coast. Here’s the blurb.
As Lavender Inn shakes under the hurricane's onslaught, other storms whirl within. Clara Winslow's struggling seaside inn needs a successful society wedding, but a big storm will take it out of her hands. Wedding guest Tillie Walker is stylish and kind, but she is harboring secrets, secrets that could get in the way of the growing fascination between her and glorious, windswept Clara. Can a catastrophe be the salvation of two women near ruin? Lavender Inn is a standalone romance set in 1890, with the kind of tender happily-ever-after readers enjoyed in Daisy Crown.
October also saw a couple of stories about hard-riding western women in male-coded professions.
Naomi Muse’s self-published Whiskey and Cinnamon has the following description:
Sloan had a hard enough time being a female bounty hunter in the West. With only her trusty steed Whiskey by her side, she went through town after town righting wrongs. Her methods worked well until she encountered the Franklin brothers terrorizing the women in a small town. Sloan always had a soft spot for women, and she will not let these ruffians have their way with them. Will enlisting the help of a local legend be enough to defeat her new foes?
Red Hope brought out The Triple L published by Little Red Wings.
In 1878, Landen Morrison is a wandering cowgirl with an ugly past that keeps finding her, even when she rides into Texas. She goes to the town of Paris, looking for work, alcohol, and sex but she accidentally lets her guard slip around Raleigh Baylor, the only female Ranger in Paris, Texas. Despite her attempts, Raleigh watches Landen leave Paris but is later shocked to learn Landen has suddenly joined the infamous Sam Bass Gang. Several train robberies later, a war ensues between the rangers and the Bass Gang, one that includes a personal battle of justice and betrayal between the two opposing women. As the conflict comes to a bloody end, the truth of Landen's lies is revealed. Can Raleigh's love conquer Landen's dark past, or has she lost her forever?
Author Emilie Blondel has two self-published erotic stories either out or just coming out. They appear to be in the short story range and look to have a fairly high heat rating.
In “Her Royal Servant” beautiful blonde Anne-Marie was born into a lowly life, working on a small market in the city of Paris. She dreams of one day escaping, and although she knows she can make an extra livre or two by giving the young men of Paris her favours, she has never felt interested in the company of men. When she buys herself a flirtatious new outfit one day, spending all her meagre savings, she is surprised to discover that it is not just men who seem interested in her now. In fact, she attracts the interest of one of the wealthiest, most beautiful women in the whole of France. When she is taken back to the Palace of Versailles, in order to be this gentlewoman's special servant, she is amazed how good it feels to finally find someone worth serving. Her world, from now on, is full of majesty.
And coming out in December from the same author is “Bellatrix's Slave”
When innocent eighteen-year-old Aurelia is told by her father that she must attend the Colosseum with him, to watch a gladiator fight, she is not pleased. Until, that is, she discovers that the gladiators are hot, strong, powerful women... The winning gladiator, a muscular and dominating warrior named Bellatrix is told that she may choose a man from the audience to be her slave for the night. But she chooses a woman. She chooses Aurelia. Aurelia soon learns what it is like to be completely under her Mistress' control...
November releases include another erotic short story, “The Queen's Gift” by Lara Zielinsky, published by LZ Media.
The brief blurb tells us: “Pirate Captain "Bloody Mary" Flint diverts Lady Anne Coleridge from her fate as a lady in waiting to the English Queen. A lesbian romantic adventure on the 18th century high seas.”
Hard on the heels of Vanda’s third book in the Juliana series is book 4 Heaven is to your Left published by Sans Merci Press. Here’s the blurb:
It’s 1956. In Heaven is to Your Left Alice (Al) and Juliana arrive home from a successful run at Le Lido in Paris, only to be greeted by Dan Schuyler who has threatened to reveal to the world the nature of their “immoral” relationship. Under this threat Schuyler has gotten Juliana to sign a contract with him to be in a Broadway play. Now, the control and manipulation begins. Al seeks a way to free Juliana from this man’s clutches. She turns to Max, accomplished businessman, owner of two night clubs, to help her. There must be something he can do; he has friends who are gangsters. Still, Max does nothing. Or does he? Al knows she has to act. She knows gangsters too.
There are two December releases in addition to the short story previously mentioned. Lily Maxon offers a novella that sounds like it has either a Regency or Victorian setting, the self-published A Lady’s Desire.
Lady Sarah Lark has never had much interest in any of the suitors that surround her. She’s decided that, instead of choosing a husband, she’ll save her pin money and travel like she’s always wanted to. However, her plans are interrupted when her family invites her cousin’s widow, Winifred Wakefield, to stay with them.
S. D. Simper offers us a re-imagining of Sheridan LeFanu’s classic lesbian vampire tale, in Carmilla and Laura published by Endless Night Publications. Here’s the blurb:
In the late 19th century, Laura lives a lonely life in a schloss by the forest, Styria, with only her doting father and two governesses for company. A chance accident brings a new companion, however – the eccentric and beautiful Carmilla. With charm unparalleled and habits as mysterious as her history, Carmilla’s allure is undeniable, drawing Laura closer with every affectionate touch and word. Attraction blossoms into a temptation Laura fears to name, a tantalizing passion burning brighter than the fires of hell. But when a mysterious plague begins stealing the lives of young women in her home and the village beyond, Laura wrestles to reconcile the truth – that the gentle, fragile woman she loves may be a monster cast out of heaven. Carmilla, the classic vampire novella written by J Sheridan LeFanu, receives new life in this gorgeous retelling, centered on the provocative, controversial leads of the original, Carmilla and Laura.
For this month’s Ask Sappho segment, I thought I’d pass on an interesting archaeological find that might spark some story ideas. I got this story from the website Ancient Origins, who cite articles in Discovery News and Mail Online among their sources.
The find comes from the latrine of an 18th century school of swordsmanship in the Baltic city of Gdańsk now part of Poland. Among finds such as wooden practice swords, broken pottery, and jewelry, they found a well-preserved leather dildo. It is about 8 inches long, is stuffed with hair, and has a carved wooden tip. The archaeologists suggest that given the location of the find and the construction of the object it was more likely “used for personal pleasure than for ...ritual.” The article has a more extensive discussion of the history of dildos both as ritual objects and as sex toys, if you’re interested in following the link in the show notes.
But when I read this article, I immediately thought of various historic records of female-bodied persons using an artificial penis as part of living a male role, including for having sexual relations with a woman. People like Katherina Hetzeldorfer in 15th century Germany, Eleno de Céspedes in 16th century Spain, Catherine Vizzani in 18th century Italy, and Catharina Margaretha Lincken in 18th century Germany. My imagination went spinning off into a gender-disguise story: a young woman who aspires to be a swordswoman masquerades as a man to enter the school, and then...
Well, someone will have to take up the tale and tell us the rest of it. 18th century Gdańsk was quite a happening place, with plenty of opportunity for adventure and peril, as well as the challenges of disguise and--dare we hope it--romance? In fact, there’s still time for someone to give it a try for next year’s fiction series!
* * *