Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 41a - On the Shelf for December 2019 - Transcript
(Originally aired 2019/12/07 - listen here)
Welcome to On the Shelf for December 2019.
Another year is winding down and one of the shows this month will be a year-end retrospective about f/f historical media I’ve consumed and enjoyed this year. But what about a review of some of the things the Lesbian Historic Motif Project has done in 2019?
Back in April, we reached our 100th show, which I celebrated with a bonus fiction episode of my Renaissance romantic short story “Where My Heart Goes.” Somewhere around June, the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast topped 100,000 downloads! It’s worth compulsively tracking statistics just to know things like that. On the average, these days each episode reaches 1000 downloads within three months of airing. Not quite the big time, but not too shabby.
In 2019 we branched out into movie discussions, with episodes about The Favourite and Wild Nights with Emily. I still plan to do an episode on Gentleman Jack at some point, although there are entire podcasts devoted to the show so I’m still thinking about what special angle I can bring to it. This year, I also became more comfortable with giving myself a break on occasion and doing re-runs of past shows. Putting out a show every week can push my limits at times. I may use the editorial “we” in this show, but it’s all just me: doing the research, writing the scripts, arranging for the interviews, editing the recordings, compiling the show notes.
We’ve completed our second year of audio short stories and I’m so proud of the authors who have entrusted their work to me. Going into next year, I’m hoping for submissions that will make the choices even more difficult to narrow down. We’ll be accepting certain types of historic fantasy as well as strict historicals and there are some very exciting things going on in that field currently.
I’ve been delighted to be able to feature some authors writing historic fantasy in the mainstream in my interviews and hope to continue cross-pollinating various reading communities that share a love of queer women and history.
And that brings me to an idea I’d like to plant in your minds. I don’t know how much of an overlap there is between my listenership and the World Science Fiction Society members that nominate and vote for the Hugo awards. But among the categories that are recognized by the Hugos is Fancast--for podcasts or videocasts that contribute to the science fiction and fantasy community. It feels a bit daring to suggest, but I think the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast has enough SFF content that it makes sense for the show to be considered for nomination. So if you’re a nominating member of the World Science Fiction Society--which is to say, if you’re a supporting or attending member of either this year’s or next year’s Worldcon--I’d be grateful if you took a moment to consider whether you agree. Or, if you don’t agree yet, I’d appreciate if you listen to our next year’s offerings keeping that idea in mind. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it.
But let’s get back to the 2020 fiction series. In just one month, submissions will be open. I’ll be buying five stories to produce for the show and I’d love for yours to be in the running. There’s a link to the full call for submissions in the show notes with details of what we’re looking for and how to submit. Remember that we’re paying professional rates--the same per-word rates that far more prestigious and competitive venues offer.
And speaking of more prestigious and competitive venues, I’d also like to call your attention to an entirely different fiction project that will be accepting submissions early in the New Year: Silk and Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. Their elevator pitch is: “Princess and swordswoman, scholar and mecha pilot, warrior women and the courtly ladies who love them.” I have no personal connection with this project except as a Kickstarter supporter, but I think it will be of great interest to my listeners, whether you’re authors or enthusiastic readers of f/f romantic adventure. The anthology started as an invitational collection featuring authors like Ellen Kushner, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar, Arkady Martine, and a whole bunch of other talented and award-winning authors. When their kickstarter project blew through all the stretch goals to reach nine times their original target, one of the add-ons was an open submissions call to add a few more stories. Their submissions deadline is February 22, 2020 and I’ve put a link to their call for submissions in the show notes for those who want the details. This is going to be exciting.
Publications on the Blog
I almost need a breather from all that excitement! So let’s review what the blog has been covering in the way of lesbian-relevant historical research.
I started off November with Adrienne Rich’s classic essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” which asks the evergreen question, when people are trying to address gender issues whether in history or in the present day, why do they keep forgetting that women who love women exist?
Next was the somewhat less mind-blowing collection of articles Constructing Medieval Sexuality, which had a fair amount of queer content but almost all of it male-centered. Another work that gets cited a lot but which I found less interesting than I’d hoped was Carolyn Dinshaw’s Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Post-Modern. It’s an interesting cross-disciplinary philosophical study, though.
December begins with several papers on Renaissance and Early Modern topics. First up is Valerie Traub’s “The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England” which is one of the papers that eventually grew into her book by the same title. Tim Hitchcock’s "The Reformulation of Sexual Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century England" tries to make sense of a variety of shifts in demographics and sexual behavior in the 18th century, including attitudes toward same-sex sexuality. The same general era and topic is addressed by Randolph Trumbach’s "The Transformation of Sodomy from the Renaissance to the Modern World and Its General Sexual Consequences.” I confess that every time I read something by Trumbach I get really grumpy because he’s one of those male historians who blithely assumes that one needn’t actually study female same-sex history, one can simply assume that data and conclusions about men apply to them. And speaking of which, I finish up December with John Boswell’s classic Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. It was interesting to revisit this work. I originally read it back in 1980 when it first came out and to some extent every work on the history of sexuality since then has been in conversation with it.
Not much book shopping for the blog. I pre-ordered a book that isn’t due out until next March on the topic of “Female Husbands” viewed through a transgender lens.
I don’t have an author guest lined up this month, though I’m in correspondence with several people and just recorded a show that will air in February. I confess that if there were one part of this podcast that I’d love to farm out to someone with better social skills than me, it would be querying and arranging for guests to interview. I love the chance to talk to all the fascinating and talented authors we feature, but I have problems with anxiety around the process of actually lining them up, and it doesn’t help that I can’t just pull a guest out of my hat when I’ve put it off too long. So instead of interviews, I’ll reprise the show on Highwaywomen, which makes a sort of nice companion to this month’s essay.
This is an essay by request from several friends on Twitter who asked me to do a show on lesbian Vikings. Well, as you’ll find out, the show turns out to be a lot of “we don’t really have any evidence for lesbians in early Norse culture, but here are some tropes and motifs you might find useful if you want to write about them anyway.” I’ll also have a book list of f/f historic fantasy with Viking themes.
I plan to finish the year, as mentioned at the top of the show, with a look back at some of my favorite f/f historical books, movies, and other media I’ve consumed this year.
Recent Lesbian Historical Fiction
And that brings us to this month’s recent, new, and forthcoming book list.
Catching up on an October book with a fairy tale re-telling: Cinderella and the Lady, self-published by K.T. Grant
The sudden death of Ellie’s father leaves her with an uncertain future. Her stepmother, Geraldine and step-sister Mina treat her like a servant. The seductive Countess Tremaine wants to save Ellie from her life of drudgery, but all for a price- her innocence. She feels all hope is lost until she meets a lady who makes all her wishes come true. Lady Kristina, the Duke of Perrault’s daughter has returned home after five years abroad. She’s expected to marry, but her attraction to women stops her from carrying out her parents’ wishes. One night she meets a shy servant girl and becomes obsessed. She’ll do whatever she can to gain the trust of this mysterious woman and claim her for her own. With the countess pressuring Ellie into accepting her unscrupulous offer, and her stepmother growing more unstable, she turns to Kristina for support. But then her whole world comes crashing down when she learns the truth behind Kristina’s identity and the lies Geraldine has kept from her. As Ellie falls victim to those dark forces set on ruining her, Kristina fights to save Ellie’s heart before she loses her forever.
I found two November titles--or rather I found one, and the publisher let me know about the other one, which is always appreciated. The latter is a French erotic romance set in 1st century Rome.
O Venus ! Morior ! (Ô Vénus ! Je meurs !) by an author whose pen name is “Le Jardin de Sappho” (Sappho’s Garden). The story is in French, but here’s my translation of the cover copy, with a little help from Google Translate.
Aula Tullia Pulchra is a young Roman patrician of twenty years old. It's been four years since her husband Marcus left her bed. But thanks to a papyrus scroll that her sister-in-law gave her, she will discover with delight the joys of solitary pleasure and lesbian love with two magnificent slave girls from distant Germany.
The other November offering is a bit more serious: a self-published trilogy by Vicky Jones and Claire Hackney set in the American South in the 1950s. The Shona Jackson Trilogy consists of: Shona, Meet Me at 10, and The Beach House. The three blurbs run pretty long, so I’m going to condense it a bit, which I don’t usually do.
Shona - Mississippi, 1956. Shona Jackson knows two things—how to repair car engines and that her dark childhood secret must stay buried. Being a woman working a man’s job as a mechanic brings notice in a small town. And attention is dangerous, especially when it comes from free-spirited Lucy, a new college student. Lucy’s attraction to Shona is complicated by her entanglement with Frank, a failing bar owner whose schemes to raise money may also raise questions about Shona’s past.
Meet Me At 10 - It’s 1958 and Shona Jackson is on the run again. She lands a mechanic’s job at a machinery plant, but racial tensions and a supervisor bent on exposing management abuse come to a head when the boss’s beautiful daughter, Chloe, comes home from college.
The Beach House - California, 1958. (I guess this is sort of a spoiler.) Shona and Chloe arrive at their beautiful new beach house intent on a peaceful existence after their harrowing time in Alabama. With her own garage and a home beside the Pacific Ocean, Shona feels content for the first time in her life. But when Chloe returns from the doctor’s office with news that will forever change their carefully-made plans, Shona is left reeling.
December brings us three books. The first involves a bit of gender disguise: Donning the Beard self-published by EA Kafkalas.
Orphaned Madeline is sent to live with her aunt and work for Lord Guillomot. When she is assigned to care for the lord's daughter, Gabrielle, she finds her best friend and the love of her life. When Gabrielle's life is threatened by her fiancé, Madeline poses as a new suitor and wins her true love's heart. What will happen when Gabrielle finds out that her new love is also her ladies' maid?
Another Victorian tale with a rather darker turn is The Little Wife: A gothic Victorian tale of grief, desire and revenge, self-published by Delphine Woods.
When Beatrice Brown’s husband is duty-bound to return to the ominous Dhuloch Castle, she has no choice but to leave her home and go with him. The journey to the Scottish Highlands is nerve-shattering for Beatrice, and life in such a desolate place is no better. All she wants is to go back to England, back to her old, boring life. As she struggles to cope with the isolation and her husband’s cruel nature, Beatrice finds comfort in the only friendly face, the castle’s mistress, Clementine Montgomery. Soon, the two embark on a passionate affair. With Beatrice’s desires and vibrancy reawakened, she begins to wonder what her husband is hiding. Why did he flee the castle all those years ago? Something evil lurks inside Dhuloch’s walls. It will not rest until it has blood. Will Beatrice have the strength to uncover the truth before the castle claims its next victim?
And we finish with The Wonderful by Saksia Sarginson from Flatiron Books, which is one of those books where I had to go on social media to get confirmation that it really does have a queer protagonist.
A sweeping and turbulent drama about the anxieties of postwar Britain, where one strong and inspirational young woman looks to find her place, no matter the cost. Sometimes, the truth lies in fiction It’s hard to be an American girl in 1957. Especially when your dad’s job means you have to move four thousand miles from home. Especially if you’d rather play baseball than wear a dress. Especially if you see your mom fraying a little more from anxiety each day. And especially if being five minutes older means you have to protect your fragile twin brother. Still, Hedy Delaney loves her family, and she’s trying to make the best of her new life on a U.S. airbase in England. After all, her dad’s a war hero, her mother’s a beauty, and her brother’s a brainiac who writes moving stories about space travel. Then one tragic day, the unforeseen occurs and all three are ripped away, leaving Hedy alone with countless questions. What really happened on the airbase? What went on behind military closed doors? What were the secrets that could never be told? And how could any of it have led to her family’s destruction? In her search for the truth, Hedy turns to a story her brother began months before he died. Deciding to finish what her brother started, Hedy begins to piece together what happened to her family. But whether she’s ready for what she’ll discover is another matter entirely. A sweeping and turbulent family drama, The Wonderful asks whether writing fiction can uncover fact, and if it’s ever better to let the truth remain hidden. Sometimes, it’s safer not to finish what you’ve started.
What Am I Reading?
And what have I been reading since I recorded the last podcast? If I’m reading my notes correctly, I’ve been rather busy. A twisty time-travel epistolary romance “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Olivia Waite’s The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics which we talked about on the podcast a while ago. Cat Sebastian’s A Little Light Mischief which has also had a lot of f/f historical buzz. And then I’ve been tearing through Stephanie Burgis’s Regency fantasy series Snowspelled, Spellswept, and Thornbound, in preparation for interviewing her about the upcoming addition to the series, Moontangled, which features a female romantic couple. That seems like a lot, but many of them were fairly short. I’ve also changed up my daily routine and instead of reading fiction at the gym, I’m now reading it on the train to work, which just might be making a different in reading speed. Who knows.
What books are you hoping that Santa will bring you as presents? Or are you the sort who says, “To heck with Santa, I’m just going to buy them for myself!”
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