Adventuresses Club Press 2: The Nun Ensign

That’s correct, we have another book out! This time I’ve delved back to the 16-17th centuries, to bring you the impossibly block-busteresque life of Catalina de Erauso, the Nun Ensign. 


Deciding that the life of a nun in Spain was not for her, in 1600 Catalina escaped the nunnery, dressed as a man, and sailed to the New World. There she got into fights, seduced women, enlisted as a soldier, and… murdered a lot of people. Her scrapes with death and escapes from the authorities defy belief, and the events are told with a truly economical approach to words, which is occasionally infuriating, as you wonder what possible subtext could have ignited a given incident. 

Try a sample here:

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Daughters of a Coral Dawn – Katherine .V. Forrest

Daughters of a Coral Da

Entertaining, lesbian-themed escapist science fiction. A few tens of thousand of part-alien, genius-level women  (all descended from the Vernan alien whom they call Mother) steal a spaceship and flee the repressive, 70’s-era patriarchal Earth territories (where a woman using reproductive technology without a husband is a legal crime) to establish their own utopian colony.

Fifteen years later, they respond to the distress call of a crippled Terran ship. But now that their location has been compromised, what will they do with the chauvanistic survivors? And how will Megan, leader of the colony on Maternas, respond to the presence of the bewitching earthling Lieutenant Laurel Meredith?

I loved this humorously cheesy novel, and have been disappointed to find that Amazon.com only sells (currently) the first of this series. Worse still, it isn’t present in any of the local library catalogues. Woe! Daughters of a Coral Dawn works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, but the presence of a lesbian science fiction novel reminiscent of the webcomic I was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space makes me eager to track down further novels in the genre. That it is unashamedly queer sci-fi, rather than brief lesbianism acting as a aperitif to the actions of a heterosexual hero, make me extremely happy.

“ “Six thousand I’ve spawned,” Mother grumbled, “and I’m the only heterosexual left.” “

The subject of a society of women bereft of men is both intriguing and appealing – witness the women of Whileaway in The Female Man, the civilisation of women in The Sultana’s Dream, the inhabitants of Jeep in Ammonite (review forthcoming), and of course our very own Amazons – and personally, a subject I can’t get enough of. Before you cry foul, cast a glance over many of the adventure stories throughout history, from the older: The Lost World, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Old Man and the Sea to the more recent action novels, such as Ice Station, where women are either entirely absent, or present only as foils for heterosexual conquest. Turn-about is fair play, and long overdue!

“Once we completed our home-based education and ventured out into the world we thought it would be more difficult to hide our gifts, especially when  we all performed spectacularly well scholastically, and later, professionally. But we had one overwhelming advantage: We were women. Scant significance was attached to any of our accomplishments.”

K.L gives Daughters of a Coral Dawn 4 out of 5 winning references to emerald eyes, cantaloupe-sized breasts, and Sapphic passion.

 

And one, final quote:

“Father was furious when he learned of her pregnancy. “Great James Garfield, how could you let that happen!” he bellowed. “We’ve been married only six weeks! You said you’d take ovavoid!”

“No I didn’t, you just gave me the pills,” Mother informed him coolly. “I did what all Vernan females do when their males leave it up to them. Each time before we made love I concentrated hard and thought negative thoughts.” ”

 

 

 

Like reading? K.L. has published her first novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Be entertained!

Like poetry? K.L. has also published a collection of poems, The Loaded Brush. Find it here.

The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall

WellofLoneliness

Banned on charges of pornography when it was first published (it depicted a lesbian and her relationships), Radclyffe Hall’s epic tale of courage and despair is an invitation to grief, moving as it does from hardship to ostracism and back again.

Born to a loving pair of country gentry, Stephen Gordon is born a girl, instead of the son they expected. It very quickly becomes apparent that she is in no way like other ‘proper little girls’: she prefers to ride astride than sidesaddle, climb trees, and stamp about the manor pretending to be Lord Nelson.

Her mother does not love her (she feels an instinctive revulsion towards Stephen), the other children tease her, and her only friends are her pony (named after a housemaid she developed a crush on, and who was subsequently dismissed from her post), and her Father, who keeps his daughter’s homosexuality hidden from both his wife and daughter herself, and who raises Stephen as though she were a boy, all the while telling her that she is completely normal. I’m not judging his actions here; his character is that of a truly lovely person, who loves his daughter deeply and who becomes her dearest friend, but his denial, until his deathbed, of anything being abnormal about Stephen does not help to prepare her for the world, nor for self-knowledge.

It is a very sad novel, and never has a title been more appropriate. As Stephen matures, she becomes more obviously odd and isolated in the narrow-minded Worcestershire town of her birth. This is no tale of slowly growing acceptance. It is a striking portrait of the harm done to children through social isolation (she is schooled at home by a succession of governesses of varying competence, visiting only occasionally with the neighbours’ bullying brats) and restrictive cultural norms designed to punish a person for simply being oneself.

It is also a striking depiction of the pre-WW1 era, where the wealthy purchased entire lifetimes of servitude from their social and economic inferiors, able to use and discard them without consideration for their well-being, be it mental, emotional or financial. I felt particularly sorry for Puddle, Stephen’s long-time governess and companion, who spends the better years of her life educating and watching over the young woman, at the cost to any personal life of her own.

The Well of Loneliness describes a litany of misfortunes and suffering one would only usually expect to see in a traditional Blues song – Stephen is the cause of her parents relationship horribly failing; her father dies unexpectedly; her mother grows ever more distant and disapproving; the one friend she makes (a young man) eventually falls in love with her and then leaves when she rejects him in horror; she falls in love with a bored married woman who uses her for relief from the ennui of country life, before throwing her under the bus that is her vindictive husband; her mother, discovering her homosexuality, says she would rather have a dead child at her feet than a living “unnatural” daughter and exiles her from her home; her beloved horse goes lame and she has to shoot it, she becomes a hermit in London, World War One starts…and the trauma does not stop.

Finally completing this wrenchingly sad novel was a pyrrhic victory (I had to wade through it first), and I look forward to never reading it again. I do not mean that it is badly written; rather, it is a incredibly beautifully written shout against the injustices of being a queer person trying to live in that era, burdened with that era’s religiosity, heavy stress upon gender roles (which Stephen internalises in her own life, and describes in those of her queer friends’), and ultimate invalidation of any lifestyle fulfilment which doesn’t involve eventually marrying and having children. Hall intended to write the novel this way; deeming it the most important work she would ever complete, she sought to use her existing literary fame to bring the outcast status of sexual and gender minorities into the public view, and to create conversation about it. The character of Stephen portrays a person who, with all her advantages – strength, intelligence, independence, literary success – is hopelessly doomed to fail, tilting her lance as she does up against a windmill of hatred and intolerance from the entire world of “God’s good people.”

Stephen’s sexuality becomes the sole defining influence upon her life, as it must when people are so swift to polarisation and fanaticism about a single characteristic. At the cost of being herself and being an honourable person, she loses her community, her family, her home, and, eventually, the woman she loves.

It was a narrow squeak between finishing The Well of Loneliness and it finishing me – for the love of puppies, don’t read this novel if you are an unhappy person, because it will make you terribly sad.

K.L gives The Well of Loneliness 2 out of 5 tragic Englishwomen-in-exile. Sorry, Well lovers – it is simply too depressing to give a higher score to!

 

 

SPOILER ALERT! DANGEROUS WORDS AHEAD!

Some noteworthily awful quotes:

“No woman’s complete until she is married. After all, no woman can really stand alone, she always needs a man to protect her.”

“It is you who are unnatural, not I. And this thing that you are is a sin against creation. Above all is this thing a sin against the father who bred you, the father whom you dare to resemble. You dare to look like your father, and your face is a living insult to his memory, Stephen. I will never be able to look at you now without thinking of the deadly insult of your face and your body to the memory of the man who bred you. I can only thank God that your father died before he was asked to endure this great shame. As for you, I would rather see you dead at my feet than standing before me—this unspeakable outrage that you call love in that letter which you don’t deny having written.”

 

And finally, as a reward for making it so far, here is a portrait of the striking Radclyffe Hall herself.

Radclyffe Hall

 

Like reading? Like poetry? K.L. has recently published a collection of poems, along with a preview of her upcoming novel, The Fall of Peter Pan. Find it here.

The Killer Wore Leather – Laura Antoniou

killerworeleather

New York is hosting its annual Mr. and Ms. Global Leather (and Bootblack) competition. Kinksters from all American states have streamed in for a three day weekend of workshops, competitions and play. The previous winners, Mack Steel and Mistress Ravenfyre, gather with the panel of judges to begin the three-day-long weekend of kink. All of them loathe each other, from the Neanderthalic adherents to a Gorean—sorry, Zodian fantasy universe, to the elderly lesbian professor of sociology (with honours in acidic social commentary). All in all, a normal Mr. And Ms. Global Leather, et al, competition.

And then the penultimate bad boy of leather, Mack Steel, is discovered dead in his hotel room. Wearing nothing but a pair of frilly yellow panties.

How do you find a killer, when everyone who knew the man hated him? How do you even select your suspects?

 

Enter single, lesbian, Detective Rebecca Feldblum, assigned to case by a boss that tells her, ‘They’re your people, right?’, and also assigned an ultra-conservative partner from the deep South…

Nothing could make things worse. Except perhaps that all the suspects will be leaving in three days, and discovering that her very-ex-girlfriend is also attending Mr. And Ms. Global Leather…

 

Amusing. A tongue in cheek, merry observation of the politics and personalities of small societies wrapped up in an interesting and well-paced whodunnit. The setting of a kinky social gathering is clever and novel. Crossing my fingers for a sequel, this is a light read, with an interesting subject matter.

 

 

K.L gives The Killer Wore Leather 4 out of 5 spanks with a Zodian slave goad.

 

 

 

SPOILER ALERT! DANGEROUS WORDS AHEAD!

 

Sadly, the eventual killer was a little easy to pick. But I’m just cynical like that.

 

The Witch Sea – Sarah Diemer

The Witch Sea

A lesbian short story, about a young woman tasked by her mother and grandmother with keeping an ancient and malevolant sea god chained on land, to prevent him from destroying humanity.

The sea god keeps sending emissaries to plead for his freedom, sea creatures who have been transformed into humans. Once an animal breaches the barrier between him and the ocean, it is transformed into a human being to keep him company in exile. Each night, they make their way to the edge of the bay, and stare out longingly at the ocean that Meriel and her maternal line have denied them.
Eventually the protagonist, Meriel, falls in love with one of the emissaries, a shapeshifted seal named Nor, and questions her role in imprisoning the god and his minions, who suffer continually because of her actions.

Ultimately, it failed to attract and maintain enthusiasm I felt for the premise. I felt like the backstory could have been fleshed out more fully; that it did not, lost The Witch Sea an opportunity to develop interest and depth. There were large logical holes – if the witches were so powerful as to deny a god his freedom, why were they living in poverty and solitude in a lighthouse on a tiny island? Surely they could think of better things to do? As the only human around, constantly casting magic to keep the god chained, where did Meriel obtain food and necessities?

K.L gives The Witch Sea 1 out of 5 fish trapped in bowls.

 

SPOILER ALERT! DANGEROUS WORDS AHEAD!

Meriel eventually sets the sea god free, watching her love transform and leave her forever. The lack of structure to the tale makes me wonder: what does she do next? There is no future hinted at here, and no future direction provided without the context of a town full of imprisoned people.