Review: Best Bi Short Stories

BCN 127 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 127, October 2014

Stevie’s Carroll’s review of Best Bi Short Stories Edited by Sheela Lambert

I tend to find anthologies a little hit and miss, and generally pick them up only when I recognise more than one of the authors as someone whose short stories I’ve read and enjoyed before.

This time, however, it was the theme that attracted me; the bisexual experience is one that gets neglected in fiction compared to the slightly greater representation of characters who act bisexually in ménage stories (generally, in my reading experience, without any engagement with the wider bisexual community) or whose bisexuality is a step on the way to a complete change of identity. Plus, we sometimes get bisexual characters in the background, offering words of wisdom to the protagonists. In this anthology, though, each story’s central characters are in the main very much rooted in their bisexual identities, or are getting there by the end of the story. While not all stories were precisely to my taste, there were some definite stand-outs and no total flops.

The anthology opens with Storm Grant’s ‘Dual Citizenship’, which may very well have been inspired by Due South fandom back in the day, but was nevertheless a delightful story of life in the time of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in its own right – and also laugh-out-loud funny at times. So yes, some of the stories in here have been around for a while, but they’re all very well worth reading in the present day. As well as showcasing bisexual characters, this book also covers diversity in a lot of its other forms. There’s a great racial and cultural mix, as well as a number of stories dealing with gender beyond the binary.

‘Coyote Takes a Trip’ by Deborah Miranda is another title that was familiar to me, although I don’t remember where I came across it before, and it’s also another that merits multiple reads, dealing as it does with sexual, gender and racial minorities in the US through the eyes of a long-term drifter. Conversely Cecelia Tan’s ‘Dragon’s Daughter’ gives us a modern retelling of old Chinese legends through as experienced by an Asian American adoptee who discovers she has unusual talents, and then has to undo the mistake she made in the course of that realisation.

Not all the stories are romances: ‘Alone, As Always’ by Jenny Corvette would fit well in an anthology of classic domestic suspense stories I read recently, while Charles Bright’s ‘Mother Knows Best’ is about a different experience of death. Kathleen Bradean’s ‘Challenger Deep’ also deals with death in that it’s a tale about paying last respects to a beloved family member, but offers up the possibility for a happier story in the future as the protagonist makes discoveries about their gender and sexuality.
All in all this is a splendid book to either read in one sitting or dip into from time to time and almost all the stories are ones I’d want to reread repeatedly in print. I think there’s enough in the anthology to satisfy most readers, so I’d recommend giving the whole a chance, even if not all the stories appeal on first glance.

Review previously posted on The Good, the Bad and the Unread (http://goodbadandunread.com/).