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Transcendent 2: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016

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As with the first volume of Transcendent, Lethe Press has worked with a wonderful editor to select the best work of genderqueer stories of the fantastical, stranger, horrific, and weird published the prior year. Featuring stories by Merc Rustad, Jeanne Thornton, Brit Mandelo, and others, this anthology offers time-honored tropes of the genre--from genetic manipulation to z As with the first volume of Transcendent, Lethe Press has worked with a wonderful editor to select the best work of genderqueer stories of the fantastical, stranger, horrific, and weird published the prior year. Featuring stories by Merc Rustad, Jeanne Thornton, Brit Mandelo, and others, this anthology offers time-honored tropes of the genre--from genetic manipulation to zombies, portal fantasy to haunts--but told from a perspective that breaks the rigidity of gender and sexuality.


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As with the first volume of Transcendent, Lethe Press has worked with a wonderful editor to select the best work of genderqueer stories of the fantastical, stranger, horrific, and weird published the prior year. Featuring stories by Merc Rustad, Jeanne Thornton, Brit Mandelo, and others, this anthology offers time-honored tropes of the genre--from genetic manipulation to z As with the first volume of Transcendent, Lethe Press has worked with a wonderful editor to select the best work of genderqueer stories of the fantastical, stranger, horrific, and weird published the prior year. Featuring stories by Merc Rustad, Jeanne Thornton, Brit Mandelo, and others, this anthology offers time-honored tropes of the genre--from genetic manipulation to zombies, portal fantasy to haunts--but told from a perspective that breaks the rigidity of gender and sexuality.

30 review for Transcendent 2: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gabi

    As with most anthologies there were some stories that weren't for me and some that hit the mark. Overall I'd say it was 3.5 stars regarding the average of quality of what I expect in short stories (which of course varies extremely with each reader). Solid 4 stars because of the loving editing and the fact that such an anthology exists. I thoroughly enjoyed the various takes on gender and self-conception that spoke from every piece in this collection. Most of the time in a rather melancholic tone. As with most anthologies there were some stories that weren't for me and some that hit the mark. Overall I'd say it was 3.5 stars regarding the average of quality of what I expect in short stories (which of course varies extremely with each reader). Solid 4 stars because of the loving editing and the fact that such an anthology exists. I thoroughly enjoyed the various takes on gender and self-conception that spoke from every piece in this collection. Most of the time in a rather melancholic tone. The only cheerful (though dystopian) story was "Happy Regards" by RoAnne Sylver. The story itself didn't work for me like it could have since it is part of series and therefore reads like a quirky fan fiction. But it definitely made me want to get to know said series of "Chameleon Moon". My favourites were "Because change was the ocean and we lived by her mercy" by Charlie Jane Anders with its interesting concept (and this was the first time I've heard of Solarpunk) "Sky and Dew" by Holly Heist, which had a fascinating world building. "The road, and the valley, and the beasts" by Keffy R.M. Kehrli, which was very short but managed to invoke a multitude of feelings and wonder in those few pages. "The way you say good-night" by Toby MacNutt about the slow and touching friendship of two outsiders. "Her sacred spirit soars" by S. Qoiuyi Lu, a story that ends the collection on a sad, yet poetic note. Now I have to have a look at the other volumes of this series.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    I edited this, so I'm somewhat biased. I am not giving myself stars, but the book just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly - https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-... "Musings about body, identity, and society thread through these 16 phenomenal stories about ghosts, gods, mythical birds, and magic doorways. [...] Takács has assembled a book that reads like a fascinating conversation in which the reader feels lucky to participate." I edited this, so I'm somewhat biased. I am not giving myself stars, but the book just got a starred review from Publishers Weekly - https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-... "Musings about body, identity, and society thread through these 16 phenomenal stories about ghosts, gods, mythical birds, and magic doorways. [...] Takács has assembled a book that reads like a fascinating conversation in which the reader feels lucky to participate."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elke

    4.5 stars Full review now posted I loved the introduction and it made me so excited to read more of this book, more of these authors and more trans stories. It was also the first time I saw an acknowledgement about stolen land and I hope to see it much more often in the future! Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy • Charlie Jane Anders I have thought about this story for the better part of the evening and I didn't want to start the next before I had a chance to collect my thoughts. 4.5 stars Full review now posted I loved the introduction and it made me so excited to read more of this book, more of these authors and more trans stories. It was also the first time I saw an acknowledgement about stolen land and I hope to see it much more often in the future! Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy • Charlie Jane Anders I have thought about this story for the better part of the evening and I didn't want to start the next before I had a chance to collect my thoughts. I felt in turn really hopeful and really hopeless about the world when reading this, and I'm glad I got to end more on the hopeful part again. It had an incredibly interesting vibe, a dystopia/utopia with solarpunk elements. “It’s hard to even imagine. I mean, we’re the first generation that just takes it for granted we’re going to survive, as like a species. Our parents, our grandparents, and their grandparents, they were all living like every day could be the day the planet finally got done with us." I loved the idea of community, of falling in and out of love with it. About change, and whether it's something to fear or not. It felt like a big coming of age or finding yourself and place in the world, no matter your age. I feel like this is one of those stories I'll never be able to completely understand or explain, like something will always be just out of reach. Like you have to read it yourself, and even then. There are multiple specific things I liked about this, like the community, the neopronouns (sie/hir, xie/xer, and zi/zir are all used), the mention of intersectionality of privilege, the non-monogamous relationship mentioned and the ease with which those things were described (if they were described) and the acceptance of those things as normal. Thre wasn't a need to explain or justify things. But the feeling I got from this was more than the sum of those parts, and that's a great experience. "But it wasn’t any individual, it was the whole group, we had gotten in a rhythm together and we all believed the same stuff. The love of the ocean, and her resilience in the face of whatever we had done to her, and the power of silliness to make you believe in abundance again. Openness, and a kind of generosity that is the opposite of monogamy." TW: mention of a community member died by suicide. Skerry-Bride • Sonya Taaffe This was mainly confusing, but also very beautiful. It felt like poetry, flowing, and slightly out of grasp. But not everything is for me to understand, and it was beautiful reading this. Transitions • Gwen Benaway A short story about transition and Indigenous traditions. I enjoy seeing intersections and having the opportunity to read about trans people in all kinds of stories and situations. (Ownvoices trans and Indigenous rep) This Is Not a Wardrobe Door • A. Merc Rustad I loved this! Reminiscent of Narnia and Every Heart a Doorway, with a genderfluid character and friendship and hope. I'd love to read a full length novel about this. "If there was one thing Zera and I learned, it’s that you have to build your own doors sometimes." Three Points Masculine • An Owomoyela This didn't sound that hopeful at first, except for the resilience of trans people showcased here too. I hope the world, theirs and ours, will treat everyone better soon. It didn't really make me feel happy, but it did make me feel. TW for misgendering, death, war The L7 Gene • Jeanne Thornton Damn. This was something else! I'm very impressed by how often my ideas and opinions about what was going on changed. I feel like there are parts that went over my head and I might revisit this later, but it was very strong. I think this, too, needs trigger warnings, but I can't really figure out which ones. Rhizomatic Diplomacy • Vajra Chandrasekera This was very interesting and confusing. I liked that it brought up ethical issues and philosophical questions, for me. The Pigeon Summer • Brit Mandelo Use of the pronouns hir/si. This was a goddamn punch in the gut, and then turned more hopeful than I had expected it would. Impressive. Also very curious about the line about the terrible boredom of pain that seemed really appropriate, I wish I could read that too. TW dead (possible suicide) of a loved one, mention of suicide, f*g slur The Road, and the Valley, and the Beasts • Keffy R.M. Kehrli This was super cool and I'm incredibly intrigued. I wish there was more to read, more to know. About a Woman and a Kid • M Téllez I love stories of communities, found families, unlikely groups that push and cross the boundaries of our ideas of normal and accepted. I love how they challenge me to make space for them and how valid they are. "She wanted to know where the hardship of the land really lay, and perhaps now she will find out. It is in me. It is in the knowing" Sky and Dew • Holly Heisey This was great! It had a very strong fantasy vibe, sunken cities and lost languages, love, courage and giving. I also love if characters stick up for themselves when somebody denies them something based on the ideas of protection or love. "No, I said, a sharp gesture. (...) we didn’t both have to stay trapped down there. Daisy caught my arm. I want to go. Do not deny me this." The Nothing Spots Where Nobody Wants to Stay • Julian K. Jarboe Not my cup of tea, but no less important because of that. TW bullying, misgendering, abuse, f*g slur, dead parent Lisa’s Story: Zombie Apocalypse • Gillian Ybabez Pretty cool! Cool to see someone being so unapologetically themselves and how it first looked like it was a story in which the mc was trans but that was no big deal and afterwards ended up discussing issues after all. Also a sign of my privilege that it is possible for me to not think about all the consequences of being trans in situations like this. Happy REGARDS • RoAnna Sylver I had been waiting for this story already! I love how RoAnna manages to write so much hope into dystopian. This was cute and hopeful, and I enjoyed seeing her characters again. If I hadn't read Chameleon Moon yet, I think I would have been very confused, but let that be another incentive to read Chameleon Moon 😊 And as always, grateful to see happy polyamorous relationships. "Seeing somebody like yourself not only walk through fire and keep walking—and come out the other side a superhero, bulletproof, the person they were always meant to be? Not just transition, and not just survive, but live and conquer? Makes you think maybe you can too." The Way You Say Good-Night • Toby MacNutt This story was my favourite, by far. There were many I really enjoyed, but this has a special place and I will reread it frequently. As someone who lives on the intersection of disabled and queer, I am so grateful to see it woven in such an ethereal story ✨ I'm so happy I got to see so many small things of myself, like the pain flares, the effect of the cold, the differences between days ... An unapologetically disabled character in such a special and beautiful tale, I love it. It was also cool that they were upfront about not having found a gender that fits yet. "The reality is that pain makes it hard to use logic. It makes it hard to make plans, even plans to make things better. And pain is a lonely experience: it makes it hard to reach out" "The strange and fluid things about me I had writ large, exaggerated in preemptive self-defense; Ari lived hers close and quiet. Both were paths we’d chosen to keep us safe in a world where we had never quite fit." "We aren’t the same shapes, you and I, but we both got made with odd molds, and we’re living with what that means." Her Sacred Spirit Soars • S. Qiouyi Lu This was so sad and made me so angry at some of the unethical practices going on around the world in the name of science. A beautiful portrayal of loss, grief and hope. TW mutilation, loss of a partner, animal testing "I crash into the cage until my entire being bleeds. (Except, without you, I am not entire at all.)" _________________________ I loved this anthology. Most of the stories are ownvoices for the trans aspect and I love the variety in topic, subgenre, style, tone and so much more. If you're looking for a short story collection or you want to read more by and about trans people, I highly recommend this. General trigger warning for anti-trans remarks and actions. I received an ARC of Transcendent 2 from the editor, Bogi Takács, in return for my honest opinion. Thank you, Bogi, I am very grateful!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ceillie Simkiss

    You want this anthology. Read the full review here You want this anthology. Read the full review here

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sinead Anja (Huntress of Diverse Books)

    Check out my book blog for more book reviews and other bookish posts! I received an ARC of Transcendent 2 from the editor, Bogi Takács. I really enjoy reading short story anthologies because I get to experience the writing of many different authors. I was intrigued by this book because the stories are all in the genre of speculative fiction – my favourite genre. Most of the stories in this book are #ownvoices. __ This anthology offers so much variety. Seriously, I sometimes forget how many different Check out my book blog for more book reviews and other bookish posts! I received an ARC of Transcendent 2 from the editor, Bogi Takács. I really enjoy reading short story anthologies because I get to experience the writing of many different authors. I was intrigued by this book because the stories are all in the genre of speculative fiction – my favourite genre. Most of the stories in this book are #ownvoices. __ This anthology offers so much variety. Seriously, I sometimes forget how many different sub-genres there are in speculative fiction, because I tend to read the same few sub-genres all the time. As always there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others. However, I will say that I enjoyed reading every story in this anthology. Solarpunk was a new genre that this book introduced to me and I am so happy about that! Because Change Was The Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy is an interesting take on how climate changes and new energy sources alter how humans live. I also liked how it touched on the impacts humans have on the environment and whether humans can salvage the damage or not. I was pleasantly surprised to find This is Not a Wardrobe Door in this anthology. I had read it before. It was definitely worth the reread, as I could feel the same happy feelings coming back to me. It’s such a comforting story, and the theme of friendship is so beautiful. I was also surprised to find a story by RoAnna Sylver in this book: Happy Regards. It was lovely to be transported back to the world of Parole and read such an uplifting, dystopian story. They really write some of the best dystopian fiction I’ve ever found. My reviews for her other books set in Parole are here: Chameleon Moon and The Lifeline Signal. Definitely check them out. The Way You Said Goodnight was a story that I just could not stop reading. The night aspect was so fascinating and I was intrigued by how the night was part of one of the main characters. It was also a really beautiful portrayal of a relationship. The last story: Her Sacred Spirit Soars was sad. Really sad. It was an emotional portrayal of partnership and centered on the themes of grief, loss, and hope. I kept hoping for a reunion between the main character and their partner. __ I loved this anthology. The stories are amazing. If you enjoy reading speculative fiction, I am certain that you will find a story that you will enjoy in this collection. Trigger warnings: death, murder.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sara Norja

    I received a copy of this from the editor, Bogi Takács - thank you so much, Bogi! This was a delightful anthology, with only three stories I'd read previously (A. Merc Rustad's "This is Not a Wardrobe Door", Vajra Chandrasekera's "Rhizomatic Diplomacy", and S. Qiouyi Lu's "Her Sacred Spirit Soars"). The stories were intriguingly different in genre and style, but the anthology flowed really well. Out of the stories I had not read previously, I especially enjoyed "The Road, the Valley, and the Bea I received a copy of this from the editor, Bogi Takács - thank you so much, Bogi! This was a delightful anthology, with only three stories I'd read previously (A. Merc Rustad's "This is Not a Wardrobe Door", Vajra Chandrasekera's "Rhizomatic Diplomacy", and S. Qiouyi Lu's "Her Sacred Spirit Soars"). The stories were intriguingly different in genre and style, but the anthology flowed really well. Out of the stories I had not read previously, I especially enjoyed "The Road, the Valley, and the Beasts" by Keffy R. M. Kehrli - I'd have gladly read a much longer story in that world, too - and "The Way You Say Good-Night", by Toby MacNutt - such a sweet, beautiful story. But even though some of the stories in this antho were not quite my cup of tea due to genre or style, this was a good anthology. So great to have so many trans stories in one book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Read full review on my blog. I received a copy from the editor, Bogi Takács in exchange for an honest review. Number of stories: 16 LGBTQAI+: Every story in this anthology has trans and other queer characters with various identities. Sex on page: No First of all, it was wonderful to see so many trans characters with various identities and experiences, including but far from being limited to various pronouns. There were characters with singular they, characters switching between he and she, and charac Read full review on my blog. I received a copy from the editor, Bogi Takács in exchange for an honest review. Number of stories: 16 LGBTQAI+: Every story in this anthology has trans and other queer characters with various identities. Sex on page: No First of all, it was wonderful to see so many trans characters with various identities and experiences, including but far from being limited to various pronouns. There were characters with singular they, characters switching between he and she, and characters using several different sets of neopronouns. That being said, this anthology was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some stories that I really enjoyed, but a disappointing number of them just didn’t really work for me for reasons that are difficult to verbalise. Perhaps I should start by mentioning that this anthology had a short story by one of my favourite authors, RoAnna Sylver. I’ve read Happy REGARDS before in the Life Within Parole collection, and I adored – I still adore – it. Still, I was surprised and a little conflicted that it was included in this anthology, for one simple reason: I am not sure it can stand on its own. It has a wonderful cast of characters, but they exist within a world full of many stories – and when you read only one of those stories, things can get hectic and even confusing. On a smaller scale, I felt this way about several of the other stories – like I was only getting part of the picture. Of course, there is nothing wrong with leaving things up to the reader’s interpretation, but in this anthology, a little too many stories left me baffled or yearning for a little more clarification. This might just be a personal preference, though. What I really would have appreciated at the beginning is a list of trigger or content warnings for each story, since many of them deal with heavy topics like suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression, bullying… And probably others I either missed or suddenly can’t remember. A few of these are mentioned in the introduction, but I feel like a comprehensive list could have been useful. I wanted to get those thoughts out of the way, but I also want to talk about the parts that I genuinely enjoyed, so here are a few words about my favourite stories: Because Change Was The Ocean And We Lived By Her Mercy: My favourite story in this collection, honestly. (Other than Happy REGARDS, of course, but that should go without saying at this point.) Because Change Was The Ocean is a solarpunk-ish story about community and belonging and I would gladly give it five out of five stars. Or more. Skerry-Bride: This was one of the shortest stories I think, but it had wonderful descriptions about the POV character’s shapechanging lover. There are also many Norse mythology elements. Transitions: This story was interesting because it started out as a completely ordinary, present-day story about transition, and by that I mean lacking any speculative elements – then some aspects of Indigenous culture were worked into the story and it fit together beautifully. and, of course, Happy REGARDS: If you follow me on any kind of social media, you have probably seen me scream about Chameleon Moon and RoAnna’s other works before. Happy REGARDS is a wonderful short story that focuses on Evelyn, Danae and Rose’s family, including some siblings, in-laws, and found/chosen family as well. My rating: ☄☄☄☄/5

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kronda

    I am so impressed with this anthology, and the thought and hard work that went into selecting such beautiful and interesting stories from a variety of backgrounds. I think it's important to note that cis folks, nonqueer folks, will also enjoy this top notch writing. But this book is for us. Some of my favorite stories in this series cover different elements from being trans and zombie battling, to coming together as a queer community in a post-apocalyptic world and realizing that shared interest I am so impressed with this anthology, and the thought and hard work that went into selecting such beautiful and interesting stories from a variety of backgrounds. I think it's important to note that cis folks, nonqueer folks, will also enjoy this top notch writing. But this book is for us. Some of my favorite stories in this series cover different elements from being trans and zombie battling, to coming together as a queer community in a post-apocalyptic world and realizing that shared interests aren't enough to solve all conflicts, to a queer poly family raising a child and a handful of robots together in a cyberpunk world. Throughout each story, though, even those where I found myself worried for the ending, I was filled with hope and joy. Because these are the stories of trans and nonbinary folks living in every kind of specfic setting. These are the stories of trans and nonbinary folks really living, and succeeding, and coming to power, and sometimes just existing, in the manners that have often only been granted to cishet characters in most science fiction. Pick up this anthology and fall in love with a number of authors. You won't regret it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James-Beth Merritt

    I kept my expectations in check when I picked up Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by Bogi Takacs. How much high-quality transgender speculative fiction would even have been published over the course of the year, I wondered. As it turned out, there’s quite a lot. Before I speak to more specifics, though, I want to point out how broad and inclusive the spectrum of gender identities in these stories were. While I’m quite interested in fiction about what you mig I kept my expectations in check when I picked up Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by Bogi Takacs. How much high-quality transgender speculative fiction would even have been published over the course of the year, I wondered. As it turned out, there’s quite a lot. Before I speak to more specifics, though, I want to point out how broad and inclusive the spectrum of gender identities in these stories were. While I’m quite interested in fiction about what you might call “traditional” transgendered people, who each identify as just one discrete gender (which doesn’t match their birth sexes), being nonbinary, I’m keenly interested in stories about characters who are not strictly male or female, whether trans or not. To my surprise and great pleasure, Transcendent 2 offered a real wealth of stories like that. Because so many of these stories are written by non-cisgender people, the trans and nonbinary characters in them are not used as gimmicks or tokens: by and large, they’re complicated, diverse people whose genders are not the most important or most striking thing about them. To go from reading about almost no trans/enby characters straight to full-fledged ones, without having to go through an intermediary stage of diversity for diversity’s sake, is a privilege. While my enthusiasm for the individual stories was mixed, there was no lack of good writing, and I imagine another reader might well pick other favorites. A few of mine included * A. Merc Rustad’s “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door,” about childhood friends in other worlds * “Three Points Masculine,” in which An Owomoyela opens up some of the complex issue of a trans person’s own response to other kinds of trans people * Keffy Kehrli’s queerly and engagingly imaginative “The Road, and the Valley, and the Beasts” * Toby MacNutt’s “The Way You Say Goodnight,” with its half-metaphoric delving into individual burdens, disabilities, identities, and hidden strengths, and * “Her Sacred Spirit Soars,” S. Qiouyi Lu’s beautifully evolving story of transference of spirit, oneness, loneliness, and layered identity. While this felt like the least trans stories in the anthology to me, it had one of the most unusual approaches to the idea. For fans of literary rule-breaking, it also is one of those rare pieces of fiction that uses the second person well. Some other stories caught my imagination less, but the variety and the consistently high quality of the writing prevented any from being stories I skipped, which in such a varied anthology is a real accomplishment for me as a reader. I generally stop reading books or stories the moment I decide they aren’t likely to have anything I really want to offer, and that didn’t happen once in this book. Take a look, and see for yourself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    USOM

    (Disclaimer: I received this free book from the editor. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Let me just start by saying, this is an amazing anthology. The purpose is wonderful and so well thought out. I loved the ways that these authors incorporated the diversity into speculative fiction. Oftentimes I see characters who may be diverse, but it doesn't effect their lives at all. But these characters are impacted by their struggles and thoughts. They live full lives of col (Disclaimer: I received this free book from the editor. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) Let me just start by saying, this is an amazing anthology. The purpose is wonderful and so well thought out. I loved the ways that these authors incorporated the diversity into speculative fiction. Oftentimes I see characters who may be diverse, but it doesn't effect their lives at all. But these characters are impacted by their struggles and thoughts. They live full lives of color, challenges, and hope - all without being reduced to their diversity or have it forgotten.

  11. 5 out of 5

    S.L. Saboviec

    This eclectic anthology is chock full of great stories ranging from down-to-earth, near sci-fi to ethereal fantasy. It's a great slice of today's best trans* fiction. Some stories asked hard questions and answered in ways that made me think. Some stories were just fun or beautiful. I found at least one new author whose other works I'm devouring; a few more have intrigued me enough that I'll be looking them up, too. Please note: I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Standouts for me are Charlie Jane Anders' opening "Because Change was the Ocean and We Lived By Her Mercy"; A. Merc Rustad's epistolary fantasy "A. Merc Rustad"; and Jeanne Thornton's "The L7 Gene," about a trans girl confronting the cloned cis version of herself genetically engineered by her scientist mother.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Artur Nowrot

    Just as good as Transcendent 3 (I'm going backwards through the series while waiting for volume 4); maybe better, as even the stories I wasn't too keen on stand out more in my memory (though it might just be due to a smaller number of them). Either way, this is another stellar, diverse collection that demonstrates a richness of premises and approaches to writing trans speculative fiction. Personal highlights: "Skerry-Bride" by Sonya Taaffe "Transitions" by Gwen Benaway "Three Points Masculine" by An Just as good as Transcendent 3 (I'm going backwards through the series while waiting for volume 4); maybe better, as even the stories I wasn't too keen on stand out more in my memory (though it might just be due to a smaller number of them). Either way, this is another stellar, diverse collection that demonstrates a richness of premises and approaches to writing trans speculative fiction. Personal highlights: "Skerry-Bride" by Sonya Taaffe "Transitions" by Gwen Benaway "Three Points Masculine" by An Owomoyela "The L7 Gene" by Jeanne Thornton "The Way You Say Good-Night" by Toby MacNutt

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dorian

    I loved it. I apparently read it in four days, but didn’t notice at all. Encompasses a wide variety of identities and expressions. It feels great to read trans writing by trans people. Even if one story didn’t really grab me, there were still elements in it that I loved. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lilly

    Naturally, as with any collection, the five stars are not for every single story in here, a few would probably get 2.5 stars from me. But overall, I really enjoyed reading through this anthology. I approach collections of short stories very cautiously - all too often, I get disappointed. Maybe I am not the ideal reader for short stories, because I like even short stories to have a beginning, a middle and an end and not feel like they are the beginning of what could be an interesting novel. Because Naturally, as with any collection, the five stars are not for every single story in here, a few would probably get 2.5 stars from me. But overall, I really enjoyed reading through this anthology. I approach collections of short stories very cautiously - all too often, I get disappointed. Maybe I am not the ideal reader for short stories, because I like even short stories to have a beginning, a middle and an end and not feel like they are the beginning of what could be an interesting novel. Because I know plenty of people who shy away from stories/anthologies that feature a group they are not part of let me say: I am a cis woman and I believe that this anthology is especially rewarding to read if you are cis and enjoy speculative fiction. It is an enjoyable way to learn to be more open towards different gender idenities and to stop thinking of (white) straight cis people as the only possible candidates as protagonists. The world is more diverse than that but often we do not meet many people that are different from us. I personally know people from all over the world, but in my circle of acquaintes there are only 3 transpeople that I know of and 99,9% of the time we talk about everything but gender identity. Reading can remedy this. Some stories in this anthology focused on gender identity, some did not. Almost all of them make you think, some subtly some not so subtly, about gender and our approaches to it. Some of the neo pronouns take a while to get used to (in one story, the pronoun was spelled “sie” which in German, my native language, means “she” and I had to consciously remind myself that the point rather was that the person in question did not identify as woman) but I cannot think of a better way to introduce alternative pronouns into culture and language than by entertaining stories. On to the stories (I apologise if I phrased something incorrectly, English is not my native language): Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy • Charlie Jane Anders My favourite story was the one that opened the anthology. I am fascinated by solarpunk, so maybe that was obvious. But I loved the descriptions and the narrative voice. This was a mature narrator, somebody who fell in love with an entire solarpunk/hippie community and started out very naive but matured as the story progressed. And the author is just great at worldbuilding. This was quoted in another review, but it struck me as well: “It’s hard to even imagine. I mean, we’re the first generation that just takes it for granted we’re going to survive, as like a species. Our parents, our grandparents, and their grandparents, they were all living like every day could be the day the planet finally got done with us." What a wonderful way to set the mood. Skerry-Bride • Sonya Taaffe Very poetic. I am not fond of the second person POV so I did not enjoy it as much as I maybe could have. Transitions • Gwen Benaway A very fascinated vignette about the challenges of transitioning in the context of a modern indigenous trans woman. This Is Not a Wardrobe Door • A. Merc Rustad I would love to read an entire novel about Zera and Ellie’s adventures. The fantasy world was beautiful and I believe there should be good children stories with trans characters. Three Points Masculine • An Owomoyela A story I did not like at all at the beginning but around midway through, I warmed up to it. I did not find the POV character appealing or sympathetic (I never got the appeal of the military). But the story posed questions about gender and what gender means that I found very insightful. The L7 Gene • Jeanne Thornton I cannot make up my mind about this story. I feel like this one should have been longer, because the POV character comes across as slightly extreme in her reactions. I assume that the author has a backstory which explains them. The theme/idea was, however, again very thought provoking and posed a host of ethical questions. Rhizomatic Diplomacy • Vajra Chandrasekera I found this one to be mainly confusing, but I believe that this was mainly because, as I said, I am not always good with short stories. The writing was beautiful and very evocative, I almost felt myself moving through a damp swamp with damaged lungs. The Pigeon Summer • Brit Mandelo A story I am sure would have been my favourite as a teenager, but I do not enjoy reading paragraphs and paragraphs about grief and pain. But other than that, it was a good story. The Road, and the Valley, and the Beasts • Keffy R.M. Kehrli Another favourite that reminded me of stories from my childhood. A world I definitely want to know more about but also a world I could picture so very clearly in my mind. About a Woman and a Kid • M Téllez A story about community, found families and the pain of knowing too much. Sky and Dew • Holly Heisey There were a few holes in the world building, but it built a very intriguing world and I liked the POV character. The Nothing Spots Where Nobody Wants to Stay • Julian K. Jarboe Perhaps one of the hardest stories because you want to punch people on behalf of AJ. I found this very well written and it took on issues of being a trans teenager with an overbearing mother but offered a glimpse of hope. Lisa’s Story: Zombie Apocalypse • Gillian Ybabez I am not a fan of zombie apocalypse scenarios so I can offer no opinion here. Happy REGARDS • RoAnna Sylver This was the only one I did not finish. I understand that the characters appeared in a novel by the author. If I had read that first I probably would have enjoyed this as wacky fanfiction, but as it was I gave up halfway through. The Way You Say Good-Night • Toby MacNutt My second favourite story in the ontology I’d say. A beautifully and poetically written story about not fitting in. I loved how the author combined the real situation of being trans genderfluid and disabled with not fitting in because of a magical aspect! And I loved the relationship between the protagonists. Her Sacred Spirit Soars • S. Qiouyi Lu This was a sad story to end the anthology with. A metaphor for what is done in the name of science, a tale of unimaginable loss, oblivious scientists and cautious hope. A story that will stay with me.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brynne

    More of a 3.5, but rounded up because there were a couple of stories in here that I adored super hard (and also bc I am just really glad that this anthology exists). This was a good read overall, although it fell more on the side of “mostly realistic and slightly dystopic future” SF ( which I’m not big on) than on the “magic and technology allow weird and seemingly impossible things to happen” SF (which I adore). I did like the variety of trans rep, especially since it included nonbinary people w More of a 3.5, but rounded up because there were a couple of stories in here that I adored super hard (and also bc I am just really glad that this anthology exists). This was a good read overall, although it fell more on the side of “mostly realistic and slightly dystopic future” SF ( which I’m not big on) than on the “magic and technology allow weird and seemingly impossible things to happen” SF (which I adore). I did like the variety of trans rep, especially since it included nonbinary people who weren’t robots or aliens and included people who identified in a variety of ways and had unique approaches to their trans-ness. Being trans is central to some characters/stories and a side point in others, which made the anthology feel nice and balanced. Although most of the stories were not my cup of tea genre-wise, I enjoyed this anthology overall and particularly loved “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” and “The Way You Say Good-Night.” Ultimately, I’d rec this to SF fans looking for more trans rep in their stories—particularly fans of more dystopian/realistic SF, but I’m sure all SF fans will find something to enjoy here.

  17. 5 out of 5

    W.L. Bolm

    Every story in this collection was stellar. Many were favorites that I had already read. I think my top picks from this anthology were "This is not a Wardrobe Door" (which I believe I first heard on PodCastle) because I like the twist on the classic trope, "Because Change was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy," which was about a haunting near future that for me was both familiar and too illuminative of our current trajectory as humans, "Happy Regards" because it was just a lot of fun to read, Every story in this collection was stellar. Many were favorites that I had already read. I think my top picks from this anthology were "This is not a Wardrobe Door" (which I believe I first heard on PodCastle) because I like the twist on the classic trope, "Because Change was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy," which was about a haunting near future that for me was both familiar and too illuminative of our current trajectory as humans, "Happy Regards" because it was just a lot of fun to read, and "The Way You Say Good-Night," which was a beautiful story of human relationship. Once I started reading these stories, it was hard for me to put this book down to take care of the things in my life that needed taking care of.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I’ve had this book on my shelf forever, and I was excited to finally get around to reading it while I’m in between longer reads. Maybe I set myself up for failure by going in with my expectations too high, but this anthology didn’t deliver what I was hoping for. It wasn’t exactly bad, and some of the short stories were even quite good, but nothing really blew me away and I was ready to be done with the book well before it was over. I’m still interested in reading trans speculative fiction, but I I’ve had this book on my shelf forever, and I was excited to finally get around to reading it while I’m in between longer reads. Maybe I set myself up for failure by going in with my expectations too high, but this anthology didn’t deliver what I was hoping for. It wasn’t exactly bad, and some of the short stories were even quite good, but nothing really blew me away and I was ready to be done with the book well before it was over. I’m still interested in reading trans speculative fiction, but I think I’ll give other volumes of Transcendent a pass. First, some criticism of the anthology as a whole. The cover design is lovely, but there's some odd layout decisions throughout the book. For one, the weird drop shadow thing on the title page looked tacky and cluttered, and the “Transcendent 2” at the bottom of each page was unusually big and as a result, sometimes distracted me from the stories. Admittedly, these are nitpicks and probably won’t bother most readers, but they bothered me. Next, my thoughts on each of the stories: Most people who read this book seem to have really liked “Because Change was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy”, but to be honest, something about it just didn’t work for me. I liked the concept, but for a story that’s pretty explicitly about change and fluidity the writing style felt very straightforward and at times stilted and awkward. I would’ve liked to see a similar concept handled by a writer with a more unique and abstract style, although to be fair, it’s probably better to have an okay story written traditionally than an experimental story handled poorly. Final rating: three stars. I really enjoyed “Skerry-Bride”! I thought it was an interesting concept, the prose was lovely, and the very short length worked for it. It felt complete, although there was plenty that could have been elaborated on in a longer story. I would definitely consider reading more works by this author. Final rating: four and a half stars. I was into “Transitions” for the beginning and middle, but (as with many of the stories in the anthology) the ending felt abrupt and awkward. It really read like the author had reached the end of her word count and had to come up with a conclusion before it was originally meant to end, which is a shame, because I liked the main character and I would’ve enjoyed seeing more of her parallel journeys with transition and negotiating her complicated relationship with her culture. Final rating: three and a half stars. Didn’t care for “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door.” The writing was simplistic and predictable, which I guess could’ve worked well with the fairytale reimagining vibe, but it ended up feeling childish in a boring way instead of a fantastical way. Just not my thing. Final rating: two stars. “Three Points Masculine” is the only story in this anthology I flat-out disliked. I just found it really difficult to empathize with a main character whose goal in life is to become a soldier and who, from the moment we meet him, uses his authority to harass someone for being gender nonconforming. An unlikable protagonist can be done well, but the nature of a short story is that there’s not much time to develop a character, and the author still clearly expects us to be rooting for this character’s happiness by the end of it. Like, it’s barely been a page since he was ranting about how hard he’s had it with dysphoria and how John is a man in a dress who’s disgracing trans people everywhere, and you want me to believe that they’re all good now and be happy that the protagonist might get to achieve his dream of killing people for a living? I don’t buy his “character development” and no amount of understanding where he’s coming from as a trans man will make his harassment of John as palatable or easily forgiven as this story treats it, any more than the real world actions of people like him can be excused by understanding why they did it. The way some trans people, especially transmasculine people, perpetuate transphobia and even transphobic violence on more vulnerable members of the community is a complicated, serious issue, and in my opinion, “Three Points Masculine” doesn’t treat it with the sensitivity and thought that it requires. Final rating: one star. Anyways, “The L7 Gene” was alright. The premise felt unrealistic to me, but what the author did with it was pretty interesting and well-written. Again, suffered from an ending that felt a bit abrupt; I’m fine with an ambiguous ending, but this just left me feeling unsatisfied and confused rather than intrigued. Final rating: three stars. “Rhizomatic Diplomacy” was a favorite of mine. I didn’t think I was all that into mind-bending, abstract sci-fi/fantasy, but between this and “Skerry-Bride” I think I’ll have to give more works like this a try. This story was short, but I was really intrigued by the concept and the writing was beautiful. Unfortunately, I was disappointed again by how abruptly it ended. There were a lot of unanswered questions, which worked on some levels, but I feel like there was a lot more to be explored here. Final rating: four stars. “The Pigeon Summer” was also very good, although it was pretty low on speculative fiction elements. It felt more like contemporary realistic fiction for most of the story, but it was well-written and I enjoyed it even if it didn’t necessarily feel like it fit in with the rest of the book. I was emotionally invested in the main character and hir grief, and the ending felt appropriate and satisfying. Also, I love birds, so this one got bonus points for the pigeons. Final rating: four stars. I feel like “The Road, and the Valley, and the Beasts” had a lot of potential, and I loved the writing style, but I was just left wondering what the point was by the end of it. The conclusion felt like it was supposed to be meaningful, and I actually read the story again to see if I’d missed anything, but it still just felt weird and unsatisfying to me. I don’t know about this one! It seems like there’s a deeper meaning here, but for whatever reason, it didn’t come across to me. Final rating: three stars. “About a Woman and a Kid” was fine, but it didn’t do anything for me. Probably in part because I was kind of tired and distracted when I was reading it, so I can’t really judge it fairly. I can see how it could be enjoyable to read, so it’s probably a me issue rather than a story issue. Final rating: two stars. “Sky and Dew” had a really unique premise and I think it delivered on it well. The ending almost felt like it wrapped everything up a little too neatly, but that may be an unfair complaint when so many of the other stories in the anthology had such unsatisfying endings. Overall, I enjoyed reading it. Final rating: three stars. “The Nothing Spots Where Nobody Wants to Stay” was... not my thing. I’m alright with a story dealing with heavy themes, but I don’t think this really did anything with those heavy themes. I felt bad for AJ, and some parts made me emotional because they reminded me of my own experiences, but it just left me feeling uncomfortable and upset. It felt like suffering for suffering’s sake, and god knows there’s enough trans stories that do that. That being said, I don’t know how personal this is for the author, and I don’t mean to say they can’t write about their own experiences. It just feels like there either should’ve been some deeper insight to draw from this piece or it should’ve stayed a private work. Final rating: one and a half stars. "Lisa's Story: Zombie Apocalypse" wasn't exactly bad, but it didn't bring anything all that original to the table and the quality of the writing was kind of weak. Final rating: two stars. I find the inclusion of "Happy REGARDS" in this anthology absolutely baffling. Apparently, it's part of a longer series that I've never read, but it didn't work as a standalone, it's noticeably longer than anything else in the book (34 pages!), and it's just not very well-written. The dialogue is cringeworthy, the characters feel one-dimensional, and nothing particularly interesting happens. To be honest, I skimmed about the last third of it when it didn't show any signs of getting better. If this was meant to sell me on the author's other works, it failed, and it makes no sense as part of a short story anthology. Final rating: one star. "The Way You Say Good-Night" was a lovely, poetic exploration of love and disability and different relationships to change. I really enjoyed it, and that's about all I have to say! My one complaint is that the author is much stronger with description than dialogue, and so some of the characters' conversations felt awkward and out of place with the otherwise lovely prose. Final rating: four stars. Finally, "Her Sacred Spirit Soars" was a strong conclusion with an interesting concept and an emotional story. Some awkward writing here and there, but I related very deeply to the characters and I enjoyed the experience as a whole. Also, bonus points for birds. Final rating: four stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Yana Shepard

    Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC for an honest review. I think I needed to read this anthology. I’m currently in a strange place mentally after having moved away from an abusive home nearly a year ago. I’m still shaking off all the negativity, still battling my depression and anxiety. I’m sorry if that’s too much information, but I need to express how much this collection helped me. For the moments that I read, I was able to smile again when that is such a rarity, or forget my troubles when I was Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC for an honest review. I think I needed to read this anthology. I’m currently in a strange place mentally after having moved away from an abusive home nearly a year ago. I’m still shaking off all the negativity, still battling my depression and anxiety. I’m sorry if that’s too much information, but I need to express how much this collection helped me. For the moments that I read, I was able to smile again when that is such a rarity, or forget my troubles when I was on the verge of tears. That means the world to me and I thank every single one of these authors for that gift. Maybe that sounds mushy but I don’t care. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I needed these stories. A few of my faves were “Because Change was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy” by Charlie Jane Anders, “Skerry-Bride” by Sonya Taffe, and “This is Not a Wardrobe Door” by A. Merc Rustad. All of the stories were good, and I recommend this collection.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Akiva

    Favs: Because Change Was The Ocean And We Lived By Her Mercy The L7 Gene The Pigeon Summer About A Woman And A Kid - would have liked this to be longer, but the insight on patternmaking and anxiety is relevant right now The Way You Say Good-Night Her Sacred Spirit Soars

  21. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    What a glorious collection of diverse voices, with speculative plots. Each story had a gem of inspiration or a twist of character that delighted me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eli Poteet

    This was AMAZING. One hundred levels of recommend. This collection was supremely delicious and wonderful. I am forever changed by some of these tales, there are story lines and characters I think I will always think of. This anthology of stories genuinely sparked a personal renewed interest in short stories. I want more from these authors. I am also experiencing the fabulous desire to create my own works, I am vigorously encouraged by the various styles included between the books cover. There is This was AMAZING. One hundred levels of recommend. This collection was supremely delicious and wonderful. I am forever changed by some of these tales, there are story lines and characters I think I will always think of. This anthology of stories genuinely sparked a personal renewed interest in short stories. I want more from these authors. I am also experiencing the fabulous desire to create my own works, I am vigorously encouraged by the various styles included between the books cover. There is also the fun feeling of mentally daydreaming about other artists stories and styles, I can actively find myself finishing off/continuing authors works in my mind as I socially isolate during the crisis. Oh, that is another special touch about this anthology specially, there are several apocalyptic and dytopian stories that seriously resonate with the hard and raw emotions I am currently processing. I would highly recommend this to ANYONE. I love it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    KC

    Another worthy sci-fi read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Moira-ji

    inventive and yet familiar- i can see how this won a Lambda Literary Award

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I liked this one better than the first one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I love the idea of this collection, but short stories just aren’t my thing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    V

    Absolutely marvelous.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Martina

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt Hope

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sam Collins

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