Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-dressing and Transformation

Book Review: Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-dressing and Transformation
Edited by Michael M. Jones
© 2012
Circlet Press

*Spoiler Alert*

A description of Adult material follows. Her Tangh-i-ness greatly appreciates pithy plot summaries. However, for those who must have a virgin reading experience, read no further and eyeball elsewhere.

*Spoiler Alert*

Introduction • Michael M. Jones

Many are familiar with The Thousand and One Nights and the premise of keeping an king engaged with a story or losing one’s life. Here an editor explains what went into keeping an anthology alive. Perish the thought that there wouldn’t be any anthos with Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing or fluidly Changing from one sex into another celebrated.

The Secret Name of the Prince • Alma Alexander

Start with someone in trouble. Check. Life and death kind of trouble. Check. Start with a frightened brother and sister swapping genders and roles as the protector and the protected. Check. Throw in the power of Naming to determine a character’s purpose and destiny and a reader will be ready to appreciate the retelling of entire backstory of The Thousand and One Nights squeezed into an adolescent’s coming-of-age. Check. Read it? Reading the review does not count. Then mark off as many check marks as you like.

The Daemons of Tairdean Town • C.S. MacCath-Moran

Her Tangh-i-ness has a soft spot for ugly, crippled girls. First person makes it easy to slip inside the head of a clairsentient one for a bit especially one who hasn’t lost touch with her inner male. An ugly, crippled girl who guides the living and the dying equally from their known life to and from the great, interconnected Is-ness. Wait. And of the Daemons? Remember the less popular, less intimidating, non-computer technology definition of the word daemon, insert the word anima/animus instead and a reader makes Jung proud. Plus there is juicy daemon sex.

Kambal Kulan • Paolo Chikiamco

Be a literary Armchair Traveler. Two is not always enough company. Another first person tale about the little known Fillipino art of curse blocking, falling in-love with unexpected objects of affection, and dealing with the aftermath of painful break-ups. Dare to repeat the word mangkukulam ten times. Her Tangh-i-ness adores these lines of dialogue, said by one man to another, “I hope you realize the irony of saying that while wearing a pink dress” then, “Most people are bi anyway….” Kambal Kulan’s theme seems to ask: Is love a curse or a good thing? Best of all, the story’s not over until there’s a threesome.

Driftwood • Tiffany Trent

Don’t leave the deeps, Maebelle. Let others fill their own hollow places. Let them rediscover their own Wo/man within. Weep for the Water-kin. Seal. Selchie. Selkie. Sad. Take the original ending of Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for a close parallel. Behold the awesome terribleness of human fear coupled with distrust and intolerance. Dive into the gazes of those humans who live by the seashore separated by sand and surf from those who could help them return to any self they chose if the humans would only choose love. Remember Maebelle.

Pride • Melissa Mead

Her Tangh-i-ness knows some folks who would gladly down jana berry supplements should they ever become available outside the confines of this story. Fighting sticks help to equalize combatants of either gender. Animal-identified tribespeople choose to serve their village as lions, rhinos, baboons, snakes and elephants. Kayin hunts and wars together with them on the savannah. Never did Her Tangh-i-ness imagine she’d come across a story where menstrual cramps would be a celebrated thing. She predicts Pride will become required reading during mooncycles.

Keeping the World on Course • Tanith Lee

People doubt whenever dog meets cat that meeting will ever work itself without a lot of attendant growling and hissing. Now consider when bird meets cat. The World is absurd. Therefore, Her Tangh-i-ness must laugh. Tanith Lee fans notwithstanding, readers perk up at the mention of that author’s name in a Table of Contents. There’s bound to be brilliant, oddly amusing plot magic afoot. Who else could track the arc of Extreme Revulsion as it spins about into its opposite sentiment. Nope, this story doesn’t have a husband and wife with a gold watch or a head full of long tresses. Keeping the World on Course, however, shares a feel-good ending with another famous literary testament of situational irony.

A Bitter Taste • Aliette de Bodard

Like your fictional flavors hot and subtle as a curry? Her Tangh-i-ness adores Southeast Indian epics like the Mahabharata. Way to go, Alliette de Bodard, with this desperate act of a princess demigoddess pretending to be a common mortal in order to halt a heavenly war. Watch out for those Rakshashas. And still the Man-Woman rises. What price must Naryati pay in order to bring time and the worlds back into balance? What happens to avatars caught in unending conflict? Only a thorough reading will tell.

Going Dark • Lyn C.A. Gardner

Potent. This struck Her Tangh-i-ness as the ultimate Outsider-themed story of this anthology. It occurs in the hairline space between mixing the proper chemicals to develop a desired photographed image and creating a lethal chemical reaction. That Imogene got troubles. First person account of what it feels like to be not only to be genderless or male or female all at the same time but also an unintentional energy thief. Remember, through it all, Imogene is innocent. Imogene simply desires the freedom to be loved for being Imogene.

The Cloak of Isis • Sunny Moraine

Enjoyed the work of Sunny Moraine in a previously reviewed Circlet anthology: The Kitsune’s Laughter included within Like A Cunning Plan so the question becomes: can this reader be enchanted again? A lover of Quirky Romances nods enthusiastically. The Cloak of Isis shares with Melissa Mead’s Pride the wonder of shifting from male into female and an upbeat ending. Could this be a re-imagining of a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses combined with the backstory of a certain falcon-headed god who hailed from ancient Egypt? Ask Ianthe and Iphis.

How to Dance While Drowning • Shanna Germain

First person start tosses the reader into the dark waters of Showbiz. Behold those men who would be mermaids. Details such as the pliancy of a silicon breast firmly anchor the sensation of being mise en scène. Follow Dalilah: the makeup-artist witch and Jojo, and Gianna: the little Mermaids onto the stage. Marvel at the line “…may the best man drown so I can take his place.” Xenografted face transplants oust face-lifts in this desperate milieu. Fear the Colors. The spirit of Hans Christian Andersen sheds a tear.

Treasure and Maidens • Sarah Rees Brennan

Her Tangh-i-ness espies a dragon. Therefore, this tale must take place somewhere in Queens, NY. Why not share a bowl of Cheerios with a mythical, magical being? Apparently, jumping out of windows is the only way for dragons to get around in NY these days. They do it all the time. And I want to see the dragon cookbook that lists all the dishes prepared from maiden hearts. It can’t be that complicated. Unless your name is Emma. BTW, if there is daemon sex in this anthology then sex with shape-changing dragons becomes more than likely.

Lady Marmalade’s Special Place in Hell • David Sklar

C’mon. Just about anyone who has read a title like that wants to know what the heck is going on. Bet it isn’t just Patti LaBelle fans. Last story in an antho has the dual effect of being the last experience a reader takes with them and it answers and amplifies the tone set up by the first story. Marmalade AKA Roger marches into the Inferno as if s/he were born to be the top at the top. Kinky readers smirk knowingly. Wait…wait! But then, Marmalade finds her/his parents, a play/group space in Hell and forgiveness. Work that damnation, Girl, all the way to wherever and with whomever you choose to be.

Note: This copy of Scheherazade’s Façade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-dressing and Transformation was an electronic edition acquired from an editor upon the reviewer's request. Her Tangh-i-ness usually reviews on a for-the-love basis. No lucre has been involved.

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