New Books by Queer Vancouver Writers Coming in Fall 2017

By Casey Stepaniuk

Whether you’re into photography, science fiction, magical realism, or historical fiction, Vancouver’s queer writers have a great book in store for you this fall! You can read great books and support local authors at the same time: what more could you want?

Oracle Bone by Lydia Kwa

Lydia Kwa is a Singapore-born Vancouver writer who hasn’t put out a novel in over ten years. Her latest offering published by Arsenal Pulp Press is Oracle Bone, a magical realist tale that plays with Chinese mythology from a feminist perspective. The story is set in seventh-century China and “teems with magic, fox spirits, and demons.” The empress Wu Zhao has finally gained ascendency in the Tang Court but her evil lover Xie is obsessed with finding thy mythical oracle bone, which is supposed to bestow magical powers on its possessor. Only an eccentric nun named Qilan stands in his way; but Qilan has her own troubles with an orphan girl Ling, whom she rescued from being sold into slavery and is training to avenge the murder of her parents. In another part of town, a young monk named Harelip struggles with his faith, his attraction to men, and his efforts to help an older monk translate a sacred Buddhist scripture. All these narratives come crashing together as the mysteries and powers of the missing oracle bone are revealed. Can Qilan stop Xie from possessing the oracle bone? What will it cost?

Colony by Leigh Matthews

In a departure from her modern-day lesbian pulp series set in Vancouver, Leigh Matthews’s first science fiction novel—with queer characters—is slated to come out in September. Set in the year 2036, Colony focuses on a pilot project to create a sustainable human settlement on Mars. Silver Antara, a Flight Engineer aboard the interplanetary transport ship Octavia, has already been on the planet for six months when the first group of civilians from Earth arrives. So far her time there has been spent scouting Mars for water and potential life. The routine of life on Mars is quickly broken, however, by an unexplained accident in the human settlement’s quarry and a similarly mysterious disappearance of Silver’s colleague, Chief Engineer Aliyaah Diambu. Is something larger going on that Silver is unaware of? Is the whole idea of human settlement on Mars actually a terrible idea? Maybe Silver is simply tired, or maybe she’s suffering from radiation sickness. Or maybe she is somehow sensing the planet Mars itself resisting colonization. To hear more from this versatile author, check out the interview I did with her for Inside Vancouver back in April.

Butch: Not Like the Other Girls by SD Holman

You may have encountered Butch in one of its two previous 2013 incarnations: a public art project of photographs featured in transit rest stops around Vancouver or its gallery show at the Cultch. The opening night of the show at the Cultch was the biggest visual art opening in the cultural centre’s history, with attendees lined up around the block. The book translation of the project features all the photography that has captured so many people: portraits of people on the spectrum of female masculinity. The photos interrogate all the boundaries of gender and sexuality that are normally placed on women and people assigned female at birth, and celebrates the people transgressing those boundaries, in all their “beauty, power, and diversity.” The photographs are accompanied by text written by the photographic subjects themselves. SD Holman describes the project as “intrinsically queer” and emphasizes that the book explores the contradictions and complexities in the idea of butch, “glorying in our mercurial and perhaps sometimes confusing natures.” The book also places itself in conversation with transgender, intersex, and genderqueer issues, while also honouring and reflecting on butch identity specifically.

Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian

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