Connie Wilkins and Steve Berman (edd.), Heiresses of Russ 2012: The Year's Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction. Lethe Press, 2012. Pp. 287. ISBN 978-1-59021-159-5. $18.00.Reviewed by Djibril al-Ayad
This is the second annual Heiresses of Russ anthology of lesbian SF, collecting stories first published in 2011. Despite the naming of recently deceased Joanna Russ in the series title, this anthology is not full of the aggressive, uncompromising, acerbic feminist science fiction she was famous for, but is rather a mixed and representative selection of different styles in queer SF with lesbian protagonists. By the nature of the collection it is hard to identify a single theme in this volume, but many of the stories share a tendency common in lesbian writing: fairly uncomplicated love stories with happy endings are preferred over angst-ridden or treacherous romances; this slightly clichéd, optimistic simplicity, sometimes classified as twee or idealized, is only as escapist as the worlds without overt homophobia that also occur often in queer fiction. Of course, by no means all of the stories in this collection are in any sense romances, and there are exceptions to this tendency; sometimes, indeed, the divergence from simplicity and innocence is the twist in the story. Like last year’s, this anthology is a mixed bag with some excellent pieces, more good than mediocre, and none really terrible. Most importantly, this collection of fourteen stories is an impressive gathering of speculative fiction, regardless of the theme or the reader’s tastes.