Thursday, September 27, 2018

Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (Transgender Fiction)

Sandra McDonald
Completed 9/23/2018, Reviewed 9/23/2018
4 stars

This is a very interesting and entertaining collection of stories that run the gamut of the LGBTQ experience.  The stories are literary, yet have fantastical elements to them.  And there’s an obsession with firefighters.  What really struck me about these stories was that I was able to get into most of them very easily.  Sometimes with short fiction, it takes the whole story to get into it, but I found that the stories grabbed me right from the start and most of the characters instantly likeable or relatable.  Some of the stories are standalone and some of them are related.  They all take place in the same universe, mostly around a city called Massasoit.  They take place in different times, but in the end story, all the stories more or less come together.  My favorite of the stories were the Diana Comet stories, of which there were three where she was a main character.  But almost all them were fun and inventive.  This book won the Lambda Literary Award for Sci Fi/Fantasy/Horror in 2011.

I think my favorite story was “Diana Comet and the Lovesick Cowboy”.  Diana Comet is a transgender woman.  She runs a home for wayward children in Massasoit where she educates them and inspires them to be curious and expressive of themselves.  She follows up on all the children that have been placed in homes.  There’s one child living in cowboy country from whose adoptive parents she hasn’t heard anything for a time.  She hires an alcoholic, closeted gay cowboy to take her to the ranch where the boy is living.  Diana has a knack for putting herself in the lives of people who need her wisdom and insight, and this cowboy is no exception.  On the way, with Diana’s help, the cowboy has epiphanies that makes him question his own internalized homophobia and negative self-esteem. 

Another favorite was “The Fireman’s Fairy”.  The firefighters of Massasoit have magical creatures as mascots.  Steven Goodwin has just graduated from firefighters training and is assigned to Engine Company 13.  Steven wanted to be assigned to the company that had a fierce dragon as mascot.  Instead Company 13 has a bisexual fairy as a mascot.  Bob the fairy is pretty annoyingly overzealous and has a thing for firefighters, male and female.  Needless to say, he gets under Steven’s skin.  But even worse is Steven’s own PTSD stemming from his time in the military.  Can Steven learn to appreciate Bob the way the other firefighters have?

This universe of Diana Comet’s has a goddess and/or goddesses who manifests themselves in various ways.  One story that was particularly interesting was “Fay and the Goddesses”.  It’s about a little girl who has a gift for singing.  In the religion of her father and uncle, the Stern Loving Mother demands that gifts such as her beautiful voice be offered back to the Mother.  However, in the religion of her mother’s mother, the Water Momma only demands that you forego luxury.  Fay must choose between her voice and luxury, the love of her father and uncle or her grandmother, and the choice is not an easy one.

These are only three of the stories, but I liked most of them a lot.  There were only two that I didn’t quite relate to, but they were still good stories.  There are fourteen stories in all with common threads through some of them.  And as I said, they all sort of tie in together in the last story.  The book should be read from beginning to end, rather than just the individual stories, for the full effect.  I give the book four stars out of five.  It’s funny, insightful, and thought-provoking.

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