Review: “Transcendent 3,” ed. Bogi Takács

Pros: Very moving stories
Rating: 5 out of 5

Bogi Takács edits Transcendent 3: The Year’s Best Transgender Themed Speculative Fiction. The stories within range from tales where a character just happens to be trans or genderfluid in the context of a wider stories, to tales where the character’s gender is crucial to the plot. Some trans characters are much as we see them in society now, whereas others are members of alien races (or other groups) that would be new to us.

The collection includes an up-front section of content notes so you can skip the stories that might bother you. I’ll just note a handful: violence, explicit sex, slurs, self-harm, panic attacks, menstruation, murder.

I don’t think there are any stories in here that disappointed me. Maybe there were one or two that I felt ended too soon, with too much left unsaid or unresolved. But it was a mild feeling, not a “hey, did someone leave out half the story?” reaction. I won’t go through each and every story, but I’ll note a few that stood out to me.

The Chameleon’s Gloves by Yoon Ha Lee is one of those stories that isn’t really about the character’s sexuality so much. Rhehan and their partner are working on an art heist when they’re kidnapped and forced to use Rhehan’s haptic chameleon abilities for the benefit of the people who threw them out. This story is tense, tight, and neat.

Ryley Knowles’s Death You Deserve introduces us to Addy, who has an obsession with fearing that she’ll die a horror-movie-style death. This is a surprisingly powerful tale.

Small Changes over Long Periods of Time, by K.M. Szpara contains a non-consensual vampire attack, and then the difficulties of a trans character having to also transition to being a vampire. It’s creative and interesting.

Shweta Narayan’s World of the Three is a fantastical tale of mechanical creatures and their interactions with humans. This is one of the stories where the trans nature of the character is a bit unusual, since mechanicals can have their heartsprings moved into new bodies, which might not be the same gender as the previous.

S. Qiouyi Lu’s A Complex Filament of Light follows Alicia, who’s doing research in Antarctica. They have to come to terms with a suicide in their family, and I shed a few tears over this one.

One of my favorites in here is Susan Jane Bigelow’s The Heart’s Cartography. As soon as Sally moves into Jade’s neighborhood, Jade figures out Sally’s a time traveler. Sally’s able to give Jade, a trans girl, a bit of a glimpse into what the future may hold for people like her.

This is an excellent anthology, with some powerful stories.

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