Out of this World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories by Catherine Lundoff – Reading Women 2019

This post is part of a series on reading women 2019 hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s Narrative Designer, Dan Michael Fielding.

Out of this World is a delightful collection of short stories from Catherine Lundoff. The collection is centered around queer themes with special focuses on lesbian, gay, and trans stories.

Lundoff embraces the full gamut of speculative fiction in this collection. There are stories drawing on myths and fairy tales, stories of vampires, medieval worlds, and even future-oriented mysteries. This collection leans more towards the fantasy side of speculative fiction and plays with genres Lundoff clearly loves (yet isn’t afraid to poke fun at!).

As with all short story collections there were some I downright adored and others that didn’t quite do it for me. I’ll start with the former and work towards the later.

By far my favorite short in this collection was “At the Roots of the World Tree.” A sentient bookstore, Norse Gods, Ragnarok, and a love story all rolled up into one. There is a bit of adventure in this story and I still find myself thinking about Lundoff’s delightful scene-painting. I later found out that this short was a finalist for the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, and I can see why it was nominated.

In “Red Scare” colonists of an alien world are all, apparently, cosplaying in an enormous gritty detective noir story. What I liked most about this story was how Lundoff played with gendered presentation and identity. In “Red Scare” people identify with the kinds of genders you see in a detective novel. Add to this creepy bug aliens slowly taking over the world (or taking the world back?) and you’ve got a recipe for an interesting adventure.

There were a handful of stories I didn’t care for. “Beauty” is about a young prince, hated and vilified by his family, whose only friend is the court jester. He falls for a visiting monster. The romance elements were fine for me, but the story felt incredibly condensed. I got the feeling that especially towards the end Lundoff was just summarizing what she would have liked to write for a much longer book. There was also a scene of sexual violence in the story that left a bad taste in my mouth.

These are just a handful of the stories in Lundoff’s collection. Overall, I liked it, and if you’re a fan of queer protagonists presented in an unproblematic way in speculative worlds then you should check it out as well.

What did you read for the independent press challenge? Let us know in the comments below!

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