The stories in Transcendent 3 are sometimes grim, sometimes cheerful, sometimes quirky—but always full of emotion. Editor Takács has assembled a wide range of non-cis experiences: from an intergalactic art heist to the everyday life of a trans woman through the lens of horror movies; non-binary parenting in the far future, to a unique method of traveling back to the past. Steampunk, ghosts, even deities, all can be found in these stories that show how transness can relate to and subvert so many themes at the heart of speculative fiction. The introduction also includes a section on year-to-year changes in transgender SFF, and assembled longer-form trans highlights.
Transcendent is the latest addition to Lethe Press's acclaimed set of "year's best" anthologies, and this is the second volume edited by Takács. As always, the stories cover a remarkable range and an amazing variety of voices; in addition, the volume contains an excellent introductory essay on trans SF/F, in which Takács once again demonstrates why they are a leading critic as well as an accomplished writer. Most of all, this is not just an important collection — though it is certainly that — but one that you won't want to put down. – Melissa Scott
"In this spectacular anthology, Takács...weaves together a beautiful tapestry of worlds where trans people live, love, and thrive…. Takács has brought together aching, melancholic, and marvelous speculative stories that speak to the humanity and variety of trans characters."– Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Takács has done an excellent job with the editorial arrangement and pacing—each story flows with ease into the next despite the range crossed between them, in terms of tone and also emotional impact. Some stories are light and pleasant, meditative; some are frightening and wrenching; most of the pieces struck a resounding note regardless of their approach, be that narrative or emotional in nature. As for shared themes, several featured supernatural creatures or transitions (an understandable motif): ghosts, vampires, shapeshifters, and rhizomal nonhuman sentient species to name a few."– Tor.com
Welcome to the permanent revolution.Speculative fiction with transgender themes has undergone an explosion in recent years, with dozens upon dozens of new stories every year. I considered eighty-eight stories while editing the previous volume of the Transcendent series, but in 2017 I found one hundred and forty-two eligible works—a huge increase. (This book is slightly longer than the preceding two volumes, to reflect this very welcome change.)
Trans themes are here to stay, trans writers are also here to stay. This is not a superficial trend. Work that has previously been excluded and repressed is now
coming to light, and writers are creating with great enthusiasm and vehemence.
The stories in this year's selection are sometimes grim, sometimes cheerful,
sometimes quirky—but always full of emotion. From the dynamic space opera
art thefts of "A Chameleon's Gloves" to the devastating dystopia of "Don't Press
Charges and I Won't Sue" to the hilarity of "A Splendid Goat Adventure," a
wide range of non-cis experiences are represented. Authors are expressing more
and more of how transness can relate to other marginalizations, like diasporan
existence in "Cooking with Closed Mouths" or mental illness in "A Complex
Filament of Light." The possibilities are endless—we can read about a neuro
atypical genderfluid accountant in "Minor Heresies," Mughal steampunk mechanical beings in "World of the Three," or dysphoric trans vampires in "Small Changes over Large Periods of Time." We can even see actual deities make appearance, as in "Praying to the God of Small Chances."
Trans stories engage with and subvert an ever-wider variety of themes in speculative fiction. "The Heart's Cartography" presents a unique take on time travel (I never expect to say 'unique' and 'time travel' in the same sentence!), while "Heat Death of Western Human Arrogance" takes colonialism head-on, and "Fire Fills the Belly" reflects on the underside of solarpunk-esque futures. "Feed" examines the intersection of assistive technology, internet privacy and multiple marginalizations in a surprisingly small footprint.
Sometimes these genre-collisions are brutal: "The Heavy Things" shows bodily changes with gutwrenching literary ease, while "Death You Deserve" skillfully reinterprets the everyday life of a trans woman through the lens of horror movies. "The Mouse" is a ghost story in which you know right away that the protagonist dies. But there are also many lighter moments you will find all throughout the book, and many examples of support and love, and family ties of all sorts—for example supportive siblings in "A Spell to Signal Home," or nonbinary parenting in the space future in "The Worldless."
This year most of the stories are about explicitly trans characters and/or issues, but I did include one story that features a sentient nonhuman being learning about life, including gender, sex and sexuality—"Hello, World!" offers a very much non-cisgender perspective on life, the universe and talking robots. To provide you with more resources, this year I also added a section on year-to-year changes in transgender SFF, and assembled my longer-form trans highlights.