I backed this on Kickstarter, but of course, then it sat on my shelf for a bit. Recently Gwen Benaway has been a prominent voice against Toronto Public Library allowing Meghan Murphy to host a talk at one of their branches. In following that news, I decided this was a good time to get to Maiden, Mother, Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes.
I really wish I could gush about this book and say I loved it, because it’s so important to support trans voices and get more #ownvoices stories with trans rep out there. Alas, I did not love this book. It’s not bad, but the stories and the writing in it are largely not my style. Also, it could have used another copyediting pass. Some of the stories had typos and duplicated lines.
Benaway’s opening story, “Mountain God” and Kylie Ariel Bemis’ “Dreamborn” were probably my favourite stories in this collection. The former is a take on sword-and-sorcery style fiction but with a more romantic twist, and despite being a very short story, it features a lot of character development and worldbuilding. I’d read a whole novel set in that world. The latter is an interesting take on “the humans are the invading aliens” trope, highlighting the plight of Indigenous peoples by casting invading humans as the Other, and I appreciated the emotional arc of this story.
The other stories are, to Benaway’s credit as editor and curator of this collection, quite varied in style and substance. There are vampires, witches, healers, dwarves … there are transdimensional beings as well as transgender beings, and the level of imagination and creativity on display is high quality. The ways in which trans women are represented, voiced, depicted, are diverse. In these respects, this is a great collection, and I don’t want my lukewarm praise to dissuade you from this book should you think it’s more your speed. Short stories are hard sells for me at the best of time, short story collections from different authors even more so.