Tag Archives: LGBTQ+

The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (Novelette)

Author: S. L. Huang

My rating: 4 of 5

The world is only just beginning to learn about the atargati, a second race of sentient beings who dwell deep in the ocean. And while no human can really be said to know them, Dr. Cadence Mbella comes the closest of anyone, having actually interacted with them,  studied them extensively, and learned to speak their language. Her professional life comes to an abrupt halt, however, when she discovers one of the atargati has been kidnapped for study. Unable to let this stand, Dr. Mbella rescues the atargati, but in doing so, she loses everything . . . and yet, even on the run from her country, she finds her curiosity unsated as she yearns to learn more of this culture.

In The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist, Huang gives a dark, reverse retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” And let me just say, this short novelette packs a punch. It’s lovely and moving, but it’s also absolutely heartbreaking. Not a happy ending; consider yourself warned. I really enjoyed this story, though. It’s presented as a log of Dr. Mbella’s that she records as the story progresses, and I enjoyed both her unique voice and the way in which you get snatches of the story as it happens with all the emotion and urgency that each moment entails. The author does a great job of giving us that without losing the flow of the narrative. The portrayal of this utterly alien submarine culture is fascinating–and very notably alien. I loved how Huang uses both details that are rooted in scientific actualities and the strangeness of the unknown and possibly unknowable to flesh out the narrator’s understanding and depiction of the atargati. Dr. Mbella’s moral and ethical quandaries in dealing with this culture–and in interacting with her own in relation to the atargati–is compelling and adds depth to the story beyond a simple fairy tale retelling. Additionally, the author does a good job of portraying the narrator’s struggles with identity as she identifies as lesbian yet finds herself falling for someone of a completely different, non-binary species. On the whole, The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist was a fascinating, thought-provoking story that breaks from a lot of traditional molds while giving a solid retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale–non-Disney-fied, just the way I like it.

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In Spite of Everything, the Stars (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Polomonkey

Illustrator: mushroomtale

AO3 ID: 4647243

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience for slash and basically all the things, consider yourself warned (but it’s such a good story!)

Two boys have grown up in an alternate United Kingdom, one in which magic is real but where magic users are viewed with distrust and are treated as second-class citizens. Merlin Emrys is a powerful magic user, one who has hidden the extent of his power for years and who has in recent years as an adult become a leader of the political movement in favor of greater rights for Magicals. Arthur Pendragon has spent his entire life under his father’s oppressive thumb, being fed a Magic-hating propaganda he’s only ever half believed. Now, with an important vote to give Magicals greater freedoms on the horizon, Arthur has been tasked to kidnap Merlin in the hopes of stalling the vote. Only, he never counted on Merlin being so . . . Merlin.

In Spite of Everything, the Stars is one of those stories that hits hard and sticks with you long after you’ve read it. The prose is beautiful and moving, and mushroomtale’s art is just gorgeous.  We’re given a story that, on the surface, is a moving story about magic and about these two young men in an impossible situation who manage to roll with in and eventually find love and purpose and hope in spite of it all. But underneath all that, we’ve also got this powerful metaphor for minority rights and social justice that goes way beyond this imagined AU society and reaches to present-day issues in our own world. Having said that, I’m not typically a Merthur shipper (I’m actually pretty hard-core Arwen and Freylin, actually), but in this context, with the other issues being presented, it feels an appropriate ship. Also, fair warning that this story involves some pretty messed up stuff–kidnapping’s just the tip of the iceberg here–but it’s the endurance and courage of these two characters through all of this that makes the story so beautiful. So yeah, definitely recommended, if only for mature readers.

Note: You can find In Spite of Everything, the Stars at https://archiveofourown.org/works/4647243/chapters/10599906.

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Moonstruck, vol. 2: Some Enchanted Evening (Graphic Novel)

Author: Grace Ellis

Illustrator: Shae Beagle

Moonstruck, vol. 2

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Werewolf barista and (secretly) aspiring author Julie and her friends score an invitation to a fairy frat party. It’s one of the hottest parties of the year–literally. The entire frat house is bespelled to be a little piece of summer in the midst of Blitheton winter. Fortunately, Julie’s girlfriend Selena is smart enough to keep their entire group from eating or drinking anything. Julie’s friends, the idiot band that the run into at the party . . . not so much. Two of the band members manage to get themselves stuck in the frat house, unable to leave unless the entire band performs at the fraternity’s next party–which would be a lot easier if Mark would get his scrawny vampire butt back to the fraternity instead of refusing to go anywhere near. Naturally, because they’re way too accommodating, Julie, Selena, Chet, and Manuel somehow find themselves trying to sort this all out, only to find themselves caught in a bigger plot–a party war between two separate fairy fraternities. As if they didn’t have enough drama and complications to sort out between themselves already!

I really love the cute fluffiness of this graphic novel series. If you’re in the mood for epic, intricate plots and high stakes, this isn’t really the story you should be picking up. But if you want sweet relationships where the characters are trying to make it work, even as they deal with real struggles like trust issues, then Moonstruck is perfect. Of if you love casual urban fantasy, where all sorts of magical/supernatural beings live normal lives playing computer games, working in coffee shops, playing in bands, and hanging out with friends. Some Enchanted Evening does a good job of showing the growing relationships between this group of friends while providing some solid humor (Mark is an idiot–the whole band are idiots–and Chet’s whole Newpals thing is ridiculous but also amusing). Again, the plot isn’t so much a high-stakes, intense thing, although it does push the characters to deal with some of their issues, which is nice to see. It really does seem like it’s setting us up for something major in the next volume or two, though, especially Cass’s ominous and untold visions being thrown into the mix. The art is consistently super-cute–lots of pastels and fun extras thrown into the background. Recommended.

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Taproot (Graphic Novel)

Author/Illustrator: Keezy Young

My rating: 5 of 5

Being a ghost, Blue had missed human interaction . . . until he found Hamal, a guy who can actually see and talk to ghosts. The two quickly become friends–okay, Blue maybe has fallen a bit in love–and the small gardening shop Hamal works at soon becomes a popular hangout for a number of lonely ghosts. But something dark is creeping into the area, and Hamal seems to be at the center of it all. How far will Blue have to go to protect the guy he cares for and the other ghosts?

Taproot was one of the most charming, refreshing stories I’ve read in a while. Originally a webcomic, it’s now available as an updated single-volume graphic novel. But yes, it has that independent, webcomic sort of feel, which is delightful. The main characters are just absolutely lovable and sweet; like, I wanted things to work out well for them right from the start. And, not to give away too many spoilers, but I promise, they do get their happy ending. The art is really nice–distinctive and attractive. I really love the mix of bright colors with dark, especially the way the panels are overlapped to provide a fade-in at certain points. It’s used well to emphasize the contrast of light and darkness in the plot itself. As for the plot, again, a good mix of feel-good fluff and eeriness that resolves well and left me feeling happy. Taproot is the perfect sort of story for when you need something short to cheer you up and make you believe in hope again.

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Moonstruck, vol. 1: Magic to Brew (Graphic Novel)

Author: Grace Ellis

Illustrator: Shae Beagle

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Julie lives in a world where magic and mundane go together seamlessly–for instance, her best friend and fellow barista Chet just happens to also be a centaur. Or at least Chet was a centaur, until they tagged along on a date with Julie and her new girlfriend Selena to a back-alley magic show . . . where the magician stole their magic and left them a normal human. Horrors! Now the friends are on a mission to trap this magician and get Chet’s magic back before any more magical people are hurt.

Moonstruck was one of the sweetest, most charming graphic novels I’ve read in a long time. Right from the start, the cute art and pastel palette are just delightful. Add in the marvelous variety of character designs, not only in the main characters but also in the background, and you’ve got a story that’s visually engaging and charming. There’s a huge amount of diversity presented here, too, but (major kudos to the creators) in a way that feels natural and relatable, not forced or contrived. The characters are who they are, and I love them for it. As for the story, a great deal of it is character building and relationships, both romantic and friendships–lots of great friendships here, and the love story is sweet. Add in the coffee-shop dynamic and some light-hearted humor, and you’ve got a pretty cozy story. But then you’ve also got a certain amount of adventure, as these friends deal with Chet’s loss of magic and their subsequent tracking down and defeating of the magician. It’s a good balance. Probably more than anything, I love the characters and how they deal with real, complex emotions and situations. I love that Julie deals with worries and uncertainty, and I really want to see her backstory explored more in future volumes–like, we know she’s not all about being a werewolf, but why does she not like that about herself? In any case, I would definitely recommend this first volume of Moonstruck, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

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A Game of You (Graphic Novel)

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 5

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience

Barbie used to be married to Ken, and now she lives in a New York apartment building next to her best friend Wanda who used to be a guy. Barbie is a princess traveling with her animal friends on a quest to save her kingdom from the evil Cuckoo. Both worlds are real . . . or maybe neither is? But as her two realities bleed into each other, Barbie finds herself locked in a fight for survival and depending on her friends in both her worlds.

A Game of You is definitely a trippy ride, perhaps the most trippy of any of the Sandman books I’ve read so far. Which isn’t to say that it’s not good; it most certainly is. It’s just that describing or defining it presents a share of challenges. For one thing, this whole volume deals with a lot of symbolic significance that I am wholly unqualified for (and uninterested in) discussing, so on that topic I’ll just say to read the preface by Samuel R. Delaney in the 2011 edition. It’s brilliant and really helpful in understanding a lot of the symbolism. But even if you don’t feel like delving into all that, A Game of You is just a great story, taken simply at face value. You’ve got interesting characters, an almost Alice in Wonderland sort of feel to parts, plots, magic, worlds ending, ancient promises being honored–with Morpheus watching over it from a godlike position. I can’t explain it properly, but this volume really feels like a Gaiman story in the best sense; the writing, the characters, all of it has the flavor and depth that I really love in his writing. As for the art, it still holds to a more traditional comic book art style, so I don’t exactly love that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that style; it’s just never been my preference. Having said that, the art is certainly well done, and the style works well with the storytelling, plus there’s some great use of coloring and lettering styles to emphasize the meanings in numerous places. Overall, A Game of You is an excellent addition to the Sandman stories, and I continue to look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Covers & Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch, & Dick Giordano/Colored by Danny Vozzo/Lettered by Todd Klein/Introduced by Samuel R. Delany

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What the Mind Forgets (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: Revhead

FanFiction ID: 12459300

Status: Complete (33 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience/21+ for significant slash & trigger warnings for rape/non-con/heavy whump

Spoiler Alert: may contain spoilers through season 11/AU after this point

Sometimes, it seems like the Winchesters just can’t catch a break. After only four months of wedded bliss, Dean goes missing, leaving a frantic Cas and Sam behind searching for him, with no success. Seven months later, Dean turns up on the side of a road, half-dead and with no memory–not of who he is, of hunting, or even of the people who mean the most to him. Heartbroken, but determined to do what’s best for Dean, Cas agrees to stay away from him and allow him the chance at a normal life, one not filled with monsters and a broken past laden with regrets. But what Sam and Cas don’t realize is that the one thing Dean doesn’t need right now is to be left alone.

I have to admit, I’ve been rather hesitant to review this story. Because really, it’s extremely intense and graphic at points, and yeah, there’s a lot of sex. But at the same time, What the Mind Forgets was an extremely well-written story, one that was thoughtful and moving and captured the characters well. So here’s the review, but read the story only with that in mind. Also do know that, as the author points out, there is a valid happy-ending stop point at chapter 22, so if you stop there, you have a few loose ends, but you miss the worst of the ick and violence–although there’s still a lot of sex up to that point. This is primarily a slow-burn romance story about two guys who are married, after all. Which is a really interesting starting point, in my mind, starting AU at the end of season 11 and instead of the whole BMOL and having Mary back, giving us a fully-human Castiel and a bit of downtime for him and Dean to have some happiness together. It’s sweet, and it makes the ache of Dean’s amnesia that much more intense. Now normally I hate the amnesia trope, because that’s usually exactly what it is–an overused and poorly handled plot device that messes with an otherwise decent story. Not so here; the author highlights all the emotional and psychological issues of Dean’s amnesia both from his perspective and from Cas’s in a well-thought-out manner. The loss, the confusion, the pain of seeing someone you know only they’re not really the same person at all inside. It’s heartbreaking. But it’s also really sweet, seeing a new relationship developing between Dean and Cas, seeing Dean trying so hard, seeing the gradual transformation in Castiel. I really loved that–enough to make it well worth the reading in spite of the above warnings, and I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

Note: You can find What the Mind Forgets at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12459300/1/What-the-Mind-Forgets.

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