Funded via Kickstarter, the Best Bi Short Stories anthology was edited by Sheela Lambert, a civil rights activist and writer discussing bisexual and LGBT issues. Surprisingly, it’s the first book of its kind to deliberately focus on bisexual characters and to foreground their identity rather than leaving it to the reader to figure out from tiny clues.
The anthology contains new stories and also a few that were previously published in a wide variety of venues over the last two decades, including a novel excerpt from Pride/Prejudice: A Novel of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet and Their Forbidden Lovers by Ann Herendeen, which explores a relationship between Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy and is an intriguing entry in the Austen meta-canon. The most “vintage” story is the moving “Inland Passage” by Jane Rule (author of the classic Desert of the Heart, made into the film Desert Hearts), featuring two widowed older women, both grieving in different ways, who meet on a cruise ship and, after a rocky start, forge a bond with each other.
Well-known authors such as Katherine V. Forrest, Deborah Miranda, and Cecilia Tan are representative of the high-quality of work in this exploration of many facets of bisexuality in society, in romance, and in the characters’ personal lives. Some of the stories are very brief but didactic or pointed; others more deeply explore characters in historical settings, in fantastical settings, or living with aspects of bisexuality seen through the lenses of different cultures. The didactic stories were least successful for me as a reader, but those few that fell flat were more than balanced out by the overall excellence of the story choices.
One of the best things about the anthology is that it’s inclusive of a range of ages, ethnicities, and gender identities. There are a few characters throughout the anthology who identify as transgender, most notably in the poignant “Challenger Deep” by Kathleen Bradean. Most of the stories are romances, or contain erotic elements, but a few do not, to point up the fact that a person’s relationships are not the entirety of their life.
The anthology starts off with a hilarious interlude by Storm Grant, “Dual Citizenship.”
“So.The Mountie. Something queer about him?” I say finally, careful of my wording. It’s hard to ask when the rule is “don’t.” As in “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.”
Grandy harrumphs. Won’t meet my eyes directly either. He’s probably wondering about the two holes in my left earlobe. “Well, I think I can say for pretty sure that he’s…” Grandy pauses, searches for the right word, then does meet my eyes, “…Canadian. You don’t have a problem with... Canadians, do you?”
“No sir. Got a cousin who’s... Canadian. Not a problem.” I fail to mention I’ve...been to Canada a few times myself since splitting with the ex-wife.
Historicals include “Companions” by Kate Durré, a medieval featuring a young soldier and a barmaid, and “Pennies in the Well” by Rob Barton, an epistolary tale of the American Civil War.
I was also entertained by stories with speculative fiction settings. “Angel’s Dance” by James Williams has a clever twist on vampires. Katherine Forrest, author of the Kate Delafield mysteries, contributed “Xessex,” which features an alien whose sexuality is a puzzle to the humans encountered. Cecilia Tan’s “The Dragon’s Daughter” blends Chinese mythology with travel to alternate worlds through present-day Chinatowns.
“Coyote Takes a Trip” by Deborah Miranda was far and away my favorite story in the anthology. Set in contemporary California, the mythological character Coyote, currently a beach bum graffiti artist, has gotten himself into one of his usual scrapes, and while riding a bus, finds himself unexpectedly attracted to someone he didn’t expect. Coyote’s cocky narrative voice, interspersed with historical information about the Native Americans of California, is a joy to read, and I wished I could hear it in audiobook format.
Best Bi Short Stories offers a wide range of stories for every taste, some of them outstanding in every way, and all offering new perspectives on bisexuality.
Learn more or order a copy of Best Bi Short Stories anthology, out now: