“Love Beyond, Body, Space, and Time” is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.
I don’t read anthologies ever. Some anthologies are written to push publishers to think about the spaces and voices missing on reader’s shelves. This is one of those anthologies. My desire to read this is to push for more Indigenous visibility and representation for #IndigAThon, hosted by Michelle at Thor Wants Another Letter and Brody at Et tu, Brody?. Honestly, if we’re talking about diversity but there are people not being represented what the hell is the point? Those of us that are non-native or white need to start recognizing the gaps in these discussions.
If you don’t like science fiction, I’d still recommend this. And if you do there are spaceships and girls kissing AT THE SAME TIME. The gayships take off in this one. All these stories are easily accessible to those that don’t usually read science fiction. The only one that might not be is Imposter Syndrome. It’s a bit more hefty and the world building is a bit difficult to comprehend. The only sci-fi I really like are Star Wars and Next Gen so this anthology really fit me well.
Love Beyond Body, Space & Time makes its purpose to focus on LGBT and 2-spirit lives. It tells us the importance of seeing indigenous people in the future and yet being attentive to their histories. LGBT+/2 Spirit characters in these stories resist colonial gender binaries but also make sure we know indigenous gender roles are integral to their identities. Assimilation for indigenous people meant the repressive gender binaries of white people were forced on indigenous cultures. This anthology writes truth over the lies of white people’s specially curated revisionist history. Niigaan Sinclair writes:
“these stories use science-one of the most powerful discourses that have been used to “civilize” Indigenous communities-and fiction-the other tool that has been used to misrepresent and mutate our lives –and re-makes them.”
The authors take what has been used against them to place themselves at the center of the future. Indigenous artists, creators, writers are now pushing against the stereotype that they are always in the past and instead making their past part of themselves in the future.
Wendy Red Star, one of my favorite artists, uses futuristic settings and combines Crow regalia to push this message of indigenous futurisms. Check it out: http://www.wendyredstar.com/thunder-up-above. She imagines what indigeneity would like in the future, without centering tragedy or colonizers. That’s what this book does as well.
Richard Van Camp, a Dogrib Tłı̨chǫ writer of the Dene nation, tells us a story about love between Shandra and Jimmy, who is Aayahkwew (neither man or woman but both). Their love coincides with Aliens, the Sky People. Instead of aliens being monsters in this place, it is believed that they are healing the earth. Using the tradition of orality in his writing style, Van Camp fantastically and mesmerizingly says that trans people, queer people, 2 spirit people, so often depicted with derision and disgust, are beautiful and worthy of love. While I loved the message of this story, I have a serious problem with the way the author chose to represent Jimmy’s Aayahkwew identity. I could see that the author wanted to show how colonialism is internalized so the default for people’s identities become heterosexual and cis. However, I think revealing someone’s 2 spirit identity is not a good look. That’s based on stereotypes that 2 spirit identities are a surprise for people.
Cherie Dimaline, a member of the Georgian Bay Métis Community in Ontario, writes a story centering 2 spirit lives saving and protecting their people for the next generation. On a New Earth, it is 2 spirit people that protect and save their peoples most sacred necessities for New Earth. For many indigenous cultures, 2 spirit people held roles as protectors of knowledge. This is remembered and told in this story. That sacred things, like knowledge of the traumatic past, are remembered and kept safe for the next generation to remember. TW: use of h**f-b***d
David A. Robertson, a member of Norway House Cree Nation, writes Perfectly You, which to me seems a perfect love letter to girl crushes. Instead of a mystical dream, Robertson uses scientific technology to transport Emma into a dream that turns into a nightmare. Science used against indigenous peoples and queer people is healed through the use of dreamcatcher imagery. That is fucking perfect. Genius perfect.
Daniel Heath Justice, Cherokee Nation/ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ citizen and self-described queer indiginerd, wrote The Boys Who Became The Hummingbirds. His story mimics the use of animals, such as birds, to emphasize healing colonial beliefs in indigenous communities. I love Strange Boy and Shadow Boy’s romance. I want to see them in a full length novel. It’s such a soft poetic love. Their transformation into birds seems to coincide with the message of decolonization in this story. And you know…i am just so fully in support anti-colonial messages so that just warms my angry bitch heart. TW: mentions physical violence and anti-lgbt+ hatred
Darcie Little Badger, a Lipan Apache writer and geoscientist, wrote one of my favorite stories in this whole glamorous scha-bang. Né łe! is the f/f romance story with puppies in space I always needed. After a breakup, Dottie takes a job as a vet on Mars. While in transit, things go awry and she has to help a bunch of puppies and a whimsical pilot.
“There are supplies in cargo-kibble cubes, beds, kennels, squeaky little toys-but this operation is one bad choice away from chaos.”
It is the comedic space opera of my dreams. There are final frontiers but in SPACE! Sovereign territories and kisses. It places history as an integral part of Dottie and Cora’s place in this world. They both know their ancestors fought hard to exist in this futuristic world. The note that Dottie’s ancestors (Lipan Apache) lived through a different colonial history than Cora’s ancestors (Diné) takes on the stereotype that indigenous people are monolithic, that each tribe has the same colonial history, and forces those of us that are non-native to recognize these people as different, nuanced, and complex; just like the stories in this anthology.
Gwen Benaway, an Anishinaabe and Métis trans writer, talks about indigenous trans identity and womanhood in her short story Transitions. Benaway works through perceptions of gender roles and the importance of her ancestor’s teachings for trans women. I loved that this story has a traditional elder recognizing the importance of 2-spirit people,
“Being a woman isn’t about your body. It’s about your spirit. You need ceremony to help with that, not pills.”
I especially love that Benaway also emphasizes the point of gender being internal rather than something relying on appearances. This story is one of my absolute favorites. Benaway’s writing abilities are awe fucking amazing.
I’ve seen some critique that this anthology is very binary in the storytelling. The reviewer saying this, of course, is white. It’s important for white reviewers not to place colonial queer history onto indigenous 2 spirit/lgbt histories. They are not applicable because 2 spirit/lgbt+ people had roles. They were not repressed, ignored, or forgotten in their societies. Gender roles, I’ve learned, are very important in indigenous societies. Their gender roles are not like colonial gender binaries. Please, fellow white reviewers, do not place these expectations onto other cultures. TW: use of h**f-b***d, transphobia
Mari Kurisato, an Ojibwe Nakawē disabled LGBTQIA artist and writer, discusses citizenship and blood quantum in her story about transgender robots, Imposter Syndrome. This is one of those stories I could dissect and analyze for weeks and still there would be something more I would want to say. This is a complex one. It is layer upon layer. You could rip each layer of this onion and still there would be a thousand more. The protagonist, Aanji is a noncitizen whose most honest desire is to become a citizen. Aanji switches between pronouns he and she but we learn Aanji prefers she pronouns.
Aanji tells us she wants to be able to “bleed right.” Kurisato explores the colonial expectation that indigenous people must have the right amount of blood in order to be considered a citizen. The gender expectations she must attend to in order to escape without persecution notes the way 2 spirit people must contend with the colonizer government and the anti-lgbt ideas inflicted upon indigenous people. I disagree with the notion that this story is about transgender transition. I’d say it’s much more about citizenship but has a trans woman center the different parallels of indigenous trans people and difficulties of blood quantum myths. Suffice it to say, this anti-colonial and anti-imperialistic trans girl won my heart. TW: mentions of rape, cancer, police brutality.
Nathan Adler, a member of Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, tells a romantic and supernatural story about two girls falling in love. I loved the simplicity of this story. Just two girls having conversations about peter pan, queerness, and spiders. I will cheer that any day. However, this is the one story I’m a bit critical of. I am not a fan of using the objectifying descriptions men typically use for describing women to make a story about two women falling in love subversive. This story did not need to objectify women’s bodies. The power structure may not be there in the room. But it certainly is there because the author is using tactics men use to describe women’s bodies. I need men to stop. Do not take the same stupid shit misogynistic men do to make your descriptions say something. And if it was unintentional? That’s even more sad. I am absolutely in tears that I had to read such an awesome story lowered by misogynistic descriptions.
Cleo Keahna, an Ojibwe and Meskwaki writer, wrote the single piece of poetry in the collection. Keahna attempts an exploration of gender fluidity, as someone who uses he and she pronouns. I found this piece interesting but a bit incomprehensive. I could see what Keahna wanted to do but it didn’t make much room for a pleasing reading experience.
Love Beyond Body, Space & Time refuses colonialism, and all its toxic revisionist dribble, by placing 2 spirit indigenous self love, from 2 spirit people and those within the community, as futuristic genius. This story is more amazing than most anthologies purely because it attempts to reach for something no one else is thinking about. It realizes something is missing in publishing and fulfills that need.