I love Spenser’s The Faerie Queen. I love it with a geeky, earnest passion for its bleeding trees, its book-vomiting serpents, its undefeatable shield-maiden and her rescue of a woman named Love.
That said, I always read it with double vision—one eye always redacting, reading Duessa and the Saracen Knights against their ergot-laden grain. Of course the first really interesting female character we meet is a duplicitous evil-doer; of course being friends with the Queen of Night and getting her to spirit your boyfriend away before some (quite literal) kill-joy murders him means you’re a villain instead of a resourceful badass. It was strange, reading a book and loving it enough to spontaneously compose explanatory fanfic for its ugly parts, but that was most of my undergraduate English degree.
When I saw the title of Saladin Ahmed’s “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy,” I straightened up out of a slouch. I felt my eyes brighten with hope. He’s going to do it, I thought. He’s going to write my fanfic.