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Bogi Takács

QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez

Welcome to our new series, which will focus on reviewing QUILTBAG+ classics of speculative fiction—you can read the full introduction here. Today, we will begin by taking a look at a vampire novel with a time span ranging from slavery in the American South to the science fictional future: The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez.

The Gilda Stories is a Black / Indigenous lesbian vampire novel from 1991; it has recently seen its twenty-fifth anniversary reissue, in an expanded form. Gilda, the vampire heroine of the novel, also appears in a number of standalone short stories—I first came across a Gilda story when it was reprinted in one of the Heiresses of Russ lesbian SFF year’s best anthologies. (Specifically, the 2013 volume edited by Tenea D. Johnson and Steve Berman.)

Gilda is a fascinating character: she uses her superhuman strength and quasi-magical powers to support humans and fight for them, and also to build and defend her vampire family. Despite the grim subject matter, this is a very comforting book. Several of the vampires are genuinely kind—which is even more striking if you consider that the novel was written and published well before the trend of humanized vampires became widely popular. But where did this kindness come from?

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QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics: Un-suppressing Minority Writing

In this series of columns, I will review classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction—often out of print, little-known and seldom discussed. Even novels which were acclaimed in their day are frequently ignored now, creating the false impression that all QUILTBAG+ SFF is very recent.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, QUILTBAG+ is a handy acronym of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual / Aromantic / Agender, Gay and a plus sign indicating further expansion. I find that it is easier to spell and remember than other variants of the acronym like LBGTQIA+.

Before we move on to specific books, I want to discuss exactly what I’m going to be covering and why, as I feel that every decision of inclusion or exclusion has a set of underlying assumptions and aims. Being explicit about my underlying assumptions will ideally prove helpful for everyone, and it might also be revealing about speculative fiction in general.

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