recommendations the fifth, point-form version, by Julad.

20 July: The Sentinel has been making me very, very happy lately.

First of all, there's a new discussion list, the likes of which this fandom has never seen and has aways needed.  Prospect-L, welcome at last to the universe!  If, like me, you were keeping away from TS fandom because of Senad and related stupidity, this is the list for you.

Second, Molly posted Imperfect, which is so damn exquisitely tensiony wistfully perfect, and Illumination, which is, well, darker, but just as lovely.

Third, Kalena's Leaning and Falling is wobbly in places, but has such gorgeous prose in other places that I don't care.  This is her first story, and she's one to watch, that's for sure.

An older rec: Lenore's Love's Bitch is harsh and skin-crawling and absolutely worth it - a bitter story which, in the end, leaves you raw and enlightened.  And, to balance the darkness of that, an old one I've always had a soft spot for, a cute sweet thing: Quack by Legion.

Cruise the archive for a few other recent treasures, including newies from some consistently good writers like Brighid, Kass and Destina.

Finally, Francesca forcibly reminds us of how good she is, with Permanent Record.  Here, she puts a lot of sex into a deceptively mild story, and blows a dozen m/m cliches the fuck out of the water.  The first time I read this, I thought it couldn't be for real.  The second time, I was totally moved and absolutely fucking ecstatic.  Third time, paying real attention to what she did in this story, I came out feeling like I'd been run over by a demolition derby.  I'd be only slightly overstating the case to say that all TS stories after this should be called either post-Permanent Record, or crap. <g>

Late addition (yes, I'll stop any minute now): Exit Wound by Brighid.  Angsty and brilliant.  Remarkable in every way.  Easily my favourite of her stories so far.

Viva la Sentinel, and fucking hallelujah!

And since I haven't looked up from TS in weeks, and since I've actually been reading <gasp> BOOKS! in the holidays, a few book recs which might please the slashy soul.

Not in association with any bookseller whatsoever; in fact, if you want any of these, get up, get dressed, and go out and buy them at an independent bookstore, one with couches and coffee and outdoor tables and really nice people who sell books because they love them.

Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series, three installments so far.  This is fantasy, and excellent fantasy at that, but as the friend who recommended them to me said, it reads like the best slash fiction.  She writes with affection and care and respect for her two male characters and their developing relationship, but never takes her love of her characters too far (my major whinge about most fantasy these days).  Most of the major characters are an intricate mix of good and bad, and for that, far more intriguing than the stupidly perfect sword-wielding heroes I've come to know and loathe.  The subtextual parralels to contemporary gay culture are also interesting, although I'm yet undecided on exactly what they mean.

The first book is mainly the set-up, the second is dark fantasy verging on horror, the third a political intrigue with a lot of mysticism, and one which I got ten times as much out of on the second read.  This series has so fucking much going on in it that I could happily see ten more books in it, and normally I bail on fantasy series after three or four.

The Vintner's Luck, by Elizabeth Knox.  Rich, slow, and exquisite.  I decided, after reading this, that I wanted a tattoo saying "Xas can go freely".  <g>  It was actually the subplot of this which absolutely and totally fascinated me, saturated as it was with violence and religion and philosophy, but it (mostly) worked as a background against which a quieter and sweeter and more contemplative story takes place.  Think vaguely what the film Dogma would have been, if it had been a novel written by Kat Allison... errm, if such a thing can be imagined at all.

Cry to Heaven, by Anne Rice.  An old, old fave that I never get tired of reading.  I'll say right out that I adored Interview and hated every other vampire chronicle story that I bothered to read, so you know where I stand on that.  Cry to Heaven was written before she wrote all that smart-ass Lestat crap, and it shows.  High drama, fittingly lavish plots and tensions, written with language like music and reaching heights of emotion like the operas she describes.  Where you stand on Rice will determine what you think of this one, but if you like her, this is fantastic, and if you don't like her, well, this isn't too bad, for her. <g>

The Catch Trap, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Another really old one, probably long out of print but worth grabbing if you ever see it second-hand.  Vaguely contemporary-historical rather than her usual fantasy, with a quiet warmth and the bittersweetness of reality.  It's the kind of story where a few short, sweet moments amidst the characters' struggles to just stay on their feet in life are more wonderful than anything else you could hope for.  The quality of the writing and editing isn't as good as her usual, but I loved it just the same.

Loaded, by Christos Tsiolkas.  Australian and fairly alternative, so may be hard to get a hold of elsewhere, but it was also highly acclaimed, so won't be out of print for a while.  This is more hardcore than anything else listed here; hardcore emotionally more than sexually, but with a fair bit of both.  This made me feel like my heart had been sliced open - it's raw and vicious and passionate and real, but it also cleanly exposes all the twisted issues going on inside the story - political, sexual, cultural, and personal.

There are quite a few absolutely brilliant moments, but the ending is what makes it one of the finest things I've ever read.  The whole story, this whole fucked-up, wasted, pathetic, angry, desperate mess of a life that unfolds, I was asking myself where it could possibly go, and the answer was perfect.  It's also very representative of the Australia that its youth live in, which isn't something I often say of Australian fiction.  The film of the book is called Head On, and it's excellent, but only gets across a tiny fragment of the book, thematically.

Venus Plus X, by Theodore Sturgeon.  Science fiction, but not so you'd notice.  Subtle and fascinating, playing the "what if" game to its full potential without getting weighed down in details.  Sturgeon is a brilliant, brilliant writer, very evocative and with an imagination that seems to have wings.  He was on the cutting edge of both science fiction and literature exploring the social constructions of gender in his time, and everything he has written is still fresh, forty and fifty years later.  More Than Human is his most lauded novel, and To Marry Medusa is probably my personal favourite, but this one does fascinating things with gender and sexuality, with a kickass ending bringing everything closer to home.

Also, if you've got access to an decent library, the short story The World Well Lost was (I think) the first published science fiction to feature homosexuality, and is absolutely and totally gorgeous to read.  It's been published in a few different anthologies, and since it hasn't yet been released in Sturgeon's collected works, Strange Bedfellows: Sex and Science Fiction is probably the easiest place to find it.  For comparison purposes, Jane St Clair has always reminded me of his work, in the best possible way.

They're all very different books, with nothing much in common apart from the m/m relationships and the fact that I like them, but if you've got any others you'd like to remind me, or recommend, let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

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