Masquerade, by Laura Lam [Micah Grey #3]

TITLE: Masquerade (Micah Grey #3)
AUTHOR: Laura Lam
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan
RELEASE DATE: 9th March 2017
RATING: ★★★★

23279496It’s been a long wait between Shadowplay and Masquerade, and there were times when it seemed it would never come, short of Laura Lam electing to self-pub and/or kickstart the third and final Micah Grey novel. Thankfully, Lam’s publisher, also responsible for publishing the fantastic futuristic sci-fi thriller False Hearts swooped in and seized the entire trilogy, meaning that Micah was coming home.

 

And what a homecoming. Masquerade is a fast-paced and exciting story, full of mystery and heart, from the second we’re taken back to Ellada.

 

I was worried about the amount of time that had passed, having expected to forget absolutely everything, and since I do not have the ability to re-read books, it was a genuine concern that part of my enjoyment might be diminished by “what is happening? Who are these people?” and “I have no memory of this place!”. There were things I’d partially forgotten, but the way Lam both opened Masquerade and weaved the story, any of those gaps were very easily filled, with my memory being jogged where relevant and not once did I feel I was reading something I only half connected with, in spite of the huge gap and subsequent gaps in what I remembered. It felt every bit the same as having waited a year or so between books, with no clumsy dumps of exposition or info.

 

And the wait was worth it.

 

After the circus and then the magic contest with the Masque of Magic, things seem to be looking up for Micah. Except that at the close of Shadowplay, to sour the success, Micah fell suddenly ill and it seemed related to his burgeoning abilities as a chimera. Luckily, soon Micah is well (but for how long?), but at the cost of trusting someone he never wanted to see again. The Royal Physician is someone Micah would rather steer clear from, and with good reason, following the man’s employment of a Shadow to report their actions and whereabouts during the magic contest, even sending someone to get close to Masque in order to glean all the info he could. Yet Micah doesn’t have much choice and his treatment at the hands of the Royal Physician becomes regular affair–one he remains deeply mistrustful of.

 

Yet ridiculously, allowing Pozzi to treat him is soon the lesser of Micah’s worries, as tension grows within the city due to both the rumours of chimera and the politicking of the Foresters. The problem is: they have a point. For too many centuries, the noble families and the royal family have had much of the power and all of the privilege, whilst many in the country go hungry or find themselves in poverty. This dissent will not be eased without change, and yet when a particularly violent arm of the Foresters, calling themselves the Kashura in reference to the old histories and tales of the chimera and the Elder race, rises up and makes themselves known, the people of Ellada are caught between the need for change and the dislike for violence and bloodshed.

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Things will come to a head eventually and civil war may well be on the cards.

 

Meanwhile, Micah’s abilities seem to strengthen thanks to the treatment rendered by Pozzi and soon he is experiencing strange dreams that seem to show him the actions of another person as they go about their business in shadow. That business is body snatching. But without any notion of who is behind the actions or why, Micah and his friends are working blind. They’re not in this alone, aided by the mysterious Anisa, the Damselfly apparition from the Aleph who knows more than she says and who sometimes appears only to help them when it suits her best. None of them are entirely willing to trust her, but with their secrets held tightly to their chests, there are few around them who know the full truth and they must take whatever help they can get.

 

Matters become more complicated when hands behind the scenes begin to play their cards and Micah, Drystan and Cyan are pulled into things far more complicated and delicate than they could have imagined–and with the Foresters poised for action and change (one way or another) it looks as though things may come to a head sooner than anyone hoped.

 

One of the things that I’d been hoping for most with Masquerade was Micah’s confrontation with his parents, one way or another. I felt that given the storyline that led him from the noble house in the first place, there needed to be some manner of resolution given that Micah had returned to Imachara with a mind to stay and settle into his new life. This happened, in a way, and although there were elements of what I wanted to see, I felt disappointed in how Micah ultimately handled the situation. Which, really, is to say, I was disappointed in how easily Micah was able to set aside his anger and hurt regarding what his parents wanted for the daughter they believed they had. I think that any narrative from Micah suggesting that he understands what his parents were trying to do, and that he knew it came from a place of love, possibly suggests that Lam maybe hasn’t experienced strained relations with parents regarding queerness and acceptance. Micah loses his anger at his mother, understanding her “reasons” for wanting to fixing (or at least this was how it read to me) and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that. Micah’s mother does not really, really, truly admit fault and she does not truly accept Micah–and therefore she deserved no quarter, no acknowledgement and no further consideration from Micah. It felt like Micah gave too much for the sake of resolution and that just didn’t sit well with me, considering how his mother both was and wasn’t–and how she’d been earlier in the trilogy.

 

Overall, Masquerade was just as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be, jumping effortlessly back into the same world we’d been forced to leave behind for so long. Every bit as exciting and compelling as its predecessors, Masquerade was a delight and being given such diverse characters with a q u e e r  r o m a n c e  as casually as any other never, ever, ever, ever gets old and it means every bit as much as it ever did. I very desperately want more of Micah and Drystan and still hold out hope for further Micah Grey novels that see him older, wiser and more established with his place in the world.

 

A wonderful end to the trilogy and almost everything I’d anticipated it would be.

The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco [The Bone Witch #1]

TITLE: The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1)
AUTHOR: Rin Chupeco
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire
RELEASE DATE:  7th March 2017
RATING: ★★★★★

30095464The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco, the first of a new YA fantasy series, has been likened to The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Usually I take these things with a pinch of salt and decry “advertising!” instead of walking into the book expecting to be given just this. But in this case, the echo of style and verve truly is there—and that’s one of the things that made me love this book so very, very much.  There’s a kind of slow, soft poetry to a story told through the eyes of a single character as they recall the (however distant or recent) past; as if we’re being told a story within a story. We’re told the story by Tea as she recounts it herself and we not only learn about her in snatches and glimpses, but that’s the way we’re invited to see the world of The Bone Witch as well, which is immensely rich and satisfying, as well as tantalisingly slow. The way in which Tea tells her story allows you to curl up and savour every word, simultaneously eager to spend time in the past through her recollection and race back to present day in order to follow the unravelling story wherever it is headed.

Tea is a bone witch, which she discovers when raising her dead brother from the grave, ultimately making him her familiar; in this way he is something resembling alive, though he remains very, truly dead. When a bone witch creates a familiar, the once-more-living creature retains their personality and memories and becomes linked to the witch who raised them. Which is why, when Tea is found by Lady Mikaela, a bone witch on her travels, raising and slaying the monstrous daeva as a bone witch is tasked to do, her brother is forced to remain with her. Neither sibling seems to mind this new and strange turn of events, however, and although Tea is apprehensive about leaving her sisters and family to become an asha-in-training, she is pleased enough to have raised her brother and be headed away from her tiny, insignificant village.

But it won’t be smooth sailing. Perhaps if Tea was any other kind of witch, then perhaps. Only Tea is a Dark asha, a bone witch who can only draw the Dark runes; runes for raising the dead and other darker, murkier things. And the raising and slaying of daeva. Only bone witches can kill the terrible creatures who rise up and bring death wherever they tread and though Tea has just arrived in the city with her new teacher, she already knows that this will be her fate.

As Tea struggles to manage her powers and undergo all the necessary training to become a fully-fledged asha, she finds that being the new girl is hard—let alone when you’re a bone witch. For all the bone witches are essential, they are treated with suspicion and often open hatred by many people and on the whole, they are merely tolerated as a presence among other asha. Not all of the asha think this way about their bone witch sisters, but Tea finds that for the most part she will make no easy friends among the other asha and asha apprentices.

Tea soon discovers that she is very capable, surpassing the expectations of her tutors in many areas. But life remains difficult under the strict rule of the asha-ka’s matron and there are times that Tea wishes she’d never left her little village. But she’ll never take back having raised Fox.

As Tea continues her story, we begin to see the tension mounting and are given the tiniest glimpses that might reveal what her plans will come to be. Through her eyes we see her past and through the observant narrative of the bard who sought her out, we’re told the story of Tea now, where she hides in exile from the rest of the asha as her plan begins to unfold. Much like Kvothe in The Name of the Wind, we are constantly held within inches of learning more about Tea, both in the present day and in her past, and the result is a compelling, lyrical story that lures you in and keeps your interest through its delectably slow unfolding and merging of past and present, with the smallest hint of what the future might hold.

The Bone Witch takes places in a diversely populated world where the asha take centre stage. In subsequent books I would be thrilled to see the male would-be-asha be afforded a place among the asha, instead of the ranks of the Heartseekers, where boys who can draw the runes usually go. I would love to see a boy join the ranks of the asha in the exact same way that Tea did: with the pretty clothes and enchanted jewellery, instead of keeping the genders separate with soldiers and witches, or by further feminising him in order to make him fit. I want Kai to be a male asha still partaking in all the traditional things that the asha do, without needing to surrender his gender somehow to do so. For me, that would mess with the gender boundaries of what is ‘masculine’ and what is ‘feminine’ in a way that feels relevant to me and more powerful given the typically feminine education and training of the asha apprentices. Basically Kai can be asha, regardless of his gender, doing all the things a girl would. That’s what I want. It’s what I’m hoping for. In addition, since there seemed to be (what I perceived as, at least) the implication of at least an attraction, if not romance, between two of the asha, I’m happy that at least some manner of queer representation was included, though I will be hoping for more in future.

I absolutely loved The Bone Witch, finding it completely enchanting and compelling: the slow, careful pace of the book is what makes it shine, with every detail lovingly rendered on the page, weaving a tapestry which becomes the backdrop to Tea’s journey. This trilogy is going to be fantastic, I have no doubt.

The Ninth Rain, [The Winnowing Flame #1] by Jen Williams

Title: The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame #1)
Author: Jen Williams
Publisher: Headline
Release date: 23rd February 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

29758013The thing about Jen Williams is that she gets it. In the same way that any artist needs to know all the rules of their art intimately, in order to then bend or break those rules, Williams is so intimate with the genre of true, classic fantasy that she likely meets it in the pub for Sunday lunch and sends a card at the holidays. She knows exactly what she’s doing when she crafts these incredibly familiar worlds with almost-but-not quite familiar characters, only to then turn everything on its head and throw all expectation out the window. And she’s very good at it.

Another thing about Williams is that she writes in worlds that really ought to appear so cliché and dated that the words hang off the page in tatters and dust puffs up with every turn. In fact, the worlds she crafts are both gloriously familiar and excitingly fresh, clean and new: we’re never re-reading old “golden age” fantasy ground with Williams—even if, for a moment, we would be forgiven for thinking we are. The thing about this is that we get that cosy hot-chocolate-by-the-fire feeling that’s almost nostalgia for all the classic kinds of fantasy we thought had since been usurped by newer, reimagined fare, yet without any of the dowdy old tropes and generally completely of date nonsense we put up with without knowing there was an alternative. There won’t be any wailing damsels and certainly no chainmail bikinis or armour that is as ineffective as it is silly. Instead we have intelligent, queer (!) black women tromping around the woods, going about the business of being scholars and adventurers. Even the cliché of the womanizing rogue is bashed soundly on the head and left back in the decade from whence it came, and in its place, we have an updated elf-like almost-warrior who’s just enough of a dandy to know how the hell to dress (and to care about his appearance), but lacking in the other cliché of the useless fop who contributes very little outside of someone to laugh at for his lack of Traditional Masculinity.

After the stunning finale to the Copper Cat trilogy, which both tied everything up nicely as if with a ribbon, at the same time as leaving the vast stage open for our heroes to continue on thereafter, I was excited to delve into a whole different world and meet the new denizens of William’s very vivid—and very fun—imagination. The Ninth Rain does not disappoint.

We’re whisked away to a world we see in glimpses, where war stretches back through its long, bloody history and although the level of civilization and resulting technology is on its way to impressive, much of this is contained to walled cities and safe spaces upon which the overgown and worm-touched Wild does not encroach. Those who choose to live out in the Wild do so at great risk and most elect for the safety of cities and towns—anywhere the Wild hasn’t yet spread. But the Wild is spreading, slowly but surely, and this is what (among other things) prompts our wine-making scholar, Vintage, to set off from her family’s very wealthy vineyards in search of answers. What she doesn’t count on is getting entangled with a runaway witch from the infamous Winnowry, who might hold part of the answer Vintage has been looking for.

As for Tormalin the Oathless, even traipsing around the Wild with Vintage has got to be better that what he left behind at home: sickness and the slow and dusty decay of his people. No thanks—Tor would rather leave Ebora and keep on walking, and he has very little intention of looking back. Except Tor isn’t as good at pretending he’s done with Ebora as he thinks and whether he likes it or not, Ebora isn’t done with him. In fact, what he and Vinatge find out in the Wild might just change everything for the home he left behind. Tor isn’t the rogue some readers might expect, and neither is he the brooding, manly man-man warrior of total manliness who mans about doing his man thing. Even with his experience at the House of the Long Night, he absolutely is not That Guy; that wine-and-women dude. He’s more–so much more. And of course he is: because it’s Williams who wrote him and she nails him every bit as much as she nailed Frith and Sebastian.

The Ninth Rain fair sings off the page when reading and even the unusual and, let’s be fair, generally yuck and ick details of worm people and wandering, rampaging ghost plants, are conveyed clear as crystal and in with such an expert hand that, not for one moment, does the notion of said wandering ghost plants sound even a little silly.

Everything about The Ninth Rain cries classic fantasy, from the questing heroes to the fate of the world hanging in the balance. We even have an elfy, ethereal race gifted with longevity and beauty. Cue the forbidden magic that’s little understood, inextricably attached to a dodgy cult and the dutiful runaway with the dark past and we have precisely what’s needed to get very comfortable in that sepia-tinted Good Old Fantasy that brought us here in the first place.

But because this is Jen Williams The Ninth Rain is old fantasy all dressed up new and shiny and with only the good things left in, with all the dated and dodgy tropes drop-kicked into space. As usual, we’re invited to a diversely populated fantasy world that is engaging, exciting and written with complete abandon and no self-consciousness to be seen.

In others words, The Ninth Rain is peak Williams and if we learned anything from The Copper Cat it’s that from here, the bar is only going to get higher and higher. I have no doubt that when it does, Williams will step up her game and vault over it again and again.

Basically Williams’ The Ninth Rain is a shining example of just what modern fantasy can be and do. You need this book.

November Round-up #1: Medical

13228058_849461041825680_672486022_n (2)November’s been a bit of a weird month, but overall, a productive and positive one. After missing out on really celebrating Samhain on 31st October due to an appointment in London that was then subsequently cancelled (when I was already in London, and with no prior notice…), the month didn’t get off to the best of starts.

Traveling when disabled is never fun and never, ever easy. Let alone when going to London of all places, and not for leisure. It’s one thing to toddle to London for a convention (like Nine Worlds in August… which I realise I never actually posted about properly by writing up part two of the review—oops!) and another thing entirely to trek down for one day. For starters, staying in a hotel for one appointment that’s going to take maybe an hour tops feels a little like extortion, so, it was a there-and-back kind of trip. That would have been fine, had the appointment not been cancelled! Imagine turning up and them, NOPE, sorry, your appointment was cancelled and we didn’t even call, so sorry that you just came all the way here on a train and two taxis only to be told a clinician had called in sick. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.

That whole thing messed me up pretty badly. It triggered a pain flare and I caught a cold, for starters. Moreover, it really upset me and drained all the spoons I would have needed to pace my month better. So it left me really struggling before the month even started. Fun.

The rescheduled appointment came through a week or so later, for the 1st December. I almost just rearranged it because, honestly, I just don’t have the spoons for this shit! But, I knew it would just be another source of anxiety, so I went ahead and accepted the appointment. Hopefully I can plan my energy better this time now I know that a day in London like that is utterly crushing. It’s also upsetting, you know? London is one of my favourite places and it’s now completely inaccessible for me. I can’t easily go to any of the places I want, having a wheelchair in London is so stressful and now I can’t just hop on the Tube, navigation is a nightmare. I’m usually pretty good at handling all the ways my life has been changed by my chronic illness/disability, but London’s still a sore topic that’s generally left ignored. I can’t fix it, can’t make London magically more accessible to me, and I’m not going to stop loving it any time soon, so really it’s best if we just don’t talk any more.

In other medical news, after being told I needed an intensive course of B12, followed by a course of folic acid (in that order, else nerve damage was a real risk), I needed to schedule in five intramuscular injections with the nurse. I don’t go to my surgery; I’m lucky enough that Dr S comes to see me (in his lunch break) and I can avoid the awkwardness and distress of having to go and be at the surgery. But not this time. Dr S couldn’t do these for me and after a bad experience with the district nurse’s attitude, it was easier for me to just suck it up and go. It wasn’t easy, but at least they’re done, and 3/5 times it was the Nice Nurse instead of the Kinda Bitchy Nurse. Unfortunately, the Nice Nurse hurt when she did the injections.

I wasn’t expecting anything to suddenly change or even improve through the B12 injections—and I wasn’t wrong. No increase in energy, no reduction in pain, no nothing. Sure, my body needs that stuff so that’s a positive, but that’s all that came of it. What I’d like to know more is why my B12 levels were so low in the first place and what we’re doing about tracking it. Buuuut, since it’s one of those things where I expect to have to insist to the Dr that the injections made no difference, it’s not something I’m looking forward to.

Honestly, I’m just really, really tired of trying to approach doctors from a million different angles to get them to listen. And after the rheumatologist said one thing in a letter, another in person and a third, different thing on the phone, it’s hard to know what’s going on or where to start.

The run-up to the holidays is always a mixture of “yay!” and “oh dear sweet gods I’m already exhausted”, but I think that this year I’ll have more of an idea how to pace myself and I know how to prioritise myself and self-care better than I did last year. Aka, last year was the last time I’ll bother celebrating Christmas for the benefit of others, and will just stick to Yule and cut down on any additional stress between then and New Year. It’s frustrating, really, that you only learn how to pace properly, by royally screwing up with pacing to begin with. Because why would this stuff make itself easy, huh?

I’m going to try get into the habit of doing both a monthly round up and a separate monthly round up, hoping that it’ll help me get my thoughts organised about medical stuff and track progress, since I’m pretty terrible at tracking time and sometimes, before I now it, I’ve been meaning to arrange an appointment with the doctor for three months when I think it’s only been a week. Mostly this is because it’s just so damn draining trying to communicate with doctors—especially after the colossal waste of time the rheumatologist proved to be, who then simply left me hanging without even a referral elsewhere or a letter back to Dr S that did any good.

The nicer, fluffier and altogether less irritating update for November will follow soon. (Probably.)

[Review] Timekeeper, by Tara Sim [Timekeeper #1]

Title: Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1)
Author: Tara Sim
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication date: 8th November 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

25760792Timekeeper, by Tara Sim, is a clockworky, period fantasy-mystery-romance-everything that mixes an investigative ‘whodunit’ element with that of myth, magic and mayhem, with the added exploration of everything from parental relationships to what, exactly, being human might mean.

Set in an alternate Victorian England (yay) where time is quite literally a force of power and must be harnessed through clock towers in order to function correctly and keep life flowing and moving as it must, Sim’s debut novel is a brilliant example of making myth and mystery merge with the burgeoning industry associated with steam/clockpunk to create a story that is completely addictive and rich.

Time was once controlled by Chronos, but after his death, time needed new, mortal guardians to ensure that all flowed and ebbed according to its natural order: The Mechanics. They can sense time, touch it and feel its strands and fibres as if it were fabric. They are its guardians, attending to the maintenance of the clocks across the world.

Danny Hart is one such mechanic—the best in his class and a natural prodigy; the youngest mechanic in the union—like his father before him. But Danny is particularly gifted, able to not only repair the towers with ease and a delicate, careful hand, but to feel and touch the very fabric of time itself in a way far deeper than his peers. Danny understands time.

Which is why, when an accident traps his father in a Stopped town, now for three years and counting, Danny is certain that if he could just be a part of the controversial construction of the new tower in Malden, that he’ll be able to save his father.

But with fears that Danny might not be up to the task, following on accident that could have cost him his life, Danny’s requests to work on the tower are gently refused by the Lead Mechanic. Before the accident, before he drew the sympathetic stares of his colleagues, there would have been no question as to whether he was fit for the job or not. In order to get the assignment to Maldon, Danny needs to repair his reputation and prove that he’s fine after the accident.

So what if he has nightmares, still, and the presence of so much of the clockwork that exploded and scarred him makes him break out in sweats? He can handle it—he has to. With this in mind, Danny sets himself to any assignment he’s given with determination, desperate to help his father.

Things begin to change, however, when Danny takes a job in Enfield.

Clock spirits don’t exist—not really. Every mechanic knows the stories, but they’re a myth, a fiction. Only, Danny might be forced to change that assertion when he meets Colton, the clock spirit of the Enfield tower. Filled with deep loneliness, Enfield’s clock spirit begins finding any way he can to draw the mechanics—to draw Danny—to the town. So much for Danny’s focus on work and saving his father… Before long, the two are drawn together and Danny’s visits to the tower have less to do with the clock and more the boy who powers it.

But when a similar incident to the one that almost killed Danny occurs and there’s no visible culprit or motive, things begin to take a sinister turn. With clock towers being attacked, maybe it’s only a matter of time before another town is Stopped. And perhaps Danny won’t be so lucky a second time.

It soon becomes clear that Danny must solve the mystery before something unthinkable happens and before long, there’s more at stake than just Danny’s father. With the help of Colton, a rival mechanic, and his best friend, Danny delves headlong into untangling the distorted threads to find the truth about what really happened to him—and to his father.

Timekeeper is an expertly-written debut that is both thrilling and enchanting. Sim has a talent for crafting real, feeling characters and capturing the subtle and nuanced realities of every emotion from loneliness to grief, as well as weaving realistic and deep relationships between the characters. This is always something I hone in on immediately: parental relationships. Sim writes a seamless strained relationship between Danny and his mother, as well as his absent father. Parents suck sometimes—whatever the reason—and Danny’s mother is no different.

Obviously, Timekeeper features a m/m romance. Sound all the bells and alarms for a realistically-written gay romance, because by gods, they’re rare enough and rarer still written well, without essentially resembling the shounen-ai/yaoi fanfics written by teenage girls after binging Junjou Romantica for three weeks. This isn’t a gay romance written for girls (as so many are: fight me, go on, do it), it’s just a boy-meets-boy kind of story that gets it right, not agonising over any ridiculous notions such as how do I write a gay romance?! (spoiler: the same way you write any goddamn romance).

Additionally, this isn’t a story about Danny being gay—it’s a story where Danny just so happens to be into boy-shaped people. This fact alone would likely made me give the book five million stars and recommend it, even if I hadn’t personally liked it. When we have queer SFF on the regular that just so happens to feature queer characters without being a story that centres entirely on their queerness, then I’ll shut up about it. Until then, I’ll say: I do not want queer fiction; I want fiction that happens to be queer.

And that’s precisely what Timekeeper is.

Timekeeper is also a brilliant story that makes Sim look like she’s been published for years, not, in fact, her debut novel. The world is richly-plotted and expertly conveyed, mixing her unique magic and myth effortlessly with the more modern setting of a Victorian England only slightly different from our own. Her prose is deep and magical, adding a touch of wonder to the manner of setting that would usually present as eithleo-stickerset4er high-society propriety or the nitty-gritty of the streets. Timekeeper is enthralling and delightful and in one book, Sim managed to both write a story that finds a natural end, at the same time as setting the stage for subsequent books to follow.
Needless to say I am highly anticipating more from Sim—both in the Timekeeper world and in whichever additional worlds Sim decides to explore. This book was bloody brilliant. Buy it.

Bi Visibility Week – On Being Bi/Pan-(romantic)

bi-flagSo apparently being bisexual is frowned upon by many (ridiculously rude and shitty) people. Honestly, though, even having to type that is so ridiculous that I almost deleted it twice. Because it doesn’t seem like it should be true. But it is true–biphobia is a big thing. I’m lucky enough that,  in the circles I move in, I’m not subjected to it at all in my personal offline life (my friends are literally all varieties of queer; and this happened organically, without any of us knowing about one another’s queerness before we met, and without meeting in a specific queer community or setting), but I know from basically existing in the world and online that people get twitchy (and paranoid and downright nasty) about bisexuality. They get mean about bisexuality. Really mean.

Before we go any further, repeat after me: bisexuals are not confused or greedy or going through a phase. Bisexuality is a valid sexuality; we exist and we are here and there is no qualifying “test” or lifestyle checklist we have to complete.

And once again for those in the back: bisexuals are not confused or greedy or going through a phase.

OK, good.

Men who are bisexual are faking and are actually gay and women who are bisexual are straight and faking liking women (funny how the world revolves around we dudefolk, isn’t it? (Except that it’s not funny at all…)).Of course this is incorrect and also so incredibly damaging. To constantly invalidate someone’s sexual preference–especially when said sexuality can be easily erased or hidden (being “straight-passing” or “gay-passing” depending on relationship status)–is cruel and hurtful and damaging.

If you like one or more gender(s), then, congratulations! You’re bisexual. Bisexual guy married to a woman? Are you still bi? You betcha! Same if you’re a bisexual woman and married to a man. And this works for bisexual people who “pass as gay” by being in a relationship with people of their own gender. They’re all bisexual and they’re all valid.

Some people use pansexual synonymously with bisexual (though many don’t)–and I’m one of them. Whilst I don’t technically identify as bisexual (note the emphasis) or pansexual (again, emphasis), I do identify as panromantic.

Yep, that’s right: it’s the sexual part that becomes the deal-breaker. I am definitely attracted to pretty much any person of any gender whatsoever–therefore making me very bi/pan–but in my case, the attraction is as far as it goes. I’m asexual (there will be a post on this in the near future) and therefore would usually rather read a book or eat oatmeal or honestly just pet a cat instead of engaging in any business relating to the between-the-sheets activity. I’m just not interested.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to how people look or the notion of them as romantic possibilities. Asexual simply implies that, when it comes to the down-and-dirty, I don’t harbour any real interest or physical desire. It’s not simply a matter of choosing to abstain, but a literal physical, emotional and mental disinterest in the deed, generally speaking. Sure, many asexual people still have physical relations with their partners (whether to have kids, or simply because they enjoy–but do not feel pressured into–making their partners happy, or even because, however often they feel like it, they don’t mind having sex with people they’re in a stable relationship with), but the cinching point for many is that we are simply not that bothered by the idea. 

I could go on, but then I could also write whole essays about asexuality, and this is all about being bi this week. So…

Regardless of my asexuality, I consider myself bi/pan. Strictly speaking, I do prefer the term bi/panromantic, but most of the time our dialogue on sexuality doesn’t stretch to inclusion of these terms (or any terms that fall outside of allosexuality, for that matter) because there isn’t a widespread acknowledgement of the difference between physical sexual desire and the magnetic pull of one person’s heart towards another’s (purely romantic attraction; attraction to a person based on who they are as a soul, instead of a physical, sexual being).

Yes, this is crappy, but since my panromantic-ness isn’t a performance for anyone/thing, I’m perfectly comfortable broadly identifying as bi alongside asexual. I’m open about most things, so if people really get confused by the seeming contradiction of bisexual asexuality, they can always ask if it’s that big a deal!

I’ve always been comfortable in my happy little bi self. I’ve had relationships/harboured attraction towards people of quite literally every gender variant, including straight people, gay people and those that fall somewhere between. But it’s also not something I realised was a Thing until far later than I should have. With little to no bi rep in the media I grew up on, it’s no wonder that, years later, I’m looking back at what seemed to be peculiar crushes on other people of my own gender, wondering if what was really happening was my own burgeoning bisexuality.

There’s still so little representation of bisexual people in our media. I can likely name more gay characters than I can bisexual–which is a big problem. Gay rep is very important, yes, but bi rep deserves just as much attention. In a way, since it can be a complex issue, it arguably deserves more attention. Conveying a same-gender relationship is easy: boy meets boy, or girl meets girl. Easy. But a bisexual relationship, to be explored on the page as a sexuality, needs a little more, unless a character is constantly reaffirming their own preference. This is why we need #ownvoices authors telling our stories: I don’t think it would be possible for me to write something without a queer character, because it’s such an integral part of who I am, it comes so naturally to the characters I write.

But it is important to acknowledge bi characters when we see them, and to not fall into the systemic biphobic habits of labeling these characters as gay or straight depending on their current preference/history of relationships, and thereby denying them the deserved and valid identity of queer.

I did this recently, having lamented the lack of queer rep in one of my favourite series. I fell into the trap of taking away a character’s queerness by not considering their bisexuality as being “queer enough”. Which is really, really crappy of me, let’s me fair. Yet, this is the systemic bi-erasure hard at work, right there. I’m talking about Aedion Ashryver in Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series, which now features a queer character as part of the main cast. Bisexuality is valid. Aedion Ashryver is valid.

Aedion is my current bookish crush. And he’s a great crush for me to have, as a bi guy, because he is also bisexual. It matters. His past relationship with a member of the Bane is important but in no way invalidates his current feelings towards a female character. Aedion wasn’t gay when he dated the soldier and he isn’t straight now he’s attracted to a woman. He is–just as he has always been–bisexual. Having a crush on a fellow bi hottie feels good, because there’s the notion that the character gets me, gets my sexuality. That’s really important.

I don’t have many bookish crushes (girl or guy), and perhaps my asexuality tempers any attraction based purely on how a character looks or presents, but I think it’s more that the characters I could crush on feel unattainable. With bisexuality so easily erased across the board, it’s easy to feel invalidated as a bisexual person, when the choice of crushes leans either towards gay imaginary romance or straight imaginary romance.

That’s not to say that bisexual people will always want to/need to date other bisexuals, but with this ingrained sense of biphobia, it’s little wonder that those who identify as bisexual will do so openly around only those they trust the most, or they may conceal that part of themselves altogether, lest they be judged for their preferences. The gay and straight communities are equally guilty of this treatment.

There are many married men and women in my circles who are bi, but rarely consider/announce themselves as queer, even though their letter (the B) is right there in the LGBT+ acronym. That’s hugely problematic.

In the same way that the L and G seem to come together and form one big gay supervillain, bent on stealing the focus and attention entirely for themselves, whilst the other letters are shoved into the background, taught to be grateful for whatever scraps of (often bad) representation they’re given, any focus on the gender elements of the queer/LGBTQIA spectrum are similarly often forgotten. Indeed, talk of “queer rep” is so often reduced to simply “gay rep”, which is telling in and of itself.

Queerness is about so much more than who you’re attracted to and shouldn’t be reduced to an overarching label of “GAY”. There’s a lot of work to do, but hey, hopefully with more attention on the important issues of queerness, through awareness periods such as Bi Visibility Week, maybe we’ll eventually gain some ground and open the dialogue all the wider for it.

And before I go, once again:

Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. 

 

 

September Tarot Spread

I’ve always had a connection with tarot cards, which kind of figures, since I’m a practising witchy pagan. But in the last few years, as my life got rockier here and there and I lost myself a little in the chaos, I disconnected a little with these things, including the tarot cards. But, here I am!  Along with the intention of posting daily card readings to my Instagram, I’m going to post both my month ahead readings and my smaller week ahead spreads as well. Maybe they’ll help you like they help  me, or maybe they’ll pique your interest in learning more about tarot and modern witchcraft practises (which I intend to blog more about).

  • september-7th-2016The Devil
  • Son of Pentacles
  • Ace of Cups
  • Two of Swords
  • The Hanged Man
  • Ten of Pentacles

Oh, what a month ahead! Mercury’s retrograde definitely features in the energies and experiences for the month, but there is the potential to ride out whatever trials of heart and mind are introduced or exacerbated this month. Be ever mindful of the smiling, baiting Devil. He sees you and you see him – and oh, he knows it, too. Powered by the chaotic fluidity of the retrograde, this Devil will seek to lead you astray. But he is in direct opposition with the Son of Pentacles, who is set a about his course, trudging ahead with his determination to wherever he is headed.

Yet especially with the trickery of the Devil afoot this month, the Son’s dogged and stalwart approach is likely to lead straight into the goat’s smiling clutches, with our stoic Son too set to glance up and reassess his way. The Devil might be you – the personification of all the little brain gremlins you house and how they all lie to you every day. But instead of the goat, choose the clever perspective offered by the Hanged Man. The Bat knows its strengths and weaknesses and plays to them. It sees the situation the way it must and holds no illusions that it is upside down. Yet, this is because it is meant to be upside down. View a situation from the way you need to see it, not anyone else. Your perspective is what you need to stay the course through the trials of the Devil and lead to the waiting energies of the Ace and Ten.

It’s going to be a busy month, emotionally and spiritually, but there is a reward for all the chaos you’ll endure. The energy of the Ten is boundless yet calm, and pitted with both the Devil and the Hanged Man, it feels knowing, as if fully aware of what’s going on. And it is – let the calm fullness of the Ten keep the overflowing energy and emotions of the Ace in check, backed up by the determination of the Son to keep to your goals and see them through, without forgetting the perspective of the Hanged Man. If you do, the Two of Swords reminds us that you can block yourself by getting into a stalemate with the Devil and the overwhelming emotions of the Ace if you try to a battle too hard or in the wrong way. There’s a lot on the bat this month. Trust bat and keep those ten, whole Pentacles in sight as you channel the Son’s determination.

You’ve got this.