Weird science, faerie magic, terraforming nightmares, and flashy, hella cool (where do I get some?!) futuristic nail polish. From biodiversity to lesbian representational diversity, Distant Gardens edited by J.S. Fields and Heather Tracy is a compilation of works focusing on a vast spectrum of brave lesbian heroines finding love in the most hostile environments.
The anthology contains selections from five authors and is comprised of two stories from each; a standalone, and one based in an already established world. There are common themes of exploration, transformation and very ornery vegetation woven throughout the book as well as several variations of love stories blooming amidst the chaos.
So get ready to dive into the Pacific Ocean with an old crush to stop the spread of radioactive kelp. Survive the space fungus apocalypse with a cute botanist on a ship hijacked by a fungus that really wants to go home. Argue your case in a biased faerie court. Prove you aren’t too old to out-science an invasive fungal biomass or find the love of your life. Discover a new planet with vicious flora. Fall in love with a Kraken and save your island. And so much more. Whether set in space, on Earth, or a far off planet, each story in this anthology is an entertaining and exhilarating exploration brimming with unforgettable characters.
Pros And My Favourite Parts
Oh. My. God. What is there not to love in this book?! I was like a kid in a candy store, wanting to read each story immediately and desperately trying to decide where to start. Silly monster movie plots, nasty, nightmare-inducing mushrooms, cranky koala infestations, space mold, space fungi kidnappers, espionage, Faerie lawyers, mutiny, Frankenstein forests, evil corporations, super heroes, space carpenters, and TENTACLES! Phew! Be still my beating heart.
There really is something for everybody here. A fabulously diverse, heroic cast of kick ass lesbian characters, varied expressions and demonstrations of love and a cornucopia of incredible settings. Each story is unique but the commonality of themes and ever-present violent vegetation holds the anthology together well.
And in case non-stop excitement isn’t enough, the anthology also has a wonderful aesthetic appeal. Not only does this book have a gorgeous cover, but there are also several fantastic illustrations (by Katie Cordy) throughout. Quirky, sometimes eerie, sometimes whimsical, but always on point, each picture perfectly captures the feel of the story it illustrates.
Cons And Heads Up
As with any anthology, some stories are stronger than others but overall it is just such a fun, if at times, somewhat horrifying read.
Each story is prefaced with content warnings specific to it, immediately giving you the opportunity to opt out or keep reading based on your preferences and thresholds. These warnings include: coarse language, violence, death, gore, and drugs. Conveniently, there is also a heat level indicator and sapphic representation description at the start of each new tale so you are fully aware of what to expect with each story.
If you are a science fiction and fantasy nerd like I wholeheartedly and unabashedly am, then you’re going to want to dive into this anthology stat. It is sweeter to devour than Granny Madges shpangley jam-jam. So don’t be a gormless giddy-nut, kraken the spine open. There is not mushroom or time for-rest. I’ll show myself out :)
Excerpt from Distant Gardens edited by J.S. Fields and Heather Tracy
Radiant by N.L, Bates
Anna covered the area in methodical sweeps, back and forth. Occasionally she stumbled on rocks, one of which was actually an irate crab. It skittered away, its mandibles opening and closing in reproach. She saw seals, urchins, and an octopus. Living ones, thankfully. At one point, a stalk of kelp broke away from the seafloor by degrees, as roots like short spindly fingers unclasped a rock one by one…The haptera clenched together as they floated toward the surface, for all the world like a fist.
Anna refused to be creeped out by seaweed. She kept moving.
Jellyfish Lovepotion by J.S. Fields
Space was horrible and yet, and yet. Under different circumstances, Andrea might have considered friendship, or potentially pet ownership, with a space fungus. Not a murdering space fungus, but maybe an edible one. Or a fluffy one. Really, if they took murder out of the equation their situation wan’t that bad, right? It was sporadically itchy, particularly right now, but it wasn’t bad.
Thorns and Fur by William C. Tracy
If only things had gone differently. But two cycles later and here I was, a biologist doing double duty as a field medic, inching toward an injured, enraged, young, and …very pretty…soldier in a ditch. It was fortunate we were alone out here in the forest, for now. No telling when her squad would find her. …She looked like she’d been in a fight, but it might not have been one of the Methiemum soldiers. The plants here were almost as vicious as the Festuour, but that was why the survey group originally came to this island several cycles back. The flora was ridiculously efficacious for medical products, and my fellow researchers were discovering more species by the day.
Dew Diligence by Robin C.M. Duncan
Granny Madge made all the jams: raspberry, strawberry, apricot, gooseberry, blackberry, red currant, black currant, cherry, blueberry, etcetera, etcetera. and they were good. Amazingly, ridiculously, transportingly good, but that was only her entry-level jam – for seasoning her pots. Madge made jam out of things no one had any right to make jam from… She made: cucumber jam; ginger and artichoke jam; bacon jam; nettle and horseradish jam; potato jam; mint and violet jam. She even performed an impossible alchemy, cloistered in her garden “cooking hut,” that resulted in the unfathomable yet delightful concoction labelled jam-jam. Sixteen-year-old Julia had suggested naming it Wham Bam, Thank You Jam, but Granny had just tutted. That formula – more than any of Gran’s recipes – made closely guarded secrets look like the parish newsletter. Once…Julia had even challenged Granny Madge (sullenly) to make pearl jam.
Brie and the Marsh Kraken by Sara Codair
Instead, there were tentacles on her mind. Impossible, glorious tentacles powerful enough to shake the earth. Delicate enough to pleasure.
And there was hope.
Assuming they didn’t get caught and wind up in jail, or worse, murdered by some sketchy private security, Brie had a chance of not only getting her land back, but protecting the island it was part of. And she’d found a way to keep a part of the marsh closer to herself. There was so much hope and yet, there were so many ways it could all go wrong.
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781735076829
Publisher: Space Wizard Science Fantasy
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