J.A. Pitts and I have been on panels together at events like Norwescon, but until recently I wouldn’t have said we really know each other. But all that’s changing: Tor is sending us to San Francisco for a Pride-themed reading at Borderlands Books on June 23rd at 3:00 p.m. Anyone from that general vicinity is emphatically invited… come one, come all! We promise fun.
Not surprisingly, the two of us decided to get better acquainted, which means I’ve just finished reading Black Blade Blues, the first book in his series about a newly-out lesbian who’s also a blacksmith. It’s set in the here and now. Sarah Beauhall is a sword-wielding member of the SCA (like me, she favors Doc Martens footwear*, though hers aren’t covered in flowers as far as I know) and she’s fallen for a lovely bard named Katie.
(*Here’s Sarah, with a boot showing, on a book cover:)
(Whereas here is the flavor of my Docs, but without grime)
Okay! Tangents aside, I don’t want to share too much of the Black Blade story, because I hope some of you will pick it up for yourselves. But it all gets rolling when Sarah reforges a busted sword that turns out to be magical. Her fate gets entangled with that of the sword, and this leads her down a monster-packed and delightfully (if you’re me) violent road.
About a week before I began Black Blade Blues, another reader told me she’d been unhappy with it, and Sarah specifically, because she’s incredibly hung up. Her big non-monster conflict is with internalized homophobia; she’s from an uptight religious background, and hasn’t dealt with it. She hasn’t had a girlfriend before, certainly isn’t out.
That first big process of coming out happened, for me, a long time ago. But much as the world has improved since I was a twenty-something in love, there are plenty of queers coming out of rabidly homophobic homes and carrying all the baggage that brings. Do I actively seek out those stories? No, not really. Do I think this novel did a good job with the material? Yes, I really do. It’s a cool book.
But I’ve no idea how I’d have felt about the novel if I hadn’t been braced for that particular story element. Sarah’s catastrophic fucking up didn’t ring false for me, but I was always watching, to see if it would. This in a nutshell is why I’m spoilerphobic.
Anyway, I recommend BBB, and if you like it there are two more Sarah Beauhall books: Honeyed Words and the upcoming Forged in Fire, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as she casts away some of that baggage and continues to get her warrior on.
And, as usual,
Previously read in 2012
1. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
2. Among Others, by Jo Walton
3. Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, by Simon Winchester
4. Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter
5. Kat, Incorrigible (Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson), by Stephanie Burgis
6. Remote, by Donn Cortez
7.The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet
8. one awesome draft novel by a dear friend
9. Property of A Lady, by Sarah Rayne
10. Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton
11. Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts