Volume 43, Issue 4: July/August 2009

Fist of the Spider Woman

Tales of Fear and Queer Desire

  • Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire

    Edited by Amber Dawn

    Arsenal Pulp Press, 2009

When I decided to venture “out,” I yearned for lesbian literatures that would brace my trembling, newborn limbs. I’d spent years projecting my own lesbian desires in my mind’s wide dark room while at the hands of male lovers, but at the brink of queerdom, I struggled to connect sex and emotions. For guidance, I bought the annual Ultimate Lesbian Erotica, which wasn’t ultimate, I was so disengaged from the contrived characters and situations I never finished reading the collection. Instead, I wish I’d picked-up a literary collection like Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire, an anthology edited by Vancouver’s Amber Dawn, however, I doubt there were many like it. This anthology’s diverse cast of characters skillfully embodies the political and personal that molds a lesbian’s desire, constructing stories and poems that are sexy and substantive. With characters, ranging from a young vagabond lesbian punk to a paranoid lesbian disabled by a chronic knee dislocation to transitioning FTMs, I was impressed by the unbridled representation of difference. This collection hosts what I searched for— imaginative writers who dare to weave realities with queer fantasies. Under the umbrellas of “desire” and “fear,” the Sapphic results are as arcane as rain drizzling from a black parasol’s frame. Displaying the unique imaginations of not only queer writers whose protagonists’ desires implode/explode like the shape shifting fantasies in “Slug” by Megan Milks, but also the rain dance of fear and desire that pelts down into an interconnected puddle where these emotions adhere. This cohesion spans the entire collection in a variety of forms: In Dawn’s, “Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver” where two dykes’ fierce foreplay is intruded on by an unexpected and elusive visitor or the vampire sexually tormented by her self-appointed leader in Fiona Zedde’s “Every Dark Desire.” Some women’s desires are propelled by another’s fears: Suki Lee’s “Sido” features a touring North American who underestimates the dominant prowess of her Parisian landlady or the psycho-paralysis of an American private who falls in love with her “devoted” psychologist in Mette Bach’s “All You Can Be.” For several of the characters, “fear” escapes their vocabulary until their naivety sweeps them into unforeseen danger. An authentic genderfuck, I confidently recommend Fist of the Spider Woman to anyone fed up with manufactured lesbian scripts.