Transcendent: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, by K.M. Szpara

choirqueer's review

Go to review page


Not as good as I hoped it would be; the most engaging stories in this collection were actually all ones I’d read previously. I just felt like there was a lack of stories I could relate to, which seemed odd for a collection of trans spec fic, and while I don’t expect to connect with every story in any anthology, I just felt like there were an awful lot of stories in this one where I could barely follow what was going on let alone connect with the narrative. I’ll give the next volume a try though, maybe that will be better!

bonriki's review against another edition

Go to review page

challenging mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


indeedithappens's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous challenging emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? N/A
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A


alwaysshure's review against another edition

Go to review page

My brain was not in a place to read short stories, unfortunately.

coolcurrybooks's review

Go to review page


This inaugural anthology collects the best transgender science fiction and fantasy short stories of 2015. I’ve been wanting to pick it up ever since I saw the author line-up; there’s a ton of great trans authors working in science fiction and fantasy, and this collection has some authors whose work I adore.

My favorite story here is actually one I’ve read before. Multiple times actually. That’s how much I love “The Shape of My Name” by Nino Cipri, which fabulous, amazing, splendid, and a whole host of other positive adjectives. I actually featured it in a list post for Queership (a now-closed blog for queer SFF) on queer time-travel short stories. Anyway, this story follows Heron, whose family has a time-machine in their backyard. I don’t want to say too much more, but please read it!

I’ve read some other stories in this collection, which isn’t that surprising as I used to write Queership’s short fiction column. Another one here, “Treasure Acre” by Everett Maroon was actually also featured on the time-travel list. Daniel has traveled back in time to find a box buried by Danielle. I skipped over it this time around, as I did with all the other stories I’d already read. I was in the mood for new tales

“Everything Beneath You” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam is another I’d read before, in which a woman of the fisher people falls in love with a goddess who says she can give her everything she’s ever wanted, but the goddess will not unbend from her own notions of propriety. I didn’t remember liking it enough the first time around to make a second read through worthwhile.

“Kin, Painted” by Penny Stirling is a story I featured on a Queership list for fantasy with aromantic protagonists. Everyone in this unnamed narrator’s family paints themselves, be it camouflage or chess boards or works of art. Their entire life, the question of what they want to paint has hung over them, even as they are unsure if they want to use paint at all. In the end, they will have to find their own way in life.

Aside from “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács, all the other stories were new to me. “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” is one I started a year or two ago, but it turned out to be way to sexual for me so I quit pretty quickly. I didn’t give it another attempt this time around.

Of the stories that were new to me, I think “Chosen” by Margarita Tenser was my favorite. It’s a short little story that flips fantasy’s conventions of “the chosen one” on their heads. I loved it, and I think it will appeal strongly to anyone who likes Terry Pratchett’s work.

My second favorite has to be “The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad” by Molly Tanzer, which is sort of like Lovecraftian mythos meets high school. You don’t need to be familiar with Lovecraft to enjoy it — I know next to nothing, and I still loved this story.

“The Librarian’s Dilemma” by E. Saxey was a very interesting story that’s sort of science fiction meets library science. What’s the purpose of libraries? What’s the right balance between preserving books and sharing them with the world? I wasn’t fully satisfied with the ending, but I enjoyed how the story made me think.

“The Petals Abide” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew and “The Scaper’s Muse” by B.R. Sanders were both solid, professional quality science fiction stories, but ones I doubt I’ll remember. They just didn’t have enough of an impact.

I was looking forward to reading a new story by A. Merc Rustad, “Where Monsters Dance,” but in the end, I don’t think it was one of their best. That’s not a particular slight on “Where Monsters Dance” — Rustad has so many phenomenal stories that any story that’s just “good” doesn’t stand out much in comparison.

The only story I really had a problem with was “Contents of Care Package to Etsath-tachri, Formerly Ryan Andrew Curran (Human English Translated to Sedrayin) by Holly Heisey, which was about a human transitioning to alien. I don’t think the metaphorical concept worked for me. It made me think more of those racist creeps like Rachel Dolezal who claim to be “trans-racial.”

Other stories include “Into the Waters I rode Down” by Jack Hollis Marr, “Splitskin” by E. Catherine Tobler, and “Be Not Unequally Yolked” by Alexis A. Hunter.

Like all anthologies, Transcendent was mixed, but I’m glad I read it. I’ve also got the third volume on my Kindle, so you may be seeing a review of that at some point.

Review from The Illustrated Page.

howard's review against another edition

Go to review page

adventurous challenging emotional lighthearted mysterious sad


undertheteacup's review

Go to review page


Wow. Wow. I have yet to encounter a more excellent collection of short stories in a single anthology. Each and every one of these babies is so beautiful, heartbreaking, mind-bending. And they are all so different from one another! I had to space them out because each one was so meaty I wanted plenty of time to savor it.

It was so thrilling to see trans characters (especially ones with neo-pronouns!) simply mentioned, just as part of the story without any fanfare or the usual acrobatics required to explain/catalogue/analyze. It just felt so perfect, natural, right. Exactly what I would always want and expect to see in fiction that is exploring and pushing the farthest reaches of expression, imagination, and experience.

kp_writ's review against another edition

Go to review page

  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes


veganschnitzel's review

Go to review page


like most collections, this was a mixed bag, but definitely more hits than misses in the collection. I especially enjoyed Nino Cipri's time-travel story "The Shape of My Name," the heartfelt magic realism of A. Merc Rustad's "When Monster's Dance," and the high-school horror of Molly Tanzer's "The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad."

it's a pleasure to read a bunch of stories featuring trans characters where the primary conflict isn't transition, and it's cool that the collection samples a pretty broad spectrum of subgenres. I was disappointed at the degree the collection skews transmasculine/nonbinary, though -- I definitely could have used more trans femmes. generally speaking I was less excited about the stories included in here that were "metaphorically" trans, or that qualified on the virtue of some character using gender neutral pronouns.

it's exciting that there's now enough trans speculative fiction to make a book like this, full of high-quality writing and imagination, a reality. i hope that there's another edition next year!

rabelais's review

Go to review page


Several of the stories in here are fantastic! Others weren't as engaging for me. Some of my favorites include:
Nino Cipri's "The shape of my name"
Everett Maroon's "Treasure acre"
Bogi Takacs's "The need for overwhelming sensation"
B R Sanders's "The scraper's muse"
E Saxey's "The librarian's dilemma"
Margarita Tenser's "Chosen"
A. Merc Rustad's "Where monsters dance"
Molly Tanzer's "The thing on the cheerleading squad"