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The Drag Queen of Elfland and Other Stories
By Lawrence Schimel

Reviewed by Carl Cipra
Rating: none given

Why’d I buy this book?  Several reasons: First off, there’s no denying that the cover caught my eye; it’s a fantasy photo of a hunky fairy by “Pierre et Gilles.”  (Even if the name’s not familiar, I’m certain you’ll recognize the style.)  Next, there were all those little complimentary quotes on the cover from various authors I respect and enjoy: David Gerrold, Melissa Scott, Rosemary Edghill, Marion Zimmer Bradley. (I realize this sort of thing isn’t necessarily a guarantee of quality, but that’s quite an impressive list.)  Finally, to clinch the deal, there’s a forward by Tanya Huff!  Bingo! Sold!

And, as it turns out, I don’t regret the purchase. As with almost any collection of short fiction, it’s a mixed bag - some stories are better than others. However, in this case, there aren’t any “bad” ones mixed in. Schimel has been writing for a number of years now - in fact, I’d already read some of his works; I just didn’t click on the name when I bought this book - and for a wide range of markets - everywhere from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress anthology series to  various Circlet Press “erotica” publications. The content of the stories in this book certainly reflects that range, too; there’s everything from romantic “high fantasy” to eerie “dark fantasy” to good ol’ all-out erotica in it. Schimel also frequently mixes in some humor - sometimes wry, sometimes tongue-in cheek. Whatever the story, there’s always gay or lesbian content. (Yes, he writes lesbian fantasies, too; and, as far as I can tell, he does it well.)  In virtually every story, he takes a standard fantasy cliché and tweaks it to illuminate some facet of lesbian or gay life.

My particular favorites from this book are “Old as a Rose in Bloom” (a unique ghost story), “Fag Hag” (a witch story with a twist), and “Femme de Siècle” (butch/femme dynamics and the lesbian vampire). But, as I said, I didn’t dislike any of ‘em. Pick up a copy of this book. I’m sure you’ll find something you like, too. (Truth to tell, I even got a kick out of the short introductions Schimel wrote for each story. He seems like a fascinating guy; and I hope we invite him to Gaylaxicon.)

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