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Book Review: Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers, eds. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling 
23rd-Feb-2016 07:55 pm
Title: Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers
Editor: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Published: New York: Open Road, 1998
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 176,955
Text Number: 518
Read Because: fan of the editors, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: 22 stories that combine fantasy with erotica by exploring seductive, magical, unearthly lovers and romances. Datlow and Windling, especially in combination, are accomplished anthologists, but this is the closest I've come to disappointed with their work. For one, only three stories feature queer relationships (two others have them in background roles); the heteronormativity is toxic and uncreative, a particular oversight in a collection of strange love. (Compare to something like Caitlín R. Kiernan's phenomenal The Ammonite Violin & Others.) At its worst, the heteronormativity is damning: the stories are magical and strange only because the attractive, desirable women have power that threatens their everyman partners. For another, the collection has an unforgivably slow start: you can skip the first seven stories and miss nothing.

There's a marked improvement with the first standout story: Elizabeth E. Wein's "No Human Hands to Touch," an unlovable, intimate retelling of Morgan LeFay's relationship with Mordred. Doris Egan's "The Sweet of Bitter Bark and Burning Clove" is less profound, but successfully explores power dynamics, violence, and sensuality. Kelley Eskridge's "The Eye of the Storm" is my favorite, no contest—its exploration of violence, sensuality, poly dynamics, and the balance between personal need and social interaction is engrossing.* The unique concept and sympathetic, quiet execution of Mark Tiedemann's "Private Words" makes for the last standout story. I found this collection worth it for those four, but the rest is passable at best and a waste of time at worst. I don't recommend it—

—But for finding Eskridge's short fiction, I'm glad I read it.

* See also: Elizabeth A. Lynn's Chronicles of Tornor: similar second world settings, similar fluid interpersonal relationships, similar fluid physical redefinition, similar id-level wish-fulfillment, similar focus on interpersonal intimacy and personal growth, also, just, really good, both of them.

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