Queerpunk: Erotic Cyberpunk Anthology
Queer sexuality has long defied the conventional standard of sexual expression; intersecting with the tech-driven backdrop of cyberpunk, it has now rewritten the rules completely. Queerpunk, with its collection of stories that revel in a near-futuristic vision of our own time, investigates the evolution of Queer sexuality under the smog-covered umbrella of urban and technological advancement. When the human body becomes a customizable canvas, either through mechanical implants or three-dimensional internet avatars, sexuality is given even more outlets from which to evolve. As the old social order succumbs to cyberspace’s commanding hand, Queer identity finds new nooks and crannies in which to root.
The stories that follow–"Rescue Wounds," "Blindwire," "Upload," "The Real Thing," and "Virgin"–craft worlds in which human connection punctures cyberpunk’s isolationist veil. In an otherwise impersonal and anonymous world, the bonds the characters forge through sexual expression shine a small bit of light onto the smoke, and a shred of warmth that pokes through the streams and pockets of internet data. Featuring authors Kal Cobalt, Eric Del Carlo, Sunny Moraine, R.E. Bond, and Kannan Feng, Queerpunk confronts this intersection and the question of what it means to be Queer in a world where the matter of identity has been revolutionized completely.
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Queerpunk is another successful Circlet anthology. It delivers exactly what it’s aiming for in a group of edgy, provocative tales with plenty of cyberpunk atmosphere to please the most hard core fans. The mixture of hot, explicit sex with a futuristic setting throws readers into a world where identity, knowledge, and even physical bodies are mere changeable details. Each of the stories is deals with the typical big power, usually controlling governments, and the various men and women that fight for freedom from oppression.
What’s immediately interesting about this collection is that each story features a futuristic environment completely regulated by an all knowing, all seeing, oppressive government. How the characters react to this government varies from rebel, quiet worker, to military men as everyone attempts to etch out a living in their own way. The actions are everything from small to large scale rebellion and even those working with the system. Also interesting is that all characters accept their lives as unimportant, interchangeable, and without meaning to others. They rebel or not based on their own desires and choices and while they lack any real hope of affecting massive change, they’re ok with the small change they hope for.
All five stories are heavy cyberpunk with a language all their own, laden with unfamiliar terms in a technology centric future. Some of the stories are more entertaining than others but all fit well within the genre. This isn’t always an easy thing and reading cyberpunk stories can sometimes feel like reading another language without the dictionary. That’s certainly true here and although not necessarily the collection’s fault, the stories tend to blend together when read all at once. The sheer amount of world building, verbiage, and tech information is likely to overwhelm the novice reader. So if you’re not familiar with cyberpunk, read this anthology one story at a time or it may blur together in one big mess.
The five featured stories are all slick, edgy, and filled with erotic content. There are underlying themes to each as the stories play with identity and the human form now forever combined with technology. In many cases the human form is completely superfluous and unimportant as the sole lesbian story “Upload” shows how the mind can achieve the impossible. This subtle and well written story touches on resistance and defies logic with its final resolution. Similarly, “Blindwire” starts out as an erotica filled encounter only to end with a pretty slick and clever twist. While neither of these were my favorites, I can’t deny they’re very good stories that will appeal to fans of the genre even if not especially inventive.
The collection doesn’t try to redefine the genre though and offers three other stories that are interesting and creative. “Rescue Wounds,” " The Real Thing," and "Virgin" all caught my eye. Ken Cobalt’s offering is typically dense and drops you into a totally foreign world that makes no sense, has very little context, yet remains fascinating. Often I’m not quite sure what the story is talking about or what even half the language used means but what saves the story is that it doesn’t matter. It’s all a continuous stream of world building and the real focus is the characters and their hope. Similarly with “The Real Thing” even the pessimistic ending can’t overwhelm the great character connection and concept. I really liked the innocent rabbit juxtaposed to the predator, a theme that is clearly evidenced in “Virgin” as well. In the later, the scene is really just a sexual encounter but it’s hot, edgy, and satisfying.
The short length to the stories keeps the heavy cyberpunk in check so both fans of the genre and those new to it can dive in. If you’re new, don’t read the stories all at once or they’ll blend together a bit too much with a monotonous feel but other than that, these stories deliver well.
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