Beyond Anthology by Sfé R. Monster

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Think spaceships are neat? Well, how about LGBTQ+ people flying those spaceships?! I think that’s pretty rad, and that’s only a taste of what you get when you flip through Beyond, edited by Sfé R. Monster. Even if you don’t identify with any of those letters or care about science fiction, you’ll probably still think that this book looks amazing, and if you read it, you’ll like it even more. Beyond is an anthology of a bunch of original graphic short stories, all featuring sci-fi elements and LGBTQ+ characters, and all created by LGBTQ+ artists! There’s a story about a black space-pirate lesbian who attempts to rob a castle vault, and one about an indigenous tribe whose two-spirit warriors join with giant animal guardians to fight off alien invasions, and one with a young trans boy whose journey to manhood includes dragon-slaying, and many more. As an anthology, each of Beyond’s stories is written and drawn by its own artist, and each artist, of course, has their own unique style of writing and drawing, so that the reader is met with a beautiful new world every ten or so pages.

I enjoyed Beyond as both a trans person and a fan of science fiction, but again I stress that you do not have to be either of those things–or really anything other than human–to have a good time with this book. Its themes of love, companionship and coming of age are universal and creatively presented; it will take you to places so compelling and strange and personal that by the end of each story, you will want to see more and read further until you get a full-length graphic novel of what was meant to be the length of a single chapter. Beyond is especially important, though, for LGBTQ+ readers who don’t often get to see or read about characters like themselves. Its honest portrayal of gay, bi, trans and self-identifying queer people, many of whom are people of color, is refreshing and exciting and inspires the hope that representation frequently does for underrepresented and/or marginalized groups.

One of my favorite stories in the anthology is “Optimal,” by Blue Delliquanti. It’s about a “synthetic human,” a robot girl who was designed to be an exact copy of her creator’s deceased partner; she was built to be a boy. She tells you about her abilities and features, and it’s all very scientific, but in every frame, in the illustrations, you get to just see a trans girl who is at home in her body, and it’s wonderful.

You can buy Beyond online at http://www.beyondanthology.com/; Beyond Press, the publisher, is not printing hardcover copies right now, but you can get a PDF or a softcover and look forward to the new edition (it’s been fully funded on Kickstarter)! Beyond Press also has a comic anthology made entirely by creators of color, called Elements: Fire, which appears to be the first in another series. Get excited, and read some comics.

Monster, Sfé R., ed. Beyond. Vol. 1. N/A: Sfé R. Monster, 2015. BEYOND: an anthology of queer sci-fi/fantasy comics. Beyond Press, 2015. Web. 2017.

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