NOTE: This anthology includes a story penned by me, so there exists an obvious conflict of interest involved in me reviewing it and liking it and stuff. To that end, I’ve attempted to read it as if I didn’t contribute to it. Take that as you may.
Fierce Family is anthology compiled and published by Crossed Genres. The fifteen stories collected here are thematically joined by a focus on queer families as represented in speculative fiction. As someone living and growing a queer family who deeply loves speculative fiction, there was a good chance that I would like at least some of the stories here. That said, I’m also notoriously picky when it comes to short fiction anthologies, and especially multi-author short fiction anthologies. I am the type where one weak story can ruin the whole book for me.
This is a very well-executed anthology. The voices here are markedly different from story to story, but not jarringly so. The editor, Bart. R. Leib, seems to have paid close attention to the placement and order of the stories such that there are none of the disconcerting whiplash changes in tone or style you sometimes see in multi-author anthologies. I would have liked to see a closer hand at copyediting; there were a number of very minor grammatical or spelling mistakes that took me out of the stories from time to time.
I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of the stories themselves. The anthology contains a little of everything, and (so long as you’re not homophobic, obviously) there’s something in here for spec fic fans of every stripe: it’s got high fantasy, it’s got comic fantasy, it’s got space pirates and space warriors and contemporary sweet ghosts. There are stories here that are far-flung and far-future set in spaces our world does not resemble at all, and there are stories that could be happening to someone right now. Whatever floats your boat, this collection has something for it populated by a queer family.
I was also impressed by the diversity of the characters within the stories. It’s an wonderfully intersectional collection—most of the protagonists are people of color. The families range from single parent and child to wide open poly families with few biological ties. In some stories, the families are headed by queer parents; in some stories it’s the children who are queer. In some stories, it’s queertastically both.
For me, the standout stories were “Stormrider”, by Layla Lawlor, which features ice dragons. “Growth” by A. C. Buchanan hit me right in the heartstrings with a beautifully rendered bigender teen protagonist. “Form B: For Circumstances Not Covered In Previous Sections” by Stephanie Lai is perhaps the sweetest dystopian story I’ve ever read. “The Collared Signal” by J. L. Forrest has space pirates! And “Two Hearts” by Marissa James is a wonderful lesbian love story.