Monday, 16 April 2018


Rachel Redhead Trans* (2017)
For what little it may be worth, I remain conflicted on the subject of trans identity, referring here to trans persons being specifically identified as trans persons. On some level - or at least in a perfect world - I feel it shouldn't be necessary, and that if - for example - a woman wishes to dress as one of the Mario brothers and identify as Jimmy, then she's a dude in all senses that matter, should be regarded as such, and the contents of those bright red plumber's dungarees are no more my business than anything to be found within either the underwear or sexual proclivities of any other random stranger. I also wonder if meticulously labeling all points on the sexual spectrum is useful, or whether it's actually divisive, perhaps even helping to isolate and define particular communities and so making them easier targets for those disposed towards witch hunts. I've known persons of many variant sexual persuasions and gender identities and have always found it difficult to truly square anyone with the existing labels, or to think of such persons as significantly different to myself in any meaningful way; unless they're into ELO, obviously.

On the other hand, I'm not going to pretend my views, as stated above, amount to anything, given that I'm referring to issues which affect me only in so much as that they affect the kind of society I inhabit. Also, sometimes you just have to stand up and be counted because, it might be argued, the above position can easily be mistaken for trans erasure from a certain angle, this being the notion that trans people don't exist - an idea which doubtless serves witch hunting types just as well. Trans* responds to an unnamed article suggesting that there are no trans characters within genre fiction. Having written innumerable such characters, Rachel Redhead assembled this collection as a refutation - excerpts and scenes from her four million previous novels, mostly just character sketches, and some new material too. Much of what we have are segments of much larger, more complicated stories, but I've always felt Rachel Redhead's strengths to be in the details and the people more than the bigger picture, so the reduced context doesn't actually seem to matter.

As a writer, she almost seems to be evolving towards her own genre, something touching on fantasy, although that's never entirely what it's about - Twilight rewritten by van Vogt on one of his weirder days, punk rock soundtrack, that sort of thing. It has the manic quality of a particularly gossipy telenovela, some pulp elements, and the intensity of a story having a conversation with itself. Sometimes it's a little hard to follow quite what's happening, but there's a kind and generous spirit here, one which manages to shine through even the occasional - and not unjustifiable - revenge fantasy, and that's what makes this stuff so readable. I gather there's a fair bit of autobiographical detail informing these accounts of transition, and clearly there's a lot which serves as metaphor to the horror of feeling trapped within the wrong body or gender. So even with the most wonderfully surreal twists - the robot who always knew she wanted to be a washing machine being a personal favourite, although that one didn't make this collection - everything is nailed down to a solid emotional core grounded in Redhead's experience.

I can't tell whether what I've just written is actually a massive pile of bollocks, but it feels about right, and hopefully I've communicated that there's something worthwhile going on here. I sometimes think she needs an agent or possibly an editor, but Rachel Redhead really has something which is actually worth editing or er… agenting, or whatever it is they do so, you know - one to watch.

1 comment:

  1. The human's books do seem slightly popular with human readers, and I see you've met my good friend Mechi Noyd. You'll be pleased to know that she has a three wash setting feature now, and last week her pet rhino was successfully cloned by science boffins. Though I think it could have been Violet and Trudiode wearing lab coats and using a large mirror. Anyway I must dash, the human needs her last feeding of the day and then I'll be able to hose her down to get her clean again. Some people say that's unethical, but I ask them to explain what the word means to Trudiode, it usually takes them at least a week.