Congratulations to DeJay! She won the drawing today!
Look! Special treat today! Editor extraordinaire joined us to tell us about her latest anthology AND she’s giving away a free copy. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing. I’ll pick the winner on Sunday, 8 NOV 2015.
Edited by Sacchi Green for Lethe Press
Even for a free book, you want to know whether the anthology in question is worth taking a chance on, right? Of course you do, even when it includes a fine piece by our own Jove Belle. So I’m giving you a sneak peek, with my entire introduction, and I hope my enthusiasm for a project I’ve been longing to do for years is contagious. In case I haven’t said it all in the introduction, I want to make it clear that these stories do not glorify war as such. The erotic elements are not necessarily the main focus (although they’re just as essential to each story as any other aspect), and the historical settings are as accurate as they can be and still be fiction. So there you have it.
Oh, one more thing! I’ve posted a free bonus lesbian military historical erotica story on my blog, one I didn’t include in the book. I wrote it originally for Lipstick on Her Collar, an anthology I edited for Alison Tyler’s Pretty Things Press about six years ago, and it was reprinted in Best Lesbian Erotica 2007. The title of the anthology was chosen by Alison herself, so how could I resist writing a Vietnam-era story with the same title and a sidelong tribute to Connie Francis? If you’re too young to know who I mean, look her up! Or just read the story at http://sacchi-green.blogspot.com
Now back to Thunder of War:
History, to my mind, is the greatest story ever told. And, as with any narrative constructed by humans, it has errors, omissions, and a fair share of outright fiction. History fascinates me as much as any intentional fiction, even though I’ve come to realize the ways in which the stories of certain populations were told, and not told. Women have been largely ignored by preponderantly male historians, and LGBT people were either ignored or vilified, but in recent years more and more has come to light about their lives and roles, even in warfare, that most dramatic, memorable, and endlessly rehashed area of history.
This book is admittedly fiction. These are stories of lesbians who are active participants in warfare, and of lesbian sex as well, with passionate characters finding each other amidst the storm of war. Women come together for comfort, for relief, driven by adrenaline and hormones, hurling their pleasure into the teeth of mortality and cultural oppression. They share frantic embraces, or dark humor, or whatever it takes to get them through the night, and through the war. Tender or raw, harsh or healing, always intense, the sex is as integral to each story as any other component, including the historical settings.
While the characters and some of the events are fictional, these settings are essentially authentic. There could be endless such stories told, beginning even before what we think of as recorded history. What might Artemis the Huntress with her bow or Athena Promachos with her spear and armor (both traditionally virgins, however that might be interpreted,) or the legends of Amazons, tell us about the unrecorded cultural roles of even earlier generations of women? And what about discoveries of ancient graves where some women were buried along with weapons of war in the same way as men? But for this book we chose to focus our attention on more recent history, from about 1860 to 1970, a span of only 110 years, but years of tremendous change, upheaval, and influence on the world we know now.
We begin, of course, with the American Civil War. Recent research has shown that more than six hundred women—probably many more—passed as men to fight in this war, and that’s not counting the nurses and spies. We can only speculate as to how many of them may have been lesbians (a term not then in use,) but among women with the daring and strength to flout cultural norms and put their lives on the line, the percentage was most likely higher than in the population as a whole. There certainly were some. The boyish Confederate soldier of Pascal Scott’s “War of the Rebellion,” endearingly awkward in a first adventure with both a girl and a mail-order “manhood,” is entirely plausible, and so is the strong minded runaway slave serving with a Union regiment in Victoria Janssen’s “Found”.
Set more than three decades later, with a shift in mood and atmosphere, we have the story of an uprising far away in China, The Boxer Rebellion of 1900. In J.B. Hickok’s “Forbidden Love” an anti-Western-Imperialism mob (backed by the Empress Dowager) forces Europeans and Chinese Christians to barricade themselves in the Legation Quarter of Beijing, and a British army nurse caught up in the furor becomes entangled in political upheaval within the Forbidden City as she tries to heal a desperately ill Royal Concubine.
A decade and a half later, in World War I (The Great War, aka The War to End Wars,) women served as ambulance drivers as well as nurses. In Victoria Janssen’s “Delivery” a British woman whose company manufactures field telephones gets unexpected transport in an ambulance, and a transformative connection with an Arizona cowgirl volunteering as a driver. In Jessica Taylor’s “Eagle of Death, Raven of War,”” set at about the same time in Russia, a young recruit with Maria Bochkareva’s Women’s Battalion of Death finds her smoldering hero worship flaring into much more as they brace to charge the German trenches.
Not all conflicts pitted nation against nation. Soon after WWI, in 1921, the United States saw its largest armed rebellion since the Civil War, when miners fighting to unionize in West Virginia bravely faced local, state, and even U.S. Army forces and bombings by U.S. Government planes. Some strong women worked in those mines, alongside what men were left after WWI, and in “The Battle of Blair Mountain” Dena Hankins shows us two unforgettable characters, mountain-wise and gun-savvy, taking what scant cover they can find from the bombing, and what fierce distraction they can find with each other.
Then another two decades, and, inevitably, another conflict, World War II, spreads across continents and seas. Cara Patterson, in “The Girl in the Window,” shows a Russian woman sniper on duty in the ever-shifting rubble of Stalingrad, and an eerily attractive girl who has her own personal ways of killing enemies. In stark contrast, on the other side of the world, Jove Belle’s American WACs in the South Pacific are stuck against their wills on an island well behind the front lines, where boredom might kill them if they didn’t have each other to explore in “Moments of Peace.”
Another decade. Another war. Nurses in a MASH unit in Korea have no time for boredom, or for anything beyond using all their skill and energy treating massive wounds and eluding enemy shelling, but in “Watching,” by CB Potts, lust finds a way, between emergency surgery and loading patients on helicopters and puling up stakes to move the camp.
Yet another decade, and…well, you know the drill by now. Vietnam. My own story “Danger” takes a somewhat difference tack, with flashbacks to the still-raging war in Vietnam, but also with hints of the lingering effects of war on those who’ve returned. An Army nurse rotated back to duty at Walter Reed Hospital and an AWOL ambulance driver meet in the turmoil of a new kind of battle, in Greenwich Village, New York City, on June 28th, 1969. You’ve heard of the Stonewall Inn? This piece felt strange to write, because I knew the times and the territory myself. I wasn’t there on that day, or days, but I’d been there before, and was there many times afterward. It’s unsettling to think of one’s own life as history. History, though, is endless, as far as our minds can comprehend, and all our stories, all our lives, are ongoing parts of it, whether recorded or not.
Nothing I’ve told you here does justice to the full sweep and complexity of the stories in this book, or the talents of the writers. There are many more stories from this period equally worth telling. Try researching the Dahomey Amazons fighting the French in Africa in the 1890s, for instance, or women working undercover for Irish Independence in the 1920s, or the Russian Night Witches of WWII flying bombers—clumsy biplanes left over from that Great War that didn’t end war after all—to harry the German Army, or Israeli women with the Haganah organization fighting for statehood for decades. The list goes on and on.
If history interests you as much as it does me, you probably know all this already, and if you don’t, exploring any of these would be well worth your while. Unless you have the great good fortune to come across some especially revealing memoirs or letters, though—and please let me know if you do!—you’ll need to rely on your own imagination for the sex behind the warfare. I hope you’re as glad as I am that the writers of the stories told here have already done that for you, and done it so scorchingly well.