Thumbs up for Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. Fantasy.
I’m not sure why the cover says “inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy,” because this novella bears no resemblance to any of those things, except that it is set in San Francisco and one of the main characters paints covers for the pulps. What it actually is is a sweet love story with just a teeny bit of fantasy. What makes it excellent is the evocation of both the city and the world of the lesbian underground in 1940—which the author somehow, amazingly, makes feel deeply nostalgic despite not glossing over the problems the characters face. The downside is that the dialogue is terrible: not cringingly bad, but no one ever talked like any of these people. This would have bothered me more had it been a full-length novel, but I rather expect a telegraphic style in a work of this length. Recommended if you like stories with a nice San Francisco atmosphere or you would like a dip into gay history.
“Some day, when I’m awfully low, and the world is—” Her voice was smooth and deep and brave even as hers hands shook. She had sung in the shower, and to countless audiences of strangers, but always with a costume or Spike’s cocky, hip-shot artifice. This was different.
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