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The Lesbian Fantastic: A Critical Study of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal and Gothic Writings
Phyllis M. Betz
McFarland, 211 pages

The Lesbian Fantastic
Phyllis M. Betz
Phyllis M. Betz received her B.A. and M.A. from St. Joseph's University, her M.A. from the University of Maine and her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She has taught at La Salle for 12 years as both an adjunct and full-time professor.

Phyllis M. Betz Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

As with Seduced by Twilight by Natalie Wilson, this critical study of science fiction and other related genres is comprised of several chapters that deal with lesbian writing and the novels which feature prominent lesbian characters. Phyllis M. Betz leaves no stone unturned with her analysis of lesbians in famous fiction whether it is old or new. For many, lesbians have been seen as frightening characters in novels due to their differences to other more feminine heroines. It will be all too easy to notice the woman who dresses like a man and acts like one might be a lesbian, and it is partly that which is put across by writers. These types of women have originally been represented as sexually ravenous, predators, demons, succubii, and vampires. In Bram Stoker's classic vampire tale, Dracula, Lucy Westenra transforms from playful flirt to hungry sexual predator after receiving the Count's bite one night. Her interest in Mina Murray Harker is further explored in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula movie where he practically shows the two as temporary lovers.

While in Sheridan Le Fanu's classic story, "Carmilla," it is felt that another inaccurate portrayal of the lesbian has been written, one of which is a vampire woman who lures a female friend to her bosom by way of friendship at first, then luring her to her bed later. It is noted that she can only do that by trickery, using her beauty, and mesmeric eyes to win her rather than a pure love. She is made to resemble a cruel monster whose lust for blood from anyone extends even to her friend who cannot understand how she has changed so much until it is too late. On the other hand, Dracula is seen as the invader of Lucy and responsible for bringing on her change:

  "For the female subject of the monster's perverse desires, the threat is, not her removal from society that claims to protect her from physical harm and social stigma. The more damaging threat posed by the monster is that his cravings will find a reciprocal feeling in the heroine through his invasion of her emotional and physical barriers. Such a rejection has the potential to call into question the societies' definitions of normality and appropriateness, a society more dangerous threat than the heroine's death."  

With this series of facts laid out by Phyllis M. Betz, it is obvious that Lucy does not act on her own desires toward Mina, or anyone else, but acts on them based on Dracula's desires only. In later novels, women were lesbians in their own right, and no one else was responsible for changing them mentally or physically, even in genre fiction. Betz goes onto mention other genre fiction, fantasy and paranormal fiction that has grasped the nation in some way. Much of the literature she mentions is non-lesbian as she explains the use of contrast in novels to bring two people together, whether it is male/female or female/female in certain circumstances so that they form a lasting bond, usually through historical backgrounds and contexts.

Although it is interesting, I found it to be a pretty dry read. It does mention some of the most important lesbian fiction around, but there is more on heterosexual novels than anything else.

Copyright © 2011 Sandra Scholes

Sandra has recently been busy on Google+ posting up her anime and manga reviews when she's busy with other stuff though she writes for Love Romance Passion, Fantasy Book Reviews, Love Vampires and Active Anime.

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