‘Behind the Sun, Above the Moon’ Review

The following is a guest post by Aren K. Hatch and Sara Weikel.

NineStar Press recently released the queer-focused anthology Behind the Sun, Above the Moon, with nine stories that blend the fantastical and the futuristic.

The anthology is full of hope and wonder, never punishes characters in any way for being queer, and allows both characters and writers to be what they are without thrusting them into any “issue” categories.

“We wanted characters written by people who are trans and nonbinary. That was very important,” said Alex Harrow, one of the contributing authors. 

German-born Harrow identifies as non-binary, transmasculine, demisexual, demi-/pan romantic, and polyamorous, though they generally use the umbrella term queer.

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon boasts a colorful quilt of stories, each unique and made even stronger when all are knitted together.

The first story, Ziggy Schutz’s “twice-spent comet,” dips into the world of Fer, an inmate serving their time on an asteroid who meets Ophelia, a beautiful, cosmic creature. This story serves as the perfect entrance into the anthology, easing the reader into a richly detailed sci-fi world with hints of fantasy and intricate relationships both platonic and romantic.

The second story, “From Dusk to Dying Sun” by Paige S. Allen, follows an officer of the highway patrol, Jay, with a secret family past. The world at first seems ordinary, but it’s not long before the dark and heart-pounding fantasy within begins to reveal itself–and Jay themself.

The tension mellows in the next story, “Lost/Found” by the anthology’s curator and editor Brooklyn Ray, focused on the deeply layered main character Hollis, a sex worker in Venice Beach. In a tale of melancholy, spectacle, and joy, we learn alongside Hollis as she discovers the truth about herself with the help of a fallen star.

And then we jump into the eclectic and bright world of Orin and Mette in J.S. Fields’s “Awry with Dandelions”, two people connected in dreams and life since birth work to find their own freedom while facing their fear and wonder at the present and unknown future.

The theme of unknown futures continues in “The Far Touch” by S.R. Jones, a fascinating world away from Earth where a coven of witches celebrate the Solstice. Governmental powers out of their control threaten the world they know, but a new discovery offers them hope and mystery.

Hope is no stranger in the next story, Harrow’s “Ink and Stars.” Chaz, one of the last few Weavers of magic in the universe, must face their past and finally decide their future as they reunite with an old lover and realize a shocking truth. For this story, Harrow found inspiration in the world of tattoo art. At the time of writing, Harrow had recently expanded their own collection of ink and took the opportunity to chat with their tattoo artist about the history and possible future of the art.

“What I wanted to explore with the tattoo-based magic in ‘Ink and Stars’ is the idea that when tattooing, both the artist and the recipient gives a part of themselves,” they said. “The artist gives their artistic vision, while the recipient is the canvas, entrusting part of their body to the artist. I wanted to explore this with magic where Weavers essentially use this dynamic to cross-pollinate their magic across the universe by imbuing people’s tattoos with slices of their magic.”

The seventh tale gives us a twist on the familiar, but for a new generation and setting, and ideas relatable to many of us. In Emmet Nahil’s “Horologium,” Coeie faces past, present, and future, and feelings they aren’t prepared to confront, alone hundreds of thousands of light-years from everyone and everything they know.

In “Death Marked” by Sara Codair, the journey to seek companionship continues as we meet Enzi, a member of the Lunar Guard and ex-heir to Sector 17, who is on a mission to protect her estranged sister from those intent on overthrowing her–and to regain the trust and love they used to have.

The anthology closes with a story of passion and discovery in “Weave the Dark, Weave the Light” by Anna Zabo, as a witch and elemental gravitate to each other one icy day. In the days to come, through each other they will learn answers to years-long mysteries and find that which they want most.

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon is available in bookstores and for download from NineStar Press. See the sale site for content warnings.

The next anthology Brooklyn Ray and many of the same authors including Harrow are working on is Moore’s Academy for Extraordinary Beings, currently set to release in October 2021. It will feature classic monster tales reimagined as aromantic in a college setting.