He’s a Transgender Archivist and a Vampire, and He’s in Love

By Isaac Fellman

As soon as a live performance pianist, Solomon Katz, the principle character in Isaac Fellman’s new novel, “Lifeless Collections,” now applies his classically skilled persistence for tedium to archival work. He spends his days sorting supplies beneath the Historic Society of Northern California. It’s a solitary, nocturnal job, however entombment works for Sol. As a result of, along with being an archivist and a transgender man, Sol is a vampire.

It’s tempting to fit into essentially the most evident groove of interpretation with “Lifeless Collections”: that vampirism is a metaphor for being trans. In any case, Isaac Fellman’s writer bio states that he’s additionally a transmasculine archivist in San Francisco. Sol is sustained by blood transfusions that learn like a cross between chemotherapy and hormone alternative remedy (and he receives blood solely from male donors). He had solely simply come out as trans when he was changed into a vampire, so now he’s frozen within the first phases of transition, along with his face simply previous “early-T puffiness.” And he has shunted himself into a unique closet: Nearly nobody is aware of he’s a vampire.

However Sol’s story is far messier, a lot funnier and much more fascinating than a one-to-one allegory, particularly as soon as he meets the honest, luminescent Elsie. Elsie’s late spouse, Tracy Britton, created “Ft of Clay,” a ’90s sci-fi present that was a catalyst for Sol’s gender and sexuality discovery. Elsie visits Sol’s workplace to donate Tracy’s private papers, and inside pages the 2 have fallen into an advanced, unglamorous, scrumptious affair. The story that unfolds round them is equal components romance and thriller, as Sol reignites his will to reside by way of Elsie whereas the archive’s collections start to quickly decay.

Fellman is aware of precisely to whom he’s writing: the Elsies and Sols of the world, grown-up queer nerds who maybe as soon as recognized as cisgender regardless of fixating on characters with what can solely be described as gender envy. Individuals who know you could find your self in fiction, however you could find much more of your self in what you make of it. Elsie and Sol grew to become consultants on queer transfiguration by way of fandom and transformative fanworks. Fellman’s playful however deliberate strategy to type, his deft manner of presenting his personal canon after which transfiguring it on the web page, would really feel acquainted to them.

Some chapters take the type of archival supplies: scripts, present bibles, emails and ephemeral, bite-size passages. In a sequence of late-Nineteen Nineties discussion board posts, Sol and Elsie recuperate a tense on-line alternate they as soon as had as strangers within the “Ft of Clay” fandom, after they each thought they had been cis lesbians however couldn’t agree on an moral strategy to queer fanworks. One among Fellman’s easiest however only type experiments is a matter-of-fact pronoun swap: When Elsie and Sol have gender-exploratory intercourse, the narration transmutes Elsie’s pronouns from “she” to “he” till his orgasm, a textual revelation of gender euphoria.

In one other set of previous discussion board posts, a a lot youthful Sol concludes, in a annoyed flood of meta-analysis, that there was by no means any metaphor behind the shape-shifting alien race in “Ft of Clay.” Perhaps the identical is true for Sol’s vampirism. Perhaps essentially the most significant factor is how readers interpret the canon, and the way they’ll remodel it.

Sol, in a flashback, recollects his first time presenting as a person, at a sci-fi conference in cosplay as his favourite “Clay” character. “I felt like a unique particular person — not Shalk, after all, that will be infantile, however sturdy and secret,” he remembers. Years later, within the archives, he takes his first drink of blood throughout intercourse with Elsie and hears his voice decrease for the primary time since vampirism arrested his transition.

“Lifeless Collections” means that that is the potential of each fiction and love for a trans particular person. Each is usually a mirror or a door or a crack in an egg, and in each, there’s room for transformation and self-expansion. Each could be skilled as an experimentation in a single’s personal type: gender. Gender could be the graceless act of discovery and affirmation, the ugly vitality of blood, the affected person organizing and reshaping of one thing that’s by no means earlier than been listened to appropriately.

In actual fact, if one concept holds the burden of this considerate, acerbic, bracingly hopeful e-book, it’s that all the things is gender, besides gender, which is all the things else.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/11/books/evaluation/dead-collections-isaac-fellman.html He’s a Transgender Archivist and a Vampire, and He’s in Love

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