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REVIEW: Prolepsis – J. Scott Coatsworth

Prolepsis - J. Scott Coatsworth

Genre: Sci-Fi, Historical, Time Travel

Reviewer: Tony

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About The Book

What if you could change the course of queer history, one story at a time?

It’s the fall of 1986, the age of walkmans, mix tapes, floppy discs and Jolt Cola. Sean’s a twenty-five-year-old closeted gay sci-fi geek who runs a popular pulp ‘zine called Prolepsis. A geek with a crush on the cute guy named Jason who works at the post office.

One day a pink envelope from an author named I.H. Tragitto arrives, with a gay sci-fi story that opens up new worlds of possibility in Sean’s head. A story his homophobic boss chews him out for publishing. Emboldened by the tale, Sean finally asks Jason out, and is thrilled when his crush says yes.

When another story arrives from the mystery author, Sean is faced with a difficult choice. Defy his boss and publish it, and risk exposing his own secret, or stay safely in the closet and live a lie. And then there’s Jason, with whom Sean is slowly falling in love.

What should he do? And who in the world is I.H. Tragitto?

Only time will tell.

The Review

Sean Miller is a brand-new editor for the Prolepsis ‘zine, while holding down a job at Waldenbooks. I’m assuming he’s a sales assistant at Waldenbooks, but never mind that, because it’s the ‘zine editor that’s important here. Well, at least it is when he gets the first pink envelope containing a manuscript from I. H. Tragitto. The story sealed within that envelope opens the floodgates for Sean and enables him to ask his longtime crush Jason from the post office out on a date.

At least he hopes Jason realises it’s a date. The story is set at a time when coming out a gay was a risky but often rewarding thing . Sean is empowered to take a risk when he reads ‘Firetime’, the queer short story in the envelope.

The story is period perfect. I’d forgotten all about CompuServe forums and message boards. It brought back so many memories for me. I kept getting the feeling that it was almost my story. Well, it might have been if it was set in the seventies, when I was in a house share with a straight couple and when I decided I could not go on living a life without human contact. Human contact with a man.

My Donny and Cindy were just as supportive, but as the walls were thicker no one had to make alternative arrangements on ‘date night’. It was probably still illegal to do anything sexual while there were other occupants in the same dwelling at the same time. Ah well, bite me! 

Like Sean, I don’t think anyone back then was thinking in terms of having a husband or a wife of the same gender, as in the story ‘Firetime’. A long-term partner was a possibility but anything more was, as Sean says, ‘so beyond the pale, I couldn’t see the pale.’

The whole thing has such a light touch that when a sad revelation is made, it gets you right where it hurts. There are moments of sadness spread throughout a story of such quiet joy and hope. Just like life – good times and bad times hand in hand. Read it, shed that tear, smile that smile and thank all the Seans out there for getting us to where we are today.

The Reviewer

Tony is an Englishman living amongst the Welsh and the Other Folk in the mountains of Wales. He lives with his partner of thirty-six years, four dogs, two ponies, various birds, and his bees. He is a retired lecturer and a writer of no renown but that doesn’t stop him enjoying what he used to think of as ‘sensible’ fantasy and sf. He’s surprised to find that if the story is well written and has likeable characters undergoing the trails of life, i.e. falling in love, falling out of love, having a bit of nooky (but not all the time), fending off foes, aliens and monsters, etc., he’ll be happy as a sandperson who has just offloaded a wagon of sand at the going market price. As long as there’s a story, he’s in. He aims to write fair and honest reviews. If he finds he is not the target reader he’ll move on.

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