“Capricious: Gender Diverse Pronouns”

ed. A.C. Buchanan

Like I mentioned in my most recent read of an anthology, I’m used to them being centered around a specific theme. In this case, the theme is pretty easy to see, and also pretty vague, overall—I think the core concept was “at least one person in the story uses pronouns other than he/him/his or she/her/hers.”

Which gave the authors a lot of room to play around, and it wound up being a really cool variety of stories! From distant-future sci-fi to swords and sorcery, there’s some interesting things that happened in here.

The one that stands out the most, that I feel I’m going to have to go back and reread once or twice more to really wrap my mind around it, is the story of someone moving to a new country and learning the new language. At first, the pronoun bit is easy to miss, until it becomes important to the story: their home country—and, more importantly, their native language—doesn’t have gender as a concept. The character mentions a total of 9 pronouns in their language, which I believe are I/me/mine, you/you(?)/yours, and they/them/theirs. Which is, itself, already an interesting concept, but to make it even more so, the new country they’ve come to has at least three genders, and a gendered language to boot, bringing them to a total of 45 pronouns. (I didn’t count all of them, but think of things like, several different versions of the second person!)

It’s a really effective story; none of the three genders aligns with the masculine/feminine that we’re used to, and so, as the reader, I wound up latching on to the protagonist’s genderless way of speaking, because it’s more familiar. And we get to be confused and frustrated with them, because what the hell are these three genders? Why are there so many pronouns? Why does this language gender the word “you,” for crying out loud, obviously the second-person pronoun refers to the person you are speaking to… and, hey, actually, now that we’re thinking about this… why do we apply gender to things it doesn’t need to be applied to? Why is it so important to us?

That’s what made that story, to me, the best out of the anthology. It gave me a new way to look at an issue that, frankly, I thought I already had a reasonable grasp on. There’s absolutely value to that.

And hey, there’s a bunch of other stories in there too! Some of them thought-provoking, some of them fun, some of them heartwarming; as I said, a very impressive variety. I heartily recommend it. Check it out.1

  1. This is an Amazon affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I prefer Bookshop affiliate links to Amazon when possible, but in this case, the book wasn’t available there, so it’ll have to do.