Inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy, Passing Strange is a story as unusual and complex as San Francisco itself from World Fantasy Award winning author Ellen Klages, and a finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella
San Francisco in 1940 is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet.
Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect.
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Klages (Portable Childhoods) draws a loving portrait of 1930s queer San Francisco in this deftly crafted tale of love, solidarity, and magic brought full circle. In the present day, Helen Young sells the last, lost work of famous pulp cover artist Haskel to an unethical art dealer who's due for a comeuppance. Haskel was famous for art showing evocatively gruesome villains threatening lovely young ladies, but his last painting instead depicts the heroine of a romantic story. The narrative then goes back in time to cover the events leading up to Haskel's final painting and abrupt career end, introducing a charming cast of queer women working as lawyers, singers, mathematicians, and witches. Emily, a newcomer to the group, crosses Haskel's path by coincidence; the two fall into a whirlwind romance that ultimately requires the support and skills of all their friends to see through. Klages folds history and the modern world into a thoroughly satisfying novella that's rich in detail, warm in regard, and clever in execution.