Supervillainz – an award winning novel.
Published by Suspect Thoughts Press.
The story of twenty-something ex-lovers Bit and Devon, who steal the mask of a fallen superhero and are forced to become dastardly villains when they are chased by the hero’s family through an underground network of friends.
It is a genre-buster, borrowing from the traditions of comics, literature of manners, and Hollywood blockbuster.
Jane Austen might write something similar if she was alive today.
Read below to learn why your nightstand can’t be without a copy of Supervillainz.
Rave Reviews from Prominent Authors!
Patrick Califia, author of Mortal Companion and Macho Sluts says:
“This fast-paced adventure features transgendered characters who immediately grab the reader’s interest and empathy. Supervillainz is saturated with laughter, tears, and adrenaline. It’s sexy, queer, and smarter than most whips.”
D. Travers Scott, author of One of These Things is not Like the Other says: “Goranson’s fresh, fierce characters tear through a dizzying, richly imaginative tale that marks the arrival of an exciting new novelist.”
Rave Reviews from Professional Reviewers!
“… there are still great books out there, printed on actual paper, providing something to fill shelf space once it’s over and having a good heft in the hand while it’s being read. For one, there’s Supervillainz.” – Anthony Glassman, Gay People’s Chronicle.
Curve Magazine Review:
In the prologue to Goranson’s first novel, the winner of a Project:Queer Lit award, a transchick named Bit tells James Dean-esque tranny boi Devon that bodies are like “strange husks in odd shapes that had to be mastered like playing a cello.” The elegant image is at funky odds with this high-speed graphic adventure novel, which offsets its gritty Boston streets setting with a story that could be lifted from the pages of a sexy, witty transgender comic book. After Bit and Devon witness the death of a mysteriously charismatic superhero who rescues them from a mugging, they become the targets of his vengeful family members and must solve the mystery of the man’s abilities while somehow navigating the terrain of living low rent and evolving identity at the same time.
– JB, from Page Turners in the January/February 2007 issue
Rainbow Network Review:
Where most books featuring transgender people fall into the limited categories of memoir and gender theory, Alicia E. Goranson is advocating for a broader range of trans experiences in print, and Supervillainz goes some of the way in doing this. With her book Goranson has thrown down the gauntlet and is inviting more authors to write “fun and believable transfolk into popular fiction.”
It’s true that T is often overlooked in LGBT publishing, and life and, nearly forty years after Stonewall, a novel like this is long overdue.
A hard-edged tale of passion, revenge and low-rent living, Supervillainz has romance, car chases, brutal superheroes, and epic battles in dyke bars. It is a fantastical novel, where violence is dished out by guys in robot suits, and Goranson plays with hero/villain clichés where the “villains” have been forced into that role by the heroes. It’s also entertaining, fun and real; characters Bit and Devon emerge fully-formed and secure in their identities, they don’t have to explain themselves.
I am not bipolar, but reading Supervillainz is how I imagine a bout of mania to feel. It’s all pow! Pow! Pow! Which fits with the cartoonish style, but is hard to digest. The high energy of Goranson’s writing pings and zings off every surface, her prose is larger than life, more colourful, more exciting, yet also leaves you feeling rather exhausted, craving a bit of peace and quiet, and more solid plotting.
In queer writing, especially that which has a political agenda of some sort, there is often a tension between the writer’s noble aims and the quality of the fiction. Ideally these should be matched, but where it is skewed to one side the reader must inevitably make allowances, which is what I did when reading this novel. So although the quality of the writing can be patchy, it is thrilling indeed to come across a novel that presents transgender characters and gender queer street life in a way that is recognisable, though also fantastical.
Supervillainz is one of two winners of the first Project: QueerLit contest for first-time queer novelists, which means that whatever problems exist for me in this novel are entirely forgivable because of the author’s inexperience. Indeed, as a first novel Supervillainz is a worthy prize winner, and I’m looking forwards to reading more of her work as the author matures.
– Charlotte Cooper
Bay Windows Newspaper Review:
Co-winner of this year’s Project: QueerLit contest, Supervillainz is Boston writer Alicia Goranson’s quirky novel about two transgender friends who, by witnessing the murder of a well-known superhero, are thrown into hiding. Bit and Devon draw the reader into their trans and superhero world, full of fast-paced adventure, fights in dyke bars and even a bit of romance. Goranson is a new force to be reckoned with, creating a masterful world where transgender people become the heroes and “supers” are challenged. In the process, Goranson also forces the reader to think about identity, mirroring the same emotional journey many of the gay characters make. But more than that, Supervillainz puts trans characters at the forefront of a strong novel. Goranson dedicates the book to anyone who writes “fun, believable, transfolk in to popular lit,” telling them to “get cracking.” I’m telling you to get reading.
– Anthony King
Books the Watch Out For Review:
In TLE #24, we reviewed Origami Striptease by Peggy Munson, one of the winners of the first Project QueerLit contest, which resulted in a tie. The co-winner was Alicia E. Goranson’s Supervillainz.
I can imagine Supervillainz in graphic novel form; it’s got a cartoon-like feel reinforced by the cover illustration of main characters Bit, a trans woman, and trans man Devon. In Supervillainz, a group of vigilantes in body armor with animal-like masks and superhero powers have captured the attention of folks in the Boston area. When one of the “Supas” foils the mugging of Bit and Devon, a crowd from a nearby club gathers to witness the fight between the attacker and the Supa. A gunshot changes the course of events drastically, and Devon and Bit later find themselves in even more danger than the original mugging. Their friends of various gender and affectional stripes help Bit and Devon navigate survival, investigation, and revenge, with some dyke drama-like interactions thrown in for good measure.
Though trans and genderqueer characters – as well as characters who don’t embrace the term genderqueer – abound, Supervillainz is not an issue novel, nor does it preach. It’s all about the action, the chase, the gadgetry. However there are references to both the challenges and benefits of being trans, as well as a particularly poignant scene when Bit and Devon meet a teenager who allows them to use his computer at a library:
“Bit focused her gaze on the screen, but she sensed a bound-up scream echoing off her belly from the teen. She could recognize it, as if it had been inside her once… It had not been so long ago when she had her own black shirt and jeans days. Robert was trying to be a boy and failing.”
Techno-geeks and fans of action/adventure novels will love the pace, intrigue, and toys in Supervillainz. I love books that have an ensemble feel with interesting supporting characters, and this one does have that, but the act of reading it was a bit challenging to my 44-year-old eyes, with its densely packed text in what looks like an 8-point font. Nevertheless, it was fun to read a new action story filled with queer characters that isn’t so much about them being queer.
Spiral Galaxy Book Reviews Review:
Supervillainz is one of the quirkier books you’ll have the pleasure to read this year. It continues a trend I’ve been noticing in lifting tropes from comic books into the world of traditional novels. One can see this technique in the writings of luminaries such as Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, the up-and-coming satiric star Minister Faust. Now Alicia E. Goranson joins their ranks. While Lethem and Faust have been examining race relations with their superhero narratives, and Chabon has more subtly been examining the Jewish American experience, Goranson introduces us to the experiences of the gender-queer amongst us. It’s a community that is slowly gaining in status and acceptance, but this narrative makes clear, without angst or whining, how very odd their lives continue to be.
Our main characters are Devon and Bit, each twenty-something, over-educated and underemployed in Boston. What money they each can get generally disappears to paying off student and medical loans. Devon is female-to-male transgendered, and Bit is on her way to being physiologically female. Coming home from a bar they are mugged, when a person in some sort of armored suit rescues them. These armored “supers” have been seen fighting crime all over the city. After this individual has broken up the crime and is posing for his admirers, something goes wrong. He is shot, and the crowd dismantles his armor. (This is probably the least convincing scene in the book, and coming as early as it did it made me reluctant to continue further. However, take my word for it that the rest of the story is much better-told and less contrived.) Bit ends up with the helmet.
After this, the organization of super heroes responsible for the suits decides that Bit and Devon must somehow be responsible for the death of their comrade. Being up against a band of seeming superheroes, or SuperHeroz as they style themselves, makes our protagonists nothing less than Supervillainz of course. This is a nicely done statement of difference and otherness that the GLBT community often feels, often being cast in opposition to “normalcy,” represented here by the wealthy, relatively normal “heroes.” This agenda doesn’t overshadow the plot of the book, which involves our intrepid heroes and their equally over-educated and under-employed friends fighting back against the Heroz.
Along the way we get a glimpse into the world of the genderqueer. It’s not all transgender, of course. There are plenty of other ways of finding oneself outside the standards of a single gender, be it in sexual preference or personal presentation. There’s the problem when someone looks like a guy but their drivers license still says “F,” and the problems of young poseurs who are whiling away their youthful experimentation years with folks who are serious about their issues. Plus you’ve got all the usual drama that twenty-somethings are so prone to, making them perfect fodder for prime time television shows: girlfriends who move away but still say they’re serious, for instance, or simply trying to find cheap places to live. Hard enough to do even before Superheroz start bursting through your windows looking for stolen tech.
Overall this is a fun, if slightly juvenile adventure story. It’s actually science fiction, if you feel the need to give it a genre label, but it borrows heavily from the comic books. Its plot of young folks defeating older and richer opponents using nothing more than their plucky resourcefulness makes this about the queerest version of the Hardy Boys ever written. It moves fast, doesn’t get bogged down in angst or drama, and delivers a satisfying, but not unbelievably pie-in-the-sky, conclusion. Bit and Devon are empathetic characters that are easy to root for. Coming as it does from a small specialty press, Suspect Thoughts, this book will probably be difficult to find. That’s a shame. It’s an excellent if not perfect debut, a fun near-future sf adventure, and an interesting glimpse into the gender-queer community. I look forward to more novels from this promising writer.
Rainbow Reviews Review:
Rump-smacking good action-adventure trans fiction … that boots transgender literature out of the classroom and into the streets. A hard-edged tale of passion, revenge, and low-rent apartments. Supervillainz has romance, car chases, brutal superheroes, epic battles in dyke bars, and a climax that will have you reaching for the tissues.
Despite what the book blurb above says, I never felt like grabbing for tissues. Even though I enjoyed this award-winning novel, I was frustrated by the fact that it wasn’t what I expected. Since I love superhero stories, I expected a different novel than what this story provides. If I had read this novel without my strong expectations, I would’ve enjoyed it more.
The plot is fast-paced and the characters are well-developed. When Devon convinces Bit to smoke, I was disgusted. Since smoking is a pet peeve of mine, this scene clouded my view of Devon throughout the book. I found it hard to like some of the characters, including the main characters, at times.
I don’t know if I missed earlier signs, but I thought Devon was a transgender butch until he took a testosterone shot in the middle or last half of the book. It wasn’t until then that I realized he was a female-to-male transexual. I understand that Goranson maybe didn’t want to spell out where the characters were with transitioning, so that readers could visualize them the way they wanted them to be, but I would have liked to have known sooner. I think Goranson expected the reader to understand where the characters were on the gender spectrum and other topics in the plot, which I missed at first. I think the author needed to explain these things in the novel further, instead of expecting the reader to figure it out on his own.
This novel is fast-paced and a good attempt for a first novel by a new author and has won Project: QueerLit 2004 and was a 2006 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender. Goranson stretches genre fiction and characters into new territory. I enjoyed the fact that Devon and Bit didn’t receive a lot of negativity from the lesbian community they hung out in for being transgender. I recommend this book to readers craving transgender characters which are real, even if they aren’t always likeable.