Monthly Archives: June 2015

Review of Ascension

happy black woman with books cartoon
Some of you have probably already read Jacqueline Koyanagi’s wonderful science fiction adventure Ascension, because it was published in 2013. Those of you who enjoy sci fi and have not yet had a chance to read this excellent book are in for a treat. A blend of a closely-knit crew on semi-legal runs throughout the universe reminiscent of Firefly and a sentient ship similar to Moya in Farscape, the plot of Ascension has a few twists that will surprise and delight even the most jaded reader who has seen/read it all. Ascension chronicles the adventures of Alana Quick as she stows away on the ship Tangled Axion in the hopes of not only saving her sister from unknown villains, but also of seeing the universe. Of course Alana is discovered and skirts the edge of annihilation by expulsion into deep space to eventually become part of the crew. Alana’s relationship with her sister is complex and compelling, a rare treat to see women’s non-sexual relationships with each other treated with such tenderness and depth.

Of potentially specific interest to readers of this blog, Koyanagi’s skillful depiction of polyamorous relationships blends in to the plot so well that it does not stand out as an artificial addition but as an integral part of the characters’ lives. After reading a raft of sci fi novels that focus extensively on sex scenes — sometimes at the expense of a decent plot — it was refreshing to read Koyanagi’s descriptions of the passion Alana feels for her wayward captain, the alluring and dangerous Tev, without such a detailed description of their sexual interactions that nothing is left to the imagination. Koyanagi’s plot is quite strong enough to stand on its own, and it keeps readers engaged without having to resort to gratuitous sex.

Not only do I highly recommend this excellent read to anyone who enjoys science fiction about badass queer women and their mostly human male lover/companion, I hope that you join me in encouraging Koyanagi to write more about the Tangled Axion crew. While the complex characters would make for a great series, it does not appear that Koyanagi has written any more about this fascinating crew. Please join me in purchasing Koyanagi’s existing book Ascension and lobbying her to write some more.


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Filed under book review, Books, Families, Media, Polyamory, Science Fiction

Review of Stories from the Polycule

Polycule-Front-Cover-FINAL3 copyKathy Labriola, poly community leader and jealousy whisperer, wrote a lovely review of my newest book — check it out!

Stories from the Polycule

Stories from the Polycule: Real Life in Polyamorous Families
    by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff

 Dr. Sheff's new book is a major addition to the poly bookshelf, that accumulating body of literature on all kinds of open relationships. This is the one book
 to give your friends or family members who challenge you with "Explain this polyamory thing to me, will you?" The writing is smart, lively, and utterly 
fascinating! Every short chapter is a real gem of storytelling, and the characters are unforgettable. You will feel like a fly on the wall in many, many poly 
households as the book gives you a front-row seat to the amazing diversity of poly relationships, the intimate details of how they work (and sometimes don't 
work), and what makes poly people tick. You won't be able to put it down!

This book is laugh-out-loud hilarious, even the very heartbreaking parts about poly divorces and the occasional ostracism by family and friends. No clinical 
detachment of therapists analyzing poly people under a microscope, and no theoretical tomes about the political correctness or spiritual enlightenment of 
polyamory here. These are the real life, nitty-gritty stories, each told in the first person by the one experiencing them, warts and all! Each person makes 
themselves so vulnerable in a few short pages, expressing their hopes and fears, the joys and disappointments they have experienced in open relationships 
of every imaginable type. The sense of humor, and the basic humanity, of each person is brought out so beautifully in this book that I believe even adamantly 
monogamous people will be able to relate to and truly understand some of the individuals and their relationships.

The sheer diversity of the people and their stories is stunning. Chapters range from inexperienced 20-somethings stumbling into three-somes under the 
influence of alcohol and youthful naviete to seasoned veterans who have been living in polyfidelitous marriages for 30 years, from queer women practicing 
relationship anarchy to bisexuals in dizzying arrays of gender configurations to heteronormative suburban married people who keep their outside relationships 
secret from their families and peers. A personal favorite of mine was a four-some that wrote up a "safer sex" agreement that was based on the premise that it 
had to be simple and easy enough to consistently implement even when completely intoxicated, and a disclosure agreement that required posting any new 
sex partners to a shared Google document visible to all other partners. Who knew?

Since the subtitle of the book is "Real Life in Polyamorous Families,"  I mistakenly thought this book was all about families with children. While it was great 
to read about many polyamorous families who have successfully raised children together, I was thrilled to find that it was much broader in scope and 
covered lots of other types of open relationships that do not include children.

A special bonus in this book is that every chapter has poly comics! "Kimchi Cuddles" is a poly webcomic by cartoonist Tivka Wolf, and her hilarious and 
spot-on comics about the fun and foibles of poly relationships accompany each chapter of the book. I recommend "Kimchi Cuddles" highly as a very 
effective antidote for poly people who take themselves or polyamory too seriously. These cartoons really enhance the exuberant and life-affirming style of 
this book, and are a welcome addition.

I wish I could tell you to rush out and buy this book right now, since it is so terrific you will want to read it right away. However, you may have to wait until 
this fall (2015) when the book is out and available.


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Educational Consultations

Educational Consultations.

If you are a frustrated writer, prospective student who needs advice on choosing a graduate program, graduate student who needs assistance with a paper or article, or simply want some collegiate tutoring in humanities or social sciences, then an academic consultation with Dr. Eli Sheff could provide the assistance you need. Dr. Eli also helps prospective authors write books and find publishers, and will ghost write or help organize authors’ ideas.

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Review of The Game Changer by Franklin Veaux

cute giraffe

Have you ever felt that you don’t fit in, that somehow you are out of step with those around you? Franklin Veaux not only understands, but takes a fresh perspective on creating an authentic life in his poignant memoir The Game Changer, coming this fall from Thorntree Press and available for pre-order here. Forging his own path since he was a teenager, Veaux charts his journey from a misunderstood proto-geek to kinkster-extraordinaire in this entertaining and educational account of disruptive love. Along the way, he explains the fatal flaw in many polyamorous relationships – hierarchies of power and esteem that end up eroding love rather than protecting the “core” couple.

In a remarkably candid tale, Veaux charts the trajectory of his attempts to establish equitable polyamorous relationships and explains the difficulties of sustaining a primary/secondary hierarchy while attempting to explore emotionally intimate relationships among more than two people. His detailed description of the emotional terrain of consensual non-monogamy exposes the joy and despair that can accompany loving outside of conventional boxes. Veaux does not spare himself from his own scorching gaze, and ruthlessly details the mistakes he made while figuring out how to be non-monogamous.

Reading The Game Changer was so thought provoking that it felt like having a deep and roving conversation with a very witty person about what it means to be truly authentic — only without the pressure to be clever yourself because half of it is happening inside your own head. This is a great read for anyone who has questioned the status quo or wondered what intriguing adventures wait on the road less traveled. Daring souls will appreciate Veaux’s frank wit and searing self-critique in this fascinating memoir of unruly love.


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New Psychology Today Post on Coming Out to (Possible) Sweeties as Polyamorous

flower breaks through ashpalt

Check out my newest blog on Psychology Today on the six steps that can guide people in coming out to potential partners as polyamorous

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