There are lots of reasons. First off, that phrase, that title captures
the spirit of the 50's and 60's lesbian paperbacks I collect. It's easy
to imagine the words being spoken in hushed tones, one eyebrow raised,
under late-night streetlights: "Hey mac, get a load of those strange
sisters." Secondly, the sibilance of the two words is certainly satisfying
and appropriately hush-hush (though subtlety was certainly not a strongpoint
for much of the genre's artwork). Thirdly, no fewer than four lesbian
paperbacks (with five distinct covers between them) have the title Strange
Sisters: one by Fletcher Flora (published with two different covers),
one by David Key, another by Robert Turner, and one by Sheri Blue (purportedly
a pseudonym of Ed Wood, Jr.)
Fast forward three decades to Jaye Zimet's book with the appropriately
appropriated title Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction
1949 - 1969. Published by Viking in 1999, this was the first book
specifically focused on the two key decades for this genre's artwork.
As soon as the book hit the shelves, I got calls... "have you seen it?!".
Anyone who'd seen my room full of paperbacks (including a floor-to-ceiling
velcro wall display with about 350 books attached) knew Zimet's book
was a book for me. I was thrilled to see someone had put forth the effort
of compiling some great covers AND had found a publisher to foot the
bill. Bravo! Zimet's book was thoughtfully and lovingly executed. It
was done by a fan, a connoisseur... it's easy to tell. I added a couple
of books to my want list and was happy to see dozens of top-notch covers
showcased for the world. Still, I couldn't help but think of the books
I had that were NOT included... literally hundreds of wild covers, many
as good and certainly more outrageous than the ones Zimet included.
A disappointing sequel of sorts would follow Strange Sisters with the
publication of Susan Stryker's lamely titled Queer Pulp in 2001.
Stryker had compiled the Lesbian Pulp and Gay Pulp address books the
year previous and had been encouraged to follow up with a full-blown
book. While providing some decent historical context, Queer Pulp's
couples a pitiful artwork selection (with poor color reproduction, I
might add) with the kind of shallow generalizing and academic analysis
that makes me want to stomp in circles around a burning copy of Dick
Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style. But one of endless
examples: "The extensive use of black on these covers thus subtly suggested
the psychological horror a straight mind might experience when confronted
with bisexual menage a trois and the prospect of homosexuality." It's
a good thing I got the book for free.
And so with two books out there already, my perpetually postponed coffee-table-book-to-end-all-coffee-table-books
(perhaps The Strangest Sisters?) would certainly be redundant,
that is if it ever got out of the planning stage. And besides, my collection's
still not finished... the want list suffers from the hydra effect. Cut
off one book and two more previously unknown titles inevitably grow
back in its place. A book full of classic lesbian paperbacks would always
been incomplete. A website, then, was the only thing that made sense.
In the cybersquatting world of domain names, I was surprised to find
what I consider the quintessential lesbian paperback title still available.
And so strangesisters.com was born.