Passing Strange (novella)

Passing Strange is a 2017 LGBT fantasy novella by Ellen Klages, published by It tells the story of several women's intersecting lives in 1940s San Francisco.

Passing Strange
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorEllen Klages
Publication date
24 January 2017
Media typeDigital

Plot SummaryEdit

In the present, lawyer Helen Young receives a terminal diagnosis. She retrieves a painting by a famous pulp magazine artist named Haskel and sells it to an unsavory collector named Marty. She leaves most of the money to charity, returns home, and commits suicide.

In 1940s San Francisco, a group of queer women try to avoid America's anti-LGBT laws while living Bohemian lives. These women include Loretta Haskel, the aforementioned artist; Emily Netterfield, a cross-dressing singer; Franny Travers, a witch with the power of teleportation, and Helen Young. Haskel and Emily meet at Mona's 440 Club and establish a relationship. Haskel's estranged husband Len returns to the city, seeking money; Haskel spurns him and asks Helen to initiate divorce proceedings. One night, Emily and Haskel decide to go dancing. Emily dresses as a man so the couple can avoid suspicion. As they leave a performance hall, Len attacks them. Emily pushes Len into the street, where he is killed by a car. The police arrive, but Emily escapes using Franny's powers.

Haskel uses a family heirloom to create a magical painting of the night in which she and Emily went dancing. They escape into the world of the painting, allowing them to avoid persecution and live happily as long as the painting exists. Helen, Franny, and their other friends agree that the last living member of the group will destroy the painting; Franny places it inside a booby-trapped box.

In the present, Marty opens the sealed box, triggering the trap and destroying the fragile painting.


The novella received positive reviews. The Chicago Tribune called the novella "Klage's best work to date" and praised its depiction of gay life in the 1940s.[1] The novella also received praise for its depiction of same-sex romance[2] and its detailed portrayal of historical San Francisco.[3]

Passing Strange won the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella[4], the 2018 Gaylactic Spectrum Award,[5] and the 2018 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.[6] It was nominated for the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella[7] and 2018 Locus Award for Best Novella.[8]


  1. ^ Wolfe, Gary K. (9 January 2017). "'Binti: Home' a worthy successor to award-winner". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  2. ^ Mason, Everdeen (5 January 2017). "'The Bear and the Nightingale' and other fantasy and science fiction books to read". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages: Booklist Online". Booklist. 1 January 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  4. ^ "2018 World Fantasy Awards".
  5. ^ "Klages Wins 2018 Gaylactic Spectrum". Locus Magazine. 28 November 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Announcing the 2018 British Fantasy Award Winners". 22 Oct 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  7. ^ Liptak, Andrew (20 Feb 2018). "2018's Nebula Awards nominations: where to read the nominees online". The Verge. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Locus Awards 2018". Science Fiction Awards database. Retrieved 6 June 2018.

External LinksEdit