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From the Comfort of their Favorite Armchair
  March 02, 2002

Today's Featured Author -  Julia Manchester

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by: Lady in Disguise

Back in the fifties Robert Heinlein wrote what may be the most widely read MtF body swap novel, "I Will Fear No Evil" but Julia may well have it in her to write the next one.

"Role-Over" while not technically a body swap but rather a gender and role swap story is the first of Julia's stories to appear here; a ten part 450k plus opus that explores the roles of gender and power as seen from the eyes of Dale, a male chauvinist husband who slowly changes into a center fold-eligible female. It's an eye-opener for him and the reader as Julia explores the relationship of sex and power. This particular story reminded me in many ways of John Norman's fantasy "Gor" series where women are often slaves and yet are imbued with their own kind of power. While all the necessary appeals to the interests of readers who visit this site Julia goes well beyond the physical (without ignoring it) to explore the psyche in depth. It's as much about what goes on in Dale's mind as what he wears on his body that makes this story worth reading.

"Shifting Sands" and "The Girl Next Door" are single part but lengthy stories, the former a magical body switch between young lovers, Ted and Sally. One sentence struck my mind as Ted in Sally's body receives admiring glances from men and jealous looks from women and as Sally compliments him on his looks. He wonders about being admired for his new look and realizes people are born with their looks, that there is no choice in the matter and then Julia writes, "Then it struck him that, in a sense, he too had been "born" like this. While he had done nothing to earn his looks he was no different than any other pretty girl in that respect."

And therein lies the eventual path to self realization that carries the story forward to wonderful conclusion. A simple, yet elegant piece of writing.

The latter story, "The Girl Next Store" is a Medallion of Zulo story and may be one of the best using that plot contrivance to swap bodies. Once again a young male finds himself in the body of a nubile young female but at the expense of a major life affecting moment. A moment that threatens to rip his psyche apart. How Julia resolves this situation makes this my favorite story of hers, if only by a small margin.

The yet uncompleted "Scrambled Souls" is Julia's latest work and has the potential to be her finest yet. It is a science fiction tale with multiple body swaps and you may need a scorecard to keep up. What makes this story so appealing is that it can be read on many levels. I have no doubt that it could appeal to the most SF readers as a straightforward SF adventure while at the same time the details of adapting to new genders and roles and the psychological and physical adaptation necessary will appeal to the readers who visit here for that reason.

Julia takes the time to develop her characters and their thought processes while drawing us in with a plot device that brings about the changes. In the end, though the plot device matters little for it is the characters and the way she brings them to life for the reader that makes a lasting impression and that "goal" is one few writers score.

by: Terry

First, let me preface this review by stating that Julia has been a very good friend of mine for some time. I think she is a wonderful writer and, in fact, she is one of my favorites. Be that as it may, this review is as objective as it can be.

The first story Julia posted to Story Site was a small story entitled ‘Role-Over.’ Part One was posted September 11, 2000. The story is about a married couple, Dale Morton (chauvinist husband) and Sandy Morton (suffering spouse), who change sex after Sandy wishes she could humiliate Dale for the way he has embarrassed her over the years. I’m sure you are saying to yourself, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Another story where the couple change sex and he gets his in the end." Wrong, Sherlock! This story delves into the psychological changes that BOTH Robin (nee Dale) and Jim (nee Sandy) go through as they slowly traverse the gender gap. Now, before you get your panties in a wad, the slow-motion change is worth the read alone. Julia has woven a very entertaining tale that is worth your time. I found the introduction of the character Rocky somewhat distracting from the story. I admit that his addition made the story very unique among the other stories in this repository but, in my opinion, it changed the flow and coherence of the story. However, do not let my opinion keep you from reading this story. As I said earlier, this story is well worth a read. "Try it! You’ll like it!"

The next story added to Story Site on September 29, 2000 was a tale called ‘Shifting Sands.’ The main characters, Ted Evans and Sally Robins, travel to Ted’s parents’ cottage on Lake Michigan to spend the Labor Day weekend. They chance upon a dark green bottle which houses a genie named Sheena. When Ted’s simple wish is granted in a fashion not consistent with his desire, both Ted and Sally are faced with having to become each other in spirit to match their new bodies. "It’s the feel-good story of the year!" This story gives the reader that warm, fuzzy feeling that can only come from a Harlequin Romance Series. You girls know what I mean. <wink> There were no noticeable deficiencies with this tale. Another story that I recommend you read if you have not already.

The third story offered to Story Site on October 29, 2000 is called ‘Scrambled Souls.’ I must admit, I held off from reading this story until I decided to be Julia’s reviewer. Having not been a big fan of ‘The Great Shift’ universe, I assumed that this story was along the same lines. (Three days later) I finished reading ‘SS’ at lunchtime today. I humbly admit I was very wrong about this story. It is well written, wonderfully intelligent, and caters to nearly every sector of TG fiction, from age regression to age progression to change of sex. Julia has woven a tale involving myriad (well, it seemed like it) characters, each possessing their own unique personality. That, my friends, is a daunting task. The story is about a group of pioneers who travel to an Earth-like planet some 15 light-years away from Earth. Along the way, they encounter a magnetic blast that disrupts the storage and retrieval section of the ship’s computer housing the colonists’ Personality Complex. When downloading their PC, 98% of the colonists receive the wrong one and the chaos begins. The rest of the story, of what has been completed, pertains to the main characters’ trials and triumphs in dealing with their new lives. I have to agree with one reader whose review mentions that the Dan character losing his ability for engineering only because he’s now female is unrealistic. Julia may be trying to convey to the reader that Dan was so distraught about his predicament; he was unable to function as a person, let alone as an engineer. If that is the case, Julia is forgiven. In my opinion, ‘SS’ is Julia’s best work to date. My only complaint is that she let nearly one month pass between Parts One and Two and around six months between Parts Two and Three. It has been ten months since she has posted Part Three. Now I know why every couple of weeks I read a post on the cyberboard asking Julia when she is posting Part Four. You can now add my voice to that group!

Julia’s next offering was a fun little tale based on a thread on the cyberboard when Crystal was away on business during April 2001. The name of the piece is called ‘Tattle-Tales: A Night at Crystal’s,’ posted on May 3, 2001. This piece was collaboration between Julia, Prudence Walker, Annie-O, Joan Banks, Heather Sinclair, and myself. It tells of how Crystal’s townhouse and personal property was supposedly mistreated by the above-mentioned authors and how each blamed the other for the mess. I really can’t render an opinion on this piece, only to say it was fun to write and a joy to work with these fine authors.

Next, we have ‘The Girl Next Door’ posted on July 6, 2001. The story involves two young lovers, Ryan and Emily, who change into each other via the Medallion of Zulo. Emily, as Ryan, plays in ‘the big game’ and steals Ryan’s dream. A tragic mishap occurs later, after they return to their rightful forms, and Ryan’s second dream is shattered. The story deals mainly with the concepts of trust and sacrifice. This is a very powerful story and readers will not be disappointed in it’s quality and passion. I highly recommend this story to anyone.

Lastly, there is one more story to review but it hasn’t been posted yet. It is still a work in progress but this I can tell you, you will not be disappointed. Please watch for it, as it will be posted soon.

After reading Julia’s creations, it is not hard to understand why she commands such a large following, including myself. I feel she ranks as high as anyone in quality and entertainment with regard to authors posting at this repository. We can only hope that she continues to delight us with her fertile imagination and wit.

Editor - Heather Sinclair

 

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