We Need More Queer Stories in Speculative Fiction

Pride flagRecently I have been embracing my queerness more and more. I’ve always been open and proud about my pansexuality, but circumstances have made it so that I couldn’t be as out and as proud as I wanted to be. For example, even now I can’t talk about or even mention my sexuality at my job, or I could be firedthe hazards of working for a Catholic church. I was nervous about going to my local Pridefest because if someone saw me I could have lost my job just for attending. This is an obstacle that is sadly still in my life, but other obstacles have since fallen away. Before this, I hadn’t come out to my father; however, I have now, with thankfully very few obstacles. I have also been engaging more with the queer community: something I was previously afraid to even attempt because of how prevalent I heard the bi and pan-phobia was in the community. But so far, to my delight, I haven’t personally encountered any such issues. Now I can be somewhat more open in my life, and the recent Pulse shooting prompted me to be even more open in defiance of all the hate. Together, this all has led me to want to engage more in the queer community and queer culture.

Of course, being a nerd, I naturally wanted to look into queer stories in sci-fi and fantasy. Sadly, as you can guess, there are very few.

I first want to make it clear that when I say that I am looking for speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) stories that are also queer stories, I don’t mean stories that have queer side characters, but rather stories where the main character is queer and any romance is focused on queer relationships. I’m tired of queer characters being relegated to sidekicks and queer romance being pushed to the sidelines so that the heterosexual couples can have the main story arc. I’m tired of seeing queer characters killed off, which is worse still. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to want a story where the main character is a queer space pirate or a trans fairy princess. And, as always, neither am I looking for stories where a character is defined by their sexuality. I just want similar stories to the type straight characters get.

This doesn’t seem to be in the cards, howeverit seemed the more I longed for queer stories in speculative fiction, the more disappointed I would get. It started with me listening to Alice Isn’t Dead, a wonderful podcast from Night Vale Presents about a female truck driver who is traveling across the country looking for her missing wife, and along the way encounters many strange and mysterious things. While I love Welcome to Night Vale, which also features queer main characters, I reveled in Alice Isn’t Dead because I was so thrilled to have a female queer character in the lead role.

Alice Isn't Dead logoAfterward, I started looking for more speculative fiction with queer stories. Naturally, the first places I turned to were Hulu and Netflix: both sites I knew had a whole section labeled “LGBT”, so I thought I would be able to at least find a few things there. However, not only were both sections relatively small, but there were no speculative fiction stories that I could find. I was limited to rom coms, dramas, and reality TV, which was great, but not what I wanted. I was finally saved from my search when I was given a copy of the comic anthology Smut Peddler. Smut Peddler is a collection of erotic indie comics created by a variety of writers and artists designed specifically for women and featuring stories that center around people of all types of sexual orientations. And though it does include heterosexual couples, the stories are overwhelmingly queer. I fell in love, instantly devouring the comic, but even still I was disappointed that so few of the comics were speculative fiction. While there were comics that did feature sci-fi or fantasy settings, I was more than a little sad that the majority of the comic book wasn’t that way.

smut peddlerWhy is this important? Why do I care that there seems to be a lack of speculative fiction that has queer stories? Well, it’s important for a variety of reasons. After the Pulse shooting, I didn’t want any movies that were based in reality. I wanted to escape to some magical isle where being queer wasn’t an issue. Or, in the case of science fiction, I wanted to be able to go far into the future, into outer space, where I could meet aliens that didn’t care that I was pansexual. Or even better, where I could explore a future where homophobia of any kind was a horrible tragedy of the past, but not in any way a reality in the show. Speculative fiction, unlike a lot of other fiction, has the capacity to ignore the often problematic reality of this world. Speculative fiction can fix it, make it better, can give those consuming the story the opportunity to enjoy a world where they don’t have to hide, where they can be the hero, where the epic romance for the ages isn’t strictly heterosexual. We need more queer stories in speculative fiction desperately. And I am aware that many of you will probably comment with stories and TV shows and other things that I haven’t read or watched, and this is exactly what I am looking for. I can’t wait for those comments. It is also annoying, however, that I have to go searching for such things. I have to go on a quest to actually find speculative fiction with queer stories. However, any hetero person can pick up almost any book on a shelf or turn on almost any TV show and find a hetero hero with a hetero romance. It’s a frustrating reality and one that I hope will change as we as a society become more accepting of others.

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7 thoughts on “We Need More Queer Stories in Speculative Fiction

  1. Northwest Press has a number of lovely queer titles…in fairness, it’s all they do, which is great! I haven’t read all of their publications by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve enjoyed all the ones I have read.

  2. Some of the lesfic authors who are publishing F/F with strong lesbian or bi identified lead characters are Nicola Griffith (“Ammonite” is one of my faves and she has some recs here), Melissa Scott (“Trouble and Her Friends–I think she’s got, like 7 genders going in there), Fletcher DeLancey, Sandra Barret, Linda North, Jane Fletcher, Rae Magdon/Michelle Magly and, full disclosure, myself. My space opera series is available as used paperbacks at the moment because I’m in the process of re-doing the series for re-release. Also, swing by Queer Sci Fi for more recs. Also, here’s Bold Strokes Books’ list of (mostly F/F) spec fic. Also, full disclosure again, I’m an editor at the feminist spec fic ezine Luna Station Quarterly, which features spec fic by new and emerging female spec fic writers. LSQ publishes queer stories, too, but we’d like more submissions along those lines. Tell all your friends to send things in! WOOO!

    This is a 2014 list, but there are some cool titles, including a book with an intersex protagonist. And here’s a 2012 anthology of 17 spec fic stories that are all queer, “Beyond Binary: Genderqueer and Sexually Fluid Speculative Fiction.”
    Another 2012 anthology is “Heiresses of Russ,” with the year’s best lesbian spec fic.

    Oh, and you can buy the special issue of Lightspeed Mag, “Queers Destroy Science Fiction” HERE. I think it was just released this year. There was a kickstarter for it last year. The kickstarter also had a Queers Destroy Fantasy issue, too, I believe.

    Oh, and LOOK! Just this past week, there was a Queer YA spec fic discussion! WHAAAAT???? So awesome.

    I think we’re seeing a lot of really super-cool queer storylines and characters in current YA spec fic, and I think that’s a great harbinger for the future in both YA and non-YA spec fic.

    Anyway, you can find me on Twitter (@andimarquette) if you want to get in touch further. Thanks for this blog. #love

    But peeps, straight up, we need MOAR TV n’ MOVIES WITH QUEER CHARACTERS! 😀

  3. Any interest in queer SFF books/written works? These are my recommendations:

    – Ellen Kushner’s Riverside. The chronologically first story is currently on Serial Box, this site that releases “episodes” of serial stories sort of like a TV format. It’s a non-magical fantasy world that’s not hetero-normative. The majority of the cast is queer and includes both male and female characters. If you want one of the books instead, I would suggest The Privilege of the Sword which has a bisexual girl as the protagonist.
    – The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie is a YA novel with pirates, genetically engineered sea monsters and a lesbian love story.
    – Smoketown by Tenea D. Johnson is a lovely post apocalyptic novel that’s actually hopeful? The heroine is waiting for the woman she once loved in an imaginative future city.
    – God’s War by Kameron Hurley has a bisexual heroine and is set at least 3,000 years in the future on an Islamic planet. It’s more brutal than happy though.
    -Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis is a YA fantasy with a bisexual girl as a protagonist.

    Then there’s a couple I’ve been lucky enough to get advanced copies of. They’re not out yet, but I’d suggest reading them when they are published.
    – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova is about a bisexual Latina girl from a family of matriarchal witches. It’s published in September.
    – An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows. It’s epic fantasy that’s not grimdark! The POV cast is four women, three of whom are canonically queer. It’s a portal fantasy and one of the POV characters from earth actually uses the word bisexual to describe herself.

    Of all the authors I’ve listed above, all of them except maybe Skrutskie and Cordova (not sure in those cases) are queer as well.

  4. I relate so much to this. Good to see some new recs. At least (in the U.S.), the librarians are on our side! So, when I want recommendations, I go to them and they usually know something.

    Kelly Link’s stories frequently push around in beautiful ways gender identity, body, and sexuality. I’m reading her recent collection of short stories ‘Get In Trouble’– halfway through and about half of the stories included queer main characters/romances.

    Tor.com is a good place to find stuff. It won’t always be queer, but their submission page seems to welcome what submissions it does want from diverse minorities, including LGBTQ+. That’s where I found ‘Get in Trouble’ recommended, so.

    Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline Carey was life-changing for me as a teenager.

    I’ve heard good things about Captive Prince and it’s on my reading list.

    One final recommendation is to check out the Gaylactic Spectrum awards.

  5. Did anybody ask for webcomics? No? Well, I’m gonna go ahead and link stuff anyway.

    Lovespells – Rpg inspired fantasy romance with a witch and a lady knight. Created explicitly to give us a story without negativity or the fear of the Dead Lesbians trope. Ongoing.
    Always Human – Sci-fi love story between two ladies. I haven’t read all of it, but the art is really pretty. Like, REALLY pretty.
    Agents of the Realm – Magical girls. Every romantic relationship shown so far has been between women of colour. Sort of dark tone. Ongoing.
    Princess Princess – Fantasy/fairytale. Features two princesses. They are adorable. Warm and fluffy feelings all around, but villain is a family member who employs emotional abuse. Completed.
    Gunnerkrigg Court – Sort of urban fantasy, with sci-fi elements. Deutagonist realizes she’s bi late in the comic, with her questioning her sexuality and then eventually coming out, but she ends up in a loving relationship with a supportive girlfriend. Don’t get scared away by the art, it improves quickly. Ongoing.

    I once followed a site that was specifically about cataloging diversity in speculative fiction in literature, but it had a really unintuitive name (that I therefore can’t remember) and I lost the link with my old computer. I’m still sad about that, because the search system was a thing of beauty that allowed you to easily search for multiple tags.

  6. As someone who’s been heavily involved in reading what is posted in asexual (and aromantic, to a lesser extent) online communities for 3 full years now, I’ve seen many specific posts about asexual representation in fiction, and I’m not sure I can find them again, but I also feel like I have specifically have seen complaints that too many of the stories are NOT based ENOUGH in reality on that side of the spectrum, that ace/aro characters are too often in “Speculative” types of stories, sci-fi with aliens, etc. Here are some of the more up-to-date lists on asexual representation I’ve found: https://asexual-representation.tumblr.com/tagged/asexual+characters and https://asexual-representation.tumblr.com/tagged/asexual+characters https://asexual-representation.tumblr.com/post/145375455306/books-with-confirmed-demisexual-characters although there are also some from a few years ago. The thing is, such a high percentage of ace representation in fiction has happened within only the past 2-3 years so the older lists, the ones from 2013, really are so out of date now. Many of the ace characters are in queer romances in books, although some are also aro and don’t date, and some might be in male/female partnerships, I’m not sure.

    • Sorry, if you could pretend my comment does not include the same link twice and instead only includes the first and last of the 3 links I posted, I’d appreciate it. That was a mistake.

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