There's a new group in town called the Outer Alliance. As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.
Our concept for today's Pride event includes that we will post some fiction or a review or something about how queer speculative fiction came into our lives. I don't write fiction, I edit and review it, so I'm not posting fiction. :)
How did queer sf come into my life? I think probably, like many others my age, the first queer sf I read was Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. Slightly later I read Ursula Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness
, which challenges the notions of gender and sexual orientation entirely, and Sherri Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country
, which challenges traditional gender roles. In the meantime I was reading about bisexual characters in Heinlein (e.g. Friday
) and probably a number of other works I read in high school, and I enjoyed the variety of roles and orientations explored in the Foglios' comic series Xenophile
while I was in college, but I don't feel like I saw fully realized modern adult characters who were actively gay or lesbian in sf until China Mountain Zhang
by Maureen McHugh and Trouble and Her Friends
, by Melissa Scott. Well, that's not quite true - there are some in Woman on the Edge of Time
by Marge Piercy, which I studied in a class on Utopias in college, but Utopian fiction feels like its own thing, as much commentary as story. In Zhang
the main character's sexuality was woven into the story, part of the fabric of the book.
Since then I've learned that a number of Octavia Butler's books explore gender and orientation (with aliens mixed in, even), and also polyamory. Similar themes appear in the work of Elizabeth Bear and Laurie Marks. A Companion to Wolves
, by Bear and Sarah Monette is a fabulous, intense journey into different types of bonding, and Carnival
by Bear weaves a delightfully real sexual tension and torn emotion into the relationship of a pair of diplomats who are also a gay couple on a mission to a planet where their partnership is illegal and abhorred (they must keep it a secret of course). Fire Logic
, by Marks, is one of the best books I've ever read - wicked smart fantasy - but is the beginning of a series that is not yet finished, so know that if you decide to start it.
I look back on this list and I see mainly female authors. I feel I should also acknowledge authors like Scalzi and Neil Gaiman who have put LGBT characters in secondary roles in their work - Gaiman more than most, especially since he featured a sympathetic trans character in Sandman. I know there are many more authors I've read who have written LGBT in a positive way, these are just the ones who come to mind at the moment. I also know other authors like Delany and Russ have gone there but I have not read those works by them and so cannot comment.
There are a few instances in sf of bisexuality in people who are trained to service people sexually (and their clients or fellow students) - Inara in Firefly, Green in Jay Lake's book of the same name, and people in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy, for instance, but those relations have an artificial or superficial quality to them that is not the same to me as everyday characters choosing and maintaining romantic partners in their lives.
Thinking about more interpersonal and passionate depictions, I don't know if it is really SF, but I don't think any listing of LGBT work that has touched me would be complete without a mention of the graphic novel series Strangers in Paradise
by Terry Moore.
I highly recommend those and all of the above-mentioned books to people seeking to explore queer sf in the long form, and I might attempt to address the question of recent short stories in a later post. :)
In the meantime, I will quote Jed Hartman's 2003 statement
with which I heartily agree: "I would be very happy to see more stories that contain gay, lesbian, and/or bi characters in prominent roles, especially if at least some of those characters are portrayed sympathetically and remain alive throughout the story."