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Outer Alliance Pride Day Today - Zer Netmouse
September 1st, 2009
08:58 am

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Outer Alliance Pride Day Today


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 and Trouble 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."

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From:aiela
Date:September 1st, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
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The first I ever read was Vonda McIntyre's Starfarers series, which had a non-gender specific off "screen" character, a polyamorous household, and bisexual men. Its still one of my favorite series.
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From:netmouse
Date:September 2nd, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
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So noted, thanks!
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From:netmouse
Date:September 2nd, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
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I do know about it but that's the weekend before gate testing for my DARPA project, so I don't think I can. :(

thanks for the invite though!
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From:boywhocantsayno
Date:September 2nd, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
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FYI, it will be in Montreal in 2010, Hallowe'en weekend. (Somehow, I find myself chairing it. *grin*)
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From:adina_atl
Date:September 1st, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
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Helen S. Wright's Matter of Oaths is a good science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) novel with two male protagonists in a relationship, where the relationship is well-done, realistic, and central to the plot. A former relationship between one of the men and another man is also important to the plot. All relationships, both straight and gay, are presented as normal to the society, without the society being in any way a utopia. And all major characters live. *g*

One thing I appreciate about Matter of Oaths is that the male/male relationships are portrayed as life-long "serious" relationships, not transitory flings before a male/female marriage or marriage-equivalent. The number of books I've come across with gay sex but het marriage is...troubling.

My first non-straight SF/F was Marion Zimmer Bradley, who was ground-breaking for her time and rather disturbing by current standards.
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From:netmouse
Date:September 2nd, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
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Thanks, I'll check that out. Relatedly, on Whatever today Malinda Lo writes about how her book Ash is a fairy tale where gay relationships are presented as normal so she could focus on the falling in love part without her characters having to deal with homophobia at the same time.
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From:fledgist
Date:September 1st, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
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The first openly gay character I came across in SF was Brahma in Zelazny's Lord of Light, who is a lesbian (depicted, as was the wont at the time [the mid-1960s], as really wanting to be a man and achieving her/his goal). Not at all progressive in present-day terms, but pretty daring for those days.

(Oops, better make clear that I read it in the early 70s. I don't want to seem older than I am.)

Edited at 2009-09-01 06:20 pm (UTC)
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From:parsleigh
Date:September 1st, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
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You should check out Steve Leigh's book, Dark Water's Embrace, which is now out in reprint from Arc Manor. It won the Spectrum Award for its treatment of gender issues.
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From:netmouse
Date:September 2nd, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)
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Added to my wishlist, along with Speaking Stones, thanks!
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