Great Queer Fantasy and Science Fiction

I moderated a “Queering Fantasy” panel at the virtual 2020 World Fantasy convention that looked at the connection between adding queer characters and queering the fantasy tropes themselves.

How do you queer Fantasy and Fantasy tropes? Is it dropping in a queer character into an otherwise fantastical plot? Slipping in a positive queer romance? Or is it dismantling, changing, altering, and questioning the tropes that have been present in Fantasy for decades? Is it queering the way power is distributed in a society, or queering character goals and story endings? Does it touch how we build a Fantasy economy, a government, a landscape, a culture? We would say it includes all these things. Queer characters invite complete queer make-overs of Fantasy tropes. We’re here to discuss that– discussing the contributions of LGBTQIAA2S+ authors to the field; we want to give you plenty to look at and consider. Heck, we might, at the end, even compose multiple queer “I want” Disney songs for the Fantasy stories we want to create or see created–ya never know. Whether you’re an activist or an ally, we welcome you.

We had a great time–and if you went to WFC2020 and didn’t see it, it is recorded. We could have talked another hour on these themes. Part of our takeaway for guests to that panel was a list of great queer fantasy and science fiction. We placed it in the Session Pages section of WFC 2020’s online presence at Crowdcast. We had originally just been thinking of fantasy, and then it expanded to include SF and then horror, steampunk, etc…. but here is the list (with a few more edits by me).

Caveats: This is NOT a list of every queer story out there–by no means–but was a list that four panelists Corry L. Lee, Cheryl Morgan, S. Qiouyi Lu and I could come up with over a couple of days to hand to people when they got done with the panel.

It’s intended to be a starter list–a recommended reading list. These are books we’ve read and recommended. It is limited by our personal reading. It will have holes (not enough of us read YA and MG) and S. didn’t get a chance to put aer complete list with ours, but I hope ae does and then I will add aers to the rest.

I chose representative covers with complete randomness, not as any statement.

There are many great reading lists for queer books–this one is ours.

So, from the “Queering Fantasy” panel at the 2020 World Fantasy Convention, a list of their recommended reading:

Great Queer Fantasy and Science Fiction

Feel free to circulate and add your own–or let me know! Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow!

Recommendations by Corry L. Lee, Cheryl Morgan, Jerome Stueart, and S. Qiouyi Lu

Key: SF = Science Fiction, F = Fantasy, YA = Young Adult, MG = Middle Grade, H = Horror, SP = Steampunk, SH = Superheroes, GN = Graphic Novel SS = short story collection

Adult:

  • Ninefox Gambit – Yoon Ha Lee (SF)
  • The City We Became – N.K. Jemisin (F/contemporary)
  • The Perfect Assassin – K.A. Doore (F)
  • Raven Tower – Ann Leckie (F)
  • Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie (SF)
  • A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine (SF)
  • The Future of Another Timeline – Annalee Newitz (SF, Alt Hist)
  • Weave the Lightning – Corry L. Lee (F, novel)
  • Dhalgren — Samuel R. Delany (SF, novel)
  • Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand — Samuel R. Delany (SF, novel)
  • The Affair of the Mysterious Letter – Alexis Hall (F)
  • Will Do Magic for Small Change – Andrea Hairston (F/contemporary)
  • Silver in the Wood & The Drowned Country – Emily Tesh (F, novellas)
  • The Seep – Chana Porter (SF, novella)
  • Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner (F, novel and the whole Riverside series)
  • The Outremer Series – Chaz Brenchley (F, 6 novels in US, 3 fat novels in UK)
Continue reading

Happy 100th Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Ray Bradbury’s 100th birthday is August 22, and he has always been a huge inspiration to me.

I borrowed my older brother’s copies of Bradbury’s books the first time and couldn’t stop reading his short fiction. I loved his passionate characters who believed so deeply in something they were willing to fight for it.

I read R is for Rocket, S is for Space, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, even later, The Toynbee Convector. I loved the way he wrote—the prose just sings with joy! And I love the monologues of characters on the brink of getting what they need! I have taught The Martian Chronicles as a perfect short story collection—connected, multi-character, and those stories have affected my stories.

I got the amazing chance to meet him when I was 21, (I think I was 21), when he came to Lubbock, Texas. He spoke at length about his garage doors he designed for the Smithsonian exhibit, and about writing the screenplay for Moby Dick, the movie. He also talked a little about Mars. Afterwards, I stood in line to get my book signed, The Martian Chronicles, and to meet him. Just as I got to the front of the line, as I was about to say something to him, a woman butted up in front with a stack of opened Bradbury books, about ten of them, slapped the stack of books on the table like a tower, said to him that this “wouldn’t take long” ( she might have been part of the team responsible for the event. I don’t know) and urged him to sign them quickly. But then she grabbed her daughter and gave her a camera and pulled Ray to the side, as he was trying to sign the books, for a photo with her, swiveled him around in the chair like a puppet, threw an arm around him and smiled big.

When he had finished signing, finally, and she had gone, he looked at me and I guess somehow we connected, and he decided to make up for her rudeness by spending extra long with me. I mean there was a line behind me, but for a moment, we were conspirators in the slog she made him go through before he could talk to me.

Me: I read all of your work. It’s amazing. It inspired me to be a writer. I write stories too. I am a writer because of you.

Ray: Are you sending your stories out?

Me: (stuttering, faltering) Well…I

Ray: I wrote a story every week. I started on Monday and ended on Saturday and mailed it off. Now all of them weren’t that good. But I had a better chance of making a sale if I kept writing anyway. If you are writing 52 stories a year, a few of them have to be pretty good, right? I had a better chance with 52 of them in circulation than I did with one or two.

He looked me in the eye, “Send your stories out.”

I feel like I got a blessing from Ray Bradbury that day. A challenge. The gauntlet thrown!

I’ve never written a story a week! Lol. But I would like to push myself more.

I felt like he encouraged me to believe in myself, anyway, no matter how good or bad I thought a story was.

This little interview with him below is wonderful! I hope you enjoy his spirit and his love of life! I felt this was something about Ray I resonated with. That love. I miss his writing. He died at 91 years of age.

Happy Birthday, Ray! Thank you for your stories, your love of life, and for those precious, life-changing few extra minutes with me.

Family and Community in ZZ Claybourne’s “The Air in My House Tastes Like Sugar” (GigaNotoSaurus, March, 2020)

Y’all, I read this awesome story, and I want to tell you about it. It’s about a mother and daughter who are witches, tired of having to move from town to town to hide their identities. They finally say, no, and decide to push back on all the rumors, fake stories, and prejudice so they can stay in community with the town. They’re happy there, to an extent, but negative rumors about witches and children and ovens are spreading in the city about them, so they have to take action. Mother takes her daughter into town to confront those rumors head on! And she is not someone to be messed with. Does she use witchcraft to get her way? She does not. She uses reason.

Along the way, she discovers a bigger secret hiding in the town, and must be the witch the town needs in order to survive.

I loved this story for many reasons.

Yes, it has a trope I love—family. I’m a sucker for brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, any combo of family. So I’m already biased going in. Family for me comes with its own stakes already in place. In nearly every family story there is a question of “how do we keep the family unit intact?” How do we survive together? The characters are not just strangers, or friends, or a D&D Party (all good groups!), but have shared history together that an author can explore, and a familiarity with each other that can really aid a story. I think Zig Zag Claybourne uses all these positives to his favor in this story.

Continue reading

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” is finalist for Eugie Foster Memorial Award

Very happy and honored to tell you that my novelette, “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Mar/Apr 2019) is a finalist for the 2020 Eugie Foster Memorial Award!

The Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction (or Eugie Award) celebrates the best in innovative fiction. This annual award is presented at Dragon Con, the nation’s largest fan-run convention. Starting with the 2020, we will add a video presentation of the award online, along with a reading of a section of each finalist.


The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. We will be looking for stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and passionate, and change us and the field. The recipient is a story that is unique and will become essential to speculative fiction readers.

—from the Eugie Award website http://www.eugiefoster.com/eugieaward

You can learn on the website what a wonderful writer and person Eugie Foster was, and about her legacy. I’m deeply honored to be on a list recognized by those associated with her.

Four other writers are also featured with their stories:

A Civilization Dreams of Absolutely Nothing” by Thoraiya Dyer (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com)

The House Wins in the End” by L Chan (The Dark)

Love in the Time of Immuno-Sharing” by Andy Dudak (Analog Science Fiction and Fact)

http://www.eugiefoster.com/eugieaward

I’ve had a wonderful two days just telling people that I became a finalist and receiving so much positive feedback. I kinda feel that being a finalist with all these cool authors and stories is its own reward! It’s really filled my soul with love in this very tumultuous time.

There are still many changes to make in the world. We will make them! Today, it was nice to feel loved.

PS. Yes that is my illustration for the story. It was something created way after the story was accepted and in print… but it was fun to doodle.

The Further Adventures of Yukon Cornelius

Today I want to share with you work that I completed while at the Columbus College of Art and Design, and which would have been part of the Columbus Arts Festival 2020 in June (but WILL be part of the festival in 2021!)

I fell in love late in life with a character from a Christmas special: Yukon Cornelius, created by Romeo Muller as part of the 1964 Rankin/Bass production of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”–a stop motion special that is shown every Christmas. You might recognize the character:

Burly, positive, full of helpful asides “Bumbles Bounce!” and “the fog is as thick as peanut butter!”–Yukon helps our heroes realize their dreams by a) saving them from the Abominable Snowmonster, b) taking them to the Island of Misfit Toys to carry a message to Santa to come get these toys and pair them up with kids and c) reforming said Abominable Snowmonster and making him tame, and cool for Christmas Parties.

***

I don’t know why Yukon stayed with me. It might be that I went to live in the Yukon for nearly 10 years. I mushed some dogs (tbh, only as a one-day fun thing in Inuvik, NWT–though I attended and watched the Yukon Quest as much as I could), and spent time out in the wilderness. But I also lived in the great city of Whitehorse being a friend and misfit to a lot of other friends and misfits, who are also great musicians, artists, talented amazing people.

undefined Maybe it was that Yukon was very burly, and I was attracted to him, or even attracted to the kind of man he represented–a big “bear”. He seemed like a better version of a male hero than I had previously encountered. Though he had a gun, I don’t think he ever shot it. He was practical, helpful, encouraging. He had a lot of knowledge about Abominable Snowmonsters! And he was much more interested in saving people than in killing monsters. In the end, because Bumbles bounce!–Yukon and Bumble somehow come to an understanding. Bumble is just another misfit that needs to find his right place… and he does, next to the Christmas tree.

In another post, I will tell you more about that Queering the Hero journey I made–and continue to make. But here are my paintings, extrapolating three things:

  1. Yukon Cornelius could be gay. People have commented before on the queer undertones of the show–read the articles here from Vulture, and KQED and in 2019 The New York Times opinion page—- about themes of bullying, about being different, about being rejected, about finding acceptance for your unique qualities. Romeo Muller was himself gay. It’s not a stretch to see the queercoding in the show. Making Yukon Cornelius gay is not a stretch either, since he doesn’t make mention of a wife, and reads as what we would call a “bear” today–a burly, bearded, slightly overweight, slightly hyper-masculine man.
  2. Yukon has a way of charming beasts. His expert past knowledge of the Abominable Snowmonster speaks to prior run-ins with “Bumble”—and then he is able to tame and speak to the Bumble (who miraculously grows back his teeth in the final few minutes of the special!)
  3. Yukon deserved more of an adventurous life.

So, I created that life for him–and for me. The copyright on characters from this movie had a misprint in it, making all characters in public domain (outside of Rudolph who had prior copyright). So I adopted Yukon as my hero and gave him a life of meeting cryptids (Bigfoot, Mothman, sea monsters, etc.) Using acrylic and myself as a reluctant model–or at times a stand-in, I painted these paintings. (side note: I’d planned to have several cooler guys than me become Yukon for these paintings–but planning photo shoots was not easy.)

So if you’ve always wanted a rollicking adventuresome gay hero, I offer you Yukon Cornelius–rescuing, negotiating, protecting, singing, reading, allowing himself to be loved.

Continue reading

Defining What Netflix Will Be, or Eight Reasons to Give Sense8 a full 3rd Season

19477719_10155330533657095_1420082545618168163_oAs most people know, on June 1st, Netflix decided not to renew Sense8.  Fans of the Wachowski Sisters + J Michael Straczynski show, a show that weaves a global narrative to tell a very human story of eight people sharing their minds, knowledge, and empathy, were devastated that the story would not have a third season.  Many knew that it only had one more season of story, but Netflix decided not to renew.  Then the fanbase rallied and wrote and tweeted and called out! and helped show-writers garner a 2 hour special for Sense8!  Amazing!

I am so happy that we get 2 hours to wrap up Sense8, and don’t take this blogpost here as less than gratitude for that 2 hours.  But I’d like to make a bigger case for you–a case you haven’t heard–about giving Sense8 a whole season based on what might be good for Netflix, not just for fans.

While there has been speculation as to why the show was not renewed, that’s speculation.  Netflix spends a lot of money trying to find hit series, and sometimes a good series doesn’t find the right market.  When the cancellation happened, there was plenty of anger towards Netflix, and, in the moment, I even threatened to dump Netflix.  But I love Stranger Things, and I watch Star Trek, Daredevil, Luke Cage, etc.  It would be hard for me to dump Netflix for good.  I know, they’re counting on that–they’ve made us LOVE this service. Okay.

Instead of eight negative reasons to renew Sense8, I want to give 8 positive reasons to renew Sense8 for a whole last season.  I want to give them something they can go to the marketing table with and say—“Let’s do one more season.” (Please especially consider #7)

Ultimately, right decisions aren’t made because of negative consequences but because the positive consequences are stronger.  We aren’t charitable because of Fear of Hell or Fear of Bad Publicity.  We are charitable because we want to help.

Why Netflix Would Want to Complete a Third Season of Sense8

1. NETFLIX IS COMMITTED TO COMPLETION: Sense8 has exactly ONE more season.  It’s a three season arc.  You renew that last season, you are a hero, and the story is complete, and people bingewatch the three seasons for years afterwards on Netflix.  They will come to Netflix for those three seasons.  You’re not having to commit to an unknown number of seasons, or risking anything AFTER this season.  You already committed two seasons and they were amazing, and fans loved them, and they are almost home-free.  You create NEW fans by following through on your series.  But MORE people will become afraid to watch or commit to a new series if the series could be cancelled before it’s finished.  The more unfinished series, the more Netflix becomes untrustworthy for a new viewer.  The positive spin: you complete series, and they can be assured that when they watch a series on Netflix, especially with the millions of fans this series has created, that it will have closure–that series runners will know ahead of time that their series must establish closure.  This one is close to being finished.

2.  NETFLIX EDUCATES ITS VIEWERSHIP ABOUT VIEWERSHIP.  You teach Netflix viewers about Viewership using Sense8.  Part of the shock of this announcement was that viewers thought that their fan base was enough.  We don’t get to watch the Viewership numbers like you do, so we can’t tell when to rally, or how we’re doing, or if we’re about to fall.  It’s a bit unfair to a very large group of fans to say that their numbers are not enough.  What kinds of viewership help make your decisions?  Do you need a certain number every week?  And how do you calculate when you drop 10 episodes over a weekend?  How many times should we view it?  How many tweets do you need?  How many blogposts analyzing the show?  If you give us those numbers, WE CAN HELP SAVE THE SHOWS WE LOVE.  I guarantee that the fanbase for Sense8 is the most dedicated fan base you’ve ever had (more on that below).  But telling us to love a show and then, when it’s not good enough, taking it from us without telling us how to celebrate and support it correctly can be very bad in the long run–it leaves a bad taste in fans’ mouths.  Netflix needs to teach its viewers what matters to save a show–how can we love a show enough to keep it if we don’t know what you need?  If not, fans won’t try a show till a second season is guaranteed…or may just not try it unless you do what you did with The Crown, and guarantee 6 seasons to tell that arc.

Continue reading

Better Beasts makes the Sunburst Award Longlist

sunburst_logo_wideI’m late to announce this, but no less thrilled.  On May 29, 2017, the Sunburst Award Society revealed their longlist for novels/short stories in the running for the Sunburst Award.  The Angels of Our Better Beasts was on it.  Well, I was completely taken by surprise, and deeply honored at the same time.  A friend told me “Congratulations!” and I had to ask why.  I quickly went to the website to see.  The list is full of amazing works by writers in Canada–and there I was among them.  The Sunburst Award is given for “excellence in Canadian literature of the Fantastic.”  Five judges read all the submissions and make their longlist.  Later they will make a short-list of about five works per category, and in September, they will announce winners.  I’m so stoked even to make the longlist with my debut book, that I’m going to revel in this for a long time!  I want to buy all the other books in the Adult Fiction section and read them!  And put them on a little shelf in this order, because I’m cheesy that way.  And because, if you like great lit of the fantastic, you’ll love what’s on this list Sunburst has made for us.  Thank you, Sunburst Award Society, for making lists like this, for loving literature of the fantastic, and especially, right now, for choosing my book for your longlist.  It means a lot to me as both a writer and a Canadian.

The List:

 

 

 

My Faith in Werewolves

tumblr_nmlov9kobq1s3y6tro1_1280I grew up with a dangerous love of werewolves.  I wanted to meet them.  I wanted to run with them in the woods behind the house.  I wanted them to break into my room at night and kneel at my bed and whisper all the courageous, adventurous things I could become.

I drew pictures of werewolves. I couldn’t help myself.  Especially when I was 14 and living outside of Caruthersville, MO, on the levy by the Mississippi River, where my father was the pastor of a small country church–those pictures came every day into my head and just bled out of my pencils and pens.  Most of these werewolves were kind, masculine, big brotherly, mentor-like werewolves.  I was not clued-in to my head at the time.

These werewolves came, most likely, from my deeply embedded and hidden sexuality, a love for hairy men that I could not understand–a feeling like there was a wild side of me that I must hide away.  But the werewolves at my window were always free.  Free to run.

These werewolves I drew–the first one made me weep as a teenager–there was something important in that picture, something I couldn’t fully understand growing up in my deeply religious environment.  I don’t regret the beautiful years of being deep in that family and faith (and I’m still a big part of my family and faith) but I regret not knowing what that was.  I’d have been a much different person if I had known I was gay at 15 instead of at 34.

I appreciate the magic and wonder my ignorance left me–and that’s a strange blessing to be thankful for, but it’s a blessing nonetheless. Because I could not believe in my sexuality, I believed werewolves were real.  I musta lived under some really awesome bubble of cognitive dissonance for an A+ student to believe werewolves were possible and still understand and love my science classes.  But there I was–a high school student who kept a space open in my brain for the possibility of werewolves.  It’s not so hard to believe.  For me, son of a Southern Baptist minister, I had a world with angel-demon fights, Jesus talking to you out of the air, fiery chariots racing to the sky, resurrecting dead people, talking donkeys–that’s a world where werewolves can happen, too, isn’t it?  That space I kept open–it’s a similar space open for the possibility of miracles, of faith.  So why not a …sorta faith in werewolves?

Continue reading

They are queer Lumberjacks, and that’s okay: “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” by Charles Payseur reviewed

11884994176_203f040455_z_ink_liThere’s a sweet flashfiction piece by Charles Payseur on Flashfiction Online that highlights something awesome about LGBT writing today.  It deserves a read and a shout out.  “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” is probably about 1000 words, but it tells a pretty big story about two gay lumberjacks that goes beyond where I thought the story would go.

 

Be careful in these woods: SPOILERS AHEAD.  Why don’t you just go read it and come back here.

Good, you’re back.

First, let me say how happy I am to keep seeing LGBT writers in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Flashfiction Online, and other mainstream venues even beyond the “Queers Destroy” series, and other special issues.

The story sets us up to believe how valuable Dryads are in this world, that you can monetize their parts and sell them for money.  Our heroes, a pair of gay lumberjacks who are subtle, but not that subtle, in the camp about their relationship, are presented as good lumberjacks: they get there early, they chop down trees.  They do their jobs well.  We are also led to believe that these two men have a dream that requires money.

The narrative often tells us how aggressively hostile Dryads are to humans, and how to find them and collect the money on them.

But along the way, some great narrative magic happens–and the plight of our heroes becomes the plight of the Dryads. And instead of thinking selfishly–using the Dryads to fund their escape into safety–they take the dryads with them.

I love this story because it highlights an aspect of being LGBT that isn’t often explored in fiction: that our persecution does not make us selfishly protect ourselves, but creates compassion towards others who are hunted and persecuted too.  Even though the story establishes that the dryads have a hunger for human blood, and that they can be dangerous and attack, the gay lumberjacks are saving the dryads–in exchange for the dryads helping the couple hide in safety in the future.

“Come away with me,”is a beautiful line because it is so unexpected, and because it deepens the way we understand the main characters.

I also enjoy the shout out to the diversity in the LGBT community—that these main characters are “bears” (read: big bearded hairy gay men).  I also like where this story didn’t go: The other lumberjacks could have “found them out” and hurt them and this would have been a predictable “hurt the gays” story—but the men’s reactions are complex: they both desire the freedom of these gay men to form a relationship, and also have an impression that there is a fluidity to sexuality and the man you are in camp is not the man you are back in the “real world.”  There is a strange allowance for incongruity and a blurriness of masculinity here in the forest.  But, the text still signals the danger the men are in the more the camp fills up with other lumberjacks, and they keep their voices down in the tent, and they smother the openness they had when they were alone.

It helps Payseur make the comparison with the Dryads–who are perfectly fine if no one finds them, but who are in trouble the more the men encroach upon their privacy.  These gay men are not in some gay paradise–they are in an allowed limbo that is incumbent upon tacit ignorance and acceptance–a short-lived window of opportunity.

They use it well.  In the last paragraph, just as you’ve decided these men will use the dryads to fund their escape from this tricky life of masculine conformity, they form a union with the dryads by rescuing them, and, at least in the proposition one of the gay lumberjacks offers, replanting them in a “safe space” with the lumberjacks in their new home.

Perhaps it’s the sense of hope that I love in this piece, and maybe it’s the accurate reflection of compassion over self-interest.  Either way, it’s beautiful.

__________________

 

 

 

 

 

Write with Me at The BRAINERY workshop!

brainerybanner-800x253

Would you like to write a few stories this summer and work with me for ten weeks?  The Brainery Workshop has several spots still open to work with me or Valerie Valdes in times that are convenient for you!

EVERYTHING IS ONLINE.  So you can participate no matter WHERE you are in the world, as long as you have a good internet connection.

We get together once a week and work on your stories.  We also go through Ursula K. LeGuin’s workshop guide, Steering the Craft, and we use the Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremey Zerfoss’ Wonderbook.  We’ll also be reading stories from Lightspeed and other magazines.

Come join a small group online—using GoToMeeting and WetInk–to create a great place for writing!

Want to know more?:  Follow this link to the BRAINERY WORKSHOP.