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)
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Original Art Available on Squarespace

I have put my available original artwork on Squarespace. All my watercolors of fairies in the garden, Gardens of the Mythbegotten, and all the Yukon Cornelius paintings as well as my more controversial paintings of police action in Columbus.

You can follow the link to Squarespace here.

Remember too, that if you want any of these images on magnets, buttons, aprons, pillows, journals, that you can follow my link to Redbubble here.

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.

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“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.

Awards Eligibility Post, 2019

I only published one thing this year, 2019, but it was a big publication for me. “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” was a novelette (8000 words) published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the March/April 2019 issue and is eligible for Canadian and American writing awards. It is Fantasy. It’s about the power of music, music mentoring, about the courage to go on after loss, and features jazz-playing fauns. The character is queer and disabled. He stays queer and disabled and alive through the whole story.

Below you’ll find a link to the whole story here online, or you can read an excerpt from it.

*I am a Canadian and American writer, holding dual citizenship.

Thank you for visiting my 2019 year round up page, and I hope you enjoy my story.

Excerpt:

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Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Mr. Dance couldn’t keep his eyes off Eric’s clarinet. From the moment the young football player opened the black case and revealed the instrument, Mr. Dance knew that what he thought had been broken– as his legs were– or lost–as he felt–had instead been hidden for a hundred years.

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“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” published in F&SF + Some featured Jazz

My story has been published in F&SF for the March/April 2019 issue. I’m so happy about that.

An old jazz-playing faun has the chance to get back everything that was taken from him a hundred years ago, if he can take it from his only student. The story has Jazz, Mentoring and Hope as themes. It also asks the question: how do you change your own life?

My two characters, a young college football player who wants to become a jazz musician, and an old faun who just wants to be a part of the world again, struggle and fail and attempt again this massive turn in their lives, together. At one point, one of the characters says, “I feel like I’m this tiny tugboat trying to turn this massive life around.” And that’s one of the questions I wanted to pose–how do you do that? I hope you find these characters as inspiring as I did.

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program

I mention an organization I used to work for in my twenties when I was at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program under the Missouri Folk Arts Program. An example of their work is here–pairing two musicians together, a master and an apprentice, much like Mr. Dance and Eric in the story.

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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.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Religion in Science Fiction (from io9)

Back in 2009, Charlie Jane Anders published a nifty blogpost on io9 in the midst of the BSG finale, last of the LOST episodes, and after the aftermath of Heroes, about how NOT to put religion in your science fiction.  Things she was tired of seeing, but also things she believed you might also be tired of seeing.  The blog post still feels relevant, though you can argue her points.  It challenges us to come up with ways to avoid putting faith in science fiction badly.  Try putting one of your “deadly sins” of putting religion in science fiction (or fantasy) in the comments section here–and let’s see if we can come up with our own version of this list.

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The 7 Deadly Sins of Religion in Science Fiction.  

Religion is a huge part of science fiction – and it makes the genre better and more fascinating, as Battlestar Galactica proved. But there are seven mistakes SF should avoid in portraying the spiritual realm.

BSG wouldn’t have been nearly as epic if it hadn’t included spiritual themes from the beginning. The inclusion of religious elements added a way bigger scope and grandeur to the story of humanity’s last remnants struggling to survive – and it was realistic, since you’d expect people to be asking the big theological questions in that situation.

In general, religion and spiritual topics are a huge part of science fiction – if you’re really determined to avoid them altogether, you’re probably stuck with a few golden age novels, and a handful of Lost In Space reruns. But just like other science fiction elements, like first contact, time travel and space battles, science fictional religion can be done well – or it can be cheesy and weird.

Here are seven mistakes science fiction sometimes makes in handling religion (and I freely admit I was influenced to think about this by all the comments on Annalee’s final BSG recap and some of our other posts):

1. The cargo cult. Yes, I know, the gods really must be crazy. But I’m really sick of stories about primitive peoples who discover high technology and start worshipping it. Or the descendants of high-tech people, who have become primitive and started worshipping their ancestors’ technology. Like the Ewoks worshipping C-3PO, or the desert people worshipping the spacesuit in Doctor Who‘s “Planet Of Fire.” There’s usually an undertone of “See? This proves religion is teh stupid.” Also horrible: robots worshipping the people who made them, or aliens worshipping humans. Or aliens worshipping Ferengi.

The 7 Deadly Sins Of Religion In Science FictionEXPAND

2. The cheap Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with having a messianic figure in your science fiction – I’m not trying to take all the fun out of everything here – but don’t just pull the Jesus imagery out of thin air and expect it to mean something. Yes, I’m looking at you, crucified Neo. And I’m looking at you, Jesus H. Baltar. (And even though I love the ending of Doctor Who‘s “Last Of The Time Lords,” I’m also looking at you, floaty cruciform Doctor.) The indispensible TVTropes website has a great list of “random religious symbolism tossed in for no reason” moments.

3. The dumb space gods. Whenever we actually meet a god or gods in science fiction, it’s almost always a letdown. (There are exceptions – Star Trek: Deep Space Nine managed to have our heroes meet the timeless Prophets inside the wormhole, without ever losing their mystique.) Usually, though, when we meet a god or a godlike alien, it’s a cheesy old guy with a funny beard. Or it’s Jodie Foster’s condescending dad.

For the other 4 deadly sins…. seek out this link:  http://io9.com/5185748/the-7-deadly-sins-of-religion-in-scien

A Flood of Great Writing Techniques in Noah: (Re)-Writing/Expanding Sacred Stories

Russell Crowe as NoahLet me praise Aronofsky’s Noah for its fleshing out of an iconic thin narrative of Noah in the Bible and making it a story.

The story of Noah in the Bible is relatively sparse.  Noah never says anything.  God does all the talking.  In the movie, well, God may be doing some communicating, but since the narrative is told more from the ground, from Noah and his family’s perspective, Noah is the main character, making choices.

Making choices.  I think that’s an important thing to highlight.  One of the strange ironies of religious life, it seems, is that the closer we get to our God, whomever that may be, the seemingly fewer choices we get–until we are the Hand of God, the Feet of God, the Puppet of God.  I don’t think this is really the case.  But depiction in movies and books sometimes have us think characters who are devoted to their god cease to think and act based completely on the commands of God.  One should add “the interpretation of what they believe to be” between “on” and “the” in that last sentence. Because in many cases, believers have to do a lot of interpreting.

The movie holds out that question to answer.  Certainly Noah has to decide HOW he is hearing God.  He gets parts right—there is going to be a flood.  God wants him to build an ark.  The animals are going to come and get on board the boat.  After that, though, Noah is subject to some speculation and extrapolation when he can’t really hear a clear answer from God.

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MARCH 1st deadline for Clarion Workshop 2015 application

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If you’re thinking about investing in your writing as a science fiction and fantasy writer, Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in San Diego is a good deal–and your application is due MARCH 1st.  Six weeks of time with other writers like you, with six amazing published writers in your field.  You and your work are taken seriously there.  I encourage you to investigate the options at Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop in San Diego.

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