Fabulous and Free in SFF: Fictional. Queer. Here.

17 Sep

Hello everyone!  I’m Becca, the new intern for Skiffy & Fanty!  Long story short, I’m ecstatic to be a part of this amazing community and to lend my own voice to it.  I’m happy to announce that I’ll be writing a few articles about the LGBT+ community within science-fiction and fantasy, and it starts here!  

A significant aspect of these articles is the use of the word “queer,” which has been debated for years within the community.  For me, reclaiming the word has been an important part of my own identity, and is one way I can describe myself and others in this context without fear.  Here at the Skiffy and Fanty Show, we’re on our own journey to represent all of the wonderful people in the LGBT+ community, and we feel that using “queer” as an identifier is a more inclusive and supportive way to do so.  Check out this article from Pride.com for more information!

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When people ask my why I’m so keen on finding LGBT representation in literature, it’s an easy answer.  As a queer person myself, I am always on the lookout for fiction that represents people like me.  The growing number of queer characters across all genres is an important step towards realistic representation that reflects how the modern world is showing off their queer colors.  Popular queer characters are popping up in everything from young adult fiction to alternate-history.  They’ve existed since the beginning of time, and they will continue to grow and flourish as readers search for that representation and devour it, just like the void will devour us all in the end.

What follows is a list, in no particular order, of some of my own favorite LGBT characters across science-fiction, fantasy, and alternate history.  I highly recommend each and every one of these books, not just for the fantastic stories and the authors who wrote them, but for the characters who make each story rich and unique.

1. Rhy and Alucard

V. E. Schwab’s popular Shades of Magic trilogy featured several interesting characters, but two of the most notable characters were queer and powerful.  It is impossible to separate these two characters.  Prince Rhy, the brother of her protagonist Kell, is freely bisexual.  Meanwhile, dashing captain Alucard is gay—leaving only one possible solution that definitely pleases readers.

Sadly, Schwab recently had to make the hard decision to pull the publishing rights for her book from their Russian publisher, as they had cut out the gay relationship in her novel in order to comply with Russian morality laws.  

darker shade of magic

The Darker Shade of Magic Trilogy is available from Macmillan Publishers.

2. Hero and Houndstooth

We have featured Sarah Gailey and her fantastic works on Signal Boost, but I don’t hesitate to pull you right back into her alternate-history novella, River of Teeth.  One of the richest parts of this novella was her queer characters, abundant and strong.  Hero is a black, non-binary, gay demolitions expert.  Houndstooth is a bisexual hopper (hippo-cowboy).  It practically writes itself—but no worries, Gailey did it anyways, and it’s beyond heart-warming.  

But also, hippos. Hippos.

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River of Teeth and its sequel, Taste of Marrow, are available from Macmillan Publishers.

3. Violet

The Valhalla Trilogy is a science fiction series written by Ari Bach that features an almost alarming amount of walruses.  Violet MacRae is Bach’s protagonist—a woman who is not afraid of near-death experiences or even actual death.  In a world where everything can be reprogrammed, Violet stands out and kicks ass.  Violet gets her gay romance, but it’s a long road to even the slight possibility of happiness.  Violet herself is complex and well-written, attracted to women, and bad-ass.  

valhalla

The Valhalla Trilogy is available from Dreamspinner Press.

4. Cheris

Yoon Ha Lee’s debut novel, Ninefox Gambit, is a stunning work of science fiction that inhabits a space within a post-sexist and post-homophobic society, creating a refreshing breath of air within today’s climate.  It’s easy to fall in love with this series because you’re dropped straight into it, with no warning or explanation.  Cheris, a skilled mathematician and soldier, is a lesbian without having to identify as such—in her universe, it’s not something remarkable.  It just is.  Her identity is natural, accepted, and common.  While Cheris is also plagued by an undead mass murderer, and her decisions questioned, her identity never is.

ninefox gambit

Ninefox Gambit and its sequel, Raven Strategem, are available from Simon & Schuster.

5. Nancy

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway is a fantastic short story all around, and what made it even more profound was her protagonist’s clear-cut and blatantly stated asexuality and her struggle with having others, including her immediate family, recognize her sexuality.  Combining a fairy tale-esque story with LGBT+ issues, McGuire creates an evocative novella and a wonderfully representative character.

every heart a doorway

Every Heart a Doorway is available from Macmillan Publishers.

6. Fenris

Beth Cato’s novel Breath of Earth is a rich addition to the blending of science fiction and fantasy.  Her magic is breathtaking, her science impeccable, and one character stands out—Fenris, transgender, brilliant, and strong.  He’s not the protagonist, but he’s not a throw-away character, either.  Cato makes Fenris an essential part of the narrative, and his identity is cherished and acknowledged by those who care about him.

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Breath of Earth, and its sequel Call of Fire, are available from Harper Collins Publishers.

7. Jess

Jess is a regular high school student in a universe where superpowers are common and Jess doesn’t have any.  C. B. Lee’s YA novel Not Your Sidekick is heartwarming and eerily resonating, and I honestly loved Jess because of her personal struggles, which I identify with heavily.  Jess is bisexual, the middle child, and struggling to find an internship, all the while struggling with herself to reconcile her heritage into her own sense of self.  If you pick up this novel, expect a cute romance, an interesting villain, and some spectacular representation!

not your sidekick

Not Your Sidekick and its sequel, Not Your Villain, are available from Interlude Press.

And a throwback moment:  I grew up reading Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series, and it was one of my first introductions to the very concept of queerness.  She writes lesbians, she writes gays, and most of all, she writes beautifully.  Her novels don’t shy away from the hard facts of bigotry and homophobia.  Lackey is one of the people responsible for introducing fantasy readers to the richness of the LGBT+ community, alongside authors like Tanya Huff and Tamara Pierce.

All of these fabulous characters stand at the forefront of popular fiction.  As the colorful cast of LGBT+ characters is growing rapidly, the science fiction and fantasy genres are changing for the better!  Hopefully you get to add some new books to your to-read pile after this article.  Help us highlight even more diversity in fiction, and tell us about some of your favorite LGBT+ characters in the comments below!

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