Aug 31 2010 3:56pm

Queering SFF: Where’s the Polyamory?

A Twitter question and conversation involving Holly Black, among others, got me thinking about non-traditional relationships in speculative fiction. While I’m seeing more and more queer characters and couples in SFF, there’s still a dearth of other types of relationships. Threesomes, foursomes, moresomes if you prefer the term—where are they? 

The multiple-partnered relationship is inherently queer even in occasional circumstances where the attraction and involvement is predominantly heterosexual: they’re outside the social norm and unwelcome in that norm. They're treated as Other, legally and socially. In circumstances of equal attraction among the parties involved, a non-traditional relationship is queer on that level also. Bisexuality (or pansexuality) isn’t altogether common as a whole in SFF, let alone in combination with an alternate love-structure.

So what gives? Is it the potential difficulty in juggling the emotional conflicts and developments of three or more characters that keeps people from writing stories about them? Is it that most people who’ve never been in a polyamorous relationship don’t think about them, though they may think of queer couples? I can’t say for sure.

In the interest of full disclosure: my first passionate love-relationship was as part of a triad. Things did not work out—ego, age and the problems of a young man who was uncomfortable with his sexuality—but it left me with a lasting impression of love as something bigger and more open to possibilities than most people accept. That may be the reason I’d like to see more stories that treat three-and-moresomes as viable, acceptable relationships. It reflects my experience.

(On the other hand, I happen to prefer stories about queer folk as a whole, so even if I hadn’t had that relationship, I still would have been thumbs-up for non-traditional love structures.)

The original Twitter discussion was about love triangles in YA fiction (love ‘em or hate ‘em?), which spurred me to think about the trope as a whole: why does it have to be combative? So many books use the triangle to push plot but would never consider letting the three characters in question come together. YA is a genre that frequently explores the development and discovery of a lead character’s sexuality; I would expect a bit more relationship variety. (Though honestly, I’ve found less queer spec-fic as a whole in YA—I’m unsure if that’s my lack of ability to find it, or an actual lack? Topic for later.)

Outside of that genre, in adult speculative fiction, there have been a few stellar examples of stories with moresomes. Catherynne M. Valente’s Hugo-nominated Palimpsest features a polyamorous romantic unit in an erotic world where sexuality as a whole is much more fluid than in most novels. The relationship built between the lead characters comes together slowly, piece by piece, and has some friction as is inevitable in any combination of people. I thoroughly appreciated the portrayal of alternate relationship-structure and how it contributed to the novel as a whole instead of being shunted off to the side.

Another book, this one older, also sticks out in my mind. Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time deals with different family units and relationship structures. The building of a family with three or more folks involved is a point I haven’t seen much of in SFF, though I know there must be more examples out there, especially from the libertarian-heyday of SF. The tensions between characters as they parent in one group, love in others, and manage everything in between is fantastic—Piercy allows for the problem of jealousy and mediation of jealousy in these alternate structures. It’s not a perfect book but it’s an interesting one.

And you may never hear me say this in public again, but that’s one thing the later Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton have going for them: Anita’s relationship with her live-in partners Nathaniel and Micah is perhaps the most functional and sane of all the romance and sex going on in the book. The latest novel also explored a bit of the relationship between the men themselves, too. The books might be, well, not good, and frequently make me wince on a feminist and/or writer level, but they are openly kink-and-poly-positive at this point in the story. (Everyone has a guilty pleasure, all right?)

The interview with Elizabeth Bear from a few weeks ago dealt some with this, too, as she herself has written novels with alternate family and love structures.

So, I can’t say there are none. I simply wish there were more that treated polyamory with respect and intelligence in SFF. The romance genre seems to have a bigger availability of alternate relationships despite its tight restriction to convention, but we all know my love is for speculative fiction.

As for why there aren't more, I do think the potential difficulty of writing a functional polyamorous relationship might be part of the reason. Weaving tension, struggle and inevitable friction between a couple together with an overarching plot in a novel is hard, to say the least. Adding another character, which in many books would mean adding another POV, may be a bit daunting. The added component of the enhanced struggle of managing emotions between three people without allowing jealousy or “unfairness” to creep in is difficult in real life. In fiction, equally so, especially if the writer themself has no experience in the matter. Writing a three-way relationship instead of the usual two-way adds a new level of expertise to the narrative: after all, in an SFF novel, you've usually got some large, earth (or wherever) shattering calamities going on that need solving in addition to the interpersonal relationships.

I'm not trying to excuse the lack of poly relationships, mind. I still think there should be more and that it can be done well, since I've seen writers manage it. That doesn't mean I don't have some idea of what might be holding people back. So, one of the things I'd like to see: more stories that challenge the social norm entirely, discard it in favor of exploring the possibilities of larger love-structures.

In space, why does the two-person relationship stay the norm? I’d like to see more collective relationships developed between people living together in shuttle environments, for example. Close quarters are bound to produce some interesting variety in liaisons and emotions. In a second-world fantasy, it would be one more part of the created universe to have the regular structure of relationships include three or more people for a family unit. (Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis books present a way of dealing with this through science fiction, though I wouldn’t say they present the two human, one alien relationship as equal or fair.)

I would like to see more stories with characters doing things a little differently and making it their own way, with the people they choose, even if it’s not what everyone expects. I’d like to see more love triangles turn into relationships. That’s what I want more of. Equal, loving, functional relationships between more than just two people—I know it can be done, dammit. Throw any books or stories my way, I’ll happily find and devour them. I’m also interested in narratives that deal with the management of a long-term alternately structured relationship and not just the initial “hook-up,” so to speak.

Then again, Nalo Hopkinson’s tweeted response to my musing on needing more threesomes in YA and specfic is perhaps the most meaningful of all: “We gotta write em if we want em.”

That’s certainly the truth.

Brit Mandelo is a multi-fandom geek with a special love for comics and queer literature. She can be found on Twitter and Livejournal.

Kenneth Sutton
2. kenneth
Several of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books include polyamorous relationships.
David Goldfarb
3. David_Goldfarb
Heinlein, yes; also Delany's Babel-17 has a society in which threesomes are accepted. In Jo Walton's Lifelode, polyamory is the norm and monogamy is considered eccentric and a bit sweet.
Alexander Gord
6. agord
Have you read Tales of MU, by Alexandra Erin? It is an ongoing web series, which I'll admit I lost track of at some point and haven't had the time to catch up on. It starts here http://www.talesofmu.com/story/book01/1#content Non-standard and sometimes poly relationships are one of its primary focuses.

Also, there is a poly relationship in the Wheel of Time series, though everyone in it agrees that saving the world pretty much has to come first, so the people in question frequently don't interact for books at a time.
Evan Langlinais
7. Skwid
Vonda N. McIntyre's Superluminal and its sequels feature a group marriage, and some relatively realistic poly drama.

Also, the memorable phrase "Is that how weasels screw?"
Kimberly Unger
8. Kimberly Unger
I have to agree that writing poly-relationships is trickier, simply because you need to tie so many strings together and keep track of so many different involements.

To add to the list, I'll point out that Caprica has some very front-and-center poly relationships, as did Star Trek: Enterprise (if you remember Dr. Phlox had multiple marriage partners).

I suspect that they aren't so much as absent as they are in the background. Unless your story is focusing on that particular relationship set (which probably puts you into Sci-Fi/Romance, rather than core Sci-Fi) then those elements are going to be backstory and filler and likely glossed over in favor of your primary plot thread.
Kimberly Unger
9. PoorMojo
Candas Jane Dorsey's "Black Wine" has several interesting and unique multi-partner relationships.
Mouldy Squid
10. Mouldy_Squid
Gregory Benford's In the Ocean of Night and its direct sequel Across the Sea of Suns.
James Goetsch
11. Jedikalos
Heinlein's books were where I first came across this idea a teen-ager: I remember it be just another widening of my perspectives that sci-fi has given me.
Kimberly Unger
12. omega_n
Ursula K LeGuin concieved of some poly-ish cultures in her Ekumen short stories. There's one culture where four people are involved in a marriage: a man and a women from the Day moiety and a man and a woman from the Night moiety. People from the same Moiety do not have sexual relations within the marriage, but they are expected to have sexual relations with both people from the other Moiety. This, of course, brings up problems of its own when a person is only attracted to one gender, whether same or opposite.
Jason Ramboz
14. jramboz
Though it's been years since I read it, I recall that Michael P. Kube-McDowell's The Quiet Pools featured a future society wherein group marriages were the norm. There's even a lot of (positive) discussion of what it's like growing up in such a family. I'd highly recommend giving it (and the author in general) a read!
Brit Mandelo
15. BritMandelo
Absolutely yes to Heinlein and le Guin, who also made impressions on youthful me. Marion Z Bradley, too, I've had encounters with, though she always struck me as more of a romance writer.

I suspect there are actually more poly SFF books than, say, poly mystery novels or commercial fiction. I'm just a greedy reader, I can't help it--always want more!
Karen Lofstrom
16. DPZora
M. A. Foster's Gameplayers of Zan and sequels. Marriages of four partners the norm.
Kimberly Unger
17. Affreca
Joan D. Vinge's Heaven's Chronicles - Two of the main characters are the surviving members of the group marriage that crewed an exploration ship.

James Alan Gardner's Vigilant - One of the main characters is in a supportive group marriage.
Kimberly Unger
18. Elaine Thom
Melissa Scott's Silent Leight trilogy: title character had multiple husbands. I think her Kindly Ones had some poly stuff, too.

Bradley and Heinlein have already been mentioned.

A writer in the genre, although this particular book is straight historical, OS Card wrote one about the early Mormons that made 19th century traditional Christian-raised women supporting polygamy plausible to me. I could understand it, when I hadn't been able to, before. (peruses list of his titles...) might have been the one called Saints.
Ursula L
19. Ursula
Bujold's Sharing Knife series has some secondary characters in a poly relationship - a married couple was having problems with infertility, and a second man joined the marriage.  This successfully resolved the family's infertility, and the threesome are portrayed as all of them loving each other.  
Michael Ikeda
20. mikeda
Near the end of Diane Duane's "Door into Sunset" (third book in the "Tale of the Five" series) is a wedding with seven participants. The storyverse in the "Tale of the Five" series is one in which polyamory is reasonably widely practiced.

(And the Original Sin is jealousy.)
Kimberly Unger
21. mectech
Several from the shorter lengths to suggest, though sadly many of the titles have deserted me (which for me is an all-too-common trait of short story titles) Warning: mild spoilers ahead

John Varley has several shorts set in a universe in which being trans is easy & common, and people frequently switch. This is background for the arc of shorts including "Blue Champagne" & "Tango Charlie & Foxtrot Romeo;" however, he's done a couple featuring a protagonist called Cleo, one of which focuses on her decision to change & the effect it has on her marriage. Try the collection called Blue Champagne first, but it might be in The Persistence of Vision. For that matter, read "The Persistence of Vision," in which a colony of blind people develop a sort of group marriage as a side effect of other elements of their society.

Setting the WayBack Machine to when I was first reading SFF in the early 90s, I read another short that was either Anne McCaffrey or the aforementioned Marion Zimmer Bradley (I lean toward Bradley on this one), set on a planet in which the intervention of a 3rd person called a ru'adh (not sure I've spelled that right) was required in order for humans to successfully reproduce. Really an interesting take on how this affects relationships, given when it was written, from a collection entitled Best of .

One that I just read, featuring a society in which a standard family unit is 3 mothers + children, is very likely Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," which can be found in the collection The Secret History of Science Fiction, edited by John Kessel & James Patrick Kelly.

I, too, would love to see more alternative arrangements in addressed in my reading.
Alex Brown
22. AlexBrown
Speaking of "non-traditional", where are my transvestites? Not all transvetites are drag queens/kings, and not all are queer. I could do with a lot more of that.
Ursula L
23. Ursula
I think it was Jo Walton who wrote a post here a while back called "Tussling with Tolkien" discussing how anyone writing fantasy today has to grapple with Tolkien and his work and legacy, one way or the other.

I wonder if there is a similar issue with stories with poly relationships and Heinlein?  As someone who wrote a lot of stories with poly relationships, and who is something of a giant in the genre, a SF writer wanting to explore poly relationships will inevitably be doing so in the shadow of Heinlein.  

So a writer wanting to explore poly relationships in an SF setting has to deal with not only the current social baggage the topic generates but also with knowing that they'll be read in the shadow of things like "Stranger in a Strange Land."   I suspect that this might be intimidating for a new writer.

It's a problem, if it is a problem, that would correct itself as more stories are written including poly relationships, so that these early stories are not so overwhelming in their influence. 

But in terms of trying to encourage more stories that include poly relationships, facilitating discussion/support for grappling with Heinlein's legacy may be helpful.  
Bruce Cohen
24. SpeakerToManagers
The earliest story containing polyamory that I can think of is Fritz Leiber's short story "Nice Girl with Five Husbands" circa 1955. Just the idea of more than 1 man and 1 woman in a marriage was deeply subversive then and there.
Kimberly Unger
25. vcmw
To my mind Tanya Huff falls at least somewhere on this spectrum with many of her works - whether it's the network of relationships between Tony/Henry/Victoria/Mike in the Blood books or the good-natured romps in The Enchantment Emporium or the visiting amongst folks in the Quarters books... her writing world strikes me as one where relationships are pretty much open to how the characters define them among themselves.
Kimberly Unger
26. mycrazyhair
It's been a while since I last read Octavia Butler's Fledgling, but I think that one counts. Also, David Palmer's Emergence at least mentioned poly relationships, though they weren't central to the plot.
Brit Mandelo
27. BritMandelo

I may have something for you in a year or so. *g* (Character who is part of the New Project I've been researching lately.)


That's true--I'm about to admit a SFnal sin right now: I am not actually a fan of Heinlein. There, I said it out loud. I never fell in love with him the way most of the people I know did, though I read him. He is much less of an influence on me than le Guin or my own experiences in romance.

I think you're right. More stories will lessen that shadow--and more discussion about the shapes of polyamory. It's hard to even discuss it all as One Thing, because there are so many different sorts of relationships and possibilities.


Everyone in the world has told me to read that Duane series--I need to find copies!
Kimberly Unger
28. ofostlic

The author has released the first two as ebooks (dianeduane.com). The third is said to be coming soon.
Rob Trotter
29. shadar
Wheel of Time Series (lets just leave Rand aside though). The Aiel (eg Rhuarc/Amys/Melaine) are the key poly relationships (it's an accepted part of their culture) but there are others. Think of Myrelle and her 3/4 warders. It is considered somwhat scandalous though.
Kimberly Unger
30. Alex Pharmakon
The Vonda McIntyre Starfarers series was my first exposure to polyamory. Elizabeth Bear's "New Amsterdam" features a lovely, relatively drama-free poly relationship.
Madeline Ferwerda
31. MadelineF
Second #18. Five-Twelvths of Heaven, by Melissa Scott, starts the Silence Leigh trilogy that has everything you're looking for, Brit... At the start of the book, Silence needs a way out of a terrible economic situation. A loving couple of guys who are an engineer and captain of a space ship need to find a woman so they can marry and hold the ship as common property: the laws of their planet don't allow gay marriage, but do allow poly marriage. Silence is a pilot in addition to being female. The marriage of convenience turns into something real.

Over the course of the three books I believe there is some struggles within the trio, but mostly a longterm depiction of a solid marriage... Been a long time since I've had access to those books, though.

I loved that it was a guy-heavy trio; I sometimes get very irritated at books that seem to be inching towards "yay the guy gets all the free sex he wants with several women who are kinda irrelevant otherwise". Like, if it's not from a gay press you can't have gay love... Bah.
Kimberly Unger
32. Aurora Lumiere
Many writers write what they would want to read. If the breadth of SFF involving your preferred relationship structure doesn't exist perhaps it is because your assumption of the worlds interest in polyamory is overstated. Personally, regarding people, I care least of all about messy relationships.
If a writer needs to contort, twist and contrive his characters relationships -to make those characters interesting- than why write the story in the first place? Put before me a man that holds my attention while he is at rest, who is magnetic sans drama, this is a character worth following through a story.
Human relationships are a physical manifestion of all of the involved members psychologies. Not all psychologies hold interest for the general public. Perhaps many SFF writers are not interested in constructing thier characters with cognitive frameworks focused on sexuality and generalized affection and more interested in those having to do with self awareness within time/space, finding ones personal place in the grand scheme of things or in following along with thier characters as they develop fully into something resembling compassionate or noble heroes/ heroines. Figures not likely to retain thier status without choosing to love one person soley.
Whatever the members of the polyamory subculture will say, the rest of the world will tell you that they sympathize with and are more engaged by the man who has everything to lose in the one person with whom he shares it all; than with the man who has many near equal attachments, each of whom shares just a piece of his life and heart, leaving him many avenues of emotional survival and very little chance for devastating loss.
Kimberly Unger
33. Ashbet
Wow, @Aurora Lumiere, that's kind of a string of assumptions there.

It might be a challenge for a writer to find a way of presenting these concepts to their audience in a way that conveys the depth of love and feeling that can certainly arise in a polyamorous relationship . . . but that doesn't mean that it can't be done, or that it results in unreadable characters.

Mercedes Lackey/Ellen Guon collaborated on a series called "Bedlam's Bard" (first book is "Knight of Ghosts and Shadows"), which contained a polyamorous story arc.

I also really enjoyed the poly aspects in Tanya Huff's "Blood" series.

Elizabeth Hand, in "Waking the Moon," had something between a love triangle and a poly relationship going at one point -- can't say too much else without spilling the plot.

I would certainly love to see more writers take on this topic, because it's one that I, as a die-hard F/SF reader, would very much enjoy seeing done well in a variety of settings!
Michael Burke
34. Ludon
Ian R. Macleod's disturbing short story Grownups follows a boy's journey from child to grownup in a world where it takes three to tango - Father, Mother and Uncle.
Brit Mandelo
35. BritMandelo
@Aurora Lumiere

Respectfully, I have to disagree in more or less every way with your view of polyamorous relationships and the value of inter-personal interaction in speculative fiction. Books about Manly Lonely Heroes bore the unholy hell out of me--people exist in a realm where they interact with other on levels of love, companionship and also enmity. A text that ignores or isn't capable of dealing with real human relationships is not a text I want to read. An author writing complex characters with complex relationships isn't "contriving" or "twisting" in any way. They're writing people.

"each of whom shares just a piece of his life and heart, leaving him many avenues of emotional survival and very little chance for devastating loss."

And that? That is so, so, so, SO wrong. As someone who has been in a poly relationship I can tell you that you aren't sharing a little piece of your heart, divided out. It's not like Person A gets one half and Person B gets the other half, so if one bails, you'll be basically okay. You can experience devstating, life-shattering loss as a member of a triad, let me tell you. You can experience the same depth and breath of emotion for two people as you can for one. And they can hurt you just as much. You can share all of yourself with more than one other person; if anything, it opens you up to more potential of pain and loss than just one.

Frankly, there are plenty of books that ignore sexuality and are filled with Straight White Heroes. You can go read those all you like; there's a metric ton of them. But for the rest of us, who would rather explore outside the normative mold, there's not a lot--you've already got yours, so let us have ours.

Additionally, your opening statement ("If the breadth of SFF involving your preferred relationship structure doesn't exist perhaps it is because your assumption of the worlds interest in polyamory is overstated.") indicates a certain attitude toward minority groups in spec-fic that rubs me all sorts of wrong. It's very easy to replace the word "poly" with "queer" in that sentence--after all, the lack of queer folk in books must be because the world doesn't care about them.
Brit Mandelo
36. BritMandelo

I just picked up a copy of "Waking the Moon" and haven't had a chance to read it yet--that definitely bumped it up my list.
Kimberly Unger
37. James Davis Nicoll
There's a cozy series set in Minnesota I get sent where the lead is dating the police chief and the town's main dentist. At one point the townsfolk start pressuring her to make a decision already ;she adds a third guy to the roster. Only temporarily as it turns out but the complaining was gone by the next book.

I'm completely blanking on the series and author.
Kimberly Unger
38. Blueworld
Like Heinlein or not, you have to talk about him. The term "polyamory" was coined by the founders of the real life pagan Church of All Worlds inspired by Stranger in a Strange Land. Of course, non-monogamous relationships have always existed, but the modern poly movement was directly influenced by Heinlein's books. The real-world poly community has always had a relationship with SF/F, not in the least because of the density of geeks. I think you'll find more polyamory in SF/F books than in any other genre.
Kimberly Unger
39. broundy
Matt Ruff's "Sewer, Gas, and Electric" is a fun SF novel featuring a relationship between a crusading journalist, a submarine captain, and a Chippendales dancer. I recommend it highly.

On the fantasy side, the comic book mini-series "My Faith in Frankie" (written by Mike Carey) starts with a love triangle and ends with a poly triad (thought not the one I was hoping for).
Cathy Mullican
40. nolly
Peter Dickinson's King and Joker is a mystery set in an alternate-history modern-day England, with a V relationship.

This list isn't genre-specific, but includes a fair bit of spec-fic:
Chris Meadows
41. Robotech_Master
I wonder if this is why there's so much polyamory in on-line fiction, such as the Chakat stories at <a href="http://www.chakatsden.com/chakat/FT-index.html">www.chakatsden.com/chakat/FT-index.html</a>: people writing what they'd like to read but isn't available in printed prose.

(And what the heck is with this stupid new post editor? Why can't I make a link point somewhere but have different text?)
Kimberly Unger
42. kittent
This is a wonderful discussion...and i am taking notes for my "to read" list. I'd love to see more poly friendly sf and fantasy...and now I am going to have to add holly black to my twitter list.

As one of five adults in a poly monogamous and just plain weird family I am all in favor of more poly friendly and queer books....
Naomi Libicki
43. AetherealGirl
There's Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, which I like to describe as a sweet SF romance about polyamorous cannibals.
Kimberly Unger
44. a1ay
The earliest story containing polyamory that I can think of is Fritz Leiber's short story "Nice Girl with Five Husbands" circa 1955

In Rudyard Kipling's "Kim" the Woman of Shamlegh, the female ruler of the village of Shamlegh-under-the-Snows, has at least two husbands (and doesn't think much of either of them) and has a crack at Kim as well.

This is fairly accurate: polyandry does happen in Tibet and the region around it.

Polygyny, of course, doesn't really count because it's older than the Bible...
Kimberly Unger
45. EnderAndrew
No one has yet mentioned Octavia Butler. The surviving humans in her Liliths Brood/Xenogenesis series exist in polyamarous (kind of*) relationships with aliens called Oankali.
All of their relationships are threeway, between a male and a female (as I've seen so far but there's no reason given that they couldn't be a different mix, or more) and the third gender.
Aurora: The most foolish sentence in your mostly foolish post was this -
"If the breadth of SFF involving your preferred relationship structure doesn't exist perhaps it is because your assumption of the worlds interest in polyamory is overstated"
a) That's not what overstated means. In fact that entire sentence should be re-written.
b) Who said it was their preferred relationship structure? You're assuming that anyone who wants to see more diversity in their SF actually just wants to see more of what they prefer. That's foolish.
c) You assume that 1) "the world's interest" is a good measure of what should end up in books 2) drumming up interest with posts like these is somehow a problem, because people like you just aren't interested.
Mike Conley
46. NomadUK
Plugs for good poly references (I would make these links, but I can't get the stupid Link tool to work correctly in Safari; you should be able to find them at your favourite book source):

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People

Opening Up: A Guide to Polyamory

Good starters for learning that it's not the poly crowd that's got a problem....
john mullen
47. johntheirishmongol
Besides Stranger, you need to read Time Enough for Love, with its poly relationship.

Honor Harrington is in a triad, though there is no sex actually written about. In fact, Grayson is a poly planet.

The more Laurell Hamilton writes about sex with her stories, the less interesting they have gotten.

Frankly, scifi and porn are not a good mix. If you have implied sex, and don't really go into discriptives of the acts, I am fine with it (even one on one), but its like the movies, where mostly its gratuitious and not really needed for the story.
Kimberly Unger
48. randomlysteppingin
I'm surprised no one has mentioned Jacqueline Carey's books. Talk about kink and poly positive!
Kimberly Unger
49. OtterB
It's been long enough since I read it that I don't remember the details, but George R. R. Martin's early book Dying of the Light has a complex relationship between two men and a woman. (Jo Walton did a review of it here on tor.com not too long ago.)
Kimberly Unger
50. James Davis Nicoll
The late Edgar Pangborn had a book called The Judgment of Eve, set after a civilization-ending war, in which a young woman has to pick one suitor from the three available. The ending is ambiguous and my interpretation is that she picked all three but you couldn't get that published outside of an Ace Special in 1966.
Kimberly Unger
51. James Davis Nicoll
Speaking of post-holocaust settings, Robert Merle's Malevil involves a small group of survivors in France after something very bad happens (whatever it was seems to have set fire to a good portion of France all at once). They have more men than women and from time to time the men have Very Serious Conversation how to handle this, conversations that always exclude the women. The discussions never have any affect on what the women actually do or who they choose to sleep with.
Kimberly Unger
52. Captain Button
George R. Stewart's Earth Abides (1949) is one of the early depopulated earth stories.

As I recall it, Ish and Em meet Ezra, another survivor. They politely tell him that he can't stay around by himself, but he is welcome to come back with a wife if he finds one. He turns up later with two wives, but no one makes an issue of it.

One of the themes in the book is about social customs from the pre-disaster society which are discarded. Ezra's two wives is one example, with another being Ish and Em's interracial marriage.
Kimberly Unger
53. Beware Of Geek
There's also the line marriage in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
Kimberly Unger
54. Timothy H.
This entire string of articles seems to be going about this the wrong way. The vibe I get from this is, "We need to demand more queer/poly facets in SFF", and that is the wrong way to spread information about a subgroup.

As a monogamous, heterosexual dude, I am really ambivalient towards this. I've read a lot of SF with those elements and that's cool, but I'm reading primarily for story. When you set out to try and write fiction With A Message, it almost always seems to go wrong. I want to read fiction, not be preached to. Even Heinlien is too preachy for me sometimes.

It just sounds so silly what we're talking about. If someone asked me "what are some good SFF books with monogamous relationships?" I'd be bewildered, because it's such a weird thing to me to care about in SFF. If you want a relationship book, read Romance novels. :)


I agree with what you're saying. A story should be interesting on it's own merits, not on relationship gimmicks to make it seem more exciting, edgy or whatever. By trying to force this viewpoint on people, it can be disinteresting.


I don't see what the issue is with not being interested in a subgroup. By saying Aurora is "so, so, so SO wrong" about how your poly experience is, is that anything other than guaranteeing a hostile feeling towards poly?

I literally cannot fathom how one feels in a poly relationship. I can't imagine how that feels. I know, for me, all my love being "sent" to one person makes sense. I can't understand how it could work otherwise, though I don't care if people are poly or not. It just doesn't affect me.
Kimberly Unger
55. JMS
The series James is thinking of in 37 is Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mystery series. They are quite good (and unlike most cooking mysteries, the recipes in them are also good), but the relationship isn't so much "polyamorous" as "dating"---the protag is dating two men who are good friends and aware that she's dating both, but everyone involved assumes that she will eventually choose a monogamous marriage or partnership with one of them.
Nathan Martin
56. lerris
Peter F. Hamilton : Void Trilogy ( I forget offhand whether it comes up in the Commonwealth books ) - he presents the "multi" lifestyle as a consequence of technologies allowing transferring of consciousness into new bodies and sharing of consciousness between bodies. This lifestyle involves sharing a single consciousness over several bodies, and is not sexual or romantic in nature, but has certain implications regarding sexual relationships.

@48 randomlysteppingin
- I agree that Jacqueline Carey should be mentioned in any discussion involving SFF and a positive view on alternate sexualities. "Love as thou wilt"

I think it makes sense for writers to write the relationships which they understand. Which should lead to the frequency of alternate relationships in literature reflecting their frequency in the real world, with the caveat that perhaps the SFF community is more open-minded than the rest of the population.
Kimberly Unger
57. James Davis Nicoll
55: Thank you!

everyone involved assumes that she will eventually choose a monogamous marriage or partnership with one of them.

They may assume that but that's not what the evidence suggests may happen.

I think it's interesting that the author has decided to give the dentist some action man skills, so he's not trying to balance the cop's manly-man skills and a badge'n'gun! with "can assist in the fight against plaque and gingivitus".
Brit Mandelo
58. BritMandelo
@Timothy H

Actually, I'd say you've missed the point of this series. It's not about demanding anything, but about providing a resource and space of discussion for queer and queer friendly folks. I think you should re-examine the position of privelege you're looking at this issue from. As a straight, monogamus male, you don't have to live in a world where no one seems to be like you. The huge majority of books are about guys like you.

But for queer folk, or anyone in a minority, it sucks to never see stories that include people like you as part of their world. So we come here and talk about the meager few that do.

And conflating wanting books with complex emotional plots with reading romace novels doesn't even make sense. Must be getting my girl cooties all over the manly, manly SFF by including those scary things called interpersona lrelations.
Brit Mandelo
59. BritMandelo

I've seen those books on the shelf at my store and never given them a second thought. Have to check them out, now!
Kimberly Unger
60. lorq
Someone mentioned Samuel R. Delany's _Babel-17_ as an example of SF dealing with polyamory. Other Delany books and stories deal with the subject as well:

"The Star Pit" (novella about, among other things, communal group- families)
_Dhalgren_ (central relationship is a threesome)
_Trouble on Triton_ (topic of group families is touched on)

And then, a number of his queer-themed non-SF books deal with open relationships:

_The Mad Man_ (novel about a gay open relationship)
_Heavenly Breakfast_ (memoir time he spent in a polyamorous urban commune in NYC in '67)
_The Motion of Light in Water_ (memoir of, among other things, his open marriage with the poet Marilyn Hacker, which was for a time a threesome)
_Times Square Red, Times Square Blue_ (memoir and analysis of gay cruising spaces in NYC; polyamory is the tacit backdrop for Delany's frequenting of these haunts)
Kimberly Unger
61. dwndrgn
Todd McCaffrey's Dragongirl deals with poly relationships but I'd say it is too 'rose colored' a depiction. No naysayers, no behind the scenes gossip, no friction (one small moment of friction that was over before it began). There are NO relationships (poly, single, whatever) that do not have friction of some sort. That is what relationships are, people dealing with each other and dealings between human beings can never be perfect. So, it is there if you want to read it but I found his telling of it to be too perfect to be believable.
Kimberly Unger
62. SuperSpecs
What about the One Rose Trilogy by Gail Dayton? The main characters are one polyamorous family unit.
Kimberly Unger
63. megatsunami
Laurie Marks' "Fire Logic" series has some interesting relationship complexities which might interest poly folk. Most sexual relationships in that world are apparently monogamous (and usually same-sex); but same-sex couples often seem to involve another person for purposes of conception. And child-rearing relationships involve a whole bunch of adults, so a child has many, many parents. Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy SF/F about relationships. (Which I do, and I love your comment, Brit, about getting our girly cooties all over the manly SF. It's so important to me that relationships and ideas don't have to exist in separate domains, but can be interconnected.)
Brit Mandelo
64. BritMandelo

*g* Thanks. That argument's been going on longer than I've been alive, and I doubt it'll ever stop, but it's just so ignorant.

And, because I missed a line last time that is very significant, I'll continue beating a dead horse:

@Timothy H.

"By trying to force this viewpoint on people, it can be disinteresting." How, pray tell, does the existence of queer positive SFF force a viewpoint on you or anyone? You don't have to buy them. You don't have to read them. You can pretend they don't exist. I certainly didn't come to your house and force you to click on this post. You chose to. You chose to comment, too. No one is forcing a viewpoint on anyone. The fact that queer folk would like to read books about other queer folk and be treated like normal human beings doesn't affect you at all: because you aren't one, and you don't have to live as one, and you don't have to have a single bit of interest in our lives or well-being. So don't. Just step out and go to spaces that make you comfortable, don't try to pretend that our need to feel included in the world somehow injures you or forces you to do anything.

But if we want to go with your argument, that these books being written is forcing a viewpoint on you, then goddammit, people better stop writing books about straight white men resuing damsels in distress, because I am sick and tired of that viewpoint being forced on me over and over again from the time I was a little kid reading fairy tales. Ahem.

(That right there was a soapbox, and I do apologize for textwall.)
Kimberly Unger
65. James Davis Nicoll
There are NO relationships (poly, single, whatever) that do not have friction of some sort.

But surely this can be resolved with sufficient processing and a determination of which participants' consciousness is the most evolved and therefore the one with the right point of view?
Kimberly Unger
66. megatsunami
@mectech: "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" doesn't feature this kind of family structure. Perhaps you're thinking of a different story? Maybe LeGuin's story "A Fisherman of the Inland Sea," which someone else referenced (in which family structure is 2 fathers and 2 mothers + children).
Rob Munnelly
67. RobMRobM
@19 beat me to the punch with Sharing Knife series. Very clearly stated by a character in book 1 that the two men take care of each other sexually while out on patrol without the wife.

Kimberly Unger
68. Timothy H.
@63 megatsunami
Ah, That makes a little more sense to me now. Thanks. :)

@58 64 BritMandelo
Whoa, pump the brakes! I was talking about polyamory, not queer folk or relationships. You're arguing against a paper dragon of your own design.

Where did I say I only like "manly SFF"? What does that even mean?

"By trying to force this viewpoint on people, it can be disinteresting." If I'm reading some SFF, and the story keeps hammering home a point/idealogy which I already get, it loses my interest. I'm smart enough to pick up ideas the author is sharing the first time. Preachy literature is boring. That makes sense.

It doesn't warrant a wrathful response on why I'm so intelorant. I suppose I am intolerant of being spoonfed idealogies in literature.
Kimberly Unger
69. Sue11
In CJ Cherryh's Chanur series the protagonists are Hani, a species based on lions. Their family structure is based on a pride. Males are ejected from a clan at puberty and have to fight their way back in. A clan consists of the females - sisters, aunts, cousins and daughters -, a lord, and his wives from other clans. The women of the clan are married to the lords of other clans.
In the forth book, Chanur's Legacy, the plot revolves around the marriage customs of the Shsto (sic) who are hermaphrodites with 3 genders. A marriage includes one of each.
Kimberly Unger
70. agord
Ah the internet, where lack of tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language somehow makes everything seem so much harsher. Why is it that people seem to interpret plain text in the worst possible way?
Brit Mandelo
71. BritMandelo
@Timothy H.

Actually, you specifically brought up the entire series of posts and drew attention to the queer aspect. ""We need to demand more queer/poly facets in SFF", and that is the wrong way to spread information about a subgroup." Which in and of itself misses the point of the post-series, as I already said.

The thing about that contentious sentence is--no one was talking about preachy literature. I wasn't, the post wasn't. It was talking about literature that included non-traditional love and family structures. Not literature only about them. In fact, there's quite a bit about the difficulty of juggling both a plot and relationship arcs. Inclusion does not equal preaching. I don't like polemical SFF either; part of the reason I'm not a fan of Heinlein. The person you were agreeing with was arguing against the representation of them at all.

The language you chose to use and the position you took were at the very least coming from a seat of unexamined privelege. I wouldn't say intolerant, just condescending. "It just sounds so silly what we're talking about," for example, followed by the comment about relationships=romance novels. You have the benefit of thinking it's silly to talk about alternative relationships because yours are already fully represented, as you yourself made a point of.

(Admitedly, the "manly SFF" thing is me placing you in a continuum of an argument that's been going on forever. But the relationships-belong-in-romance-novels-not-my-sff thing is one side of an ongoing fight about why women shouldn't write science fiction. I'm infering, and I'm sorry if that offended you if you were unaware of the argument as it stands in the fandom.)

I'd like to add that I'm sorry if it seemed like I was attacking you--I wasn't aiming for "wrathful" but "academic disagreement." The lack of insults and/or yelling I hoped would convey that, but @agord has it right--the internet steals a lot of nuance.
Pamela Adams
72. PamAdams
SF and Fantasy are about someplace different- the future, an alternate universe, etc., etc. If I'm going somewhere different, then I expect the mores of the various cultures to be different as well. Certainly one of those ways is polyamory.
Kimberly Unger
73. CaitieCat
I think the bit that got me was the "well, it doesn't represent me so of course I'm not interested" in the context of a comment complaining that queer/poly folk would like to know about fiction which does, in fact, represent us. I could die of irony poisoning.
Brit Mandelo
74. BritMandelo
@Pam Adams

Yes, this.


On the plus side, out of 70+ comments, only a few are like that and the rest are awesome recommendations. I try to look on the bright side. *g*
Kimberly Unger
75. Mamatiger
Poul Anderson's book "The Avatar" has a nice portrayal of a poly relationship between the main characters.

Also Theodore Sturgeon's 1953 story "The World Well Lost" tackled homosexuality head on as a plot point.
Kimberly Unger
76. Daergar
Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth series, and Void trilogy both feature poly relationships (Oscar being the primary example), and (as mentioned above) multiple relationships (one personality in multiple bodies, in a relationship with individuals or other multiples).

Great series', too :)
John Adams
77. JohnArkansawyer
I figured someone would have to beat me to Dhalgren, but really--post 60? How the times have changed.

And then, of course, there's Fans!
Kimberly Unger
78. CaitieCat
BritMandelo - you show greater wisdom than I, Master. That must be why I'm still a Padawan, huh? ;)

Well, that and the clumsiness thing. How's Master Fisto coming with the new hand, by the way?
Kimberly Unger
79. Alexander K.
You know, my knee-jerk response here was reflective of my own uncomfortabiliy with polyamory. But, then I remembered that we're talking about science fiction here, and science fiction is exactly the forum where someone like me can explore those kinds of relationship structures.

That said, I am still kind of uncomfortable with poly beeing lumped in with queerdom here. I see queerness as a matter of identity, while polyamory really does seem more like a lifestyle choice (sorry for using the neo-conservative slang there- it's just the best choice of words I could come up with).
Wesley Parish
80. Aladdin_Sane
FWIW, Dune and its followups present the traditional polygyny - many women, one man, though it doesn't go into depth into personal relationships - we are told that Harah is marrying Stilgar in Dune, but he never brings that into focus, much less the reactions of the other wives of Stilgar, though he does mention - through Harah's announcement, that they accept it.

Personally, I think the problem is that not only is the average SF author uninmaginative, the average editor is probably unimaginative as well, and both are probably not very clued up on anthropology. I knew from an early age that monogamy was only part of the spectrum, although central to most of humanity's procreative strategies; the greater majority of variations from this central part of the spectrum likewise form procreative strategies of their own. Not to forget, inheritance strategies - vitally important, after all.

Polyandry as practised in Tibet was a way of keeping resources in one family, for example; levirate marriage as practised in the Levant according to various parts of the book we call the Bible, was likewise a way of keeping resources in the family. Etc, etc, ad infinitum ...

It's an exercise in world-building - what sort of a world would make, permit, or demand that wives tolerate their men openly loving other men - or husbands tolerate their women openly loving other women? What sort of world would expect that an adolescent male choose an older male as his primary sexual partner, while gaining the resources and reputation to seek a wife? In what sort of world would a young woman look primarily for love from another woman, while expecting a man to provide her with children and the resources to raise them?

Etc, ad infititum, and probably ad nauseam ... it all has to cohere, otherwise you'll bore your readers.
Mike Conley
81. NomadUK
I see queerness as a matter of identity, while polyamory really does seem more like a lifestyle choice

Actually, it's is a recognition of the way people actually behave and feel, and always have, and an attempt to come to terms with it. It's monogamy that's the lifestyle, largely imposed and indoctrinated from above.

Which is not to say that there aren't people who are happy with their monogamous relationships. It's just that the idea that it's the normal state of affairs is a myth.
Kimberly Unger
82. EnderAndrew
@Timothy H
I'm a monogamous hetero dude too, so let me be the one that tells you: You're embarrassing yourself, you've brought your own issues to the table and read the posts entirely wrong.

You say you get the vibe: "We need to demand more queer/poly facets in SFF"
That vibe is entirely in your head. No one is demanding anything, and no one is using this as a "way to spread information about a subgroup".
Would you react the same way to a series of posts called 'Time travelling in SF', or 'Geo-terraforming in SFF: Where's the big machines?' - would you assume that people were pushing some sort of viewpoint on you? Would you assume they were preaching some sort of message?

No, because you're not dribbly stupid. But on this issue you are. Is it because you are scared of it? Or so ignorant of and bored by the idea that you assume any mention of it is some sort of preaching message? It doesn't matter - what matters is that you've read this post saying "Where are the polys? Surely that's a ripe area for SF" as saying "We need more preachy rubbish saying polys are great?" - you're wrong, and it's annoying.

You say:
I agree with what you're saying. A story should be interesting on it's own merits, not on relationship gimmicks to make it seem more exciting, edgy or whatever. By trying to force this viewpoint on people, it can be disinteresting."

You're entirely right, forcing a viewpoint on people can be boring, and gimmicks obviously do not make anything inherently more interesting. But that's not what's being said. All that has been said is 'There aren't that many examples of poly relationships*, what one's have you read? Isn't there more room to experiment and explore this?', not 'Hey wouldn't it be cool if there were more gimmicky preachy poly relationships in our SF'

*(Given the responses I would disagree here)

"I literally cannot fathom how one feels in a poly relationship. I can't imagine how that feels. I know, for me, all my love being "sent" to one person makes sense. I can't understand how it could work otherwise, though I don't care if people are poly or not. It just doesn't affect me."

I know! How about instead of remaining an ignorant redneck* you, say... read a fucking book about it? I literally cannot fathom how you can on one hand say "I don't know anything about this" and on the other say "And I'm not going to read about it either".
It's like me saying "I've no idea what it is like to be a member of the Umbgali Tribe. And you know what? I'm never ever going to read about them, I'm going to go and troll posts of anyone who is interested in reading about the Umbgali Tribe and tell them that by merely expressing interest in stories featuring members of the tribe that they are forcing gimmicky preachy messages down our throat and 'demanding' SF bow to their personal prefences."
You know what? Fuck that bullshit. And I speak, not as anyone who is into this stuff in real life myself, but merely as someone who is not so cravenly ignorant, blindingly provincial and small minded, that he cannot read about anything beyond his own tiny tiny experience.

*No offense to non-ignorant rednecks. You sure are great.
Kimberly Unger
83. EnderAndrew
Ok, apologies, I've had my morning smoke now, and I shouldn't have been so harsh, I shouldn't have called your attitude "being an ignorant fucking redneck" I should have called it "deliberate and intentional ignorance"

"I literally cannot fathom how one feels in a poly relationship"
Allow me to monologue about this for a moment.
I've always held the admittedly self serving belief that SF readers were a select lot. Not better than other people in every way, but certainly in some - they're not going to be the type of people who say "Oh but it's not real, what's the point of reading about it!" as if that were anything but stupid - they're not going to be the type of people who say "Oh it's science, I'm not interested in boring things like science"
I also assumed that they wouldn't be the type of people who would say "I literally can't imagine being part of a species with three genders, I'm just not interested" or "I literally can't imagine being a genderless space-based species, I just don't care", and from that I guess I assumed that no one would follow through with "I literally cannot imagine being part of a poly relationship, and I just don't care to read about it"

That's the thing about SFF, it's speculative. It imagines new and wild things. It experiments, predicts, and often just makes stuff up. It's interesting, imaginative and it pushes you to see things in new ways, and from new perspectives.
Why would you say "Yeah, I'll read about spore-based aliens reproducing via clouds of particulate matter in the troposphere of a gas giant, but there'd better not be any humans having any poly relationships nearby because I just can't imagine that, I don't know what it's like and I don't care to find out by simply reading books by people who may well know from experience. I shall shut myself off from finding out about that, because, even though I can't start to fathom that experience, I already know I'm not interested in reading about it. Somehow"
Where is your curiosity?
Kimberly Unger
84. EnderAndrew
"That said, I am still kind of uncomfortable with poly beeing lumped in with queerdom here. I see queerness as a matter of identity, while polyamory really does seem more like a lifestyle choice"

Being in a queer relationship is a lifestyle choice, as is being in a poly relationship. But who you are attracted to is not a lifestyle choice. If you are naturally monogamous then poly relationships are no more attractive to you than a queer relationship is to a hetero person. Monogamous relationships are also a lifestyle choice, but monogamous is also an identity. Look at Timothy H, he is clearly not interested in being in a poly relationship, it clearly isn't part of his identity. He just is not the type to have a relationship with more than one person. Or another man.
Brit Mandelo
85. BritMandelo

Thanks, man. Just--generally, thanks.

@Alexander K.

"That said, I am still kind of uncomfortable with poly beeing lumped in with queerdom here. I see queerness as a matter of identity, while polyamory really does seem more like a lifestyle choice"

Not really. Especially for folk who are bi- or pansexual, a triad or more provides the opportunity for the satisfaction of their full sexual spectrum in a loving and emotionally rich environment. Having been in both sorts of relationships, poly and monogamous, neither (or, if you want to look at it that way, both) are really any more a lifestyle choice than my attraction to people of my same bio-gender and also outside if it. Sometimes you end up with one person, sometimes with more--not really a calculated "lifestyle" decision. (Plus, with the exception of some traditional polygyny where the man has many wives and none of the wives interact sexually, most of your group-sex with a poly relationship is relatively queer.)
Ursula L
86. Ursula
Re: Aladdin_Sane @ #80

A general question for the discussion - is it worth, when discussing poly literature, to distinguish between literature featuring polyamory, based on the choice and love of the participants either with or withouout of a supportive culture and polygyny/polyandry/polygamy, cultures where a particular form of poly relationship/marriage is the norm,  and the idea that there is a "normal" relationship structure is part of the worldbuilding?

In terms of the political effect, the way it encourages readers to think about poly relationships, I think it is worth making that distinction.  A culture where a particular form of poly relationship is seen as "normal" and other forms of relationship are seen as "abnormal" is as hostile to choice as a society where monogamous relationships are considered normal.  

This sort of story might be a positive story if it develops that forcing people into a particular form of relationship is harmful, or it might be a negative story if it presents it as a good idea that there is a privaleged form of relationship.

If someone's first exposure to the idea of a poly relationship is a news story about Mormon Fundamentalists where young women are pressured into polygynous marriage because of a belief in its spiritual good, they're going to have a very different view of things then when their first exposure to the idea is a group of liberals setting up a relationship by choice, with planning from the beginning for people to enter or leave freely.  

The same would apply in fictional exposure - people who read about poly relationships that are expected and pressured will get a different idea about poly in general than people who read about loving and freely chosen poly relationships.
john mullen
87. johntheirishmongol
I have to say, there seem to be plenty of choices out there for those who are looking for this kind of literature, but frankly, it's still going to be a niche market and I wouldn't expect it to change anytime soon. SF&F was a niche market for years and years and any books written before the 80s probably needed to appeal to the widest viewpoint they could. So, if you don't see enough choices, write your own book and see if you can sell it. And don't berate people because they don't like the books you like.
Kimberly Unger
88. eyelessgame
Rendezvous with Rama had a little bit of polyamory in the background. It seems to me Clarke would have liked to include it in Childhood's End too, but I suspect the book was written too early.
Kimberly Unger
89. Timothy H.
So, I've been thinking about this all night. I'm trying to understand why @BritMandelo and @EnderAndrew are saying I've brought my own issues to this post. They say I'm seeing in this post a desire to promote queer/poly lifestyles more in SFF, and I'm off my rocker because this isn't the case.

The title of this post, and the headline of this series has been "Queering SFF", right? I see this grammatically equivalent to "Christianizing SFF" or something. It implies, to me, an desire to promote a certain ideal. And with ANY subject, when someone writes with the intent to promote an ideal, it seems to be VERY hard to pull off and not sound preachy. Especially if the reader hasn't really thought along those lines before.

That is the core of what I was trying to say. Someone trying to promote an idea in their literature needs to take care to do it well, otherwise they might actually damage the outside perception of this idea.

This is TOR, a site dedicated to SF/F, which is my favorite genre of literature. I saw this post on the main site and thought I'd comment. Calling me a troll, or "cravenly ignorant, blindingly provincial and small minded", is unkind. I left a comment with the intent to enter a dialogue, to better understand a viewpoint different from mine. And apparently, that just isn't done.

I'm being a little mopey I know, but this is about SFF, you know? This is where these kind of discussions should happen, I thought.

One of my comments I can totally see being misread was "
It just sounds so silly what we're talking about." I wasn't implying alternative relationships in SFF literature, I was talking about all kinds of relationships in SFF literature. Reading a story specifically for a certain type of relationship within it, isn't an element I seek out in literature. But obviously many people do, and could see my comment as condescending, for which I apologize.

I hope everyone has great success in whatever type of relationship theyare in, because experiencing that close love and bond with another person.. everyone should be lucky enough to experience. :)
Rose Fox
90. rosefox
There are triadic relationships in N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and forthcoming The Broken Kingdoms.
Rose Fox
91. rosefox
(Apologies for duplicate post. The new comment systems seems to still have some bugs.)
Kimberly Unger
92. Sibylle
That's such a good piece, thanks for writing it. I have little hope though (unless yes, writers realize that if they want it, they have to write it - I for one, as a reader, will definitely pick the book up) since bisexuality, to begin with, is very uncommon in SFF and I see it as linked to polyamory depictions (not that all polyamory people are bisexual but in that you have to think outside the 'one or the other' pattern to write either one). You also make an excellent point about love triangles.

Really very surprised to see this addressed, and very very happy it is. Thanks again!
Kimberly Unger
93. ilya187
bisexuality, to begin with, is very uncommon in SFF and I see it as linked to polyamory depictions

After 90 comments, most of which provide bisexual and/or polyamorous examples in SF/F, this comment is just unbelievable. (I was going to mention Benford, but Mouldy_Squid beat me to it in the 10th post.) Sibylle, can you name ANY other genre which has more, or even as much, bisexuality/polyamory as SF/F? Other than explicit GLBT literature, that is?

One could argue that fiction in general has not enough polyamory, and that would be a valid claim. But to single out SF/F... is just weird. It has more than most.
Kimberly Unger
94. James Davis Nicoll
93: "bisexuality, to begin with, is very uncommon in SFF"

I reread Leigh Killough's THE DOPPLEGANGER GAMBIT (1) and noticed that it had straight people (with open marriages), gay men, bisexuals (seen as flighty but terribly convenient) but very oddly, no lesbians. And it's been a while so I couldn't swear to it but I think all of the bi people were men.

It also had fashions that made the 1970s look good: Except for a missing holster, the cover here is right from the descriptions of the cops' clothes.


1: I've given on on trying to use italics here.
Kimberly Unger
95. Kate Bartholomew
The late Kage Baker's Company series has its heroine, Mendoza, get her happy ending with all three of her lovers -Nicholas, Edward and Alec - simultaneously.
Kimberly Unger
96. Cassandra Farrin
I think SF has dealt a bit more with polyamorous relationships than fantasy. As it is, I struggle to find non-erotica fantasy novels featuring queer characters front and center (thought I did just write a blog tracing common theme in fantasy novels with gay protagonists in the hopes that either people will point out a whole cluster of great books I haven't yet read or writers will get creative).

In fantasy, the most common set-up remains the conventional, "We love each other deeply, but society gets in the way." Considering that writers of queer relationships remain profoundly uncomfortable with allowing those relationships to have interpersonal conflict out of fear of being perceived as homophobic, I can imagine that polyamorous relationships that are neither frankly objectifying set-ups (e.g. two lesbians being watched by a man) nor falsely idyllic are still challenging plot-wise for writers.

To point out an example, Ginn Hale's Wicked Gentlemen is one of few novels about gay protagonists I've read that didn't begin with the assumption of an older or at least more experienced man with a blushing, younger man who didn't know he was gay. I find her narrative somewhat disjointed, but then again I think she was trying to carry out a plot sequence that didn't have a lot of other models.

I'm excited to see this area expand!!
Cassandra Farrin
97. welovetea
Crap, I just posted without signing in. Hi! Cassandra=welovetea. Sorry...LOL
Kimberly Unger
98. kluelos
It barely got a single mention way back there, but my first exposure to the whole idea of poly relationships was in Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", and Manny Garcia's line marriage.

I read this when I was very young, and it struck me as eminently sensible, so that the common focus on classic relationships always seemed, well, unimaginative, thereafter. Well, that's Heinlein for you: twists your head the other way, "what about THIS?", when you aren't looking.

But I also overlooked for a long time, and still haven't seen really dealt with, the strongly-implied and practically necessary homosexuality in McCaffrey's dragonriders. She only comes close to highlighting this, while never explicitly pointing it out, anywhere. I was, again, very young when I first read "Dragonflight", followed on its sequels, but can't really remember when I finally snapped about what those relationships had to be.

This is sort of there in the background, but isn't allowed to be/doesn't need to be a part of the story. There's a certain grace to this, in that you can ignore it if you choose, even pretend it isn't really there.

That may make the society seem a little bit two-dimensional, but so does the treatment of religion. People are normally religious the same way they're normally sexual, and pretending they're not one or the other (or one sort or the other) gets you a society that just won't quite ring true. I'm not saying any particular religion anymore than I'm saying any particular sort of sex, but trying to build a society that doesn't have any gays or lesbians isn't going to work anymore than a society that has no people doing things, even irrational things, for religious reasons. We're skilled at pretending that neither exists, but the pretense has worn very thin.

We can't deny our history. Much of that history was shaped by Kay Tarrant (longtime editorial assistant to John Campbell) and people like her. Lamenting that more was not written about nontraditional sex must keep in mind that she edited out ANY mention of straight sex, much less gay sex, much less polyamory, and that most publishers of the time either felt that way or were unwilling to risk offending the conservative portion of their readership. IOW, it's not necessarily that this wasn't being written, it's that for decades it couldn't get published if it were. (And once again we find ourselves oddly indebted to Harlan Ellison.)
Clare Miller
99. clarekrmiller
(Hmm, I tried to post a link and it froze. I don't think this text editor is working so well.)

In response to Robotech_, who said that there seems to be more polyamory in online fiction: I was thinking the same thing. In particular, three stories: MeiLin Miranda's An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom (http://www.meilinmiranda.com), featuring Prince Temmin, who gets to do delightful things with both the male and female Embodiments of the Gods at the Lovers' Temple (the story is re-starting in a completely revised version on Monday, and I can hardly wait!); Elaine Corvidae's Fire in the Void (http://www.onecrow.net/fireinthevoid/fire.htm), which does indeed have a trio that starts out as a love triangle developing on a spaceship; and Karen Wehrstein's Philosopher in Arms (http://www.chevenga.com), in which the people of the main character's country, Yeola-e, commonly marry in fours (this causes some short-lived trouble when Chevenga's fiancée, who is from another country, learns that he already has a wife... and a husband). Lyn Thorne-Alder's Addergoole (http://www.addergoole.com) also has poly relationships, but none of them are so near to the forefront.
Kimberly Unger
100. Captain Button
I'm going to mention the The Chronicles of Tornor books by Elizabeth A. Lynn, but I'm not certain if they'd count as polyamory as opposed to free love for all orientations.

I read them a very long time ago, and don't recall details.
Brit Mandelo
101. BritMandelo
@Timothy H.

"The title of this post, and the headline of this series has been "Queering SFF", right? I see this grammatically equivalent to "Christianizing SFF" or something."

Then this may be where the base misunderstanding is coming from--because that's incorrect. The first post in the series deals with the terminology. "Queering SFF" is a reference to reclaiming and drawing attention to queer issues and folk in existing SFF and as a way for people to find it easier and communicate about it. That's why half of the series is book reviews. I assumed from your comments about the series as a whole that you'd actually read the rest, but I see now that wasn't the case. I'm not sure how many ways I can tell you that it is not about "promoting an ideal" in literature. At all. In any way. You are seeing that here and it isn't here. Inclusion does not equal preachy promotion, it's just inclusion. Unless, of course, you feel threatened by the relationship structure, in which case I could see where any inclusion at all might seem like too much to you.

And I know you're not seeing it, because to you you simply left a comment to enter a dialogue, but the comment you chose to leave was a condescending slap in the face from a position of privelege. That's not entering a dialogue. Entering a dialogue is respectfully and carefully choosing how you want to say things, especially when you're talking about other people's relationships and ways of life when you yourself admit no interest or imagination for that way of life.
Brit Mandelo
102. BritMandelo

That's very true--certainly, the undertone to the "Xenogenesis" saga by Octavia Butler isn't entirely pleasant. That has a different narrative effect than, say, "Woman on the Edge of Time" where the multi-person family units are presented as wholesome and fun and willing.

I've run into this problem in discussing "poly" as one thing already--after all, there are so many different kinds of alternate relationship structures that lumping them all together seems... Disingenuous, or something.

It's interesting to think about the books that present poly relationships in a negative light, and there are certainly those, or at least books that intend to be positive and strike me as "ugh." (Usually the kind where one virile hero gets to have as many fawning concubines and wives as he likes, but their desires are completelt moot.)
Ursula L
103. Ursula
Usually the kind where one virile hero gets to have as many fawning concubines and wives as he likes, but their desires are completelt moot.

Ugh.  I know the type.  The problem isn't restricted to stories with poly relationships - unless you count the male-hero's ego as his primary love interest...
Brit Mandelo
104. BritMandelo

"--unless you count the male-hero's ego as his primary love interest."

I think you may be onto something. *g*
Alex Brown
105. AlexBrown
This whole debate is awesome and fantastic in so many ways. Frankly, I love these sorts of arguments. People don't generally realize they're being obnoxiously condescending until someone steps up and says it to their face. It doesn't make them bad people at all, just uninformed and hopefully they'll learn from the experience.

I have this sort of thing happen to me all the time (I'm black, white, and Cherokee and the rich white people in my small town are constantly asking me questions about ghettos and rap music and constantly being referred to as "you people"...and I'm not even being hyperbolic here). They aren't intentionally racist, but uninformed and generally uninterested. So, basically, hopefully Timothy H and Aurora Lumier will have learned something from this debate.

And besides, I'm a straight monogamous female woman who would rather read/watch gay sex; who, if my boyfriend/husband so felt the need to get ass elsewhere, would be more or less fine with it; and who would absolutely kill for a transvestite boyfriend/husband. And that's not even to speak of my fetishes. There is no such thing as "traditional" or "normal". Everyone has some weird sexual pecadillos and fetishes, even Timothy H and Aurora Lumier. And that's what makes us human. You aren't interested in polyamorous relationships in SFF? Well, I'm not interested in straight monogamous relationships in SFF. But it doesn't mean I want nothing but "non-traditional" viewpoints/lifestyles/orientations/behaviours/whathaveyou to be the only stuff published. Variety is the spice of life, and all that.
Kimberly Unger
106. MistiS
22. Milo1313: One of the main supporting characters in C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers series (urban fantasy) is a straight, transvestite cop with a wife and 5 kids.

Re polyandry, a la Anita Blake, there's also her doppelganger Merry Gentry.
Alex Brown
107. AlexBrown
@MistiS: Thanks for the tip! Adding it to my to-read queue right now :)
Brit Mandelo
108. BritMandelo

Yes, this. It doesn't make them bad people, I don't feel any kind of frothing hate for them--I just want them to stop and pay attention to their own words for once. (Dude, I'd be interested in a fetishes!post where we all just talked about it. Too unrelated to SFF, though. I could write a pretty big list of mine, as a pansexual usually-performs-female-but-not-always switch who loves gender-swapping and gender-play as a whole. Who is monogamous now (mostly) but has been poly and find both rewarding.)


I have that first book! My list is getting so huge right now, heh. (I feel so guilty about reading Hamilton anymore; the quality of writing has just gone so downhill. The last Merry book was ful of typos and grammar errors and info-dumps--arrrrgh. But I have to, have to, have to finish series once I start them, and I've been reading her since I was 13 and the AB series was still new-ish.)
Kimberly Unger
109. A Glamor Geek
I'm a little worried the author hasn't seen Caprica - I really want that show to be renewed.
Alex Brown
110. AlexBrown
@Brit Yeah, I was an anthro/soc major who specialized in sex and gender in society and cultural anthropology (and am a self-described post post moderinst marxist feminist anthropologist...bonus points for those who know the anthropological theories supporting/contrasting these philosophies) so I'm pretty chill about most things. It all comes down to societal programming...not orientation/sexuality but the belief systems and ethical/moral/personal attitudes toward them.

For instance, many indigenous Saharan African tribes believe in 4 genders and 4 sexes: child, adult female woman, adult male man, elder. Western society has traditionally 2 genders and 2 sexes which are linked together: female woman and male man. Many Native American cultures have two-spirited people who are either a separate sex/gender or are both male man/female woman. Polyandry is/was very common in Tibet and the surrounding lands because it was more economically stable, whereas the practice of polygyny is generally geared more toward population needs. It's all which needs a culture/society has at a given point in time and it gets conflated into social mores.

It's all how you look at it. And how we look at it is changing (which is a good thing).

Also, mmm...fetishes...
Cassandra Farrin
111. welovetea
But I also overlooked for a long time, and still haven't seen really dealt with, the strongly-implied and practically necessary homosexuality in McCaffrey's dragonriders. She only comes close to highlighting this, while never explicitly pointing it out, anywhere. I was, again, very young when I first read "Dragonflight", followed on its sequels, but can't really remember when I finally snapped about what those relationships had to be.

@kluelos - I didn't notice this as a junior high schooler reading Anne McCaffery but I finally picked up on it when I went back to re-read the series later. Unfortunately I also picked up the second time around just how violent the sexual relationships are. The queen riders are raped, more or less, with little or no warning as to what is about to happen to them. Women are often described as needing to be "beaten" and so on.

I respect AM for paving the way for other women in SF...but I say "no thanks" to that element of her writing.
Kimberly Unger
112. ldbk
@ BritMandelo
"I just want them to stop and pay attention to their own words for once"

Perhaps you (and many others) should do likewise and reread everything written in this blog. I came here because I remembered Heinlein's Friday and the tensions in that group marriage, and I was interested in suggestions for other works from posters. What I got (besides that) was a couple of people who disagreed or didn't fully understand or failed to communicate their ideas clearly ... and then they were attacked. Profanity and racial epithets came from some posters, while others insisted they didn't know what it was like to be different, that they were "privileged." All the while, I saw two people, who were different from others in the group, being attacked by the group and being told not to make assumptions about other people. But I heard plenty of assumptions being made about them.

I've never read this blog before, but I am horrified that this is how people treat each other. Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully. Everyone. Even people you don't agree with. Especially people you don't agree with. After all, how can you expect them to respect you if you don't do likewise?

Be good to each other.
john mullen
113. johntheirishmongol
Remembered one that I haven't seen. The Kushiel's books were based on the idea of "love as thou wilt"..Ive only read the first trilogy, but a little of everything goes on up to including bdsm.
Kimberly Unger
114. EnderAndrew
@Timothy H
"The title of this post, and the headline of this series has been "Queering SFF", right? I see this grammatically equivalent to "Christianizing SFF" or something. It implies, to me, an desire to promote a certain ideal."
That is not an unfair interpretation of the title, especially if you are uninterested or hostile to the group that comes before 'SFF'. I am not at all hostile to Christians but would assume the same as you if I came across that title.
Did you read the rest of the article though? Or the other articles? Because nothing in those supports that interpretation of the title. As BritMandelo explained before me.
You seem to have generalised from what you thought the title sounded like it meant to the actual content of the article. That's an intellectual fail.
You appeared to criticise the article. Were you criticising the article, or the title?

"That is the core of what I was trying to say. Someone trying to promote an idea in their literature needs to take care to do it well, otherwise they might actually damage the outside perception of this idea"
These are true facts. However you are missing here the fact that you have misunderstood the intention of the article (apparently because of the title) and that no one is trying to promoted poly relationships with literature. Thus you are worried about nothing, and (possibly by accident) implying that any mention of poly relationships in sci fi is an attempt to promote them.
Calling me a troll, or "cravenly ignorant, blindingly provincial and small minded", is unkind.

You are right. As mentioned I had not had my morning cigarette. Apologies again.
However, to hold the position "I can't imagine X myself and therefore I don't care about X " is cravenly ignorant, provincial and small minded. That is a fact of life, I cannot change that, all I can do is not call you that. If you hold that position then you must face up to its implications.
I left a comment with the intent to enter a dialogue, to better understand a viewpoint different from mine. And apparently, that just isn't done.

No it's done all right, you just did it badly in this case.

You misunderstood what was being discussed, 'disagreed' with people by writing about irrelevant things they weren't suggesting like 'promoting an ideology in literature' and did not in fact address anything anyone in the conversation was actually saying.

Look let me lay this out for you: If you come into a conversation about X and say "I disagree, I think that Y can be really bad", you'd better be really really fucking sure that anyone is promoting Y in the conversation, otherwise it looks like you're saying that X is Y.

This conversation was about "Where are the Poly relationships in SF? Isn't it a fertile genre for that sort of thing?" (that's X).
You came along and said: "I disagree, preaching in books just makes me bored, story should not be subdued to ideology" (that's Y)

No-one, I repeat no-one was talking about Y. You were disagreeing with no-one, and by implication suggested that at least some of the rest of us were talking about Y, and supporting it. (Otherwise why would you suggest it was a bad idea, certainly not out of thin air)
The thing that makes that offensive and egregiously annoying is that Y is universally recognised and really really obvious. No-one here was un-aware that preachy books are boring and annoying. Everyone here is against that. By 'disagreeing' with Y you were basically implying that we are so thick that we might actually believe that preachy books are a great read.

One of my comments I can totally see being misread was "It just sounds so silly what we're talking about." I wasn't implying alternative relationships in SFF literature, I was talking about all kinds of relationships in SFF literature.

Fair enough. I don't think I misread that initially, and I don't disagree with it as a point. If you're not worried about the depth, variety and quality of the characters in the books you read then you will not care about their relationships. I assume you don't read much about inanimate objects so you obviously want characters of some kind, but their personalities, relationships and other sundry details are not as important to you.
You've probably already read him, but I recommend Isaac Asimov, he's a great writer and hits only on the non-relationship bits of people's lives. Mostly.

Reading a story specifically for a certain type of relationship within it, isn't an element I seek out in literature. But obviously many people do, and could see my comment as condescending, for which I apologize

No. No, no, no! No.
FFS can you please stop for a minute and read what people are actually saying, not your version of what they are saying.
I have not seen a single person in this thread say "I read this story specifically for it's description of poly relationships".

No one here is specifically interested in reading about poly relationships, they like good books, well written books, well-plotted, well-characterised, well-thought out sci-fi books. They may have a preference for dynamic characters over lush description, or literature over adventure. Within all this they are also interested in the characters, one facet of which is their personality, one face of that is their relationships. Within that facet they are interested in variety and SF style speculation (as they are with all other facets)

What is condescending is not that you aren't interested in relationships (poly or otherwise) in your fiction, but that you keep suggesting that anyone here is specifically interested in poly relationships. To the extent that you need to point out to them that preachy ideological books are in fact badly written books.
Kimberly Unger
115. CaitieCat
If I can add a little bit to EnderAndrew's excellent summation, what I'm looking for out of this thread, as a polyamourous person myself, is to find examples of sff that show polyamourous relationships, in addition to whatever else the stories are about., rather than books about polyamourous relationships. I already know how to be polyamourous; I just want some fiction in which people like me figure occasionally, so that I can identify with some characters just like you do.

You mentioned not wanting to read stories that are about people you can't identify with - why is it so hard to understand that we poly folk are very similar to that? We want to see us existing in our reading, just as you do. That's all this post was about.

And you came in and essentially said, "Well, poly folk aren't like me, therefore any story with them in it must be preachy and crap, and I should publicly ridicule the idea." And then wondered why people were annoyed.
Kimberly Unger
116. Timothy H.

Ah, the nuances of grammer. I hadn't read the first post in your series, hence I didn't understand your re-tooling of the title. Without the background knowledge, your statements of "I want to see more literature with This or That" seemed more manifesto-like, then a plea for book recommendations.

All my discussions stem from this misunderstanding. And I don't believe this misunderstanding is heinous, it was an honest mistake.

Using statements like "maybe I feel threatened" or that I'm coming from a "place of privalege", makes a lot assumptions.


I really appreciate your comment. It is really important to me to always communicate in a polite manner, and treat everyone with respect.


"No one was taling about Y" True that. I would point out that my misunderstanding wasn't being corrected by people, but rather viciously attacked. Which is great for trying to win an argument, but poor for trying to share ideas.

"However, to hold the position "I can't imagine X myself and therefore I don't care about X " is cravenly ignorant, provincial and small minded."

? Maybe we are thinking of different definitions of the word "care" and "interested". When I say I don't care, I mean exactly that. Characters in what I'm reading can be in poly relationships. Or not. I don't care either way. It is a non-issue with me.

"No one here is specifically interested in reading about poly relationships" Isn't Brit asking for reading recommendations, of SFF that happens to include polyamory?


"You mentioned not wanting to read stories that are about people you can't identify with". I never mentioned that, you are implying it from what I said. I can see how your implication came about, but it isn't my intent.

I gave how I felt about polyamory because I thought it was important people knew where this viewpoint was coming from. Interpreting it as I don't care, or I don't like reading stories with relationships like that.. There just is no correlation.

What is the most interesting to me is what most people are assuming my intent was for these comments. I'm not an angry man, yelling at people who aren't like me why they're wrong.

I was trying to help. I was saying, "Hey it looks like this could mean THIS, and for people who aren't acquainted with the subject like I am, this could be a poor first-step."

I don't think that was a bad thing to do.
Wendy Collard
117. bnibbler
Book recs: The Cage, by S.M. Stirling andabunchofotherpeople, was one of the first stories I encountered with a positive lesbian relationship, let along a polyamorous world. It wasn't preachy about those aspects, but it was one of my favorite aspects of that book. It's part of the Fifth Millenium series; by S.M. Stirling, Stephanie Meier,andsomeotherpeople. Includes The Cage, Saber and Shadow, Snow Brother, some others.

Someone else beat me to the punch, so I'll add my votes to Laurie J. Marks' Fire Logic and Earth Logic books, Diane Duane's Tales of the Five, and seemingly anything by Tanya Huff.
Dena Stoll
118. Dmstoll
My apologies if I missed it, but has anyone mentioned Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price? The novel centers around the brother in a family of girls, semi-Western-ish feel to the world, in a society where male births are rare. Brothers are valuable, and when they leave a family for marriage they marry all the sisters in the family they're going to. So the sisters of the title brother have to protect/defend him from kidnapping/threats, etc.

Not only is the book well-written and entertaining, the polygamy made perfect sense within the worldbuilding and was central to the plot. The book would have made no sense without it. Plus, it had politcal intrgue and riverboats! *G*
Brit Mandelo
119. BritMandelo
@Timothy H.

I'm glad we're getting a dialogue going here. The problem in communication also comes from the sensitivity with issues of identity and sexuality--many of these readers are queer or alt-relationship, and have to deal with a lot of judgement and name-calling and degredation in their daily lives. When a person comes in and, because of an honest misunderstanding or not, begins trying to argue that a whole space of discussion is silly, etc.... Well, feelings get hurt. You are placed, perhaps unfairly, in our minds along with other people who have behaved in this way.

Though, I still can't see where I personally was attacking you by debating what you were saying and trying to put it in the context of this thread. "Privlege" is an academic term. Everyone has some level of it somewhere in their life. I am white. I am aware of the social privelege that comes from that. However, I'm also alt-gender, alt-sexualitied and a very vocally political pro-feminist, pro-queer person--and those aren't areas of privelege. I'm also low-income. The problems with privelege only show up when you don't see or acknowldge the ways in which you have social power over others.

Then again, the fact that I'm used to a competitive academic environment is an effect of my privelege in being a part of that community. And in that community, deconstructing someone else's argument to debate with them isn't an attack, it's just debate. It was pretty damned unprofessional of me to say thanks to @EnderAndrew for cussing you out, I know. I'm sorry. You had hurt me with your comments as well as other regular readers of this column. I'm a human like anybody else, and I react badly to what I perceive as an attack and and insult. I probably wouldn't have judged you so harshly had you not agreed with @Aurora, who was behaving with heavy intolerance and condescencion. In fact, without allying yourself with the one troll-esque comment on the thread, your post probably wouldn't have gotten so much attention and ire.

Like I said to @Milo1313, I don't feel a frothing anger or anything. It's just very touchy for a person to come into a productive conversation about subject A and begin arguing with the irrelevance of subject B--it's thread-derailing. But, it was a misunderstanding, and we wouldn't have gotten to this point of communication without some argument.

But it's cool. You get it, I get it. I wasn't intending to attack you, just to debate with your comments. We cool? *g* I welcome you to these conversations. Being a straight guy doesn't eliminate you from sympathy or interest in broader worlds in SFF.
Kimberly Unger
120. excessivelyperky
What about the Jurisdiction novels by Susan R. Matthews? It's clear that Andrej's prison servants lean on each other for comfort, and are shocked, shocked! when Andrej doesn't force them into service to him; and bisexuality is almost the norm on service ships (I still feel sorry for Stildyne, in love with no hope of it being returned). Also, there is serious sadism going on, and that's in the hero.

(Patricia Shaw Mathews has written a Scurrilous Verse or Two about Andrej Koscuisko meeting Lady Phedre no Delaunay etc. etc. etc. from the Kushiel universe. Wish I could remember them, they were good).

Anyway, just another universe where relationships are er, rather fluid.
Kimberly Unger
121. filkferengi
Multi-partner relationships are mentioned with some regularity in Jean Auel's books. In _Mammoth Hunters_, the female co-chief has two mates. Although not as front-and-center, other examples are mentioned throughout the books.
Kimberly Unger
122. Brigdh
No one's mentioned Sherwood Smith's 'Inda' series? All sorts of relationships there: gay, straight, bi, monogamous, poly. Excellent writing, and lots of action along with all the relationship drama, for those who were complaining about that. ;)
Kimberly Unger
123. someotherpeople
Using this moniker due to the reference above to the Fifth Millennium series, which was by S.M. Stirling, Shirley Meier and myself, Karen Wehrstein. Shirley and I have picked up Fifth Millennium again online as Clare Miller also referenced above: see www.chevenga.com and www.eclipsecourt.blogspot.com .

I, for one, have taken up consulting on polyamory and its challenges for research purposes with three of our readers who have been a threesome for ten years...
Kimberly Unger
124. Catherine M.
Ursula K. Le Guin's book of short stories entitled "The Birthday of the World" has a really good polyamorous short story in it.
Matthew Brown
125. morven
I do have to Nth the recommendation of Diane Duane's The Tale Of Five (aka "The Door Into ...") series, and also correct an error above in the comments: all three are available from her website as ebooks, not just the first two. I think the total was about ten bucks for the set, which is a bargain. There are, alas, some formatting errors in them, probably due to conversion errors from their original format, but nothing intolerable.

If there was ever a series whose target audience was bi, poly pagans, it's that one.

Same-sex relationships are also very focussed upon in that series. Two of the three central human characters are men who are in a long-standing primary relationship, although they have other lovers of both genders; the third, a woman, has a relationship with a male dragon (it's complicated) among others. One of the two men is also involved with a fire elemental who can take on the form of either gender.

Poly relationships of any orientation are treated as completely normal in that universe, and lots of them are shown, of various configurations, some good relationships, some bad ones, some messy.
Kimberly Unger
129. easol
I'm sorry, but I have to totally disagree with the "poly-friendly" label for the Anita Blake series, mainly because the lesson in her books is that the only poly relationship that can possibly be fulfilling is many men + one tiny woman who demands that they be faithful to her if they want any emotional commitment, and repeatedly announces that she can't cope with her boytoys having sex with anyone else.

The latest one admittedly finally turns it from a polyandry sitch into a polyamory sitch, but since LKH has done that at least once before, I would expect it to be reversed by the NEXT book.
Kimberly Unger
130. Delirieuse
Several of Kerry Greenwood's books have a F-M-M poly relationship. They're mostly more fantasy than SF, but here you go: Cassandra, Electra, as well as one in The Childstone Cycle.
Kimberly Unger
131. Ashbet
I am re-reading Mercedes Lackeys "Heralds of Valdemar" series, and I'm re-noticing just how poly-friendly she is . . . I don't recall a three-way relationship getting center stage in this series (although I did recommend one of her other books in the discussion above), but she has repeatedly mentioned (over the course of the eight books I've re-read so far) "permanent threesomes," and the possibility of a lesbian couple with a "lifebond" (long-term primary relationship with a spiritual/magical component) opening their relationship to a third (as an equal partner) was also discussed.

I love that she's always been really overtly GLB-friendly (I don't recall any trans characters), and that she addresses issues such as friends-who-are-lovers-for-a-time and fond relationships with ex-lovers in a very respectful and realistic way. It's nice to see caring and tenderness depicted in a relationship who some might see as "casual," and also a rejection of the concept that the end of a relationship has to mean acrimony and bitterness.

Not that she doesn't have some bitter exes or jealousies or misunderstandings, but it's nice to see these subjects treated in a way that most fantasy novels, with their focus on "One True Love" and "OMG Virginity" and "Breakups Always Mean Vengeful Exes" sometimes miss. It's just nice to see all kinds of relationships treated with subtlety and realism.
Kimberly Unger
132. Northling
The lead female character, Honor Harrington, in the honor series by David Weber is in a relationship that could be described as polygamous or polyamorous, depending on how you define polygamy. I think SFF provides authors with a very good opportunity to explore the boundaries of human relationships and within Larry Niven's N-Space novels there is quite a lot of exploration along those lines as well as some discussion of the social context.

I'd like to see more poly exploration if only because it forces us to consider how our own views on mono/poly have been formed and what it is we genuinely value in our relationships.
Kimberly Unger
133. Kinksville
Aaaand you've been tagged by the Polyamory community on LJ :P

One I didn't see anyone mention is Charle's Stross' 'Glasshouse'. The main character has previously been in a polyamorous relationship (and actually calls it polyamorous) though he/she is not currently in one. Also interesting from a queer perspective, I would argue, in view of the main character's swap from male to female partway through the story.

Stross also has a throw-away reference to polyamory (You're doing it wrong!) in 'The Atrocity Archives'.
Brit Mandelo
134. BritMandelo

Oh, how could I forget Stross! He has a way of sneaking things in in most of his books, though usually in the background.

(Cool about the LJ bump!)
Kimberly Unger
135. peteyak
Leonard Daventry's 1965 novel "A man of double deed" contains an non-trivial MFF triad as central characters. For more on this book:


Heinlein is a guilty pleasure for me. Unsuprisingly many of my bi and poly friends don't really like Heinlein because they can't get past the...er...unreconstructed stuff. It bugs me too, but as a not very bi poly male of a certain age I am less bothered by the attitudes, and I do like the story-telling and some of the fascinating poly scenarios that pepper his later books.
Kimberly Unger
136. Lirioness
As has been mentioned, Heinlein.
Some of Tanya Huff's books as well I think.

And re Anita Blake, her whole attitude of "I'm sleeping with this huge number of men but I can't be in a relationship with any of them if they so much as look at someone else. It's all about me me me, they have to be committed to ME" makes me twitch every time. Just, no.
Sumana Harihareswara
137. brainwane
Mary Anne Mohanraj's short story "Jump Space" focuses on a poly family (in space).
Kimberly Unger
138. QueenKk
I have to second the recommendation WAAAAY up there for Mercedes Lackey's Bedlam's Bard first two books (though I've only been able to get my hands on the first book and the 3rd book onwards, unfortunately the poly relationship is not only NOT mentioned in the third, it is as if it never happened.)

As a bi female who loves fantasy I found this thread great. I find it so hard to find books that are well written and include alt relationships. I've never really got into Sci-Fi, though I have tried! I would really love to see more Alt relationships in Fantasy books. Any recommendations for where to go to find lesbian relationships in fantasy novels would be great. Also M/M/F is a long time favourite of mine.

Thanks again.
Kimberly Unger
139. S.M. Stirling
An author should be able to write convincingly from viewpoints very unlike themselves. This is a challenge, of course, but it's sort of boring to write (or read) only from your own lived experience. It turns everything into autobiography.

And one's self is just not that interesting -- realizing this is an essential part of growing up and shedding the narcissism of the infant.
Jake Jesson
141. jakejesson
I am positively gleeful that this blogpost is a thing, as a polyamorous aspiring author working on my first novel and searching for more examples. I only wish I'd found it sooner.
Kimberly Unger
142. Abercrombie
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Robin McLaughlin
143. RLM
I'm way late, but glad to see this and pick up a few suggestions. I'd love to see more depictions of polyamory and various family arrangements in SFF.

I just read a short story a week ago by Stacia Kane that is part of her Downside Ghosts urban fantasy series. I think it stands alone all right and wouldn't be too confusing for someone not familiar with the series. It's called "Home" and includes a rather unique poly relationship.
Kimberly Unger
144. Carol Meza
I just finished reading The Keepers trilogy by Rick Friar. Friar is very much in the vein of Heinlein, with seemingly semi-fascist tendencies at times, while also having extremely left-leaning plot agendas, woven together in a way that actually makes sense. Friar describes a Utopia created by a charismatic dictator who, no matter what side of the aisle you're on, you will love this guy. He's sexy as hell, both the way he's described physically and, more importantly, his way of being. He is compassionate, wise, fights for nature and an end to animal cruelty, frees the people of his nation and later empire from their shackles of nutritional deprivation and mental prisons. I would definitely love to live in the state he creates. However, he accomplishes this through a fascist cult of personality that blossoms into full-blown dicatorship. He lies, cheats and steals to attain his goals, the ends justifying the means. Being that it's just a story and not real life, his badassness only makes him hotter. Of course, true to his rebellious nature, he endorses polyamory, namely polygamy, and himself has two wives. The dictator, whose name is Geiseric (pronounced like Guys-Eric) is not the main character, though he is the most compelling, like Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs. The protagonist is Logan, who finds himself swept up in a New World Order created after Geiseric's conquest of the Earth. It's really not so bad after all. Logan and everyone else finds themselves getting in ever better shape due to the nutrition-based food and healthcare system. So, basically, everyone is hot as hell, brought up to their full potential. Logan first falls in love with a gorgeous French-Italian girl by the name of Francesca, who reciprocates the infatuation. Their relationship is the essence of passion. But, Logan is forced to leave by the keepers, Geiseric's nobility, for a multitude of reasons. Logan is moved to Germany, where he meets a classy, stoic, pristinely beautiful of body, mind and soul German girl named Ina. They fall in love. Logan and Ina then coincidentally run into Francesca. Logan is overwhelmed with elation, until he realizes he now has to choose. Or does he? The way Friar skillfully manages the wants and desires of the three, their intrinsic friction, is truly amazing and a testament to his ability as a writer. Seriously, this love story is masterful and any man who wants such a relationship should take a cue from Logan and Geiseric. As a woman, I would've thought I would find such notions offensive and chauvenistic, but Friar handled conveying the polygamous relationships to the readers in the same way he has the characters manage them, by ever so subtly introducing the concepts step by step, heartbeat by heartbeat, showing the love behind every move, until I cried out for the inevitable conclusion he was driving at, that all three need eachother and must stay together. As a hobbyist writer myself I have the utmost respect for Friar's craftsmanship as an author and I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys outside-the-box thinking in love and all else.
Kimberly Unger
145. Lewis Smart
Kim Stanley Robinson explores alternative relationship structures to some extent in his Mars trilogy, as well as in his novel 2312.

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