Dec 6 2010 2:53pm

Queering SFF: Best of 2010

Best Queer Science Fiction Fantasy of 2010With 2010 drawing to a close and “best-of” TOCs popping up all over the internet, I think it’s the perfect time to do an end of the year roundup on Queering SFF. This series began in March and has been a great deal of fun so far. We’ve done interviews, talked about social issues and how to write better queer characters, and of course, reviewed books new and old. I’ve tried to keep a mix of older and newer releases in the reviews, which means we’ve talked about several books that came out in 2010.

Big and small presses made a good showing this year in LGBTQ spec-fic: everything from dragon-slaying urban fantasy to the weird, weird west and beyond. On the other hand, I can’t read all the books in the world, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few gems—so I’d like your input, too.

I’ve reviewed a few 2010 releases in this series, like:

There are also other books that I didn’t have a chance to review (or in some cases, read at all), like The White Road by Lynn Flewelling, Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey, Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton, Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories by Sandra McDonald, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black (which has a few stories in it with queer characters), and others.

That list hardly looks long enough. I know there must be others. There seems to be an especial dearth of horror fiction; that’s probably because I’ve barely read any horror this year. Please fill me in on what I’ve missed!

As for my favorite, it’s a hard choice. Each of the books I reviewed this year had special strengths and dealt with different topics, and of the books I didn’t have a chance to review, a few also stood out to me. Diana Comet is a fun and strange linked bunch of stories, a format I always enjoy, and Holly Black’s YA short story collection takes turns between creepy and amusing at breakneck speed. Her handling of young queer characters is engaging and witty. I have yet to read The White Road. (I do intend to at some point.) The other offerings did little to impress me, but someone else might see them differently.

Since I have to make a decision, though: out of the LGBTQ books I’ve read from 2010, my favorite is Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts. This is because the book is not only a romping urban fantasy that speeds through its story and rarely loses tension, it also deals with issues of identity, self-acceptance, and homophobia—even the kind that a queer person might internalize after a lifetime of emotional abuse. It’s the kind of book I wish I’d had as a young woman. The main character is sympathetic and engaging, her struggles are believable and well-rounded, and I was truly rooting for her by the end of the story. Plus, she’s a physically strong woman with a body to match, and you don’t see that often in urban fantasy.

A Book of Tongues came in close second for its sheer drama and lyrical, gorgeous prose—Files hooks the reader, hard, and never lets go. The setting and magical mechanics are fantastic, too. I love the Weird West.

For short fiction, it was tough to choose, but I suspect I’ll go with Wilde Stories 2010 over Diana Comet. To be honest I’d like to just give them a tie. Both were great reads.

I’d like to thank the readers of Queering SFF for providing excellent discussions, commentary and suggestions throughout the year. You folks are awesome. I hope we keep having a good time talking about books for a long while to come.

And now, it’s your turn: what 2010 queer SFF books slipped my radar? What were your favorites? (Feel free to drop in any constructive criticism or tell me what your favorite posts were, too.)

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

Stephanie Ellis
1. Steph.Ellis
I went out and bought A Book of Tongues after reading your review and absolutely loved it. Thanks for the recommendation, and thanks also for your fabulous Queering SFF series! I've discovered a lot of new books through your posts and reader comments.
2. Sumayyah
Guess I've got more books to buy... Thanks for this list!
Kate O'Hanlon
3. KateOH
Since there's not a lot of SF on your list I'm going to recommend Adam Robert's New Model Army which was one of my favourite books of 2010, queer or otherwise. The ending is a bit ropey but it gave me a lot to think about.
4. daryguy
I was pretty disappointed in this series. It seemed that the GBT was very heavily outweighed by the L.
[da ve]
5. slickhop
I've enjoyed this series of posts. Keep them coming please.
Brit Mandelo
6. BritMandelo
@Steph.Ellis @Sumayyah

Cool! More books is always good. *g*


That one's new to me, I'll go check it out! You're right, it's mostly fantasy this year somehow. I thought there were more book, but most of the ones I remembered as being 2010 were 2009. Whoops.


I'd take this as legitimate criticism if it weren't as simple as clicking on the tag for "queering sff" to prove it's not accurate. There were more gay book reviewed than anything else (3), 2 that have either bisexuality or mutliple varieties of queer, and 2 lesbian. I do need to do a better job reviewing trans narratives, and I'd like to see more of them.

All of the editorial posts deal with queer as a whole category, including the GBT and L. Actually, I felt like I didn't talk enough about the lesbian element because most of my go-to example-books have gay leads. I think this is a pretty big error of perception--it might help to note that I'm not a lesbian. I'm queer. I just don't feel the need to discuss my orientation on a series that's about literature and queer issues as a whole.


Thanks! I plan on it.
7. Andrea K Host
You might enjoy my "Champion of the Rose", which is set in what I call a 'socially bisexual' world. However, sexual identity isn't a primary plot point (but rather serves as a counter note to other self-determination issues), so it mightn't quite fit what you're looking for.
8. PhoenixFalls
Of the titles you mention, I've only read Naamah's Curse, and it disappointed me. (Not enough that I won't still buy Naamah's Blessing the instant it's out, but enough that it may not make my top 10 of the year.) I'll have to check out some of these other titles!

The only other queer novel I can think of that was published this year (that I read) was Jo Walton's NESFA published Lifelode, which I loved. And it's sort of science fiction. . . as in, it is science fiction, but there's only one or two hints of that in the text, so you only know that if you read the Q&A in the back. ;)
Brit Mandelo
9. BritMandelo

Yeah, you aren't the only one disappointed by the "Naamah" series books so far--to me, they have none of the hook or engaging characters of the previous trilogies. I feel like she needs to stop rehashing that world.

Lifelode has been on my to-buy list, but I thought it came out last year--cool! This reminds me that I really need to order it, since it doesn't seem likely that I'm going to encounter it in the wild.
Beth Mitcham
10. bethmitcham
Demon's Covenant, by Sarah Rees Brennan, has gay main characters (villains and heroes). I liked both Demon books, and I'm looking forward to the third.
11. Steve Berman
Thanks, hon, for the kind words about Lethe books and for tackling this issue.
Brit Mandelo
12. BritMandelo

I own the first one by accident and hadn't read it yet (I believe someone gave it to me)--now I should probably add that to my pile. Thanks!

@Steve Berman

Anytime, anytime. *g* Thank you for doing a great job publishing awesome queer spec-fic.
Rose Fox
13. rosefox
Amanda Downum's THE BONE PALACE has a trans protagonist and is deliciously queer in ways I can't explain further because it would spoil one of the best parts of the book.
Brit Mandelo
14. BritMandelo

I literally just bought that; I loved "The Drowning City." I can't wait to read it.
15. PhoenixFalls
Oh, whoops! You're right. Lifelode did come out last year. (Wow, time flies by fast!)
Memory Arnould
16. xicanti
Not too many of my 2010 LGBTQ reads were published this year, but of those that were I particularly enjoyed:

THE HOUSE ON DURROW STREET by Galen Beckett - one of the protagonists is gay, in a world where his sexuality clashes with societal and religious expectations.
MONSTERS OF MEN by Patrick Ness - another gay protagonist, in a world where nobody sees anything wrong with same-gender marriage.
THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS and THE BROKEN KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin - one of the characters' gender is fluid, and there doesn't appear to be any prejudice against same-gender or multi-partner pairings.
Brit Mandelo
17. BritMandelo

I didn't realize the Galen Beckett had a gay protagonist, cool! I also love gender-fluid characters, so that bumped "Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" up my list. I'll have to add the Patrick Ness.

Stephanie Ellis
18. Steph.Ellis
I absolutely loved R.W. Day's A Strong and Sudden Thaw, and this year, she released a sequel, Out of the Ashes, that is just as good as its predecessor.
19. Tansy Rayner Roberts
I especially loved Lifelode, Diana Comet and The Demon's Covenant this year. Also, not a book but a short story, I really enjoyed AM Dellamonica's "The Cage" on Tor, a domestic werewolf story with a great lesbian romance.

Karen Healey's "Guardian of the Dead" is worth mentioning because it features an asexual supporting character, an incredibly rare characteristic to be portrayed in YA fiction.

Also, Peter M Ball's second Miriam Aster novella, "Bleed," was published from Twelfth Planet Press, and the lesbian heroine gets far more romance than in the original "Horn."

Plus, ASH! Malinda Lo's lesbian retelling of Cinderella was a lovely debut novel.
Brit Mandelo
20. BritMandelo
@Tansy Rayner Roberts

Many very good books there--but also many from 2009! (I almost put Ash on the list, then checked the date, and sure enough--2009.)

I really enjoyed "The Cage" too. *g*

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