Thu
Mar 7 2013 12:30pm
LGBTQ Characters: If They’re In My Life They Should Be in the Fiction I Read

LGBTQ queer issues Dragonriders of Pern science fiction fantasy

I started reading romance—full-bore (eh heh), graphic romance—when I was eleven or so. At that time, I’d come off a science-fiction and fantasy YA kick and moved to historical adventures of all stripes, and from historical adventures to historical romance. My upbringing was such that there were precious few secrets of life at that age, so the graphic contents didn’t “bother” me all that much. I knew what sex was, how it was (generally) done, and had somehow come to the subconscious conclusion that all that was perfectly fine, in my limited experience with life.

During one of my strays back to science-fiction/fantasy, I picked up Anne McCaffrey’s initial Dragonriders of Pern trilogy—Dragonflight, Dragonquest,  and The White Dragon. This is notable for two reasons: 1) “Oh! Oh! I want to be a dragonrider!”, said my imagination, and 2) it marked my first real run-in with same-sex pairings in the written word—in, most pointedly, a way that fundamentally drew my attention.

If I’d come across references prior to this, they didn’t impact me at the right time, or perhaps in the same way. Perhaps I was too young to notice the difference at the time, or too absentminded care. Whatever the case, all I know is that I was reading merrily along when a set of dragons launched into a mating race. Now, if you’ve read the series, you know that what affects the dragon tends to cross over to the rider, and since neither of the dragons who mated were gold queens, that meant that somewhere, there were two male dragonriders bonding in the same way we’d seen Lessa and F’lar bonding. Or at least, that was what I was left to assume, for the text never said any different.

That little moment, for some unknown reason, stuck with me. When I read Robert Heinlein’s Friday, I left it chewing over concepts like polyamory and the ability to love more than one person. As I got older and read books by Anne Rice (naturally), Poppy Z. Brite, and Clive Barker, they shared a darker side of same-sex pairings, and I filed it neatly with the darker side of the hetero pairings I’d read—uncanny how similar they could be.

I started wondering why same-sex love wasn’t as “open” in the romance world as it seemed to be in other realms of fiction—which wasn’t saying a lot, given the ratio.

As I talk about in this blog post here, one of my uncles came out to his family when I was a little younger than when I read my first romance book. When I was a older, and a little bit wiser, I began to see the impact sexuality had on one’s life—the bullying, the bigotry; and yes, the fear. As I grew up, as my writer’s brain started sharpening its toolset on the trials and tribulations of life, this seed of an idea began to germinate in ways that didn’t really make sense until I read Suzanne Brockmann’s All Through the Night.

LGBTQ queer issues All Through The Night Suzanne Brockman science fiction fantasy

I read romance because you can put characters through hell, drag them through the dirt, smear them in mud and blood and horrible choices, but in the end, you know they’ll find love—or, at least, a shot at it. It’s my absolute belief that everyone should have a shot at love, and until I read about Robin and Jules’ story, the prickly sensation I kept scratching at in my subconscious finally jarred loose.

Dear readers, writers, and world at large: if it’s okay to make LGBTQ characters suffer the same trials, experience the same heartaches, pay the same dues—metaphorical or otherwise—and endure the same losses as straight characters, then why isn’t it okay to find the same love?

What All Through the Night became was a missing piece of the varied puzzle that is my bookshelf: Watching Jules and Robin work out their issues—issues that are unsurprisingly similar to the issues everyone has to go through, gay or straight or in between—filled a void I didn’t realize was missing in my “reading experience” until then.

Why, then, were the large publishers so wary of putting out same-sex stories? Authors like Yasmine Galenorn and Suz Brockmann were the exception, trail-blazers with few to follow after, but why must it be an exception? A call for favorite LGBTQ characters on Twitter earned a slew of small/indie publishers, self-pubbed books, and e-first imprints—but only those very few familiar faces in the big publishers. Why? When so much “stake” is put in the big pubs, why not?

LGBTQ characters, protagonist or support cast, should be as common as the varied people in our lives. I don’t know about you, but any given week, I associate with, hang out with, deal with, talk with, laugh with, put up with, experience life with people who are gay, straight, bi-, brown, white, black, male, female, trans-, old, young, comfortably well off or strugglingly poor, and every mix and match possible. We are real people and we have real issues. Our lives are just as complicated as anyone else’s and just as ripe for storytelling as anyone’s.

The books I read growing up, the role model my uncle became, my own experiences and those of the people I loved, all of these conspired to make me hungry for stories, and I don’t want to be meeting the watered down worlds that don’t include facets of people that I know exist. So let’s give them the same voice we give the others, okay? You and me. Let’s make it better. Avon Impulse and I already started with Wicked Lies, Avon’s first m/m pairing—and 100% of the proceeds I make will be going to It Gets Better, because that’s how much it matters.

What say you add your voice, your talent, your readership to the worlds we’re weaving? And maybe some LGBTQ recommendations in the comments?

Dragonriders of Pern art by Michael Whelan


After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (sort of), went to work in the real world (kind of), where she decided that making stuff up was way more fun (true!). She is the author of dark and sexy paranormal romances, steampunk adventures, crossover urban fantasy, and writes across multiple genres with mad glee. Visit her at www.karinacooper.com, because she says so.

40 comments
Sharat Buddhavarapu
1. spinfuzz
I wish I could contribute to the reading list of LGBTQ romances in fiction, but I can only add that I too began reading romances when I was 11: My family was visiting my grandparents in India, about 5 years after we'd moved to the US, and The Bridges of Madison County was on the dining table where my mother had left it. Me being a voracious reader, I had finished the thing by dinner time, much to my mother's chagrin. I don't think I knew what I was reading, but I liked it and surreptitiously read romances for the rest of my childhood.
Michaelgary
2. Michaelgary
Thank you for this post! I totally agree. My first exposure to same-sex pairing in SFF (or any genre fiction) was Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald Mage series. That it was a societally normal and accepted thing made it all the more exciting. I also highly recommend Storm Constantine's Wraeththu novels. I hope our fiction will some day soon be as diverse and complex as reality, and maybe push for a little real social progress as well. Cheers!
Michaelgary
3. PhoenixFalls
SFF novels I've read that feature a gay or lesbian romantic plot/subplot, from major publishers, in no particular order:

--A Companion to Wolves, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (you mentioned Pern -- this is Pern made explicit, but with wolves (and difficult-to-pronounce-for-USAians Nordic names). Will be a trilogy, of which two books are published, and includes a gay triad in the central roles. (Tor)
--The Elemental Logic series, by Laurie J. Marks, which is epic fantasy in a homonormative and mostly polyamorous world, and which has one of the more nuanced depictions of life in an occupied country I've ever seen in the genre. (Tor, Though technically Tor dropped the series after the first two books, and Small Beer Press picked it up.)
--The Darkover series, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which was my genre introduction to queer and polyamorous relationships, particularly the books about the Renunciates (lesbians and bisexual women in a poly relationship!) and the Forbidden Tower (quad made up of two heterosexual couples, focused mostly on one of the men coming to terms with his love for the other man). Plus telepathy and culture clash between a high-tech space faring culture and a faux-feudal planet-bound culture. (Daw)
--Farthing, by Jo Walton, which is a British country house mystery set in an alternate 1940s world, with a gay lead detective. There are two later books in the same world and with the same detective, but I mention Farthing specifically because of the way Walton wove several queer couples into the narrative and taught me all sorts of fun period slang that let the characters talk around their queerness. Though technically, most of the queer relationships are established prior to the series. (Tor)
--The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner, which is set in a no-magic faux-Georgian-ish world with strict gender roles and class divisions and duels, and features a heroine breaking those rules, becoming a swordswomen, and setting up house with her best friend. Though I'll admit I don't remember for sure that the fact that they're in a lesbian relationship is made explicit, I really can't read the book any other way. The other books in the series feature gay men, but in Swordspoint they're in an established relationship and I haven't read The Fall of the Kings yet. (Bantam Spectra)
--Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey, which is set in a vaguely dystopic future Texas and has orphans banding together to make a family, genetically engineered supersoldiers, vigilante justice in superhero fashion, and boxing. A lesbian couple's romance is at the heart of the book. (Fair warning: I hated the sequel and would not recommend anybody read it, and I love every single one of Carey's other novels.)(Grand Central Publishing)

Now given that I've read literally thousands of SFF novels, this is a pretty paltry list! I could expand it with novels that just feature queer characters in leading roles, or by including small presses, but I'm pretty sure it'd still be under twenty-five titles. So I'm looking forward to getting some recs for myself in the comments!
Michaelgary
4. RobertX
"that meant that somewhere, there were two male dragonriders bonding in the same way we’d seen Lessa and F’lar bonding."

I guess only the author knows that for sure but I never inferred that at all from the text. Why would their, for a lack of a better way to say it, "natural" or "inherent" tendencies be overridden? You would think that if that was happening it would certainly reflect somewhere in the text in how the riders related to each other later on. That is what I would expect.
Michaelgary
5. Ed Avern
There's a homosexual scene in Dragonriders? Admittedly it's been a while since I read them (might be time for a re-read, actually) but I do not remember that. Which two dragons is it?
Michaelgary
6. Mary Beth
@ 4. RobertX:

McCaffrey has said some pretty nasty things about forcible conversion to homosexuality on the part of green (I think it's green?) Dragonriders, reflecting a real misunderstanding of the way sexual orientation works.
Michaelgary
7. PhoenixFalls
@4&5: Green dragons are female, and go on mating flights where they're bred by blue and brown (and the occasionally bronze) male dragons. But as all the riders (except for the riders of queen dragons) are male, and mating flights bleed over into rough, dubiously consensual sex for the riders involved, it's strongly implied that there's homosexual sex happening off-screen. Though as Mary Beth says, McCaffrey herself had screwed up views about those dynamics.
Michaelgary
8. paulie
The first book I ever read that featured a same sex relationship was 'Woman Cheif' by Rose Sobal - I got it from that wonderful catalogue that circled the classrooms of my youth. (Now days, I wonder if it would even be included *sigh*) The main character, a Crow Chief woman was courted by "Little Feather" (OK, so it was a kids book) and Woman Chief ended up with many wives - it wasn't 'IN YOUR FACE', it simply WAS, and nearly 30 years later, it still remains a lovely, well written STORY who's title character happened to love women.
Michaelgary
9. hng23
Wicked Gentlemen, by Ginn Hale: a Captain in an alternate world's Church Inquisition investigating a series of murders must ask the descendant of demons for help.

The Hexslingers Trilogy, by Gemma Files: horror/fantasy. Post-Civil War West, a defrocked minister uses his lover to raise an Aztec death goddess.

Both of these are from indie publishers, no surprise.
Angela Korra'ti
10. annathepiper
Tanya Huff! Multiple novels of hers feature prominent same-sex relationships, and it was one of hers, Wind's Four Quarters I believe, that had a lovely same-sex relationship in it presented _entirely without angst_. That was a seminal moment for me, even more than Vanyel over in the Last Herald-Mage, on the grounds that it made me realize that "hey, these relationships don't actually HAVE to be tragic. They can work out just like the opposite sex ones do."

She's gone on to present several more novels with positive same-sex relationships, as in her Keeper series, and the entire Smoke trilogy, and another of the Quarters books. She is in fact one of my top favorite authors and I want to write like her when I grow up.

(Editing to add the following since it got eaten the first time I tried to post this comment...)

Gael Baudino was another one I noticed growing up. Gossamer Axe _particularly_ stood out for me as an excellent f/f love story in a fantasy novel.

These days I find f/f very thin on the ground in the SF/F genre indeed. M/m's a bit more common but f/f, not so much. At least not among the big publishers.

(I do note with pleasure that my current publisher, Carina, DOES have a small but growing list of same-sex love stories in SF settings.)
Mary Decker
11. Ki
There's a good deal of LGBTQ YA coming out: Malinda Lo's ASH and HUNTRESS have lesbian love interests; Sarah Rees Brennan's DEMON'S LEXICON series has a gay main character.

Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series also has a romance between the two male protagonists, though it's fairly backburner to the action/adventure plot.
Douglas Freer
12. Futurewriter1120
I think there isn't a lot of these stories because the people who write romance stories aren't part of that group. They probably think it's something they can't understand they are an LGBT themself. Another possibility is that publishers or whoever thinks romance readers are straight women and men. Then there's the whole homophobe thing going on still.
Michaelgary
13. izz
I haven't read any of the Pern books in at least 5 yrs, but they used to be my goto books whenever I needed something to read. So my 2 cents....
@5 There's a gay couple near the begining of Dragonquest. F'nor gets stabbed by a greenrider whose dragon is proddy at the Smithcraft Hall. There was also a couple in Dragonseye. They get atacked by lions(I think) after fooling around and taking a nap in the Southern Continent.

I started reading the Pern books when I was in seventh grade and I didn't catch the gay characters for a long time. When I did though it was just kinda like" Oh, of course... thats just how it is." On the forums at the time the general consenus seemed to be that greens would bond with gay men with a more "femenine" personality while blues with "masculine" gays.

On the actual topic of the thread. They weren't main characters but Blay and Qhuinn from the Black Dagger Brotherhood are supposed to get their own book.
Fade Manley
14. fadeaccompli
Door Into Fire. That was my introduction to--well, that was my introduction to the idea that other people might be conscious of non-het sex, since I was raised in a sufficiently sheltered environment that up until that point I'd thought it was just something in my head that didn't really exist. (Which rather underlines the point as to the need for more representation in fiction.)

Dubious sexual politics in Pern aside, I loved the varied representation in Downum's The Drowning City/Bone Palace/Kingdom of Dust; the protagonist common to all three books is straight, but there's a width and depth of other sexualities (and genders, and etc) that's all the more pleasing for being...well, varied. I see a lot more books with a Token Gay Sidekick than ones where there are plenty of non-het people in the world, existing as casually and in as unmarked a state as anyone else.
Michaelgary
15. Abyss
I read the series almost two decades ago and i always remembered that scene. McCaffrey wrote it vague, with the green and blue dragons getting their funk on, while the two riders, who were male, "moving away from the crowd" or something similar.

It was vague enough to potentially suggest they just sat around drinking rather than getting it on the way 'hetero' paired bronze and queen riders did, but male-on-male dragon influenced naked time was implicit.
Michaelgary
16. Blend
Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains' protagonist, Ringil Eskiath is gay. He is by no means portrayed as a particularly sympathetic homo, but he's still a protagonist of a fantasy novel by an author who is well known enough on the SciFi side of the SciFi/Fantasy genre.

The only other book that I can think of having read that featured a gay male relationship is The Chosen by Ricardo Pinto. He's by no means a well known author, but I remember reading that and being surprised at how fluid sexuality was in his world. It's a headache of a read, but I did very much enjoy it.
Michaelgary
17. Blend
Ooh, also, Blend and Picker from the Malazan Book of the Fallen are a gay female couple that are portrayed well enough. There's a gay character, Skulldeath, but he's portrayed kind of the way you'd expect a straight man to portray a gay man.
Cain Latrani
18. CainS.Latrani
The central character of my own zombie apocolypse series is gay, though to be fair, I don't really see how that would matter much when zombies are nomming on everyone.

Honestly, I don't get why there is an aversion to having gay characters in any media. Much less why they can't be treated as the normal people they are.

This may also be why I'm an indie author, and not getting to work with the big publishers.
Michaelgary
19. Huimang
In the Pern books, Moreta: Whatsit of Pern is more specific about the depiction of gay couples among dragonriders (with a generally positive view, given that a particularly unlikable character includes intolerance of them as one of his traits). It's also one of the better Pern books apart from the original trilogy.
Otherwise, as someone's mentioned, Diane Duane's Door Into... series features a lot of queer relationships. (Pansexual might be a better description.) Melissa Scott writes terrific science fiction novels which tend to have lesbian female protagonists (Dreamships and its sequel Dreaming Metal, Burning Bright, Mighty Good Road and so on.)
Alan Brown
20. AlanBrown
The example might be from TV and not print, but I think that Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood is notable in that his sexuality was not a gimmick to drive the plot, or a sign of some weakness, or something he was ashamed of. I remember the first Torchwood show I ever saw, where he was coming back from the dead after fighting some great big demon, and when he came out of his coma, and he kissed the men and hugged the women. I remember being a little puzzled by that, but within a few episodes, I said, "Oh, I get it." I can't think of many TV adventure shows before that which had a dashing handsome leading man quite like him.
Michaelgary
21. Merrian
Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett's lovely Point of Dreams series about Nicolas Rathe and Philip Eslingen finding each other and becoming a couple as they solve mysteries in the renaissance-like world of the city of Astreiant were written in the 1990s.

I think it is telling that we are struggling to list mainstream/big 6 publisher 21st century published books that are inclusive. I also don't think you can talk about this stuff without considering the evolution of the m/m romance genre and digital publishing. The opportunity for books that are not supported by mainstream publishers to find an audience means these stories are being told.

These days I can find some great fantasy or SF titles through the m/m romance genre e.g. Ginn Hale's 'Rifter' serial of 10 novellas published by Blind Eye Books, is about religous wars and magic on another world - the holy bones are truly terrifying. Vaughn R. Demont writes Urban Fantasy such as 'Coyote's Creed' and Andrea Speed's Infected series - stories about Roan a lion shifter (where shifting is a viral illness that will kill you in the end) in a contemporary world are great. Lisa Henry's Dark Space. There is also Amy Lane's 'A Solid Core of Alpha' too. These are only a few examples and I feel that there is more SF coming through now.
Michaelgary
22. HelenS
I mention Farthing specifically because of the way Walton wove several queer couples into the narrative and taught me all sorts of fun period slang that let the characters talk around their queerness

Huh. I can't actually remember much of this except the bit about "Athenian," "Macedonian," etc., which was invented by a couple of the characters (i.e., by Jo Walton), not period slang as such.
Michaelgary
23. Tru Mystic
There are actually quite a few novels that havent been mentioned but I guess you need to read feminist SF to have known about them plus quite a few are OOP. However long before I knew about feminist SFF I was introduced to the novels of Jane Yolen. I read these right after I was introduced to Pern and I didnt think anything about the f/f pairings in Sister Light, Sister Dark or White Jenna it was just a society with Amazon like women and thats what they did.

Several years later I actively sought out feminist SF cause reading Robert Heinlen or Piers Anthony and their depictions of women drove me crazy.

Thats when I discovered great books that had strong female protagonists and also tended to have societies that werent heteronormative.

Suzy McKee Charnas' Hold Fast Chronicles: Walk to the End of the World, Motherlines, The Furies and The Conquerors Child all novels in this series feature a postapocalyptic society where men and women are separated and romantic relationships are primarily f/f and m/m.

Sheri Tepper's The Gate to Womens Country also has a post apocalyptic world where men and women are separated and thus romantic relationships reflect that separation. Ditto for Pamela Sargent's Shore of Women which in many ways has a similar plot to Tepper's novel in terms of fleshing out a dystopia where genders are separate but the execution of Sargents novel (characterisation, plotting, character development) is much better in my opinion.


Other novels to take a look at:
Joan Slonczewski's Door Into Ocean
Nicola Griffith's Ammonite
Octavia Butler's Liliths Brood sequence has an interesting take on the intersex though they happen to be an alien third gender but these novels definitely make you think about our sex and sexual orientation categories as well as their boundaries.

Kameron Hurley's novels starting with God's War has prominent characters whose sexual orientation is pretty fluid though more on the primary relationships being f/f side of the spectrum. This is a fascinating series in terms of presenting a world where religion, technology and society arent based on the American-European norm and lots of new cool ideas are presented here ( Hurley's world is Islamic, run by women and technology is based on bugs).

I could seriously go on and on but I think it makes more sense to refer you to the Tiptree Award winners (an award for novels that expand or understanding of gender but many of these novels also help broaden our understanding of sexual orientation too). Or go take a look at feministsf.org which has extensive lists for whatever subgenre you are into.
Michaelgary
24. Splicer
And if they are not then they shouldn't. I'm all for diversity but as far as I'm concerned an artist should create exactly what they want to create whatever way they want to create it. The end.
Michaelgary
25. shellywb
Diana Comet by Sandra McDonald is a recent book of related short stories that I don't think anyone mentioned. It's an exploration of gender/sexuality, along with some great sff writing, for young adults.

Congrats on your milestone book! I wondered when I'd finally see a bigname romance publisher finally publish gay romance. I bought it just for that.

The first sff I ever read that had gay or Lesbian relationships in any kind of major way was the Nightrunner series. I loved it so much I started looking up all the other books I could find. There are a couple of good lists out there for sff with LGBTQ characters. These are lists that focus on older books.

http:/www.lesbiansciencefiction.com
The below site has a large collection of links to list sites that I've used:
http://duskpeterson.com/sflinks/index.htm
http://www.angelfire.com/ny/gaybooks/genre.html
Michaelgary
26. Seanna Lea
One of my favorite YA authors, Tamora Pierce, has included same sex couples either expressly or obliquely in most of her more recent novels. Specifically, Will of the Empress features a same sex/coming out relationship as part of the story. In other novels, she has made it clear that these relationships happen whether or not there are any main characters having same sex relationships at the time. Even if there isn't a main character having a same sex relationship, I think this kind of normalization is important.
Michaelgary
27. vcmw
These are the moments when I realize how heavily self-filtered my reading is, because I think a significant percentage of all the authors I read frequently in young adult and adult sf/f from major publishers feature queer characters. Just from a scan of what's on my shelves in the living room that I don't think has been mentioned yet, there are queer characters in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books; in Wilhelmina Baird's cyberpunk books (Crashcourse and Clipjoint for sure, I can't remember if there are any in the next two); in popular YA series from Melissa Marr, Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare; in Nora Roberts's futuristic police series written as J. D. Robb; in Robin McKinley's Dragonhaven; in Elizabeth Willey's The Well-Favored Man, A Sorcerer and a Gentleman, and The Price of Blood and Honor; in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series; in Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series; Seanan McGuire's October Daye books; and in Elizabeth's Bear's books.
Michaelgary
28. vcmw
Other series from my other shelf - Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series; Kim Harrison's Hollows series; the Bordertown anthologies as a whole and most of the authors included there, in their stand-alone work. My brain can't come up with a specific example but I feel sure there are queer characters in Charles DeLint. One of the reasons I read a lot of urban fantasy and paranormal romance is that my impression has been these sub-genres are more inclusive as far as sexuality and sexual identities.
Michaelgary
29. AndrewV
My thoughts on this are relatively simple: I'm not for or against sexual minorities (or minorities in general for that matter) in fiction. All I want is a good story. If that involves gay men or bisexuals or whatever, that's great. I won't actively avoid such fiction but I won't actively look for it either. I am willing to read and enjoy a good tale, no matter who it is about.

I think this is why I sometimes get distressed by the push to include additional minorities in fiction. Let's have it make sense for the story instead of shoehorning them in. After all, isn't it totally unfair to the minority in question if an author tries to meet a quota instead of adding a character trait where one is needed? I'd hate to see an author change a straight white female character to a lesbian black female and then not pay attention to the major differences between those people and their life experiences. However, if a story calls for such a character, I'd hate to see the an author afraid to include her.

We have new viewpoints coming into speculative fiction and I honestly think that's great. I want to read great fiction by people who are passionate about their writing, no matter the subject. If someone looks around and says, "Gee, there aren't enough gay characters in this genre" then maybe that person should write some fiction with gay characters to fill the void. I'd be far more interested in reading that work than I would someone else who was only inserting these characters because they were a way to appeal to a generally liberal base of editors in NYC.
Jenny Kristine
30. jennygadget
I don't know that I have much to add to the suggestions, sadly. I can think of more YA books with LGTB characters, but not any that are genre as well.

"Let's have it make sense for the story instead of shoehorning them in."

And where in the world do you get the idea that anyone here wants it otherwise? The entire point of the title even is that the clear absence of LGTB characters from so many books is what makes no sense. And is an artificial construction brought about by who and what is considered normal or default. Sticking to that is hardly going to lead to more interesting stories.

I always think this when people respond negatively to complaints about lack of (realistic) females character too. In what universe is a character like C'Needra a better choice, storywise? How does disappearing the work that women do, the conversations we have, make for better stories?
Michaelgary
31. phuzz
All of the main (PoV) characters in Rule 34 by Charlie Stross are gay or bi (except one).
Probably my favourite thing about it is that I never noticed at the time, until it was pointed out later. It's not signposted or pointed up in anyway in the text. Basically, this is how it should be done.


SPOILERS:
ok there's one character we find out about in the last chapter that's clearly not gay, but I'm not mentioning them because of SPOILERS.
david schwarm
32. davidgiven
This is like the six or seventh Tor blog this year about LGBT issues. I am wondering if spinning off a seperate imprint and/or buying a publisher like Lethe may not be in the works.
Michaelgary
33. Morg
In reality only 1-6% (depending on which study you rely on) of the population is LGBT, therefore I would expect to see it in about that percentage of the books I read and I would say that is about right. Particularly in more recent years. I am not sure MORE books with LGBT characters are needed, I will say that more GOOD books with LGBT characters would be appreciated. The last two I read were not good at all. Primarily becasue both the story and character arcs were boring/and or/not too realistic (both were by Malinda Lo).
Michaelgary
34. Steve Berman
Lethe Press has been release speculative fiction with LGBT characters since it started in 2001. Our books have won numerous awards. I recommend you consider visiting our website at lethepressbooks.com as well as the Lambda Literary Foundation's award site (which sadly lumps all LGBT books together).

S
Michaelgary
35. Difficat
Well, there's Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold, which is a great story of an obstetrician surrounded by secret agents. He's from an all-male planet so he finds women really disturbing.

I'll second the recommendation of Tanya Huff, specifically the Tony Foster books, starting with Smoke and Shadows. Those are about a junior production assistant in British Columbia, trying to keep his job while dealing with supernatural problems he doesn't want his boss to find out about. The characters are completely wonderful.

These aren't specifically YA books, but I would think a genre reader in middle school would enjoy them as much as an adult.

Regarding romance books, I have tried, multiple times, to appreciate them for themselves, but I can't. I've read books suggested by romance authors and experts in the field, and they do nothing for me. It seems that romance, for me, is best if there is a space battle, or faerie encursion, or threatened colony world.
Jenny Kristine
36. jennygadget
Morg @ 33

"In reality only 1-6% (depending on which study you rely on) of the population is LGBT,"

I'm pretty sure all or most of the studies those numbers come from are of LGB persons only, not people who identify as LGBT. Those studies are also completely unrealiable for your purpose here because they are based on indentification. This means they are going to under-report all three groups, but most especially bisexuals, as many people who are attracted to the people of the same sex somewhat will not identify as bisexual on those kinds of surveys.

Besides, when we argue that we expect fiction to reflect reality, we are not talking about quotas based on real life percentages. We are talking about the fact that LGBTQ persons exist in significant numbers and that, fiction being fiction, it would make sense for it to explore these dynamics in a noticeable way. To a degree that, if anything, ought to be a higher percentage than the number of people who outwardly identify as such, not smaller - simply due to the attractiveness of different dynamics to play with.

Most of all though, you just compeletely erased the "Q" part of LGBTQ.
Michaelgary
37. MichelleM
@Andrew: Your argument is an interestingly oblique way of saying you don't want gays in your literature. What many of us are noticing is that writers don't have gay characters at all. Is it because they think their readers/publishers won't stand for it? Is it that they don't know how to make the narrative work with gays in it? Is it that it doesn't occur to them to write a gay character, and if so, why not? That's not a homophobia charge. It's a legitimate question, just like asking why there aren't more, I don't know, space ships in their books.

Also, how did you go from white heterosexual woman to black lesbian, or was that a subtle dig at minorities as well? (Given your crack at liberal NYC editors, I'm going to assume it's the latter.) Overall, your argument sounds like the literary version of, "I don't care if they do it, just don't do it where I can see."

I also take issue with the ideas that homosexuals and heterosexuals necessarily have different upbringings and issues. Put the lesbian in a world where sexuality is a non-issue and suddenly the different upbringings are moot. Take a young gay man who grows up in a liberal town with accepting parents. Take a young atheist in the deep south and compare him with the aforementioned gay man.

It's only hard to do if you're unimaginitive or scared.
Michaelgary
38. John Brown 1000
"If They’re In My Life They Should Be in the Fiction I Read"

This smacks of quotas and regulations. You should write about more LGBTQs. You should write about more Latvians. You should write about more people from Bakersfield. You should write about this. You shouldn't write about that.

Should?

I can't bring myself to write to a should. Writing isn't about shoulds. Writing is about passion. Which is why I'm happy the article ended with this.

"Our lives are just as complicated as anyone else’s and just as ripe for storytelling as anyone’s."

Amen. If you are someone who is passionate about stories featuring these types of characters, then write them! Explore the new territory. Bring back the delights. Invite others to sample and try.

But leave the shoulds where they belong.
Dusk Peterson
39. DuskPeterson
"Dear readers, writers, and world at large: if it’s okay to make LGBTQ characters suffer the same trials, experience the same heartaches, pay the same dues—metaphorical or otherwise—and endure the same losses as straight characters, then why isn’t it okay to find the same love?"

One of the answers to that question can be found here, in an article written by Anna Genoese in 2006, when she was editor of Tor's paranormal romance imprint.

I attended the con panel that she wrote about in that article. What I took out of that panel is that a writer had no hope of selling gay and lesbian novels to SF/F presses unless they disguised those novels as being about something other than gay and lesbian relationships. Ms. Genoese recommended that, if the writers wanted to write in an open way about gay and lesbian love, they take their science fiction and fantasy novels to romance presses instead.

Many of the writers attending that panel, or who heard about that panel later, took her advice, which is one of the reasons why the romance presses are now the biggest source of SF/F novels featuring gay and lesbian characters.

Ms. Genoese's argument, which I may well have misunderstood, was that, because gay romance was not a standard publishing category, one couldn't write about gay romance for SF/F publishers; one could only write about gay and lesbian characters who were doing something that had nothing to do with romance. I think she said it was okay to have the characters fall in love in a subplotty way, a la Llyn Flewelling, but gay or lesbian love couldn't be a major plot element.

This was a paranormal romance editor telling us this. I think I could have accepted this pronouncement from anyone except an editor who had been specifically hired by an SF/F press to buy SF/F romance books.

Incidentally, not every writer in that room considered themselves a genre romance writer. I don't consider myself such. But this pronouncement was so strong that it affected even those of us who don't write genre romance. I respected Ms. Genoese's desire that we keep a realistic attitude in matters of manuscript submission; however, I intensely disliked being told, in essence, that it was all right for Patricia A. McKillip to write lots of romantic fantasy novels (featuring heterosexual characters) for SF/F presses, but that I shouldn't allow the gay characters in my fantasy novels to fall in love, except as part of an obscure subplot.

That con panel took place seven years ago, well before columns about GLBT characters in SF/F began to routinely appear at Tor.com. Ms. Genoese later appended a note to her article, describing it as "woefully out of date." I do believe, though, that these words she spoke in the article are as relevant today as they were back then:

"There has to be an audience for the change. . . . It is a matter of getting people to pick the book up—and read it, and enjoy it, and recommend it to friends and family, and then buy the next book by the author."

In other words, change is most likely to come, not from initiatives by SF/F presses, but by readers making clear to the SF/F presses that this is what they're interested in buying.
Michaelgary
40. Kate Merrick
First off, thank you Karina for posting this article. I greatly appreciate when people acknowledge the importance of bridging this gap we have in our literature. And it is important because as many LGBTQ organizations will tell you, visibility matters.

Through literature we have an opportunity to dive into the minds and hearts of characters whose lives/stories help broaden our perspectives and shoulder our burdens. In doing so, we create bridges over things such as fear of the unknown and misunderstanding. Yes, these should be well written stories where the characters have as much depth and complexity as you and I.

Now I am gay, so I have personal reasons for why this is important. I long to be represented, understood, and shown that people like me can find love. I haven’t found many stories that had happy endings for people like me. I haven’t found many stories where I could be the hero. And I know I’m not alone in this. I’m not saying LGBTQ is the only minority that needs more representation. We all live in a far more diverse world than our art sometimes reflects. But it’s still worth mentioning. I believe our world is changing, that it’s getting better at accepting this diversity and taking back our power. We do need to let the head honchos know we are ready to read and write about more diverse worlds and characters. The more we talk about it, the further along we get.

Also, thank you to everyone who posted recommendations. I'm really looking forward to reading them :)

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