Queering SFF

Queering SFF Pride Month: Wrapping Up the Extravaganza

The month’s end is here—solstice has come and gone, the days are getting shorter again—and as June comes to a close, so too does our Pride Month Extravaganza (Redux). In this second run, the Extravaganza focused on introducing work from outside the genre to readers inside it, weaving together sometimes-disparate audiences and introducing stories that might not otherwise get noticed. The guiding mission could mostly be summed up as, “if it’s queer, and if it’s speculative—well, why not? Let’s talk about it.”

Over the course of this special series, we covered work from mainstream publishers, independent comic artists, small literary presses, and then some. If you missed a post—or if you’re looking for something quick to pick a fresh read—here’s a wrap-up recap. A Pride Month montage, if you will.

We began this series with Nicola Griffith’s Hild, a historical novel written by a woman who has predominantly penned sf in the past. That one dealt with a queer history, illustrating the normalcy of complex sexuality in the past. It wasn’t the only historical text, either; the historical seems to be a popular form for queer fiction. For example, we also discussed Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, a book about the Lancashire witch trials that was dark and harsh enough to provoke a fairly complicated response from me as a reader in the end. And the final book we covered was Sarah Waters’s Affinity—a Victorian-set novel about spiritualism, women’s desire, and the cruelty of manipulation and dishonesty. That history gives us a look at a past in which queer identification has been shut up and cordoned off, resulting in tragic consequences.

But there were also contemporary novels, like The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie, which dealt with issues of race, class, religion and sexuality in the ’70s. As an exploration of identity and community, McKenzie’s novel tells a powerful and intimate story of self and other, individual and world-at-large. Then, in a totally different contemporary vein, there’s Megan Milks’s surreal short fiction collection Kill Marguerite and Other Stories: weird and queer to the core, Milks’s stories are provocative and uncomfortable, bizarre and sometimes exciting. She’s writing both on a cutting edge and as part of a long history of bizarro queer fiction, and it works.

There are other sorts of stories, too, of course—not just prose fiction. If you like comics, the Extravaganza this year touched on two strong candidates: No Straight Lines, an anthology of queer comics over the past 40 years edited by Justin Hall, and Brainchild, a currently-running webcomic by a young independent comic artist. Both are quite different, but each are contenders for “excellent queer and speculative content.”

Seven texts, four weeks—and there’s so much more out there that we didn’t get to this time around.

The Queering SFF series as a whole will continue, of course. It’s a long term deal, a project that doesn’t need a demarcated month to be important. There are books with speculative, queer content being published all the time; I’m glad to be here to talk about them, as much as I’m able. Those books come from all ends of the publishing world—not just “ours,” here in the dedicated genre audience—and I do hope that the focus of this Extravaganza has shed some light on those other corners, put a few more titles on to-read lists.

Now it’s your turn, if you’re so inclined. Each of us contributes to a world with more diversity and a stronger panoply of voices—through buying and reading and talking about and writing stories that represent a full world with all kinds of different people in it, including queers, gender outlaws and their allies.

And not just in June.

Lee Mandelo is a writer, critic, and editor whose primary fields of interest are speculative fiction and queer literature, especially when the two coincide. She can be found on Twitter or her website.


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