In this ongoing survey of QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics, I want to try to go back to the very firsts—even risking the possibility that those works have not aged well. The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You was, to my knowledge, the first English-language speculative book that featured neopronouns: gender pronouns that are distinct from he, she, or singular they. It is a book that is unique in another respect as well: it was a massive self-publishing success, which was almost entirely unheard of in the 1970s when it first appeared.
The book was originally published under the title The Comforter: A Mystical Fantasy by Evan Press in Berkeley in 1971, then republished by Dorothy Bryant’s own Ata Press, until it was picked up by Random House in 1976. (I could not find out much about Evan Press; this might have been an earlier name for Ata Press as well. Interestingly, Edvige Giunta’s monograph on Italian American women writers points out that Italian American women like Bryant turned to self-publishing early on due to a preexistent cultural tradition.) The book is still in print and seems to have a following; for this review, I read a copy of the 1988 printing.
The novel begins with a detailed murder scene of a naked woman; the murder is committed by the protagonist, an up-and-coming Anglo-American male writer. (From here on, I’ll call him “Protagonist” with a capital P.) The Protagonist attempts to flee from justice, but after a mysterious event, finds himself on an island inhabited by “the kin of Ata”—a calm, quiet people of various races. Here, he experiences an entirely different way of life, and eventually achieves a spiritual awakening. But can he stay there forever?