There seemed to be a common theme in the discussion of people’s first queer SFF: it wasn’t found intentionally. It was found by accident, by word of mouth, by luck. That got me thinking about the ways in which I search for new books to read. In turn, that made me think about how hard queer SFF can be to find sometimes, especially when you’re just browsing by shelves in a store. Why is that? Flap copy tends to be one problem—I can’t claim to be the most thorough researcher in the world, but once I had the thought, I read over the backs/inside flaps of all the queer SFF books I own and that are in the bookstore I work for. You would be surprised (or perhaps not) at exactly how few of them bother to mention the sexualities or gender differences within the text, even when they are the driving force of the plot. Examples follow below the cut
It’s a very interesting read, though, on a minor point, I don’t agree with is the assumptions on publishers and labelling. If publishers didn’t want to publish fiction with LGBT characters in it, they wouldn’t; so to suggest they’re hiding things seems to miss the point a touch.
Also, my book does indeed get a mention lower down.
I’m looking forward to reading Nights of Villjamur after reading a review for it there that focused—but didn’t overfocus—on the sexuality of the lead.
I’d always tried to keep that gay character closeted until the reader makes the discovery for themselves, and I treated the whole thing totally matter-of-factly. He isn’t camp, he isn’t some handbag fag-hag accessory, he isn’t a bad dude. He’s just himself. City of Ruin sees me make more of a deal of the issue. Book three, I’m trying to explore a transgender character – which is an altogether more difficult a subject. But I’m trying.
I like that Villjamur is – and with other novels – is being noticed for at least trying to do something here. A cultural hangover, perhaps, but the amount of gay/gender stereotyping (or even completely ignoring – and going against statistics – the presence of such people) in novels still amazes me. For straight folk (isn’t our party line, like, we have friends who are gay?) to throw in our contribution, well – I guess every little helps, right? I’m not perfect at this by any means, and I’m always going to try improving my fiction in this way.
I guess this is wondering out loud rather than a constructed argument, but why don’t more majority writers (for example, straight and white) try to write about minority characters? Not merely sexuality, but even race? (Because you can even divide it down the species line in SFF.)
Is it a simple case of comfort zones and familiarity? Because I really don’t buy ignorance as a reasonable excuse. There are still vast swathes of society who don’t see eye-to-eye with our equality laws, so do writers have a responsibility to help move things along, or is this too wild a claim? To be honest, I’d say the more popular a writer becomes, the more of an ethical sin it is to ignore these issues.
With great power, n’all that.