Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ready or Not: GLBTQ characters in main stream fantasy and science fiction and "not making a big deal" out of it

Although I am happy writing and being published in the romance genre every six months or so I troll through more mainstream science fiction and fantasy writers forms, and websites. I read articles by publishers, editors, writers, I read comment threads by writers, I look at pictures from Cons and read people's commentary on different discussion panels. In general I lurk ... a little like a creeper.

Specifically I look for any discussion of main stream fantasy and science fiction with LGBTQ main characters. This conversation is while, not super-super common, pretty easy to find with a quick google search and digging deeper uncovers the fact that it is a talked about subject.

Which is good, I write GLBTQ main characters, and I enjoy reading almost exclusive about LGBTQ characters.

However the conversations I've seen generally go like this.

We are so ready, editors and publishers insist, soooo ready for speculative fiction with LGBTQ main characters! (our bodies are ready, takes us now!)

 Which does sound heartening I will admit.


Inevitably, in pretty much every conversation about this I have seen, from articles to comment board conversations, the conversation always come around to this:

Ideally people who write LBGTQ characters as main characters in science fiction and fantasy should aim to "not make a big deal" out of the fact that the characters is LBGTQ.

Now I'm pretty sure I understand what people think they are saying when they say this. They don't want authors to write one gay character and then hold them up and go "look at me! Look how daring and cutting edge I am! this character here? is totally gay, you don't now anything else about them but that doesn't matter because I was cool enough to write a gay character."

I think the fear of that is legitimate because I've seen it happen while reading these boards, articles, and comments by more main steam speculative fiction writers. I've seen authors back slapping and high fiving each other because they wrote one character who appeared for 30 seconds in one book who wasn't straight.

What "not making a big deal out of it" sounds like to me though as a queer author who writes queer characters is pretty much exactly the same as when straight cisgender people tell LGBTQ people that it's alright for us to exist as long as we don't "flaunt it." By which they of course mean not to act, look, or in anyway indicate that we are anything but straight and cisgender.

Quite frankly, I'm young, I'm single and I live in New York. So fuck yeah, I flaunt the hell out of it.

And it really, really bothers me that every conversation in the main stream science fiction and fantasy publishing world about LBGTQ characters seems to boil down to this phrase, it's all find and we want it just so long as you don't make a big deal out of it.

When this particular sentiment was voiced in a series of articles on Fantasy Faction I commented saying:

I think it really comes down to the author and how they write sexuality in general. Some author’s the sexuality of there characters across the board plays very little role. In some author’s work though people are getting hot and heavy every other page. If you’re the kind of author for whom sex and sexuality is more incidental than anything else then yes, it would be strange and Othering it be overt about the LGBTQ characters’ sexualities. On the other hand if you’re straight characters can’t keep their hands off each other and you have a healthy romantic subplot going on about them then it’s going to seem just as weird if your gay character only get’s one smoldering look that one time in the stables and is pretty much asexual for the rest of the book. 

This is what I want to see. I don't want to see articles or comments saying not to make "a big deal" out of your queer characters sexuality. I want to see articles and comments saying to make just as much a big deal out of your queer characters sexuality as you do your straight characters sexuality.

Some authors write books that have no sex or talk of sexuality at all. For all we know every person in their universe could be asexual and reproduce via cloning (in some science fiction novels this is exactly the case)

Other authors write books were people are fucking every other page. They write stories where knowing each and every characters sexuality, sexual preferences, gender identity and their feelings on tentacle sex and sex with computers is vital to the plot.

The key is to figure out where you stand on the whole sexuality and gender and the roles it plays in your story and world and then apply it equally across the board.

So in some cases, yeahs go head: make a big deal out of it. 

As much as editors, authors and publishes seem to want to protect and assure writes like me other wise, the whole conversation makes me feel like main steam genre fiction is not ready for an influx of books with LGBTQ main characters.

At least not until they get over the whole "not making a big deal about it" thing. 

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