Sunday, January 27, 2013

gender in fantasy

The next question. Why does fantasy and it's speculative cousin horror allow for nearly as much in the way of gender bending as the "gay lit" section, which it just annoys me that we still have to have separated? I've covered some of this before, but this time I'm asking the question, not giving the answer. I will give you slight answers. I'll give you my reason. Why the hell wouldn't I have gay people in my books? I haven't gone for transgender yet, because it hasn't come up in a character, but I grew up in a world of just about every sexual orientation and gender assignation. So not putting them in my books would be weird. But that's just me. I'm more curious about why Mercedes Lackey has made a career off messing with her characters sexual orientations? Why does Tanya Huff do it as habit? Horror I'm less familiar with, but has unapologetic gay relationships? These days it is easier for a writer to write about a gay relationship and have it be filed as lit. instead of gay lit., but fantasy has been doing it for years. Sheri S. Tepper is a famous founding mother of so much fantasy and so unapologetic about who her characters loved. Is it all right for us because we aren't real? Did we get to say it way back in the sixties and seventies because we said it was in a galaxy far far away? Part of the reason I ask, is that it gave us great power in earlier years. We tread where the treading was tough in most genres. We still do it without getting stuck in gay lit. If we have the power to be here, queer, and proud of it now, what other ways could we use our power of not being real?


  1. Fantasy unedoubtably gets away with more things on the basis of not being real.
    Just look at something like Pokemon. What parent would alow their kids to watch a show about unshaporoned kids traping dangerous animals and pitfighting them if it was realistic?
    The genre lets authors freely drop the shackles of cultural preconceptions. Like in sexuality you can have strong women and week men,show the world as sexually diverse and open as you like. It can be used as a satirical devise to show flaws in the social construct. Though some times it feels like authors use gay people in the same shallow plot device that was the "token black guy" from the 80's.

  2. Yes. The token gay guy. popular culture loved them in the 1990s. Rupert Everette, for instance, was the gay best friend in just about everything. I hope to god my books don't come across like that.

    We do definitely have the advantage of the supposedly unreal, and many fantasy, sci fi, and horror books do use the advantage to critique our current culture. Which brings up the interesting topic of INCARNATE, my next book out, which is only one of two non half real worlds I wrote, and the only one in which I purposely set out to critique aspects of our culture while maintaining a character first attitude. When it arrives, you all will have to let me know how well I did. The problem with using your novel as a soapbox is that you might end up sounding like you are using your book as a soapbox.

    Any other thoughts on why the unreal has so much more right to challenge the real than those people who write "normal" fiction? Or do we think Pell has it pegged?

    1. I admire the realistic, gutsy characters in "Rebirth"--their caustic humor, bravery under pressure, and their --again, I'd say realistic, sexual experimentation that comes naturally our of who and what they are, and the changes they are entangled in.

      "Incarnate," I think, is just a very different setting and not, I think, a soapbox. The characters are trying to defeat engrained slavery that has defined a conquered culture, reclaim aspects of their half remembered myths and beliefs, and decide if those earlier myths and beliefs can sustain them and let them grow. There is danger, and friendship, and sex, and humor, but there is also a rockier premise: how do we define being "worthy?"