Gay and Lesbian Characters in SFF

06 Jan

Now that I’ve got your attention! πŸ™‚

I only realized a couple of days ago that I wanted to take a stab at talking about this topic – you see, I read two books in which main POV characters were homosexuals, and not only did their gender preference not overshadow the storyline, but they were amazing characters, characters that readers, no matter their own gender preference, could identify with and like.

My question is: Have I missed something? Or is this courage from writers a new thing? I’m asking because the only other place I’ve encountered a homosexual character (before the novels) is (and I apologize for the impending spoiler) in the pages of Detective Comics – the new Batwoman (not Stephanie, Tim Drake’s ex-flame) is a lesbian, and has an absolutely tasteful, romantic dance with Maggie Sawyer (late of the Metropolis SCU division), in sight of her ex-girlfriend. I have to say, though, that I read this scene after the first book I read with a gay main character.

The first time I encountered a gay main character (last year) there was absolutely no sense of shock, no recoiling in disgust, no okay-now-that-was-a-bit-too-freaky-for-me, nothing like that. It was respectful, tasteful, lovely even. I didn’t look differently at the character, nor the book. And an instant after reading the passage, I felt this huge respect for the author, the editor, the agent, and the publisher. I mean, how could I not? We still live in a day and age where everything not-heterosexual is frowned upon by society at large, forcing people into niches that segregate them from society. Sure, the Gay Rights movement has come a very long way, but there will still be people who, when they see the title of this post, decide not to even entertain the notion of reading it.

It’s the same reason why I haven’t mentioned the titles of the novels that led to this post – the very reading of those novels may change some minds, after all. Discovering that you actually admire a gay or lesbian main character in the book you’re reading? Hell, talk about a marriage of genres! πŸ™‚

I can only hope that this trend continues, and that more gay and lesbian characters take center-stage. SFF is, when it comes down to it, an incredible journey of exploration, isn’t it? So let’s explore. πŸ™‚


Update 1 :

Thanks to @etherreallad (yes, from Twitter), here’s a good look at SFF featuring gay and lesbian characters. Let’s keep the ball rolling!

Update 2 : Daya reminded me about an author who had a bisexual main character (still can’t believe I forgot!): the author is Jo Graham, and the book? Hand of Isis. The link will take you to my review. πŸ™‚ Thanks Daya!


Posted by on January 6, 2010 in Musings


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5 responses to “Gay and Lesbian Characters in SFF

  1. Daya

    January 6, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    What a great post! I remember reading Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald Mage Trilogy (pub. 1989) , which features a gay protagonist. I loved it and I remember thinking it was so well done and just..well, natural. So no, I don’t think it’s a new thing, but it is rare in Fantasy. I have to say the same for most other GLBT I have read so far–it’s been really well written and hasn’t changed my opinion of a character.

    Most recently a scene in The Hand of Isis by Jo Graham comes to mind. So maybe it’s not necessarily new courage from straight writers, maybe there just aren’t many SFF GLBT writers out there to fill that niche.

  2. Dave-Brendon de Burgh

    January 6, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Ah, I forgot about Jo Graham! 😦 Jeez, sorry Jo! (update on the way)

    It’s true that there aren’t that many writers out there to fill the void (or niche), but hopefully more publishers will be willing now that authors are writing and making an impact. πŸ™‚

    Jeez, can’t believe I forgot about Jo! 😦

  3. Mike Southern

    January 7, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Since I’m a Christian, I suppose most people would expect me to trash GL characters and the writers who create them. Granted, it’s not a lifestyle choice I would make; but I actually find it a little strange that people get judged based on a label, rather than on how they treat others. I’ve known people who called themselves lesbians who treated other people with great respect, and I’ve known people who called themselves Christians but I’d be afraid to turn my back on them. I don’t believe a person’s humanity should be so easily ignored just because of their sexual preference, and I don’t think Jesus would have.

    I tend to agree with Daya, but I think there may be more to it than just a courage issue. It may simply be that many gay and lesbian writers (who I assume would create books with at least some GL characters) didn’t think there was a market for their work, so they didn’t write and/or submit them. It’s hard enough to get published when you write something you know the editors want, let alone something you’re afraid they don’t. With some good writers taking up the challenge and getting published, that may change.

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      January 7, 2010 at 4:55 am

      Thanks for commenting, Mike. I totally agree with you – the gay and lesbian friends I have are amazing people who are conscientious and -here’s the kicker- for the most part, bigger readers than the straight people I know.

      In terms of fiction, I think its wonderful that mainstream SFF writers are starting to take a gamble and incorporate GL characters in their novels, and the fact that these novels are doing so well should be an indication that the publishing industry is open to exploring these avenues. I s’pose the only question remaining is: how long until a New York Times Bestselling SFF novel written by a gay or lesbian catches our attention? I think it’s only a matter of time – if it hasn’t happened already. πŸ™‚

  4. Andre Philander

    January 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Hey, well Clive Barker and Gregory Maquire are both gay and have topped the New York Times with fantasy books, Galilee, Arabat, Wicked.

    A huge fan of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series and one of the books Ethan of Athos (set in the same universe) has a main character who is from a world only populated by men, was a funny space opera romp.


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