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Author Topic: LGBT & Fantasy  (Read 19790 times)

Offline K.Trian

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LGBT & Fantasy
« on: November 22, 2012, 11:57:50 AM »
Some discussion was carried about this matter in http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?topic=4060.0, but considering the topic, I'm sure this deserves a thread of its own.

So, as readers of fantasy, have you encountered good/interesting portrayals of gay/bi/transgender characters? Or horrible ones? Or are they actually absent in the mainstream? If so, why?

I'd also like to hear some input from writers: have you written a fantasy character who doesn't represent your own sexuality? How did that go? Were you attacked or praised for the effort?

Some comments related to this that sprung from the thread; food for thought.

Um...so lesbian = psychopath with no honour or shame? Is that really the comparison you're looking for/impression you want to give? Really, really? Why not just Teflon Sniper? Where does the lesbian fit in? Because...well.. how do I put this... the way you've worded this is pretty darned offensive.

Hell, ambiguously gay villain has been played recently in the Bond film, right? From what I've heard. And frequently these characters turn out to be fan favourites - see Him from Powerpuff Girls. They can be played, as any trope, poorly or well - although particularly with tropes that derive pretty much from the crappy treatment of real human beings, one has to work with understanding or not at all (imho).

Unsurprisingly, like most tropifiable things, it is problematic to the rafters. As a person, I would be a hypocrite to derride someone else for this charge because I like problematic tropes too. We are all, or have been at some point, a fan of something that we didn't realise was really messed up from the experience of another person. Do let's be honest. There's got to be one of y'all that digs the whole "psycho villain" shtick - heck, it's what Nolan's Joker was made of! - or something else that, when you really think about it, has pretty unpleasant implications. That said, the bare minimum one should expect with such, is awareness and honesty(!!!) of its parts. The Teflon Sniper thing clearly plays on established tropes.

I may've just had bad luck or for some reason LGBT characters really are quite rare in fantasy/sci-fi books if you exclude slashes and the LGBT niche (meaning books where sexuality/gender is a central theme). I can't really think of a LGBT main character in mainstream fantasy/sci-fi that wasn't written by a LGBT author. Oh, except perhaps the Frodo/Sam/Gollum love triangle. ;D

I have to admit I haven't read many mainstream fantasy books with gay characters. Some works by Abercrombie and Weeks I've read that have brushed 'gayness.' GRRM had some gay guy in his character repertoire, right? All these authors are white, male heterosexuals AFAK.
Could these representations be more common in Gothic books? e.g. Carmilla by Le Fanu?

Offline Jian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2012, 12:04:46 PM »
Oh, have you finished the first book of the Night Angel Trilogy?

Hmm. If I were to search in my memory (which doesn't go very far), the Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan pops up. The protagonist is homosexual, and he's a badass warrior exiled by the people he saved just because of his orientation. I haven't really encountered all that many, though. But, Nero in my own book is gay. I don't really have to do anything different with his character since there is very little romance in my books and no sex at all.

(Mostly because my entire family and everyone on FF -coughs Mostly Shep coughs- would frown upon it.  ;D
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Offline K.Trian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2012, 12:08:59 PM »
Oh, have you finished the first book of the Night Angel Trilogy?
Not yet. Will he discuss the topic in more detail?

My university professor is raving about an Afro-American Working Class Lesbian Vampire which is a character in True Blood/Sookie Stakehouse series. I don't like the series, I tried reading it, but vampires often put me off so I didn't get far, but apparently there's a character like that -- or maybe she's just in the TV show? (talk about a representative of a minority, whew!)

Offline Bahl

Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2012, 12:51:37 PM »
Mark Charan Newton's Legends of the Red Sun series is well worth a look.
Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life.
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Offline Arry

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2012, 01:02:30 PM »
Oh, have you finished the first book of the Night Angel Trilogy?
Not yet. Will he discuss the topic in more detail?

My university professor is raving about an Afro-American Working Class Lesbian Vampire which is a character in True Blood/Sookie Stakehouse series. I don't like the series, I tried reading it, but vampires often put me off so I didn't get far, but apparently there's a character like that -- or maybe she's just in the TV show? (talk about a representative of a minority, whew!)
She is only in the TV series (don't waste your time on the books, I wish I hadn't - the TV show is not great, but I seem to watch it anyways). she has a lot of anger like you mentioned in the other thread when talking about strong women.I think she would make a better example if she wasn't so angry and hadn't switched from straight to lesbian as a direct result of being a victim. Not saying that cant happen, but it may propagate the false notion that people can 'choose' to be gay, which can in turn be taken to imply someone can choose to not be gay. While i would like to believe people realize sexual orientation is not a choice, unfortunately I know a disturbing number of people think it is. Since there's no spoiler tags, I'll leave it at that. Make sure I don't ruin True Blood for anyone ;)
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Offline Jian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2012, 01:11:38 PM »
Oh, have you finished the first book of the Night Angel Trilogy?
Not yet. Will he discuss the topic in more detail?

My university professor is raving about an Afro-American Working Class Lesbian Vampire which is a character in True Blood/Sookie Stakehouse series. I don't like the series, I tried reading it, but vampires often put me off so I didn't get far, but apparently there's a character like that -- or maybe she's just in the TV show? (talk about a representative of a minority, whew!)

Well, not really. I was mostly curious if you'd finished it.  :P

The book certainly has done its fair share of winking at homosexuality, though. Well, it's practically been having a seizure from all the winking it's done towards sex in general. Leo makes a great point about LGBT on the main site.

Oh, have you finished the first book of the Night Angel Trilogy?
Not yet. Will he discuss the topic in more detail?

My university professor is raving about an Afro-American Working Class Lesbian Vampire which is a character in True Blood/Sookie Stakehouse series. I don't like the series, I tried reading it, but vampires often put me off so I didn't get far, but apparently there's a character like that -- or maybe she's just in the TV show? (talk about a representative of a minority, whew!)
She is only in the TV series (don't waste your time on the books, I wish I hadn't - the TV show is not great, but I seem to watch it anyways). she has a lot of anger like you mentioned in the other thread when talking about strong women.I think she would make a better example if she wasn't so angry and hadn't switched from straight to lesbian as a direct result of being a victim. Not saying that cant happen, but it may propagate the false notion that people can 'choose' to be gay, which can in turn be taken to imply someone can choose to not be gay. While i would like to believe people realize sexual orientation is not a choice, unfortunately I know a disturbing number of people think it is. Since there's no spoiler tags, I'll leave it at that. Make sure I don't ruin True Blood for anyone ;)

Aye, it isn't a choice. Though she could just be bisexual, and chooses not to uh, err, go out with men. I keep trying to like True Blood, but I can only watch one episode every six months. Sounds like I'm kidding, but it really took me that long.
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Offline K.Trian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2012, 01:11:43 PM »
Oh, have you finished the first book of the Night Angel Trilogy?
Not yet. Will he discuss the topic in more detail?

My university professor is raving about an Afro-American Working Class Lesbian Vampire which is a character in True Blood/Sookie Stakehouse series. I don't like the series, I tried reading it, but vampires often put me off so I didn't get far, but apparently there's a character like that -- or maybe she's just in the TV show? (talk about a representative of a minority, whew!)
She is only in the TV series (don't waste your time on the books, I wish I hadn't - the TV show is not great, but I seem to watch it anyways). she has a lot of anger like you mentioned in the other thread when talking about strong women.I think she would make a better example if she wasn't so angry and hadn't switched from straight to lesbian as a direct result of being a victim. Not saying that cant happen, but it may propagate the false notion that people can 'choose' to be gay, which can in turn be taken to imply someone can choose to not be gay. While i would like to believe people realize sexual orientation is not a choice, unfortunately I know a disturbing number of people think it is. Since there's no spoiler tags, I'll leave it at that. Make sure I don't ruin True Blood for anyone ;)
I see. A girl from my uni class is actually going to write her Master's Thesis about the character. I guess it's got something to do with culture, feminism, and homosexuality, but she didn't mention the (a lil bit silly) 'I chose to be gay' aspect.

T. Trian & I wrote a story with an asexual/transgender-ish character, and as we didn't want to use pronouns s/he, it was really challenging (in Finnish one pronoun denotes both sexes) to keep the character's sex a secret.

I'm not sure, but I feel that lately lesbians have become more common in mainstream fiction/fantasy than gay men... especially on TV.

Offline Jian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2012, 01:14:39 PM »
Really? Shows like Partners ( Brandon Routh and Michael Urie as gay men), Will & Grace (Eric McCormack and I only know him as Jack) are pretty mainstream, if you ask me. There is the L Word, but that's on cable, I think, so it doesn't count as mainstream. Happy Endings has a homosexual character.

Uh... I'll have to look back in some of my past viewings for any more shows.
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Offline Arry

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2012, 01:21:46 PM »
I don't know that I would say that character 'chose' to be gay, just pointing out she was very much heterosexual, no hint of an interest in women, something traumatic happened, now she is lesbian, no hint of interest in men. Some viewers may claim the switch was a choice. Some of those same viewers may in turn view all gay/lesbian people as choosing their sexual orientation. Terribly ignorant, but a sad truth.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 01:24:36 PM by Arry »
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Offline K.Trian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2012, 01:24:04 PM »
Really? Shows like Partners ( Brandon Routh and Michael Urie as gay men), Will & Grace (Eric McCormack and I only know him as Jack) are pretty mainstream, if you ask me. There is the L Word, but that's on cable, I think, so it doesn't count as mainstream. Happy Endings has a homosexual character.

Uh... I'll have to look back in some of my past viewings for any more shows.

Oh, I think we're defining mainstream differently then, especially cos in Finland you get all the TV shows (no cable thingy) and channels. I was thinking of some syfy shows too like The Lost Girl. And the first season of Game of Thrones was way heavier on girl-on-girl action than guy-on-guy. True Blood, Buffy (Willow), Dark Angel (the Afro-American chick whose name I forget), I remember in the Blood of Elves that one lady witch, (Marigold? Mahogany?), that Chinese chick in SGU, Inara in Firefly (bi, because all courtesans and whores must be bi)... and there're probably others, too but those I can think of right now.

Edit: overstrike True Blood from the list as per below post.
Edit2: remembered another example.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 10:38:40 AM by K.Trian »

Offline Arry

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2012, 01:27:27 PM »
True blood has gay men as well. I would guess more than gay women.
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Offline magisensei

Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2012, 05:51:55 PM »
While I haven't read a lot of fantasy novels with LGBT characters there are a few novels that I can recall that have gay characters and it becomes part of the cultural setting of the fantasy world that the story takes place in.  For example: Mercedes Lackey The Last Herald Mage - had the main character being gay and the issue of being gay dealt with in a positive manner in the series. 

Having characters being straight of gay I think can allow the writer to try out new cultural ideas/issues in their world - well it be accepted, will you be prosecuted, do you have to hide it etc.  The issue just adds another layer to cultural and world building to the world you are building.  Most of the novels that I have read that dealt with gay issues showed that it wasn't that big of a deal - who you love - is really up to you - only modern cultures makes a big deal of it (ie it was accepted in the past cultures e.g. ancient Greeks). 


Offline Jian

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2012, 06:10:59 PM »
The Spartans had a special unit of gay lovers because they thought a man would fight harder to protect the person he loved. Alexander the Great and Richard the Lion Hearted were homosexual, as well. (I'm not sure on the last two, though, but I've heard it somewhere.)

In Blackadder II, there is an episode where Blackadder thinks he's homosexual because he is starting to possess feelings for his servant ( who is a woman in disguise ) and he goes to a doctor about it. Who tells him it's disgusting and can be fixed with leeches.

It was pretty funny. Issues with gayness really only came around ( I think, not sure ) when religion became BIG. My history book (Christian school) mostly blames the problems that came up with all that stuff on Catholicism. So. -wipes sweat- It's cool.  ;D

Also, I hope I won't offend anyone, but I'm really just quoting stuff from my history book and saying it as I see it from my textbook. If it offends you in any way or if it is incorrect, I'll be happy to revise my statement.

Btw. Another example of gays in modern TV is Thomas/TJ from Political Animals. Great mini-series.

EDit: Thought of yet another example. A character from Grey's Anatomy, Callie, realizes her attraction to women (as well as men), and begins dating women. She occasionally has flings with her best friend (Mark portrayed by Eric Dane), though that stopped when she got into a serious relationship with Arizona Robbins.... And then they got into a fight, and she got knocked up by her best friend. Anyways. Surprised I didn't think of those two characters sooner.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 06:31:26 PM by Jian »
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Offline Arry

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Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2012, 06:12:34 PM »
Most of the novels that I have read that dealt with gay issues showed that it wasn't that big of a deal - who you love - is really up to you - only modern cultures makes a big deal of it (ie it was accepted in the past cultures e.g. ancient Greeks).
Well said :)
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Offline blendyface

Re: LGBT & Fantasy
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2012, 06:18:32 PM »
Having characters being straight of gay I think can allow the writer to try out new cultural ideas/issues in their world - well it be accepted, will you be prosecuted, do you have to hide it etc.  The issue just adds another layer to cultural and world building to the world you are building.

This particular bit is kind of challenged ground. Either way there are pros and cons to it, methinks.
I think the general "argument" against this exact thing is it makes a commodity of their sexuality - rather than just have a character be gay, as a character would simply be straight, the "point" of their character becomes enveloped in it - when has all the drama and story and characterisation of a fantasy/SF character been their straightness? I simply haven't seen heteroes been treated that way. As a lady, I generally dislike stories that try to do this whole gender-reversed society, or make a big deal out of a character's gender - more often than not, everything is either embarassingly ham-handed or/and ultimately a rehashing of what I already know from my everyday life. It's like preaching to the choir! It's not without value, though - like I said, this kind of point (across different boards - gender/sexuality/race/religion) is a personal area. Some folks might find it patronising and preachy, others might find it inclusive and insightful.

The Spartans had a special unit of gay lovers because they thought a man would fight harder to protect the person he loved.
Controlling your soldiers with love = interesting and seriously disturbing. It's one of those moral anomolies - most of us, I imagine, would rather save a person we're close to than save a whole bunch of strangers.

EDit: Thought of yet another example. A character from Grey's Anatomy, Callie, realizes her attraction to women (as well as men), and begins dating women. She occasionally has flings with her best friend (Mark portrayed by Eric Dane), though that stopped when she got into a serious relationship with Arizona Robbins.... And then they got into a fight, and she got knocked up by her best friend. Anyways. Surprised I didn't think of those two characters sooner.

I love Callie foreverandever. That is all.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 06:55:38 PM by blendyface »

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