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Author Topic: LGBT Fantasy?  (Read 25021 times)

Offline missoularedhead

LGBT Fantasy?
« on: February 14, 2011, 07:47:48 AM »
I'm currently finishing the third book in Ricardo Pinto's Stone Dance of the Chameleons trilogy, and am reminded, again, that there are very few non-heterosexual couples/relationships in fantasy fiction.  Pinto himself is gay, which is perhaps why the relationships between men in his books don't seem stuck on (or perhaps they simply don't stick out?).  I know Tanya Huff has gay characters, as do a few authors here and there, but the vast majority of the characters in fantasy are strictly heterosexual.  And I cannot recall a single fantasy novel that included a transgender character, save those who have been transformed by an evil wizard for retribution, or men wearing women's clothes (or vice versa) for purposes of escape/comic relief.

Why is that?  Is it because fantasy readers are uncomfortable with non-heterosexual relationships? The editors/buyers/etc, on the production end? Are there simply too few LGBT authors out there?  Does discovering a gay or lesbian character in a novel make you want to read more, less? Does it matter to you?
"Well behaved women rarely make history" ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Offline MTMaenpaa

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2011, 07:54:30 AM »
I can't answer any of your questions, can't even begin to understand a subject like this with little frame of reference personally.  I will however recommend Storm Constantine's Wraethu series if you want to read a fantasy series that runs rampant over gender stereotypes and sexual identity.

I personally appreciate gay/lesbian/trans characters in fiction, with the always-present caveat of them being well written.  But for my own part, having gay characters doesn't excite me any more than having straight characters and the only thing that deters me is bad writing.
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2011, 08:18:06 AM »
Why is that?  Is it because fantasy readers are uncomfortable with non-heterosexual relationships? The editors/buyers/etc, on the production end? Are there simply too few LGBT authors out there?  Does discovering a gay or lesbian character in a novel make you want to read more, less? Does it matter to you?

Fantastic question. I secretly suspect it is because (despite protesting otherwise) we're still a fairly conservative genre - we know what we want in escapism, and demand it delivered to a traditional formula.

That said, non-heterosexual relationships are slowly becoming more commonplace - and not treated awkwardly either. China Miéville's Iron Council gets a lot of credit for this. But Mark Charan Newton, Richard Morgan, Rowena Cory Daniels have all written good books recently with non-heterosexual main characters.

Offline missoularedhead

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2011, 04:41:22 PM »
Goodness, how could I have forgotten Steel Remains!  Although I love Morgan's sci fi stuff, I'm still not sure about his fantasy.  I like it, but I keep wanting to compare everything he does to Thirteen, which is just so damned brilliant!  The Constantine novel…I keep seeing it and never quite pick it up.  May have to now. 

I wonder if part of it is who the editors and publishers think of as being the 'core' audience for fantasy?
"Well behaved women rarely make history" ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Offline Fellshot

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2011, 02:00:46 AM »
Let's see... Jim C. Hines has a lesbian character as one of the leads in his Princess series. Red Hood's Revenge focuses on Talia a lot. If you want to delve way, way back, The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum has someone changing genders by the end of the book (pretty cool for something written in 1904).

I would say that it really depends on he character if I want to read about them more.

Offline Rhevian

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2011, 09:09:51 AM »
Have you read "Swordspoint" by Ellen Kushner?
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68485.Swordspoint

Offline missoularedhead

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2011, 04:36:41 PM »
I have not.  Thanks for the recommendation!
"Well behaved women rarely make history" ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

AJZaethe

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Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2011, 05:03:11 PM »
That I can answer for you.  I myself have stories where there are characters who are homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, pansexual, polysexual, asexual, and aromantic.  I would say 90% of my stories are heterosexual, with about 90% cast of heterosexuals, however, I mention characters or just a few random bits of others who are of the sexual orientation.  Casual conversation, and there is no name for the sexualities. 

I have my share of them in my worlds, because I believe if you are going to build entire worlds, you cannot tell me that there isn't going to be a single homosexual on that world.  How unrealistic.  I want my worlds to feel real and alive.

Now, I said I have your answer as to why they are not seen often or popular at that.  I said something similar in another post on high fantasy, but it really applies to this more than my vague mention of it before:

Relatability

In a world that is considered mostly heterosexual, what are readers going to relate more too?  What will drive the sales of novels.  Now mind you, what drives the sales of novels means how many people are aware these stories.  How much you impact people with them.  Doesn't always mean, what brings you the most money.  I want to spread my novels far and wide, even if I really didn't get paid.  So, going on.

Will readers really relate to characters that are homosexual, probably not, however, that depends on how well you have written them.  If you want to keep 100% of the fantasy audience, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, I believe that you should do a couple of things. 

1. Never ever make their sexual preference who that character is.  Did being a heterosexual define who Richard was int he Sword of Truth series?  No, his amazing feats did.  Just how Dumbuldore was defined by his amazing power as a wizard.  And, Jane, your own written lesbian queen, will be defined by her rule of her people.  Don't make a huge fuss over it and people will accept them.  Because the moment you do, the story becomes who they are attracted to, and that: A. Sounds boring or B. Sounds like a romance novel or C. A homosexual only novel.

2. Do not name their sexuality.  In the stories that cover my non-hetero characters, homosexuality has no name.  There is no.  "So, the village black smith came out of the closet the other day." or "The Lord's daughter is a lesbian."  There should only be.  "So, the black smith and his betroth, Riven, both fought off the King's men for trying to force our village to give up our resources!" or "The Lord's daughter is marrying the Princess of Tresfeldur!  That lucky girl, but she will make a terrible queen.  Always spending her father's money, she was!"

3. I oppose sex scenes, unless they drive the story.  Recently read a story of a guy who was getting a bj from this woman.  It wasn't necessary for the story.   In fact, that scene didn't play ANY kind of role in the story at all.  I was very disappointed.  Sex scenes that you found in the Wheel of Time did in fact play a role in the stories.  They were showing the characters roles in the story and how they would fall in love with so and so, how their relationships would workout or if they didn't.  So, is a sex scene needed with your homosexual characters?  That depends on your story, but there better be a good reason. 

"The Prince had an affair with Lord Venner.  What will the Prince and the people of Mul'loki have to say.  You don't think we will go to war, will we?"

"Alice, the inn keeper finally bedded someone, I think she is moving on, now after year since Mellany died.  The poor girl, she was so sweet."

Never make a big deal out of your character's sexuality and it will flow with the story.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2011, 07:16:08 PM by AJZaethe »

Offline Ninevah

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2011, 05:55:19 AM »
Check out Caitlin R. Kiernan.  More dark-fantasy-horror probably than straight fantasy, but she's an amazing writer who happens to be gay and writes GLTB characters frequently.

Offline pornokitsch

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2011, 07:09:15 AM »
Check out Caitlin R. Kiernan.  More dark-fantasy-horror probably than straight fantasy, but she's an amazing writer who happens to be gay and writes GLTB characters frequently.

Good recommendation!

Horror seems to be a bit ahead of fantasy when it comes to gender/sexuality. Clive Barker, for example.

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2011, 12:49:48 PM »
Mark Charan Newton has it in!  And seemed quite sensitively handled.
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Offline jdiddyesquire

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2011, 02:18:22 PM »
I can't answer any of your questions, can't even begin to understand a subject like this with little frame of reference personally.  I will however recommend Storm Constantine's Wraethu series if you want to read a fantasy series that runs rampant over gender stereotypes and sexual identity.

I personally appreciate gay/lesbian/trans characters in fiction, with the always-present caveat of them being well written.  But for my own part, having gay characters doesn't excite me any more than having straight characters and the only thing that deters me is bad writing.

I read this.  Totally interesting novel if not the most successful story.
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Offline Dornish First Sword

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2011, 06:41:48 AM »
I think the lack of a mass of such characters would have multiple factors some authors would simply be uncomfortable writing such a character, this may be for a multitude of reasons. Fear of not writing them well, the problem of having their sexuality itself become the characters defining characteristic.
 Another reason is perhaps the fairly blunt nature of most fantasy worlds does not endear themselves to the writing of a great a deal of such sexually orientated people. These are worlds where bucking the social norms can be a very deadly proposition especially for the lay person.
 Perhaps the inclusion of such characters or topics is actively discouraged by publishers (publishing side of things is something i have no idea about)
"Still, it may have been a blessing. He would have grown up to be a Frey" - Wyman Manderly

Offline Drying Ink

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2011, 02:24:10 PM »
While I think this was the trend until recently, in the last few years belying this lack has become almost as popular as writing without any homosexuals/etc. A great deal of the authors nowadays at least make clear that other orientations do exist in their world, even if their protagonist/s don't share them: which is not necessarily the case - eg Mark Charan Newton, as others have mentioned, has Lan, a man who becomes a woman through cultist technology, etc, and Brynd, who is forced to keep his orientation secret.

It's not in all fantasy, but growing numbers of authors are making clear at least the existence of LGBT in their world, IMO.

Offline Dan D Jones

Re: LGBT Fantasy?
« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2011, 03:50:23 PM »
She's no longer one of my favorite authors (I really enjoyed her when I was younger but she's a bit simplistic/YA for my current tastes) but check out Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald-Mage series.  She has a number of books set in the same world which include gay characters, but TLHM is the only one I remember off the top of my head which has a gay protagonist.  The first book, Magician's Pawn, begins with the protagonist, Vanyel, as a troubled and conflicted young man and goes through his discovering his own sexuality and realizing exactly why he's different.  The books don't skate over the gay issues.  Both discrimination and open acceptance of homosexuality are prominently addressed.  At the same time, the books aren't really about being gay.  Being gay is simply one facet of the character of Vanyel.  It's part of who he is but it isn't all he is.

All three books were nominated for the Lambda Literary Prize, with the final volume, Magic's Price, winning in 1990.  (For those not familiar, the Lambda Literary Prize is awarded for excellent literature featuring LGBT characters and themes.)

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