Hi all! We talk a lot ( a LOT) about mainstreaming queer spec fic in this group (and in the queer writing community at large) but what do we mean when we say that? Granted, it seems to mean different things to different writers, but the goal is the same: getting queer fiction out of the small, niche audiences (sometimes referred to as literary “ghettos”) and out to a larger reading population.
Sometimes, authors are referring specifically to moving away from the erotic or even romance aspects of stories. Sometimes, they mean breaking into the big venues and the big annual awards. Sometimes, they refer to contracts with traditional publishing houses.
Most of our QSF folks are aware of this, of course. We’re already there. In all of those places. We have been for quite some time. What we’re talking about isn’t breaking into the mainstream. Done that. What we’re talking about is more consistent and more inclusive representation in the mainstream. Yes. Absolutely. We’re not there yet.
Most of the time, when we look for examples of queer heroes in mainstream spec fic, we tend to point to gay characters. All of us can rattle off lists, from Samuel Delaney to Mercedes Lackey books with gay protagonists. This is good. I’m glad we can do this, though the lists are too short still. But what’s also encouraged me lately is the appearance of other rainbow representations in mainstream spec fic. I just wanted to mention a couple recent ones here – and for the purposes of this article, I’m defining “mainstream” as the major Big Five publishers and affiliates.
The Asexual Hero
This one features a young woman thrust into a life far from home and world-threatening dangers, the stuff of fantasy, though with Nix’s eye for wonderful worldbuilding and scary twists. She has the opportunity to have suitors, but she makes it quite clear to us and to them. No. She’s not having any of it. She’s not the least bit interested. I loved that she was unambiguously portrayed as asexual, and it’s a great story.
The Bisexual Hero
Sorry, there’s no way to talk about this book without spoilers – so big fat *spoiler alert.* Any reader of the Vorkosigan series knows that Aral was bisexual – that’s well established – though quite a few readers were upset by the reveals in this book with complaints ranging from “cheating” to the portrayal of bi people as incapable of fidelity. No, no, no. This is a lovely story about two people trying to move on from devastating grief and Oliver was not an indiscretion. Aral fell in love with his secretary and protege gradually and he, Oliver and Cordelia eventually have a twenty year polyamorous relationship, co-spouses in all but the legalities. He didn’t love Cordelia any less for loving Oliver. He and Cordelia both had room in their hearts for more. My heart broke for Oliver. Although he’s a private person, he had to hide his grief while Cordelia could deal with hers publicly. Not the most action-y of Bujold’s novels – not a problem for me. It’s not about that.
I’m encouraged to see more and more non-het characters and more of the rainbow represented. It’s not that we, out here in the fields, need to break into mainstream spec fic, it’s that we need to expand, continue to improve quality, increase audience, and make our spec fic mainstream.
So – what do all of you have out there? Other pieces of the rainbow from mainstream publishers?