QSFer Archer Kay Leah is stopping by for a guest post for their book “Blood Borne”:
The 4 Reasons Why I Write Fantasy
Hi everyone! I’m Archer Kay Leah, author of LGTBQA+ speculative fiction romance. My deepest thanks to Queer Sci Fi for hosting me today on the tour for Blood Borne and for their awesome support of queer SFF! <3
Today I’m pouring out the fantasy part of my soul. Like other stories I’ve written, Blood Borne is more than an enemies-to- lovers romance: it’s a high fantasy, oozing with world-building and magic. The reason for that is simple: fantasy is my favourite genre. If I could write it a love letter, I would. Here are the top four reasons why.
You are in My Thoughts Always…
Fantasy is my literary home. It’s an old friend; always there, always welcoming, and never far from my thoughts. It’s how my muses dream and frolic. Honestly, it’s just how I think. Some authors think in contemporary context, while others think in paranormal, mystery, horror, or whatever genre strikes them.
Since I was a teen, fantasy is where I go first. When I approach a submission call, I immediately look for a fantasy option. (One of the most exciting things is seeing a publisher or editor say "any (sub-) genre accepted". Oh, set my heart on fire!)
I don’t know when this affair with fantasy started, but it’s somewhere in my childhood. Some of my earliest fantasy-based memories are watching The
Last Unicorn and Willow, exposure to fairytales, and cracking open my dad’s Terry Brooks books just to see the illustrations inside. As I grew up, I read almost anything I could get my hands on, regardless of genre. Fantasy stuck, though, and made itself my cozy little default.
Since then, it’s also become a space in which I can process experiences, life, and feelings about the world. Not only is fantasy an outlet for inspiration and creation, it allows a writer to play out concerns, frustrations, joy, angst, wishes, dreams, and regret.
Second, My Sweet,
You’re Shiny and Beautiful…
World-building and creativity gone wild, yet tamed at the same time – these are what fantasy offers in abundance, especially high fantasy. There’s incredible satisfaction in creating entire worlds down to their smallest components: societies and relationships, politics and religion, climate and geography, history and art, economy and science, and more. It’s a rush, a challenge, and an adventure. Not only can it be an educational experience, it’s a way to make sense of things we perceive but can’t quite understand. And it’s fun! Naming characters, places, and things can be like winning at Scrabble. Then there’s coming up with ludicrous situations, conversations, and choices that couldn’t happen in real life. As a writer, the journey is in making those components come to life so a reader can go somewhere that isn’t here.
The other wonderful (sometimes horrible) thing about creating fantastical worlds: the discipline, contemplation, and logic required. While some people may think writing high fantasy is easy because there “aren’t any rules” surprise! There are, and it’s not always easy-going. However, those rules aren’t restricted to our real-world limitations – they’re set by the author, and sometimes by the nature of the world-building itself. It’s great for an escape, which leads to number three…
Because Third, Dear Heart,
I Love Your Many Faces…
Diversity is a buzzword that’s bantered about, often with little follow-through, but its meaning is everywhere, in everything. Our world is spectacularly varied and special in its differentness while being elegantly similar at the core. Fantasy can and should embrace the same. It’s open, up for anything. The sky doesn’t have to be the limit because what’s a sky to fantasy and science fiction, really, but another playground to build worlds in?
I love that ridiculously vast concept of anything-is- possible. Our universe is made of various shapes, sizes, and colour among everything else that makes it unique. That’s how I love my fantasy, and that’s what I want from my worlds and characters. While fantasy has been subjected to an overabundance of cisgendered, white, able, heterosexual male protagonists, there will always be opportunities for diversity and variation. Fantasy can always be more, embracing everything that makes people who they are, because the limitation isn’t in the genre itself – it’s in the people who create it, publish it, and share it.
The characters can be anyone, look however they look, act however they act, and love whomever they love. They don’t have to fit a stereotype or check off the boxes. They don’t have to fit our real-world expectations or customs – they can just be. So if they’re a non-binary, blue, aromantic, sex-repulsed asexual who’s missing an arm and has absolutely mind-blowing adventures in the land of I Don’t Give A Walnut Fudge, fantasy can go there.
But Last, My Darling,
You’re Everything I Wish I Could Be
As much as fantasy allows for escape, it offers an outlet for change. It can offer peace when all we feel is chaos. It can offer freedom when we feel chained down by fear, anger, and horror. At a time when our world seems to have completely lost its balance, literature can lift us up.
For me, fantasy is that vacation from devastating news, frustrating politics, and social media angst. It can be a space to talk about the difficult stuff, but also speak out for social justice and offer things to aspire to, like empathy, kindness, and acceptance. Characters that belong to marginalized groups can have inspiring journeys and fantastic adventures, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ability, culture, or spirituality/religion. Because everything in fantasy can be totally different than real life, the characters and worlds don’t have to demonstrate the same attitudes, histories, or excuses to hurt others and exclude them.
At the end of the day, I write stories where LGBTQA+ characters are the heroes, learning, growing, and getting through life the best they can – because we need those stories. There’s a huge gap to fill in literature where queer representation is concerned. While we yearn for the freedom to be who we are, living and loving as we do, we need our stories to get there, too. Not only to be the change we wish to see, but the change we sorely need.
Thank you so much for reading! I love hearing from readers, so feel free to share your thoughts. Or we could just have a plate of freshly baked cookies.
For Ress, survival is a complicated nightmare. Caught between two masters on different sides of the law, his life is falling apart one bad decision at a time. All he wants is to be is a good person, a loyal family man, and a successful metalsmith—a dream he can never obtain while he works for the Shar-denn, the violent gang that plagues the republic of Kattal.
To make matters worse, he works as an informant for the High Council. He scrapes through both jobs waiting for his last breath. As the Shar-denn motto says: the only way out is dead.
No stranger to living complicated decisions, Adren is caught between worlds of cir own. As the child of a Shar-denn faction boss, cir life is a conflicted tangle of expectation and duty. When cir family is arrested, Adren manages to escape, but nowhere is safe. Desperate and on the run, Adren is determined to punish Ress for turning in cir family. No one who betrays the gang can live. Ress must pay the price, even if Adren has to go against everything ce is.
What a waste.
Shuffling down the dark corridor towards the bedrooms, Adren looked at cir grimy hands. Was the more tragic waste taking part in the job or the thief at the centre of the job itself? Dust caked cir skin, the stale scent lingering from the room where the thief had been restrained. His screams refused to stop assaulting Adren’s mind. The piercing desperation of the man’s terror echoed in cir memories, bouncing from one side of cir skull to the other, tearing holes through cir conscience. Every footstep resembled the sickening thump of the thief’s body hitting the floor in his squeaky chair, his dismantled face three kicks away from being so broken, no one could recognize him. His dried blood clung to the creases between cir fingers, as stubborn as the spatter on cir black leather long coat.
Serves me right for standing too close to Tethe—he’s never liked a clean kill. Adren peered over cir shoulder to catch cir brother’s dark glance. Tethe grinned and winked before blowing Adren a playful, exaggerated kiss, a habit since they were children. His affectionate gestures always increased whenever he owed Adren, but he saved the most emphasized for when he owed Adren for doing something ce hated. Like making a dead body disappear and hiding the rest of the evidence. You’re such a bastard, Tethe. Don’t think I won’t make you pay. You’re buying me a new coat, especially if I can’t get the smell of dead guy out of this one.
“I don’t think A’s feeling too friendly right now,” Mordane whispered from beside Tethe, lifting the metal lamp in his hand higher. In the candlelight, his dark, water-slicked hair gleamed, the ends curled around his ears to his jaw line. His brown eyes narrowed before he flashed a grin identical to Tethe’s. Although short and not muscular like Tethe, their resemblance was undeniable. Like Adren, they wore all black, their shirts and pants covered by long coats that hung to their ankles in typical fashion. “If I were you, I’d sleep with both eyes open.”
“If I were me, I’d not sleep at all.” Tethe snorted, teasing his fingers through the tail of his shoulder-length hair. Similar to Mordane and their mother, his complexion and hair were dark, contrasts to Adren’s light tan skin and long red hair in its tight, braided coil. “If little sis scared me, that is.”
Adren stopped and turned, hissing and flicking cir fingers at Tethe. “Dare me, and I will. You’ve taught me well. Maybe it’s time I showed the master exactly how much I’ve learned.”
Tethe beamed. Hand to his chest, he stumbled back a step and sniffled. “She called me Master.”
“Ce,” Adren muttered, wishing he could get it right after six years. Especially when I’m too exhausted to keep correcting him. “And let me clarify: you put the ass in ‘master.’”
Mordane sucked in a breath before laughing quietly. “I’d hate to know where I stand in this.”
“The ‘Mord’ in mortifying, perhaps?” Tethe arched one brow, his slender lips pursed. “The ‘dane’ in mundane?”
“A’s right: you’re an ass. And here’s my room.” Stopped outside of the closed door, dark red wood with an elaborate gold doorknob and knocker that resembled the head of a large cat, Mordane pointed down the hall. “Bedtime, both of you. We’ve got a meeting with the other faction bosses this afternoon.”
“Which explains why it’s almost dawn and we’re just getting home.” Snickering, Adren backed down the hall towards cir room. “How is it no one’s managed to teach either of you timing?”
“Oh, ho! Look who’s talking.” Tethe crossed his arms and rocked on his boot heels. “Being the brat of a Boss swelling your head now?”
“No, just thinking that since you were alive a full seven years before me, you’d have figured it out by now.” Adren shrugged. “It might kill you faster than I can.”
“Or Mother will do the honours if the two of you don’t shut up.” Mordane pressed his fingers to his lips before flicking his wrist behind him, motioning to their parents’ room. “She’s asleep, and so is he. We don’t need either of them asking questions.”
“One, Father told us to shut this guy up, so his only question will be if the corpse is gone,” Tethe drawled. “Two, I’ll bet he’s sleeping in his study, probably on his work.” He squashed his cheek with one hand, contorting his lips. “Likely wearing it, too. Ink’s such a pain.” As his hand dropped, he rolled his eyes. “I’ll go wake him up, tell him to go to bed.”
Mordane sighed and craned his neck back. “I’ll go with you. If he’s too far gone, he’ll be as bad as dragging a corpse.” He glanced at Adren. “You good?”
Adren pointed to the door to cir left, a match to Mordane’s door except for the knocker in the shape of a bird’s head. “Fine. Goodnight, then?”
“Yeah, that.” Tethe turned and followed Mordane back towards the staircase to the main floor below, waving his hand behind him. “Be at breakfast.”
“Of course,” Adren murmured, entering cir room. Breakfast was a daily, mandatory family meeting, divulging new information and pertinent warnings before any other meeting happened.
Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations.
Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a bigender partner and rather chatty cat.