As part of my ongoing history of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction, I’m in the process of doing interviews with authors, editors and reviewers who are working in different areas of the genre that I’m not as familiar with. I’m hoping to boost the signal on some of their projects, too so please check out their writings and other projects. There’ll be interviews with various folks on trans and nonbinary spec fic, indie queer romance, new trends and recommendations for short fiction and other fun things coming up as well as my essays on different aspects of the field. I hope you like them!
CL: How would you define speculative fiction that centers or focuses on nonbinary and trans characters?
BT: I try to err on the side of inclusion both when it comes to defining speculative and nonbinary and trans.Writers frequently ask me if their work with NB/trans characters “qualifies” for reprinting in the Transcendent: Year’s Best Transgender SFF series, because if it is not “about” these issues specifically. So I generally do not want to put restrictions on how a work needs to engage with these themes. I think both stories that are trans/NB/genderqueer etc. non-cis “issue stories,” and stories which have incidental representation are important, and I generally try to have a balance when I’m editing.
I also think that any piece of fiction or poetry written by a trans person is trans literature; though for Transcendent, I can only consider stories that are trans-related in themselves, because that’s the concept of all of the Lethe Press year’s bests. But I have spent many years writing, editing and reviewing SFF, and my experience has been that work by marginalized authors in general is often only promoted when the characters themselves also fit into those boxes. I very much want to push against that, because I believe that marginalized people can and should write whatever they / we want. (I talked about this particular issue in a Roundtable on Diversity moderated by Charles A. Tan at the Book Smugglers, including M Sereno, Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, JY Yang and myself.) So my general body of work uses this broader conceptualization, even if specific projects might not.
One particular gray area is stories by non-cis authors which are not necessarily about transgender themes, but which are clearly written with a related sensibility. Often these SFF stories are about bodily transformation or transspecies concepts, or are related to robots / AI. I think some good examples are Her Sacred Spirit Soars by S. Qiouyi Lu in Strange Horizons, and Polenth Blake’s Hello, World on Patreon.
CL: How do you do center those identities in your own work?
BT: I also like to write both trans issue stories (and intersex issue stories too!) and stories where the representation is incidental. I do not always center transness either, because I feel like that can sometimes take room from other marginalizations. E.g., a work about a disabled trans person can center disability but still very much feature and involve transness, and how disability and transness interact in the character’s life. It can also center transness and disability can be incidental. A variety of combinations are possible.
I think a good example of my issue stories is my novelette Three Partitions in GigaNotoSaurus, and a good example of incidental representation is my short story Forestspirit, Forestspirit in Clarkesworld.
More recently I’ve been trying to write work where the protagonist is multiply marginalized, and this can be difficult to do in a small space. I think my story Four-Point Affective Calibration in Lightspeed recently managed to put a lot into just 1400 words – this is an ‘issue story’ about migration, but the protagonist is not only multiply marginalized, but those marginalizations are all relevant to the story and also interact with each other. Simultaneously, it is also a hard-SF story with real cognitive science, including mentions of specific research papers :)
CL: I know you have recommended reading lists – where can readers find them? What kind of works do you like to include? Are there are other resources that you’d like to recommend?
BT: I think the best way to find my recommendations is on my book blog Bogi Reads the World, and by following me on Twitter at @bogiperson. I try to do weekly roundups of everything I posted on my Patreon.
CL: What would you like to see next in terms of nonbinary and/or trans representation in science fiction and fantasy?
BT: I’m going to do a bunch of bullet points, because I like lists and hopefully people will take them as writing prompts and run with them!
– “201-level” trans stories where the transness is not focused on “wow, this person is trans / this person is coming out”. A good example that goes beyond the basics is An Owomoyela’s Three Points Masculine in Lightspeed.
– Trans people of different generations interacting and cooperating. M Téllez does this very well.
– Trans people disagreeing about gender or just experiencing their gender in different ways.
– Culturally specific trans themes. Most such stories I currently see are rather forced outsider portrayals.
– More non-Western trans authors, trans migrant authors and trans work in translation.
– More work by trans authors of color / ethnic and racial minority trans authors, especially Indigenous, Black and bi/multiracial authors.
– More focus on trans women and transfeminine NB authors.
I have been looking for disability & transness intersections, and this past year there have been many such stories, which I have been very happy to see! There are also an increasing amount of out intersex authors, but not as many #ownvoices intersex stories. I absolutely loved Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts, an amazing debut novel. This book really shows just how much is possible in SFF both related to trans and intersex representation, and other marginalizations including race / Blackness and disability too.
Thank you, Bogi!
Bogi Takács is a Hungarian Jewish agender trans person and a resident alien in the US. E has edited the Publishers Weekly and Locus– recommended anthology Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016 for Lethe Press, and is currently editing Transcendent 3, as well as a monthly story reprint series for Galli Books.
Catherine Lundoff is an award-winning writer, editor and publisher from Minneapolis. Her stories and articles have appeared in such venues as Respectable Horror, The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories, The Cainite Conspiracies: A Vampire the Masquerade V20 Anthology, Nightmare Magazine: Queers Destroy Horror and SF Signal. Her books include Silver Moon and Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories, both from Queen of Swords Press). Website: www.catherinelundoff.net