Queer sci-fi
May 22, 2014 3:46 AM   Subscribe

Where are some good places to read queer sci fi short stories?

I'm not looking for fan fic or GOT style fantasy, but actual space or dystopia short stories that either have a narrator or society that is less rigidly heteronormative. I'm not really looking for erotica either (the odd scene is fine but i'd like some actual plot). Where is the lesbian JG Ballard or Philip K Dick?

I'm completely open to blogs and e-books if you have recommendations, and I like short stories at least as much as full novels. I'm not getting much joy from browsing books in brick and mortar bookshops and without knowing some authors I'm not sure where to start. Random suggestions are fine, you've had some great left-field ideas in the past.

Second related question: is there anywhere that discusses this sort of thing, any online communities or scenes? Again, not really looking for 'What if Data and Jordi had sex?' which I am aware there is plenty of, I'm more interested in original ideas than subversion of existing heteronormative stories. I know this stuff exists but I'm not sure where to find it.
posted by tinkletown to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I think the lesbian JG Ballard may be Nicola Griffith.

There's a Wikipedia page for LGBT speculative fiction, and it lists some short story anthologies. I've heard a lot of good things about the Bending the Landscape anthologies.
posted by Jeanne at 3:58 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here is one excellent and famous Hugo award winning queer sci-fi short story available online... It is "Bridesicle" by Will Mcintosh: http://multiverse.lamost.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Bridesicle-Will.Mcintosh.pdf
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 4:22 AM on May 22, 2014

I have to mention our own Phoebe North. Starglass has queer characters and is just a really good book; sequel out this summer.
posted by BibiRose at 4:37 AM on May 22, 2014

Not just queer SF, but a lot of the short story magazines are super interested in inclusive and diverse SF/F these days. Ex. Crossed Genres is made for just that reason. But if you just want a good archive of historical SF dealing with non-het sexuality, this is a great listing, though it doesn't include the extensive work in this category being done more recently.

You may also find the queer sff tag on Tor.com pertinent to your interests to find more modern stuff. People are very definitely discussing these things. :)

Tweaking your Google queries to use "SF/F" rather than just "SF" will bring you joy, because they you get science fiction and not San Francisco, and people who write about science fiction all the time very rarely write it out.
posted by Andrhia at 4:48 AM on May 22, 2014

You might find the Tiptree award lists and recommendation lists worth mining for ideas - the Tiptree is, as they say, "an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender."

(Also, definitely agree that Starglass is excellent.)
posted by modernhypatia at 4:54 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods springs to mind, not sure if it's quite what you're looking for though.
posted by AllShoesNoSocks at 5:20 AM on May 22, 2014

It is "Bridesicle" by Will Mcintosh

This short story was adapted into a book called Love Minus Eighty and it is wonderful. There is one important lesbian character, though the other sexual orientations are hetero. But, there are relationships in the book that creep up on the characters that are fascinatingly nonnormative, queer in that sense. I love this book. Quality, nuanced science fiction with warm, human characters.
posted by zeek321 at 5:47 AM on May 22, 2014

The Post-Binary Gender in SF posts by Alex Dally Macfarlane on Tor.com have some interesting recommendations and discussion.

Couple of novels with gay protagnists: China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh; Troll: a Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo.
posted by carrioncomfort at 5:52 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

When it changed -- Short story by Joanne Russ
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 6:12 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Expanded Horizons is a great online SF magazine, as is Strange Horizons. Both regularly feature LGBT characters and writers.
posted by spunweb at 6:17 AM on May 22, 2014

Not a direct answer, but do you know about the Geek and Sundry vlog Geeking Out? That strikes me as a perfect question for them (and they have already done an episode on books rather than short stories).
posted by plinth at 6:25 AM on May 22, 2014

If for some reason you are in Minneapolis....uh, there might conceivably be community ed classes that focus on just such a topic, taught by a mefite who might possibly be me.

Strange Horizons publishes a lot of queer short stories. Their reviews are also useful.

If you want hella dystopian with lots of lesbian characters, L. Timmel DuChamp's Marq'ssan cycle is really good. I think these books are one of the great under-read achievements of contemporary SF - although one of the reasons that they are under-read is that the first book (which starts off really strong) is a bit clunky and the writing in general improves as you go. I started the first book, stopped, got back into it, buzzed through it like a mad thing and ordered the remaining four shipped from the publisher that very day, then gnawed my nails like an SF fiend waiting for them to arrive.

In general, Aqueduct Press publishes a lot of queer SF.

Joanna Russ is a real oddity - well worth reading, but be warned - her major book, The Female Man has a section which is pretty transphobic. (To her credit, she later apologized and said basically "I didn't intend for it to be about trans people but it was wrong to write it this way") and another novel, The Two of Them is....well, she said that she wanted to estrange the 1950s/60s misogynist world that she grew up in and decided to use a kitsch-Islamic setting which she intended to be read as Not Actual Islam (and there are plenty of textual cues about this) but as you can imagine, that is not a viable writing strategy. Again, later she apologized for writing it that way. (Lest this maker her sound awful - well, many late seventies feminist SF writers produced some problematic stuff and very few apologized later.)

This post by Nicola Griffith has a bunch of recommendations for lesbian SF, especially more contemporary stuff such as the Heirs of Russ compilation which I own but have not read.

Samuel Delany is absolutely canonical as a gay SF writer with generally queer and gender-interesting books. My favorites are Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and Triton, plus the Neveryona books.

Melissa Scott has written a lot of queer SF - Trouble and Her Friends and Shadow Man in particular.
posted by Frowner at 6:28 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding Samuel Delaney. The caveat being that he is quite a bit more literary than is expected from SF.
posted by anansi at 6:32 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check out The End is Nigh which is a fantastic collection of science fiction short stories that I just finished reading. Several of the stories involve gay characters. You can also read one of my favorite stories from this book, by Desirina Boskovich here on Wired.

Also check out Heiresses of Russ, which is an anthology of the best lesbian speculative fiction. I'm linking to the 2012 edition since it is the one I have read and enjoyed (and features another great story by Desirina Boskovich, Thirteen Incantations.)

And if you don't already know about it, you could try poking around Lambda Literary for something that interests you!
posted by ohsnapdragon at 6:53 AM on May 22, 2014

Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains is fantasy with an unapologetically gay protaganist. It's not central to the story, but also not an afterthought, and it does involve a few explicit scenes. There is also a sequel, which isn't as good, but is along the same lines.
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 7:01 AM on May 22, 2014

I haven't read it yet (hoping to rectify that soon), but Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi might fit the bill.

(disclaimer: the author is an acquaintance of mine)
posted by HermitDog at 7:07 AM on May 22, 2014

Nthing Samuel Delaney.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:34 AM on May 22, 2014

Most of Melissa Scott's work, and she usually mentions other great authors and collections on her blog.
posted by seasparrow at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2014

There's an enormous amount of gay genre fiction (mostly M/M) over at Shousetsu Bang*Bang, and it's entirely free. Here's an example of an SF-themed issue.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:22 AM on May 22, 2014

Have you read the classic The Left Hand of Darkness It's not a short story but it is a short novel and one of the earlier Sci Fi stories I know of to play with gender and gender identity.
posted by wwax at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Strange Horizons just posted Sarah's Child. Interesting variant on the life not taken.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:55 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kelly Eskridge is good at this. In Dangerous Space (novella), the gender of the narrator is never evident, and the narrator is bi.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:15 AM on May 23, 2014

There's also Lois McMaster Bujold's novel Ethan of Athos - about a man from a male-only homosexual planet who has to venture out into the wider world. It's tangentially related to a broader series, but it's capable of standing alone.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:18 AM on May 23, 2014

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