Fusion Fragment #4 Review

My friend recommended Fusion Fragment to me after reading their most recent issue and the table of contents intrigued me right away. I love weird and dark science fiction stories. The stories in Fusion Fragment blew me away with their raw emotion. The grief, anger, frustration, and other feelings were palpable and realistic without crossing into the land of melodrama. Each story’s voice stood out to me as distinctive while their tone and themes created a cohesive issue with no odd story out. I read the issue in one night because I enjoyed story after story that I couldn’t find a good breaking point. 

Some of my personal favorites from the issue include “The Imitation Sea” by Lora Gray. I absolutely loved the juxtaposition with angels, surveillance, and grief. I found the prose heart aching and beautiful. I was utterly delighted when the story was queer since I had been picking up queer vibes from it even before the reveal. “The Ten Thousand Lives of Luciana Kim” by Maria Dong was a really brilliant take on afterlife and felt very cyberpunk in sections. The twist at the end was absolutely wonderful. I also really enjoyed “Getaway” by Jennifer Hudak as well because of the unique way Hudak dealt with eating disorders. It very much felt like a piece of ecological horror because of the way Hudak utilized elements of a lake ecosystem.

The other thing I loved about Fusion Fragment was elements of the formatting. The first thing that instantly caught my attention besides the gorgeous cover art was that each story in the issue preview with a table of contents had three keywords related to themes and content. I really liked how it felt like the AO3 tagging system but also acted as a way to give content warnings. It really helped me pick where I wanted to start in the issue since I tend to read magazines out of order. When I got the pdf and opened it, I was further delighted by other format elements. The table of contents included a snippet from each story which was wonderful to get a sense for each author’s style. The section with book recommendations by the issue’s authors was a great touch for people looking to discover new reads.

Overall, I highly recommend Fusion Fragment. I look forward to reading more issues of the magazine and discovering more stories and authors. I really appreciated how many of the stories were intensely unabashed with presenting difficult topics and situations.

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2021 Releases I’m Looking Forward To

I was going to do a post about my favorite reads of 2020 but I really didn’t read that much this year for a lot of reasons. I won my Goodreads reading challenge by reading manga since when there isn’t an official English release, each chapter is put on Goodreads as a separate book haha. Seems to me I did that in 2019 last year by reading the entirety of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in one depression fueled week. Last year, I won by catching up on Promised Neverland because I realized I never finished it.

Moving past that tangent, these are the books I’m particularly excited about for 2021:

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon 

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I have been anticipating this every since fae announced they sold another novel. Unkindness of Ghosts is one of my all time favorite books and just jaw droppingly masterful. I cannot wait to read Sorrowland and be utterly destroyed. Rivers is really one of the hidden gems of the current SFF scene and I would love for fae to get more buzz. 

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

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I have really enjoyed C.L. Clark’s short fiction and cannot wait to read their debut novel. I am already getting rave reviews from friends with arcs. It hits a bunch of my special interests including spec fic inspired by North Africa. Also the cover? very hot. Tommy Arnold sure knows what to give the gays. 

The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann

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This is the sequel to The Outside which I truly believe is one of books of 2019 that got completely slept on. I am really excited to see Tiv’s pov since last time it was Yasira’s pov.  The cover completely slaps too. 

Boys Run the Riot Vol 1 by Keito Gaku

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I have wanted to read this ever since I saw buzz about it on twitter. I have been quite frankly a little scared of looking at the scanalations because let’s be honest, scanalations are not always great about trans stuff. I’m happy it’s getting an official English release. Boys Run The Riot is literally catered to my interests since it follows a trans teen as he experiments with street fashion as a way of expressing his identity and is written by a trans mangaka! I haven’t talked a ton about jfashion  & gender over here but it’s something I do talk about with other jfashion enthusiasts. 

A Master of Djinn by P. Dejli Clark

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I have really enjoyed Clark’s work and I’m really looking forward to returning to the world of The Haunting of Tram Car 015! I really loved the world building of alternative Cairo of the 1910s and the attention to detail when I read Tram Car 015

And here’s a smattering of other titles I am also keeping my eye on:

  •  Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
  • The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
  • Star Eater by Kerstin Hall 
  • A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
  • Fireheart Tiger by Aliette DeBodard
  • Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell 
  • Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters by Aimee Ogden
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NB Writer Roundtable!

I was part of a really cool 3 part interview series that was a round table with other nonbinary science fiction writers on The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy! You can read it here:

Read the Room – Non-Binary Writers on The Future of Science-Fiction. Part 1: Inspiration and Creation

It features Alex White, K. B. Wagers, J.S. Fields, and a bunch of other really cool people!

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Review: Princess Floralinda and The Fort-Flight Tower

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Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower is Tasmyn Muir’s newest novella which moves away from gothic aesthetic to fairy tales. Full of humor and escalating situations, Muir’s voice that made Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth such successes is evident and just as strong. I found the novella enjoyable but rough in some areas. 

Publisher’s Blurb:

When the witch built the forty-flight tower, she made very sure to do the whole thing properly. Each flight contains a dreadful monster, ranging from a diamond-scaled dragon to a pack of slavering goblins. Should a prince battle his way to the top, he will be rewarded with a golden sword—and the lovely Princess Floralinda.

But no prince has managed to conquer the first flight yet, let alone get to the fortieth.

In fact, the supply of fresh princes seems to have quite dried up.

And winter is closing in on Floralinda…

My Thoughts:

Princess Floralinda manages to balance the equation of pacing and content which many novellas struggle with. I was satisfied at the ending and did not find the story too short. I thought the way each chapter was situated around a level of the tower was very clever and good use of structuring the plot. Princess Floralinda felt very timely with its themes of malicious ignorance and desperation. Floralinda is a princess and very naive and believes herself to be a nice person until she ends up in a bad situation without the tools to get out. Which honestly, that could be anyone if they end up in a bad situation. One of Muir’s strengths is writing sympathetic characters in bad situations who do bad things in an attempt to try to get out of the spot they’ve gotten stuck in. We see it in Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth. However, I wouldn’t call Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower a redemption story with the plot twist. The plot twist itself was a very funny way to end the story since it subverts all the tropes that Muir was using from fairytales. 

The part of Princess Floralinda that fell flat for me was the treatment of Cobweb’s gender. This is a spoiler heavy section so I will be ROT13ing it. Pbojro vf ntraqre fvapr snvevrf qba’g qb traqre. Ubjrire, Sybenyvaqn vf engure qrafr yvxr gur irel jryy zrnavat pvf crefba fur vf naq ershfrf gb npprcg gung Pbojro qbrfa’g unir traqre naq ernyyl qbrf abg pner gung zhpu nobhg orvat n obl be tvey. Fb fur qrpvqrf gb traqre Pbojro nf n tvey naq znxr vg tvey pybgurf. Pbojro fnlf vg qbrfa’g pner ohg vs Sybenyvaqn vafvfgf, vg’yy or n tvey sbe Sybenyvaqn. Guvf nf n genaf naq abaovanel crefba whfg ernyyl uvg gbb pybfr gb ubzr. Gur xvpxre sbe zr jnf gung Pbojro snyyf va ybir jvgu Sybenyvaqn jub unf gerngrq vg ubeevoyl. V xabj vg vf fhccbfrq gb or na haurnygul qlanzvp ohg vg jbhyq or qvssrerag sbe zr vs vg qvqa’g unir gur genafcubovn nfcrpg. V jbhyq unir yvxrq guvf fgbel fb zhpu orggre vs Pbojro unq arire pbzr onpx. Jr qba’g arrq zber aneengvirf nobhg pyhryrff pvf crbcyr orvat genafcubovp. Vg vf 2020 naq gurer ner fb znal tbbq obbxf bhg gurer hcyvsgvat genaf naq tap punenpgref vafgrnq bs qrnyvat jvgu genafcubovn.

Would I recommend this? Probably but with the caveats about treatment of gender. Take all the gender stuff away and it would have been absolutely out of the ball park for me.

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FAN EVENT: Locked Tomb Holiday Exchange 2020

Cavs, Necros, and Skeletons it is time for the annual Locked Tomb Holiday Exchange! This is open to anyone in the Locked Tomb fandom.

The Timeline:

Sign ups run from 10/31/2020 to 11/20/2020
Assignment Posting will be sent 11/25/2020 to 11/28/2020
Gifts will be shared with recipients 1/3/2021 to 1/9/2021

The Procedure

The sign up survey will ask you if you are interested in types of work (art, fic, nsfw, etc), if you are willing to pinch hit, and for three prompts. Out of the three prompts, you and your partner will choose one prompt. Once you are done and it is time to share, send your recipient a link to the fic on ao3 or the art image over dm on discord. You are more than welcome to share your creations on social media using the #tltexchange2020 tag!

***please note you will need an discord account for the exchange since that is the easiest way for me to send exchange assignments***

Sign Up Here !  (https://forms.gle/tBS7XrsbqQDoCrZS6)

thank you to the wonderful @lilrorogirl for letting me use her art in the banner !

Why You Should Read Birdverse

Birdverse is a universe of interwoven short fiction, poetry, and a novella by R. B. Lemberg that is unapologetically queer and neurodivergent with multifaceted and complex cultures. Since 2016, this has been one of my favorite series in short fiction and just this year Lemberg published a novella set in the universe that takes from all previous work to tell the story of hope and trans elders. I will recommend Birdverse until I am blue in the face from gay shrieking, but today I’m going to break down why I love this series. 

My introduction to Birdverse was with “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” when my friends devoured all of R. B. Lemberg’s published Birdverse stories because they featured trans and gay characters. We were so hungry after the completion of the Imperial Radch series that anything trans that came our way was met with much squeeing and excitement. “Grandmother-nai-Leyit’s Cloth of Winds” tells the story of a girl who is grappling with the transition of a family member and her sibling’s neurodivergency and gender identity. It is tender, bittersweet, and hopeful while being completely immersive in the world of Birdverse where different cultural groups have wildly different gender roles and expectations in regard to trans people. This is the short story that the Birdverse novella, Four Profound Weaves, is a direct continuation of. 

Birdverse features representation for everyone. When I think of Birdverse, I think of trans representation first and formost since that’s what closest and dearest to my heart but it’s chocked full of three dimensional queer characters. R. B. Lemberg is a queer writer which shines through the narrative in the way the characters feel authentic and at time rawly real. In “The Book Of How To Live” we see an asexual girl and polyamorous sapphics. In the “Geometries of Belonging”, we have a gay relationship and a nonbinary autistic character. In “The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar” we have a soft romance between two women. Birdverse has a wide range of queer stories ranging from happy and fluffy to angsty and complicated. No matter what you are in the mood for, there is something that will hit the spot. 

Birdverse is inherently neurodivergent. Autism, depression, anxiety, and other neurodivergence are a running theme throughout the stories. In Birdverse, neurodivergent people flourish when given the proper support and understanding. In “Grandmother-nai-Leyit’s Cloth of Winds” and “Geometries of Belonging”, there are autistic characters who are fully fleshed out but also depicted with frankness about how society is not stacked in their favor. In both stories, the autistic characters at the end find happy endings and ways to exist as their truest selves without conforming to societal expectations. Furthermore, in “Grandmother-nai-Leyit’s Cloth of Winds” the autistic character becomes a valued member in a different culture from their own because of their neurodivergence. The positivity, tenderness, care put into the depiction of neurodivergence is one of my favorite things about Birdverse. There are very few works that I can compare to Birdverse in caliber of representation of neurodivergence.  

Another thing I absolutely love about Birdverse is that there is an emphasis and attention to crats and domestic arts that is presented as just as important as technology. In Four Profound Weaves, one of the main characters is an artesian who weaves rugs and textiles. Her weaving is integral to the plot and her magic. In “The Desert Glassmaker and the Jeweler of Berevyar”, we have two artesians who communicate with each other and speak about their creations. There is value to craftwork instead of it being dismissed as something silly and restricting. The depth of worldbuilding around the different cultures shines through with the descriptions of their crafts and artwork. As someone who is interested in cultural crafts and arts, this aspect of Birdverse really captured my attention. It is very rare for me to encounter a speculative fiction story that puts so much attention to detail and care into these things. Furthermore it feels incredibly validating to read stories where trans and queer people are textile artists and crafters because sometimes I feel so alienated by my interests in textile arts because of the way it is traditionally perceived as a woman’s craft or artform. I enjoy sewing, I enjoy cross-stitch, I enjoy making things with my hands. It’s not a gendered activity to me. Seeing people like me in fiction making textiles with joy and seeing their works as important, makes it feel less weird and strange. 

I strongly urge everyone to read Birdverse, it is truly one of the hidden gems in today’s science fiction. I only scratched the surface of why these stories are great. Birdverse is shaped by R. B. Lemberg’s queerness, neurodivergence, and Jewishness creating a rich tapestry of immersive narratives full of hope and comfort for the othered and marginalized. Don’t know where to start? Start with “Grandmother-nai-Leyit’s Cloth of Winds”. You can find the entire bibliography of Birdverse at R. B. Lemberg’s website with many of the stories free to read.

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Review: The Tyrant Baru Cormorant

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I had been super excited for The Tyrant Baru Cormorant since I finished the Monster Baru Cormorant and it left off on a cliffhanger. The Tyrant Baru Cormorant is in my opinion the best of the series because of the way it ties all the character’s emotional arcs together and then leaves off with even more tantalizing clues to the world. 

Publisher’s Blurb

Seth Dickinson’s epic fantasy series which began with The Traitor Baru Cormorant, returns with the third book, The Tyrant Baru Cormorant.

The hunt is over. After fifteen years of lies and sacrifice, Baru Cormorant has the power to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest that she pretends to serve. The secret society called the Cancrioth is real, and Baru is among them.

But the Cancrioth’s weapon cannot distinguish the guilty from the innocent. If it escapes quarantine, the ancient hemorrhagic plague called the Kettling will kill hundreds of millions…not just in Falcrest, but all across the world. History will end in a black bloodstain.

Is that justice? Is this really what Tain Hu hoped for when she sacrificed herself?

Baru’s enemies close in from all sides. Baru’s own mind teeters on the edge of madness or shattering revelation. Now she must choose between genocidal revenge and a far more difficult path—a conspiracy of judges, kings, spies and immortals, puppeteering the world’s riches and two great wars in a gambit for the ultimate prize.

If Baru had absolute power over the Imperial Republic, she could force Falcrest to abandon its colonies and make right its crimes

My Thoughts

In Monster, we had Baru at her absolute rock bottom where everything seems to be going absolute haywire. In Tyrant, we see her climb her way out of the hole and triumph through scheming. I really liked Tyrant because it was funny, raw, and a deeply satisfying read. Seth Dickinson truly outdid himself with this book. Like the previous novels, Dickinson spins a tale using concepts from our history to explore what ifs and the devastating consequences of imperialism. The amount of research and touches to our world that Dickinson uses for Baru’s world is what makes it so deeply immersive and unique compared to other political fantasies. I mean, what other book would reference the Franklin Expedition, canine transmissable veneral tumor, euler’s theorem, and the gay uncle theorem? One of the things I loved about this book was that it gave something for all my friends to lose their minds over in terms of references. 

The thing that really struck me when reading Tyrant is how frank and on the head, homophobia and transphobia is written in this series. There is a scene in the beginning of Tyrant that perfectly depicts how transphobia works even in times when there is tolerance. It was like a gut in the punch because of the sheer accuracy. Another pivotal moment in the book is the light bulb turning on Baru’s head about internalized homophobia and how the system is stacked against her. Like it was written with such raw emotion and just made me cry because I have been there. Like there are many books that tackle being in a cisheteronormative society and the trauma it causes lgbt people, but I have never read anything before that so fully encapsulated my experiences. The handling of queer trauma in the novel is so well done and handled with grace. 

One of my absolute favorite things about this book is that despite the grimness of many events that occur, there are some absolutely hilarious parts including Baru high off her titties, Baru reuniting with her parents in the most awkward way possible, and Baru putting the moves onto a married governor. Since the book includes very dark depictions of genocide and frank dipection of lobotomy, it helps with keeping it from becoming too unrelentlessly grimdark. 

Overall, The Tyrant Baru Cormorant is highly recommended. The ending gives some tantalizing clues to the final book’s conflict. I’m calling it that the next form of magic is going to be prionic in nature. Let this blog record my tinfoil hat theory. If Seth Dickinsin decided to have the one magic system be built on cancer, then based on the epilogue, prions aren’t that far out of question. I am looking forward to the final Baru book to see how everything ties up because of the revelations in the final chapters of the book. If you have put off reading the Masquerade series, please take time to read them now. They are timely, deeply rich fantasies that are not afraid to shy away from tough topics involving queerness and imperialism. 

Content Warnings: Homophobia, Transphobia, Racism, Imperialism, Psychiatric Abuse, Medical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Genocide

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Glitter + Ashes Review

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Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die is an upcoming anthology set to be released in September. I originally backed it on kickstarter and the editor, Dave Ring, was very kind to share an ARC of the anthology for review. Glitter + Ashes focuses on the post-apocalyptic genre but with hopeful and queer stories.

Publisher’s Blurb:

Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die is an anthology of post-apocalyptic fiction centering queer joy and community in the face of disaster. What does hope look like when everything is lost? Now, more than ever, we need to revel in the bright spots amidst the darkness.

The twenty-three stories (and two poems) contained here, as well as the roleplaying game Dream Askew by Avery Alder, imagine queer community in myriad futures interrupted by collapse. Post-apocalyptic futures glittering and bleak, challenging and eerie.

Glitter + Ashes is here to hold up a torch. Come gather round the fire.

My Thoughts:

This anthology is a balm for the uncertain and unusual times that we currently are in. I have been avoiding anything post apocalyptic because quite frankly, the current times are exactly what the genre touches upon. I backed Glitter + Ashes last year because I love queer speculative fiction anthology and as a teen I devoured so much post-apocalyptic and dystopian YA books. I was hesitant to start the ARC since I had not been in a good place with my mental health when I had received it. However, when I did finally start it, I found the stories comforting and soothing. The first story in the anthology felt like home in a way since it just had the energies of one of my queer friends. I was also really intrigued by the inclusion of a ttrpg in the anthology since game writing is something that has been added to the SWFA and Hugo rosters.

What I absolutely loved about this anthology is that it encompasses such a wide range of queer experiences from Ball Culture to Jewish lesbians. The contributing authors each brought something special and unique from their experiences to the table in all their stories to assemble a vibrant picture of futures that could be. I remember when I started reading post-apocalyptic and dystopias in high school and everything was so bland and similar after a while. One of the things I also appreciate is just how trans this anthology is. There were several trans-centric stories and several trans contributing authors. I am nonbinary so I am always wanting to read stories about people like me and the anthology did that for me.

Furthermore content wise, I really appreciate the sheer range of concepts. There’s a vampire story in the anthology! There’s a story about alternate realities! There’s a story about mad max-esque bikers! There’s drag queens! There is something for everyone in the anthology. Although, I do have to say my favorite story of the entire anthology was focused on religion, death, and the struggle of being queer in a religious community. It really struck a chord with me because of my experiences but also because of my studies in museum ethics surrounding human remains. I don’t want to give too much out, but it’s really good. Like most anthologies, there were a few entries that weren’t to my personal taste, everything was incredibly solid and well written.

The ttrpg, Dream Askew, was a really fun way to end the anthology. The choice of the last piece being the ttrpg was brilliant since it encourages the reader to go and tell their stories with friends, to take the hope and comfort from the anthology contents, and share it with friends. I struggle with ttrpg rules and handbooks often since they can be quite dense and math (I struggle with basic mathematics). However, I found Dream Askew to be quite accessible and it is also PBTA (powered by the apocalypse/apocalypse world) based game mechanics.  PBTA is my favorite ttrpg system since the game play is focused primarily on character interaction and world development instead of fights and dungeon crawls.

I highly recommend this anthology for anyone looking for a stellar round up of short fiction featuring queer voices and themes. It is hopeful for a bright and warm future despite calamity and chaos. This is the post-apocalyptic fiction that we deserve in a world on fire.

You can preorder Glitter + Ashes through Neon Hemlock Press, your local indie bookstore, or amazon

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Queer Science Fiction Renaissance of the 2010s

Slide1

So the Locked Tomb/Gideon the Ninth fandom server has this event where members give powerpoints on topics they pick which range from serious things to silly memes. I gave this presentation for one of the powerpoint nights because people had expressed interest in my thoughts about trends in science fiction and fantasy in relation to queerness. I did not originally plan to go in and run statistics, but I did anyways because I may as use that master’s of science for something.

Slide2

Queer science fiction has always existed. One of the earliest novels to receive critical acclaim was Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon which was published in the 1960s. Theodore Sturgeon is also known for his work on Star Trek: The Original Series. Other books include the Left Hand of Darkness, Ammonite, The Woman Who Loved the Moon And Other Stories, Babel-17, The Female Man, Houston, Housin Do You Read, The Gilda Stories, Luck In The Shadows, Trouble And Her Friends, Magic’s Pawn, and Matter of Oaths. A few queer notable authors include Nicola Griffith, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, and James Triptree Jr. 

Slide3

But in the 2010s there was a huge increase in speculative fiction books with queer content and queer authors being published. Furthermore, compared to previous eras, more trans stories and authors appear to have been published. Awards for speculative fiction started to consistently have queer authors and works with queer content on their ballots and winning. Some examples of books that were published during the 2010s that are queer include Ancillary Justice, All Systems Red, The Black Tides of Heaven, The Devourers, Gideon the Ninth, The Long Way To A Small And Angry Planet, Ninefox Gambit, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, An Unkindness of Ghosts, The Fifth Season, A Memory Caled Empire, Every Heart A Doorway, and Docile.

Slide4

So why is there this shift? Some of the factors that I personally think have contributed to more queer speculative fiction is the internet, queer works winning awards, and greater recognition of LGBTQ+ rights and equality. The Internet is perhaps one of the largest factors because it allowed for greater connectivity between queer writers and readers to share resources. But the internet is also a fertile ground for new writers and particularly queer writers through creating greater access to sharing work, especially fanfiction. 

Slide5

This slide is fairly US-Centric. The LGBTQ+ movement has been around since the 1870s but really started picking up momentum in the 1970s. The AIDs crisis of the 1980s and 1990s brought further awareness to the LGBTQ+ community’s struggles for equality, dignity, and respect. In the early 2000s, in the US there were many PSA campaigns about self esteem in LGBTQ+ Youth. In 2001, the Netherlands is the first country to legalize gay marriage, miles ahead of the US which had not yet fully decriminilize homosexuality which happened in 2003. In 2015, the US legalizes gay marriage which was a major win for the American LGBTQ+ community. In 2020, the US Supreme Court finally rules that LGBTQ+ people are protected from discirimitation supplementing the previous executive order issued by President Obama in 2010. There is still much work left to do in the US and the rest of the world for LGBTQ+ rights and equality, but queer people are even more visible today than in the past. 

Slide6

Fanfiction is integral to speculative fiction through fan expression but also as a way to explore writing. This quote from K. M. Sparza in Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy (2019) really hits the nail on the head with what I have personally observed when it comes to fanfiction and queer folk and speculative fiction: 

“Fiction, both fan and original, has always provided me a space to explore what it means to be a queer and trans person, through my protagonists’ stories. I was myself in fiction before I was myself in real life. And now I’m a grown-up writer, like so many of my peers…It [fanfiction] is worthwhile for many personal reasons, but also because it’s taught a generation of emerging authors to experiment with stories. To write without worrying whether their plots are too tropey, their sex to gratuitous, their queers too unpalatable for the masses. To experience unabashed enthusiasm for characters. To bring all that to their original fiction and science fiction and fantasy at large.”

Slide7LGBTQ+ relationships and content is a time honored tradition in fanfiction. Fanfiction with same sex relationships has been called slash since the 1970s partly for the convention of using a slash to denote pairings. The earliest known slash fanfiction Fragment Out Of Time which was published and distributed as a zine in 1974 at fan conventions. The Star Trek fandom is important for normalizing slash since at the time Kirk/Spock (also called K/S or Spirk) was extremely popular among female fans. Fanfiction in relation to queer speculative fiction wasnot been widely examined in the academic circles until the 2000s, however in the 1990s there were several essays and papers that did examine it through the lens of queer theory. Joanna Russ, a prominent lesbian SFF writer wrote about the culture and literary implications of slash in her 1999 essay. “Pornography by Women for Women, with love.” This essay talks more about slash in relation to gender roles, but is still one of the first essays by a queer writer on the impacts of slash on speculative fiction. When the internet emerged, slash no longer was limited to being shared at conventions, fan magazines/mailing lists, and word of mouth. Now anyone could post their slash to a public space for others to read. There was an explosion in fanfiction through personal sites on hosts like geocities, live journal, fanfiction.net, and Archive of Our Own. 

Slide8Tie-In novels are another aspect of fanfiction that I want to touch on since they are often called “official fanfiction”. Many tie-in novels were and still are written by authors who are known for writing fanfiction. However, unlike fanfiction, many tie-ins have to abide by rules and codes set by the publisher or the franchise which often were strict on what sort of relationships and sexual content could be depicted. One Example of a tie-in novel code would be Pocket Book’s Star Trek Guidelines. Tie-ins were great opportunities for authors to gain fanbases, hone their skills while working in someone else’s universe, all while being paid for writing. 

Slide9Another aspect of fanfiction and speculative fiction is the idea of filing off the serial numbers. Filing off the serial numbers is when an author uses a fanfiction they wrote to create an original work through changing character and setting details. One of the first major fanfiction authors to crossover to original fiction publishing with success was Cassandra Clare in 2007. Cassandra Clare has had many controversies from her time in the Harry Potter fan spaces. Her novel, City of Bones, was originally a drarry fanfiction which she filed the serial numbers off. 

Slide10Notable LGBTQ+ authors who were published in the 2010s who have been open about writing fanfiction include K. M. Sparza, Tamsyn Muir, and Seanan McGuire. 

Slide11For science fiction and fantasy books, there are many awards. In North America, the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards are the two most well known awards for speculative fiction. Other awards include World Fantasy, Clarke Award, Triptree Award, and Locus Awards. Awards have different criteria and judging procedures. For this presentation we are going to focus on the Hugo Awards. The Hugo Award ballots are determined by fan nomination and voting. I am going to also focus on the best novel and novella categories since those have been the easiest for me to research and the categories that I am most familiar with.

Slide12The Hugo Awards have had queer nominees dating back to the 1960s. The first novel nominee with queer content was Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon. Although the book was more focused on gender equality between men and women, it depicted a society with same-sex relationships as the norm and homophobia was condemned. The first openly queer author to have a book nominated for best novel was Samuel Delany in 1967. Samuel Delany has had a lasting impact and legacy on the genre since he has routinely taught at the Clarion Writing Workshops. Although Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin was not the first best novel winner to contain queer cotent, it was the first novel to win that was not homophobic or transphobic. The first winner with queer content was Robert Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land in 1962. However this book is full of homophobia and deeply biphobic tropes regarding bisexual women and I cannot in good faith recommend it. Also I personally have a deep dislike for Robert Heinlein. In 1974, Arthur C. Clarke is the first gay author to win best novel. However he was not openly gay during that period in his life. In 1982, C.J. Cherryh is the first lesbian to win best novel.These queer forerunners unlocked the door so it could be opened for the next generation.

Slide13In 2014, the door was kicked wide open at the awards with Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Ancillary Justice depicted a society without gender where all the characters are nonbinary. It gained critical claim and swept the awards including the Hugo Awards, Nebula Award, Arthur C. Clarke, Locus Award, and the Kitchies Golden Tentacle Award for Best Debut. The success meant that that publishers would be more willing to take a chance on explicitly queer speculative fiction books. Ann Leckie is also really nice and has listened to her trans reader’s feedback and incorporated them into her writing.

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Slide15When we look at the data from 2000 to 2009 vs the data from 2010 to 2017, we can see this spike in queer science fiction and fantasy. When I ran a t-test to see if there was any statistically significant differences what I found was that for both finalists with queer content (p=0.011, df=10. t=-3.81) and queer author finalists (p=0.014, df=10, t=-2.96) were significantly different. In order to be significantly different, the p-value has to be less than 0.05 and means the null hypothesis of there is no difference between 2000-2009 and 2010-2020 should be rejected. When we look at the graphs,  The number of hugo finalists for best novel and novella that are queer increases after 2010 and spikes in 2017. Despite the Sad Puppy’s efforts to rig the Hugo Awards from 2013 to 2015, books that focused on marginalized groups still are nominated and still win proving that they have mass appeal to science fiction and fantasy fans.

When we look at the Hugo finalists for best novel and novella in terms of queer authors, we see that after 2010 there is also an increase. The 2001 data point is Nalo Hopkinson for her novel Midnight Robber. Then in 2010, Seanan McGuire starts appearing on the ballot for best novel and novella and is the only queer author in those categories from 2010 to 2014 which is what I like to call the Seanan Bubble. During this time, the Sad Puppies are active but ironically and also amazingly, 2013 is the year that Seanan McGuire appears on the ballot in five categories under both her penname Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire. The categories are: best novel, best novelette (twice — one as Mira Grant and the other under Seanan McGuire), best novella, and best fancast. Furthermore, 2017 was the first year that a trans author, Yoon Ha Lee, was a finalist for the best novel category. Other awards such as the World Fantasy Award had trans finalists in the 1980s and 1990s which is why I want to examine the data for that award and also the Nebula Awards which are selected by a panel of writers. 

Slide16Gideon the Ninth is one of the best examples of the renaissance in queer science fiction and fantasy for several reasons. The marketing was very different from any other campaign by Tor I have seen in that that Tor explicitly marketed it to the queer demographic by using the tagline, “Necromancer Lesbians in Space”. Prior releases, it was often the author who would talk up the representation and not the publisher. Furthermore, Gideon the Ninth was hyped up for about nine months prior to release. It was nearly inescapable on twitter and instagram. There were special editions for different printings which became highly collectable which only increased the hype. Finally, Tamsyn Muir is a great example of the queer writers active in speculative fiction. She wrote fanfiction and took what she learned from that and applied it to her original work. Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth take conventions common in fanfiction and marry them to conventions of original genre work incredibly well in my opinion. 

Slide17So where do we go from here? Right now is a great time to be writing queer speculative fiction. It is becoming mainstream and even more accessible than before. Publishers are explicitly saying when things are gay. Because of the success of books like Ancillary Justice and Gideon the Ninth, publishers are more willing to take a chance because they now have even more proof to add to prior evidence that queer science fiction sells. So I leave you with this write your queer as fuck stories. Don’t give up. People want to read them. So finish that novel you’ve been working on.

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Killing Ouroboros: Thoughts on Harrow the Ninth

Well Folks, it’s just the week for personal essays I guess. I really tried hard to write a normal review of Harrow the Ninth, but I just couldn’t because it just was such a personal read for me. This is NOT A SPOILER FREE post. Content warnings include. Content warnings for discussion of suicidal ideation, mental health, emotional abuse

Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2) by Tamsyn Muir

When I read Harrow the Ninth about seven months ago, I was shocked at how cathartic the novel was for me. I had enjoyed Gideon the Ninth, but Harrow the Ninth spoke to me on a deep personal level. If Ancillary Justice is the book I found my queerness in, Harrow the Ninth is the book I found my mental health in. In Harrow the Ninth, we see Harrowhark Nonagesimus’ side of the story and finally the larger picture starts to be fully painted. We see through an intimate lens that Harrow has been suicidal since she was ten, that she felt she was unworthy of love, that she loathes herself, that she had held so tightly onto Gideon because everyone else would leave her. Harrow the Ninth does not excuse her actions towards Gideon, but instead shows that both Gideon and Harrow are victims of a system full of emotional neglect and abuse. Originally in Gideon the Ninth, it had seemed that only Gideon was the victim of the Ninth until the pool scene when Harrow confesses her origins. 

I see myself in both Gideon and Harrow. I am not only mentally ill but also a victim of the cycle of abuse. It took me years to learn that. It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened to me because it didn’t look like the typical narrative you see on film and television. It can’t be that bad because my life didn’t look like the maws of hell like I had seen on television and in books. So I carried all the pain in myself for years until it overwhelmed me and finally someone said,  “That’s not normal.” But I am also mentally ill. How much of my mental illness is the trauma from the intergenerational cycle of abuse? I don’t know. How much of my mental illness is from my brain being neurodivergent? I don’t know. Seeing these two characters express different sides of my struggles was comforting. It was as if Tamsyn Muir was saying, I see you. I have been there. It’s going to be ok. It’s going to take time to be ok, but you will be ok.  

Tamsyn Muir does so many things well, but one of the things she does incredibly well is subvert tropes related to mental illness and abuse. She does not use the trope I hate most where love is the cure all. Love is important to the story, but it is clear that love cannot be used as a healing well. I used to think maybe, maybe if I loved more, harder I would be able to make the pain dissipate, that I would be able to make people happy. I would give and give and give until I was nothing. And yet. Nothing changed. I couldn’t understand why, I had tried so damn hard. It got to the point I was convinced I was unable to feel love. That is why Ortus, Harrow’s original cavalier, confessing that he had not done enough that he should have stepped in because he was the adult, made me cry. Harrow and Gideon had been just children, they should have never been made to bear the brunt of the Ninth House’s hurt. I had been a child  when I tried to take the loadstone from the necks of the adults around me because maybe then they would be happier.I have wanted someone to tell me what Ortus said for a long time now.  

This is only touching on the surface of things in Harrow the Ninth because I am struggling to articulate everything. Harrow the Ninth is a healing read for me. It took my by the hands and said, you are valid.  But that’s not the most powerful thing about the book or even the series. It’s that, Harrow the Ninth says, even if you were a shitty person because you didn’t know any better or because you were locked into a cycle, you can choose to break the chain and be a better person. It is possible to heal. It will be hard but you can. The novel is about learning to recognize that you are in this cycle of abuse and you can leave it. It is possible to be a better person despite your past. You can slay the ouroboros.

 

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