Writer / Reader / Fandom Extraordinaire
Chiara / October 16, 2015 , Fri / books & reading, lgbtqia

Okay, this post might not be as to-the-point as the title infers, but I was recently watching In The Flesh (WATCH IT, I TELL YOU. WATCH IT), and whilst marvelling at the wonder of a queer main character in mainstream media of the non-contemporary kind I also wondered: where are the queer main characters in mainstream books of the non-contemporary kind?

Now, I know that there are spec fic (speculative fiction like fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal) LGBTQIA+ Young Adult titles out there, but I want more (I guess I’m greedy). I know it’s great when there are LGBTQIA+ characters in mainstream spec fic books (like Alec and Magnus in City of Bones and its consecutives), but I want more than side characters with a few chapters. I want a novel about a boy who meets and falls in love with a fae boy, or a girl who doesn’t have any kind of sexual or romantic relationship with a character, or a transguy fighting demons. I want that really badly. And I don’t think I’m getting enough of it.

It seems that 90% of the spec fic titles floating around the YA-sphere feature heterosexual cisgender couples, and I am completely and 100% bored with them. I have seen the cis girl falls for forbidden cis guy trope one thousand trillion times. But I’ve never really seen cis girl falls for forbidden cis girl. Or ever seen cis guy falls for forbidden transguy. Or much of anything but cishet couples.

The really sad part is that I am most certainly not the only one thinking this. Whilst LGBTQIA+ YA contemporary titles are increasing in numbers (bless), I am still left casting my line far and wide for the equivalent spec fic titles. Why? I find myself asking. Is it because spec fic readers are confined by heteronormativity and cisnormativity? Is it because agents or publishers looking for spec fic titles are confined by heteronormativity and cisnormativity? Why are mainstream LGBTQIA+ spec fic titles just not really around? I’m not entirely sure, and I guess that’s why this topic has been on my mind for a while. Because I want gay zombies, asexual faeries, pansexual vampires, transgender gargoyles – I want spec fic creatures and characters of all sexualities and gender identities, not just the heterosexual and cisgender ones.

Hopefully one day soon my wants will be fulfilled (I like the sound of this), and I’ll have no need for a long line (where are these fishing analogies coming from? I’m vegan for crying out loud) in order to find my LGBTQIA+ spec fic titles. One day. One day I’ll have my gay zombie book, and I’ll be gleeful.

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16 Responses to where are the gay zombies?

  1. Alyssa says:

    I AM SO BEHIND YOU ON THIS. Do you know how much it frustrates me to read a glowing review on “oh this author did a fantastic job portraying diverse experiences” “also it’s contemporary”. I mean, I have nothing against contemporary, I just prefer spec fic A LOT MORE. And while we do have some LGBT+ characters, the WNDB movement is making much more headway in contemporary, I’d argue.

    I’m not sure why this is happening, perhaps because I am writing kind of diverse spec fic, but I’d say it’s just a matter of some people thinking “oh but in fantasy the PLOT is more important” whereas contemporary has to be dealing with “issues”. A spurious argument, IMO.

    • Chiara says:

      YAAAY! :D Yeah, for sure. Almost all the diverse books releasing at the moment (and getting publicity) are in the contemporary genre (which I like, yes, but it’s not my favourite by any means).

      Ridiculous. I think that, if anything, diversity should be MORE prominent in spec fic because the worlds in those novels aren’t hindered by the prejudices that exist in ours.

  2. Rebecca says:

    The WNDB movement has definitely made progress over the past year, but when you stop and read a post like this, it definitely reminds me that we’ve still got a long way to go. Contemporary is my favourite, so I don’t really think about non-contemporary so much, but having said that, I can’t deny that a gay zombie book sounds fabulous. I hope you get it sooner rather than later <3

    Will check out In the Flesh! Also…I can't make up for the lack of non-contemporary LGBTQIA+ titles, but I can suggest a few for your TBR because I'm awesome like that ;)

    Bleeding Earth – Horror *runs away, hides under covers*
    Elemental series #4 – Paranormal
    Tides – Fantasy
    Adaption – sci-fi
    The Wicked We Have Done (this sound really good!)

    • Chiara says:

      We definitely still have a long way to go. I mean, what has already been achieved is wonderful! But we need to take more steps into expanding that achievement beyond just contemporary novels. I hope I do, too! Gay zombies would be fabulous.

      Please do! Ohmygosh, it’s wonderful in SO MANY WAYS.

      I had almost all of those on my TBR – I’ll need to start the Elemental series, so I can get to book four! I didn’t know Tides was LGBTQIA+ :O And I just added The Wicked We Have Done to my TBR! Thank you, lovely <3

  3. Beth W says:

    OK, I can’t recall the title off the top of my head, but there’s a Holly Black story in which one of the MCs is male and gay, and he gets pulled into the glamour of the fey world. He’s not the narrator, and I wouldn’t say he’s the protagonist, but his decision, with the allure of a hot, morally questionable fey boy, is 100% what drives the plot. Not exactly what you’re asking for, but there’s one! I honestly think I see LGBTQIA+ side characters more in fantasy than in scifi….but maybe I just haven’t read the right scifi.

    • Chiara says:

      Is it The Darkest Part of the Forest? Someone in another comment mentioned that it might be!

      Ohhh, I am liking the sound of that book :D

      Yup, sci-fi is even further behind than fantasy, I believe, which is pretty sad. It’s like … queerness has somehow been erased in the progression of time in futuristic books. :/

  4. Romi says:

    Okay, yes. YES. I want gay zombies and I want fantastical animals that are asexual as a whole and don’t reproduce in the regular way but have this unique breeding method (really gettign into it here, obviously). I want stories about transgendered fae and intersex goblins and orcs who JUST WANT TO BE LOVED. I want to much more than what I’m getting, and it can hurt, when I think of it. But it can also be incredibly exciting, because if someone else isn’t going to give it to me? I can create it for myself. And now I’ve got a new idea for my NaNo novel. WOO.

    • Romi says:

      Okay…. only now did I realise that that first thing I said is really weird. And unexplained. Re: fantastical animals I mean like how whole species can have unique ways of reproducing- like seahorses. So you have this species of animal that is asexual, but they work around just dying out. I’m hoping I helped my comment seem less weird. Probably not.

    • Chiara says:

      I love that you’re getting into it! Also, trans fae and intersex goblins? I NEED THOSE BOOKS RN.

      It really does hurt, because so much of the (wonderful) headway is being made in contemporary fiction, and I feel like genre fiction is being left out of the discussion.

      True. Creating your own stories is a huge plus!

  5. Appletaile says:

    YES absolutely! Whilst I some contemporary books are definitely good, they get a bit…boring after a while. And I’m very often thinking that I would enjoy [insert book here] way more if it didn’t have the heterosexual cisgender romance.
    I REAALLY NEED TO WATCH IN THE FLESH, EEK. *adds to mental list and desperately hopes she’ll remember next time she turns on the TV*
    (I think in one of the other comments, Beth might have been talking about Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest?)

    • Appletaile says:

      Okay I definitely messed up that first sentence. I think I was trying to say that I do enjoy contemporary, but I want some fantasy and sci-fi with LGBTQ+ characters too? Um, something like that.

    • Chiara says:

      RIGHT? To be honest, I often think that. I’ll see a book that’s cishet and I’m like: wow, the premise sounds interesting but why isn’t it “the new girl falls for the dark, brooding girl”?

      YOU DOOOOO. In The Flesh is SO GOOD, I tell you. I hope you get to watch it ASAP!

      (Oh, I actually have The Darkest Part of the Forest! And if it’s LGBTQIA+, I am even more interested!)

  6. I feel like “where are the gay zombies?” is possibly the best sentence ever penned in the history of the English language. Congratulations. *offers you cookies* ;)

    But I digress! I’m 100% behind you on this one – as much as I do adore contemporary books, my first love is and will always be fantasy, and it makes me sad that I’m not getting any representation in those books. We have to have the full spectrum of queerness across the full spectrum of genres – anything less than that simply isn’t enough.

    (One notable exception, though – Maggie Stiefvater’s THE RAVEN BOYS series has ghosts and legends and queer boys alike, and it is lovely. Highly recommended, if you haven’t read that one already.)

    • Chiara says:

      Thank you, thank you *accepts cookies gratefully* <3

      Exactly! I love contemporary, too, but it has never been my favourite genre. Fantasy wins that title, hands down. And I just wish there was greater representation of queerness in anything other than contemporary books.

      (Oh. YES. I adore The Raven Cycle. <3)

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