Science Fiction and fantasy have long provided an outlet for writers who want to consider the full spectrum of humanity (and… non-humanity) through a speculative lens. And though representation of a spectrum os gender and sexual identities and expression has become an increasingly visible theme in novels, there is perhaps no venue to explore the diversity of possibilities out there than the short story. In celebration of Pride, here is a whole stack of collections and anthologies that address these themes head-on, featuring writers who use their own personal experiences as the starting point for fantastical stories that speak to the diverse reality around us.
New Lambda Award winners
Let’s start off with two brand new Lambda Award winners. The Lambda Literary Awards, “identify and celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender books of the year, and affirm that LGBTQ stories are part of the literature of the world.” They are awarded every year, and the most recent winners were announced on June 4, 2018.
Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado
This multi-award winning short story collection won the Lambda Award for best lesbian fiction this year, and it is a work that blends speculative fiction, literary fiction, fairy tales, myth, gender and sexual politics and a whole lot more. Or, to quote the official book blurb, Machado “blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism.” This one’s a must-read.
Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, edited by Bogi Takács
This anthology just won a Lambda Award for best transgender fiction, and it is packed with fantastic speculative stories by some of the genres very best writers, including A. Merc Rustad, Sonya Taaffe, Vajra Chandrasekera, and S. Qiouyi Lu. You can also pick up a copy of the first Transcendent anthology, published by Lethe Press in 2016 and edited by K.M. Szpara.
Glittership Year One, edited by Keffy R.M. Kehrli
GlitterShip is “a science fiction and fantasy podcast devoted to publishing audio versions of LGBTQ stories from authors of all backgrounds.” More than 30 stories from the podcast are now available in this anthology, where you’ll find work by Kat Howard, Nino Cipri, Rachel Swirsky, Rose Lemberg, K.M. Szpara and many others. If you want to listen to the podcast, head over to Glittership’s website.
Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, edited by Cat Fitzpatrick, Casey Plett
This anthology features stories by 25 transgender writers and spans a wide range of speculative genres. You’ll find zombies, cyberpunk, high fantasy, post-apocalyptic tales, all here for your reading enjoyment. Includes work by Jeanne Thornton, Ryka Aoki, and Trish Salah.
Capricious Issue 9: Gender Diverse Pronouns, edited by A.C. Buchanan
Capricious is a literary speculative fiction zine, and this special issue features wonderful tales of science fiction and fantasy featuring ghosts and dragons, aliens and merfolk, love and transformation. Every story uses gender diverse pronouns, and consider characters “whose gender changes, whose gender is undecided, whose gender does not exist, or whose gender is pivotal to their self.” It’s a fantastic anthology, and includes work by Penny Stirling, A.E. Prevost, and Bogi Takács.
Wilde Stories 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, edited by Steve Berman
This anthology has a truly impressive table of contents, including several of my own favourite stories from 2017. There are contributions from Sam J. Miller, Charles Payseur, Rich Larson, and G.V. Anderson. It spans across all the speculative fiction genres, and to quote Publisher’s Weekly, “highlights the power of speculative fiction to unravel and explore the desires, dreams, and problems of the here and now.”
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology, edited by Hope Nicholson
Published in 2016, this is a collection of indigenous urban fantasy and science fiction focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. It includes stories by a lineup of fabulous writers, including Darcie Little Badger, Daniel Heath Justice, and Mari Kurasato, ranging “from a transgender woman undergoing an experimental transition process to young lovers separated through decades and meeting in their own far future.” These are affirming stories of science and magic, and many forms of love.
Queers Destroy Science Fiction!
Back in 2015, Lightspeed, Fantasy Magazine, and Nightmare each published a “Queers Destroy…” special issue: Queers Destroy Science Fiction!, Queers Destroy Fantasy!, and Queers Destroy Horror!. All three are brilliant reads, with stories by some of the genres’ best and brightest queer writers. Sigrid Ellis, flash fiction editor for the Queers Destroy Science Fiction! issue, wrote about the tongue-in-cheek title: “Queers can’t destroy science fiction. No one can. No one can destroy the future. But we can, through malice or complacency or inattention, limit the future. We can so narrowly, so tightly map the possible that we wall ourselves into a cave of our own making.”
Short story collections
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyeymi’s collection straddles the line between literary fiction and speculative fiction, featuring stories where the real world mixes with fairy tale, magic, and myth. It has won widespread acclaim, and features many queer characters, as well as people of color.
The Kissing Booth Girl & Other Stories, by A.C. Wise
Wise’s short story collection was a Lambda Award finalist in 2017, and it is a lovely, moving, and strange assemblage of “the fantastical, the weird, the queer and the poignant.” It can be combined with her equally essential collection The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again. (If that title doesn’t make you want to read, then I can also add that it features “the kind of heroes—sparkling, witty, brave—the world so desperately needs against a host of weird foes.”)
So You Want to Be a Robot and Other Stories, by A. Merc Rustad
Rustad knows how to spin tales that will woo, wow, and wallop you. As the cover entices you: “Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness.” In these 21 stories, a young trans man using his magical abilities to save his town, and a former supervillain emerges from retirement in search of her lost lover.
Singing With All My Skin and Bone, by Sunny Moraine
Moraine’s short fiction has been published in Clarkesworld, TOR.com, and Lightspeed. Their fiction has a tendency to creep under your skin , with prose that is beautiful, unsettling, and incisive. Moraine’s debut short story collection features 19 stories that blend gothic horror, dark fantasy and science fiction, and has been called a, “heady stew of dark fantasy, dystopia, terror, and transcendence.”
Her Smoke Rose up Forever, by James Tiptree Jr.
Let’s add a speculative fiction classic to the mix as well: author Alice Bradley Sheldon used the pen name James Tiptree Jr. from 1967 until her death in 1987. She often explored themes of gender and gender roles in her work, and The James Tiptree Jr. Award, created in 1991, is given in her honor for “a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.” She was a versatile writer of speculative fiction, a multi-award winner, and she was inducted into the science fiction hall of fame in 2012. This short story collection has been updated, and contains revisions from the author’s original notes.
To help get more queer short fiction out into the world, one thing you can do is support crowdfunded anthologies on Kickstarter. Here are two on-going Kickstarter campaigns:
Maiden, Mother, and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes
With writers like Kai Cheng Thom, Casey Plett, and Gwen Benaway on board, this is “an anthology of new fantastical short fiction by trans women and trans feminine writers… Enter a universe of wonder where trans femmes are powerful heroines, sorceresses, and warriors fighting against dark forces in vivid magical worlds.”
Women Up To No Good Series
A Kickstarter campaign for “anthologies of dark fiction by marginalized voices—primarily women and authors of marginalized sex and gender identities”. The lineup of contributing authors include a wide range of new and established horror and speculative fiction writers, including L. Timmel Duchamp, Chikodili Emelumadu, Nisi Shawl, D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Catherynne M. Valente, and Alyssa Wong.
If you want to keep up with the latest and greatest in queer speculative short fiction (or just speculative short fiction in general), I highly recommend checking out these three contributors to the field:
- Writer and editor Bogi Takács writes about speculative fiction by queer and marginalized writers for TOR.com and on eir website, Bogi Reads the World.
- In addition to his monthly column X Marks the Story at The Book Smugglers, writer and reviewer Charles Payseur writes a monthly curated list of queer short speculative fiction for his Patreon.
- Writer, editor, and reviewer A.C. Wise reviews and recommends short fiction in her monthly column Women To Read at The Book Smugglers, and Words for Thought in Apex Magazine.
What short stories do you think make for essential reading during Pride?