I’ve written a few stories that have LGBT characters or themes though not, when I look at it, an exceptionally large number. It just occured to me it could be interesting (for me, if no one else) to go over my short stories database and extract some common themes or group stories together, of which this is a first post.
A lot of the time, my reasoning is that, if there is a romance in the story, it might as well be a same-sex romance – girl-meets-girl or boy-meets-boy instead of boy-meets-girl, to reduce it to a plot component. Other times I’m interested in exploring sexual themes explicitly – most predominantly in the Gorel stories (of which more later). I’ve been particularly interested in Kathoey (Thai/Lao transgender, or “third sex”) as they’re very much a part of everyday life in Laos, with, it seems to me, far more acceptance than ever in the “enlightened” West, and they tend to crop up in stories.
I have no idea if I’m doing a particularly good job or not. My guiding principle is fairly simple though – people are people, and sexual identity is one part of a person. I can well imagine some characters who are consumed by sexual orientation/gender identity to the extent it overshadows everything else, but I’d imagine that’s quite rare, and can apply equally whether you’re gay or straight. Anyhow, here is a handful of stories with LGBT themes.
High Windows – Strange Horizons 2006 – an alienated teenage boy travels across the future solar system, trying to find his place in the world. One reader comment said it was “basically internet porn, given a veneer of respectability … thinly imagined, flaccidly written and altogether unstimulating. ” Another wrote: “This story is truly a work of sick self indulgent porn.”
“High Windows” obviously (I think) corresponds with some of Samuel Delany’s fiction as well as with Philip Larkin’s poem ”High Windows”. It also includes a line about transitioning that both I and the editors thought would be problematic, though it hadn’t been commented on.
It is interesting that the readers above equate “sexually explicit” with “porn”, though I have no problem with it. I did write a couple of stories that deal specifically with pornography and that you might want to check out – 304, Adolf Hitler Strasse on Clarkesworld and “The Love-Craft” in Postscripts (not online).
Covenant - Apex Digest 2008 (but reprinted online in Basement Stories) – a story about religion and aliens which features a lesbian couple. If “High Windows” was a story about alienation and sex, here the romance is simply another part of the story.
“How To Make Paper Airplanes” – published in the special Mundane SF issue of Interzone, 2008, edited by Geoff Ryman, and not online, alas – deals more explicitly with a gay relationship in a culture (Vanuatu) where it is both socially unacceptable and illegal, though again this is one aspect of the story, about four men stranded on a desert island and the meeting of alien (yet human) civilizations.
The Night Train – Strange Horizons, 2010 – well, this little beasty is somehow a Theodore Sturgeon Award nominee, has two reprints in Year’s Bests anthologies, and is available in audio at Escape Pod. I have to admit I mostly wrote the story because I love the night train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, and I love the Hua Lamphong train station. I found the various comments on how the story “exoticises” strange, as for me it was writing about everyday life (admittedly in a somewhat weird future). The main character is a kathoey, the story adopts and corresponds with American cyberpunk tropes and ends, I thought quite appropriately, with a cup of tea.
There are other stories, I think, but those are the more prominent ones. The other stories I wanted to mention are the Gorel of Goliris stories, of which the first one to be published is the novella Gorel & The Pot-Bellied God (PS Publishing 2011).
Two more Gorel stories will be published in PS Publishing’s Postscripts anthology series – “Black Gods Kiss” and “Buried Eyes”, and a small collection of Gorel stories (probably titled Black Gods Kiss) will be published by PS next year.
The obvious inspiration for Gorel has been C.L. Moore, with her Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith stories, though with Gorel it was obvious to me from early on that it would be more explicit, almost to the point of the gratuitous. I did want to write something that had plenty of sex and violence – my guiding line for Gorel early on was that he’d “kill anything and sleep with anyone”, though in the course of Pot-Bellied God he enters a fairly stable menage a trois relationship (at least for a while!) and also, I suspect, falls in love. I’m looking forward to finding out what Gorel gets up to next!