The increasing number of LGBTQ characters in speculative fiction and other media has grown in a slow, labored process that mirrors changing attitudes as a whole. From Anthony Burgess’s fascist, gay dystopia The Wanting Seed to Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior’s use of sexual stereotyping in their depictions of a rapacious gang of leather clad bikers lead by Lord Humungus (seen here in a harmless retro 6 bit animation), science fiction, fantasy, and horror have come a long way to show more representative, diverse, and nuanced portrayals of LGBTQ characters.
This year I have been lucky to read a long list of excellent speculative fiction that explored issues of sexual and gender identity, discrimination, post gender societies, and general all out badassery by gay, lesbian and trans-gender characters.
Kameron Hurley has quickly become one of my favorite writers. She builds strange, immersive worlds inhabited by exotic and well developed characters that challenge the traditional tropes of fantasy writing. In her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, three distinct societies coexist with very different gender systems. The remote people of the Dhai have a five gender system that includes female assertive and passive, male assertive and passive, and the ungendered. In Dorinah, traditional gender roles are reversed. The rare third sex in the realm of the Saidan can change anatomy with the shifting of the moons. Hurley weaves a powerful narrative that will challenge your notions of traditional gender roles. She is a master.
A Land Fit for Heroes is an epic series by Richard K. Morgan that tells the story of three war veterans coming together to fight a dangerous threat from their world’s past. Its main character, Ringil Esquiath, is a deadly warrior armed with a wicked sense of humor and an alien sword. Estranged from his homeland because of his sexuality, he lives the life of a knight errant drinking, whoring, and scrambling from one fight to the next. Another of the main POV characters, Arceth Indaminarmal, is a half alien advisor to the imperial court left behind by her alien brethren. Her proclivities for daggers and women and are both legendary. A Land Fit For Heroes’ three books are packed with sex, violence, and thrilling fight scenes. They were a rolling good time.
The Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie has won every speculative fiction award under the sun and for good reason. Her blockbuster space opera is one of the best examples of contemporary science fiction out there. In Leckie’s books, Radch space is ruled by a culturally genderless race that do not outwardly distinguish their citizens through gender. In the first book, Breq, a gun toting AI with a personal vendetta, finds it difficult to tell the difference between them.
In television its much the same, from the psycho-sexual hive-mind orgies of Sense 8, to the range of diversity of characters on shows like Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black, LGBTQ friendly speculative fiction and media is steadily on the rise. Characters like that of Mad Max 2’s Lord Humungus are quickly becoming extinct: Dead as dodo.