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Sunday, June 05, 2011

An Anthology Idea: Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories About Homophobia

In the last twenty-four hours, I have been having a very interesting discussion with Fabio Ferndandes, Charles Tan, and others on the subject of homophobia and science fiction.  Our talk stems from a post I wrote a few days ago on that very subject and has sparked serious consideration of queer-related anthologies (at the time of this post, many were discussing the possibility of a queer military SF anthology, of which I would love to be a part).  I suggested early on that it would be interesting to see an anthology of SF/F stories which deal with homophobia.  A number of people thought that was a good idea too, and so I am writing this post as a way to further test the waters (and have something concrete on "paper").

The anthology would obviously serve a social/political purpose:  to help spread knowledge about the issue of homophobia, discrimination against LGBT people, and so on within the SF/F community.  How could it not have a purpose if it is on that very subject?  I think an anthology dealing directly with these issues would have an impact on the SF/F community (and, perhaps, outside of it).

In terms of the actual theme, it has occurred to me that diversity in content is essential.  Nobody wants to read a collection in which every story is about a gay man or gay woman being treated like garbage by heterosexuals.  Such stories are important and would be welcome, but I think it's also important to explore the boundaries of political engagement for LGBT people in a variety of settings, extrapolative (science fiction) or imagined (fantasy).  This might mean looking at how LGBT people navigate heteronormative cultures in future settings (dystopian or optimistic) or medieval worlds, but it might also mean delving into the finer points of civil rights arguments, religion and dogma, and so forth, whether through direct engagement or clever uses of allegory and metaphor.  In a way, I think the topic should be focused on the struggle of LGBT life in SF/F settings rather than specifically on homophobia.  In my opinion, it is just as crucial to find good stories as it is to find stories that shy away from blatant point-making (i.e., message stories).  Homophobia plays a role in a variety of situations beyond the most obvious, and I would like to see stories that play with these more subtle boundaries suggested above.

The last thing I want to cover is the issue of genre.  I like the idea of an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories, but I wonder how loosely we should take those genres and whether it is a good idea to keep the two together.  Would it be more effective to have an anthology of SF stories on this topic?  Should the term "SF" be taken loosely?  Should fantasy be taken loosely too (so as to include literary forms such as magical realism)?  My initial tweets kept to the SF/F merger, but I wonder if that would post problems for editorial cohesion.  Then again, because of the specificity of the theme, narrowing the genre even further could pose serious problems for acquiring good work.  Maybe I'm worrying over nothing.

I'll leave the rest of the discussion to others.  I don't want to overload this idea with too much of my own opinions, preferences, and so forth.  With that in mind, here are a few questions to consider:
  • Would you be interested in an anthology on this subject?  What would you change?
  • Who would edit it?  I have some experience editing, but not for something of this scale or specificity (or so I think).
  • Who would like to contribute, and who should one ask to contribute (i.e., who would be a good writer to consider approaching)?
  • How would such an anthology be run?  Suggestions have been made about putting the anthology on a website, with an ebook version sold through Smashwords.  Are there any serious publishers who would be a good fit for the anthology?  Or should the project, if it were to be put together, stay in the indie realm?
  • Would authors be paid?  If so, how would we acquire the funds to do so?  Kickstarter?  Would proceeds go to a related charity, the authors, or the "publishers?"
  • What would we call the anthology?  Something tells me "Homophobia X:  An SF/F Anthology of LGBT Stories" would not be appealing to readers.
I am open to any ideas, suggestions, and thoughts that you might have.  If you could also spread the word, that would be great.  I'd love to get as many opinions as possible on this idea.


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  1. Hi Shaun!
    I like that we are discussing this theme and bouncing a few ideas of possible anthologies to address it.

    As you say in the post, no one likes "message" stories, so the stories would have to be stories and characters before messages.

    The first thing that hits me is instead of focusing on the negative on the issue, ie homophobia, it might be more useful, to focus on a particular setting where homophobia is encountered, such as the military, as was mentioned in the discussion.

    That might be a too narrow focus of theme, though. I'm just wondering how to get a wider variety of stories.

    Or would it be more fruitful to actually focus on the bullying and violence and discrimination that we do know occurs?

    SF, F or both in an anthology: I'd love to contribute whether the genres are separated or not.

    For business model:
    Are you familiar with the SHINE anthology of optimistic SF?

    They created a print anthology and also published the stories on their own website, with additional stories that weren't in the print antho.

    They also asked for tweet stories on the website.

    It sounds like that would give the whole antho longer life on the web.

  2. Anonymous5:46 PM

    If you're going to include the T in LGBT, then I think you need to broaden your scope to "homophobia and transphobia".

  3. Bert: If we narrow it to military SF, I think we'd have a problem finding enough fiction. Queer military SF would be easy, but military SF in which homophobia appears would limit the potential stories to tell severely. That's how I see it, though.

    That said, I'm not sure I follow you in regards to shifting focus from the negative to the encounter. Could you clarify?

    I'm familiar with Shine, but the book had a publishing contract, didn't it? The website was extended PR, sort of, but better.

    Anon: Good point. I'll take that under advisement.

  4. I meant that it might be better to have "queer military SF" as theme, and not necessarily center on homophobia.

    But I see what you mean that it might also limit the stories too much.

    BTW I think transphobia is stronger in our society than homophobia, and that it has the same fear as origin.

  5. I'm an editor who works primarily (at this point, anyway) with LGBTQ fantasy and horror (but I also love SF; just haven't edited much yet). I'd absolutely love to be involved in this if you'd have me. :)

    - Jo Vanderhooft

  6. Shaun, Berit: I think that the #QueerMilitarySFAntho and the #Homophobia were two different ideas that somehow attracted pratically the same people at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive.

    The way I see it (and I was in the discussions since the beginning, if we consider that they really began as a collective brainstorm today), we can do TWO different anthologies. In fact, this is what should be done. The more, the merrier - and the better.

    I'm in for both. Count me in for anything, from writing to editing.

    Jo: I'd thrilled to have you aboard! (I believe I speak in the name of the collective brainstorm. :)

  7. Hey Fabio! I totally agree they should be two separate anthologies (and probably two separate editors so I don't hog all the fun ;). They're definitely ideas that should stand on their own I think, but that aren't mutually exclusive (i.e. the homophobia anthology could have a military story, and the military antho will probably have stories about homophobia).

  8. You are so right about the more the merrier, Fabio!

    Looking forward to seeing how the project develops and hope to contribute to it in the future.


    just stumbled over this nice thing.

    btt: fantasy literature usually is created with the inhabitants and the culture of a medieval mindset. so homophobia seems to fit that. i don't know how it would seem if those characters suddenly start talking about gay rights and all.

  10. Thanks to all of you for your comments and suggestions. We've taken the discussion to email with JoSelle and it seems that we're going to get a project off the ground. More information to come in the future!