Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 Lesbian Appreciation Event: Cathy Pegau and Lesbians in Science Fiction

From its beginnings, the futuristic settings of science fiction have allowed authors to explore some of the touchier socio-political aspects of their era because, hey, it’s fiction. The genre provides an outlet to imagine what we could achieve not only technologically but socially if we tried hard enough as a species. On the flip side, dystopian futures can act as a warning about where society is currently headed and what we need to avoid.

Writing lesbian romances in such a setting has allowed me to envision a future (one I hope isn’t so far off) where no one raises so much as an eyebrow at the relationships of my heroines. People are free to love whomever they choose. My intent is to pay homage to all of those who, in real life, have risked so much for equal treatment  and will continue to fight until it’s achieved. I want to see those battles won, and in my world they are. By creating lesbian romances two hundred-plus years in the future, I’m doing what speculative fiction authors have done for a long time—giving modern readers an idea of what I believe our society should be. I have faith in our species that it will happen sooner than two centuries.

Though Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite doesn’t focus on what it is to be a lesbian, per se, it’s the most memorable of my reads that introduced me to lesbians in SF. The basic plot is that due to a deadly virus there are no men on the planet Jeep, and the women have stepped up to continue the survival of their people. There’s more to it that that, but Ammonite is an amazing look at gender roles, change and acceptance of others and self, all tied up in some of the best writing I have ever had the absolute joy of experiencing. With a planet of only women it’s pretty much expected that some love each other, but don’t think that all that womanly love means there isn’t deadly conflict. Read it for yourself and see what you think.

Of course, science fiction isn’t the only speculative fiction that includes lesbian characters. There are plenty of fantastic stories with characters ranging from space explorers to vampires and shifters to steampunkers to warrior princesses. Authors Nicola Griffith, Melinda Lo, and Melissa Scott top the list of those who shine in the spec fic arena, not to mention (well, I guess I am mentioning them…) Catherine Wilson, L.L. Raand, Cassandra Duffy, Sarah Diemer, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and our lovely hostess KT, among others. Titles with lesbians as protagonists, no matter the setting or time period, no matter if the main character wears a space suit or plate armor or black leather, share one commonality: A person’s sexuality doesn’t matter, the soaring imagination of the author does. Lesbians have been part of speculative fiction for a long, long time and they aren’t going anywhere. In fact, I’m counting on it to gain an even larger audience in years to come.

Reader participation time! What’s your favorite lesbian spec fic story or author? If you haven’t read lesbian spec fic, do you think you’d give it a try? Which subgenre speaks to you? If you read it, what new/different type of stories/worlds would you like to see?

Cathy Pegau prefers to write speculative fiction because she can make stuff up and not become overwhelmed by extensive research for historical accuracy or other bothersome issues. Her first novel, Rulebreaker, is a futuristic romance set on a mining planet. The next two books in that world, Caught in Amber and Deep Deception, comes out Jan. 28 and in May 2013, respectively.


She said...

Thanks for an interesting column. I do not read much speculative fiction or sci-fi but I am willing to try it to find out if I like it. I've read some paranormal lesbian books but can't remember titles. You've given my some new leads to that genre.

Teresa Wymore said...

I've always loved sf. Ursula LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness was my first experience with literary questions of gender/sexual structures. I discovered lesbian spec fic through Katherine Forrest, who I first read when she was at Naiad (Curious Wine). She's written in several genres, but Alyson Press published her science fiction. Those "early days" of lesbian spec fic were more self-conscious, I think, of the lesbian aspect--making a point. I love where we've come that authors are creating characters who just happen to be lesbian, but that isn't their whole identity.

Jolie du Pre said...

Thanks for a great post! Not a sci-fi fan. (I'm more into horror/paranormal.) However, thanks for the suggestions of authors we should check out.

Cathy in AK said...

She--Glad you're thinking about checking out the spec fic : )

Teresa--I enjoy LeGuin too. Need to find Forrest. Thanks!

Jolie--Plenty of spec fic genres out there for everyone : )The imagination is a beautiful thing!

Rebe said...

I love to read speculative fiction and sci-fi, but I can't think of any authors I've read other than Cathy who include lesbian characters, which is disappointing. I'm going to have to look for more, starting with Cathy's list!