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[GUEST POST] Catherine Lundoff on LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy 2000-2010 (Part 1)

Catherine Lundoff lives in Minneapolis with her wife, two cats and a huge number of unfinished projects. She writes, edits, toils in IT and is currently on the brink of a grand new adventure. Follow her on Twitter at @clundoff or via her website at

LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy 2000-2010 (Part 1)

by Catherine Lundoff

The dawn of the 21st century brought massive changes to the publishing industry, fueled in part by a surge in epublishing. More efficient and portable e-readers enabled readers to access an increasing number of ebook publications, fueling ebook sales. Larger print publishers, many of which were unprepared for the shift, responded by consolidating or closing their doors. There were additional impacts to brick-and-mortar stores as well as to print distribution of books and magazines. Many authors responded to these changes by releasing their own books in a variety of formats, sometimes by starting their own small and medium-sized presses.

Alongside the shifting landscape of publishing, there were significant changes in the visibility and legal status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. LGBT people and their allies pushed for, and in many cases, won recognition of their relationships, equal employment protection, the opportunity to serve openly in the military and other opportunities that they had been heretofore barred from. This increased visibility was reflected in science fiction and fantasy fandom as well as published works, genre TV, comics and elsewhere.

The LGBT book awards founded in the previous decade such as the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, the Queer Horror Awards and the Lambda Awards came into their own during this decade, highlighting works that featured positive portrayals of LGBT characters and bringing queer-themed work to a much broader audience. There were also new awards such as the Goldie Awards for lesbian literature, which launched in 2005 and included a speculative fiction category.

A number of writers who were considered to be literary fiction authors crossed into science fiction to publish novels with LGBT protagonists in the 2000s. Among these were Michael Chabon with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) and Jim Grimsley with Kirith Kirin (2000) and The Ordinary (2004). Other writers who straddled the dotted line between literary and science fictional work during this decade included Octavia Butler, whose novel Fledgling (2007) featured a bisexual vampire and Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo whose novel Not Before Sundown (2000) featured a gay protagonist who temporarily adopts an injured troll. The English translation of the novel, Troll: A Love Story, won a Tiptree Award in 2004.

The decade also saw a substantial growth in the number of writers of color crafting stories with LGBT protagonists. Author Malinda Lo achieved critical acclaim with Ash (2009), her retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian protagonist. Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads (2003) featured three female protagonists of African descent, one lesbian, one bisexual and one heterosexual, in three different time periods. Karin Lowachee won a Spectrum Award for her science fiction novel Cagebird (2005), which featured a gay protagonist. Craig Gidney’s speculative fiction collection Sea, Swallow Me (2008), featured a number of gay protagonists who were also people of color.

There was also greater visibility of writers from different countries (in addition to those mentioned above) writing LGBT SFF than in previous decades. Hal Duncan (Scotland) saw his first novel, Vellum, published in 2005 and its sequel Ink, in 2007; Vellum and Ink were a fantasy series about a war between Heaven and Hell and featured several gay protagonists in an ensemble cast. L-J Baker (New Zealand) was the author of Lady Knight (2007), a romantic fantasy novel about a lesbian knight and Adijan and Her Genie (2008), an Arabian Nights-style fantasy with a lesbian protagonist. Sarah Hull (United Kingdom) won a Tiptree Award for her novel, The Carhullan Army (2007), a dystopian science fiction novel with a lesbian protagonist. Hiromi Goto (Canada) also won a Tiptree for her novel, The Kappa Child (2001), which featured a queer female protagonist who may or may not be pregnant with a kappa baby.

There were several TV shows which had a significant impact on LGBT SFF, one of which was Xena: Warrior Princess. As the series wound toward its final episode in 2001, the previously subtextual romantic relationship between Xena and Gabrielle become more textual, though never quite consummated on screen. The show inspired several online fanfiction and activist communities, which in turn gave rise to a number of lesbian-focused publishing companies. Several of these companies began publishing paranormal and romantic science fiction along with other genres. Of these, Bold Strokes Books, founded in 2004, is the largest and best known; over the course of the decade, they published romantic lesbian fantasies and science fiction by authors such as Gun Brooke, Cate Culpepper and Jane Fletcher.

Xena fandom also contributed to the birth of a new organization. The Golden Crown Literary Society was created in 2004 to promote the reading and writing of lesbian fiction, including speculative fiction and paranormal romance. It hosts an annual conference where awards are given to books published in the previous year (see link in Resources at the end of Part 2 of this post) and fantasy author Jewelle Gomez has been one of the guests of honor.

The Queer Horror Awards spanned work in different mediums from 1998-2006. These awards were given to such works as the TV show Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, which featured several LGBT characters in the course of the series; Bending the Landscape: Horror, the final installment of the trilogy of anthologies edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel; and the Queer Fear anthologies, edited by Michael Rowe. Queer Fear Vols. 1 (2000) and II (2002) included gay horror stories by such authors as Thomas Roche, Gemma Files, Poppy Z. Brite and Michael Thomas Ford.

This post got so big that we split it into 2 parts. Please check out the second part to learn more about LGBT science fiction and fantasy from 2000-2010. The resource list is at the end of Part 2. Thanks for reading!

1 Comment on [GUEST POST] Catherine Lundoff on LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy 2000-2010 (Part 1)

  1. Thanks for posting, Looking forward to the second part.

    BTW: The Spanners Series (sci-fi/ romance/ utopian ebooks, ) has a bisexual protagonist and one of her best friends is a gay man, BUT neither of these is the focus of the series.

    I think books like this prove one of your excellent but unstated points: sexual orientation and gender identities are not “significant” or “unusual” as much as they used to be. That IS progress.

    We authors no longer feel the need to explain and we won’t demonize or extravagantize a LGBTcharacter. We include many types of beings /people in our stories and that’s that.

    Best to you,


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