Shouting About Queer SF

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Author: Andi Buchanan

Shouting about Ida

Front cover of IDA showing multiple identical figures in a misty landscapeIda is the sort of queer book we desperately need, but doesn’t come along that often. It’s also one I might never have picked up had not (long story short) Piers Morgan been his usual bigoted asshole self to the author on Twitter, which resulted in my partner buying it as a “fuck you” to Piers Morgan.

So, uh, cheers Piers.

There are no great quests in this story, even though Ida has powers most of us don’t. This is the story of the little choices, and a young woman choosing the life she wants – and needs. It’s a story of family and love and grief and longing and growing independence.

It’s a very real story of early adulthood, delicately written; and even as someone who spent that time in a different place, in a different decade, it felt more realistic than almost anything else I’d read. It handles the questions you can easily tear yourself up in knots about: what would I give up to have a loved one alive again? what if a family member had never been born? beautifully and carefully without falling into angst and intense philosophical circles.

Ida is a bisexual woman of Vietnamese and white European descent; her partner, Daisy, is genderqueer, her young cousin is a trans boy (there are also a couple of gender fluid characters in a sub-plot, which I’ll get to later) and I kinda want to shove this book into the faces of every one of those who complain that more than one character with an under-represented identity == a social justice tract.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the social justice tracts! Bring on the social justice tracts!

But. Ida is not a social justice tract. Ida is a story about people like the people I know, like the people I love, living, and making choices, and sometimes getting it wrong but mostly trying to do the right thing.

My one quibble: there is a sub-plot which seeks to explain the powers Ida has. And… it was okay. It was well written. But I feel the story would have been stronger without it. Perhaps it could have worked better as a spin-off short story.

That is a mild quibble, though, about an excellent, and highly recommended book, that brings together some of the best aspects of the SFF and literary genres, and is filled with excellent queer rep.

You can buy Ida direct from the publisher’s website, or from most of your usual sources. You will be supporting a queer author, getting an excellent book, and pissing off Piers Morgan. Win-win-win situation. Remember: You can always order books through your local independent bookstore!

Shout

by Charles Payseur

Stories have always been the center of my universe. An awkward, shy, and lonely child, they were my way of coping with something I didn’t even really understand, that for the longest time I didn’t have the words for. That, in many ways, those very stories I was reading made even harder to understand because, by and large, all they did was reflect back the manicured and false monoculture that I saw gazing around the suburbs where I grew up. They provided worlds to escape into, but never one that really helped me figure out who I was or why I felt so out of place. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t devour them.

I read The Wheel of Time and The Sword of Truth and The Dragonriders of Pern. If it was in the Legends collection from Tor, you can be sure I either had read it or wanted to. These were the books that I was told I should enjoy, that I should read. And, in a way, I did. Certainly, I read them. Over and over again. Checked out from the library, given as gifts for birthdays or Christmas, I read so many of the same kind of book, the same kind of character. And it’s very possible that they kept me alive. But they didn’t really help me to live.

The truth only really started to dawn on me much later. Not in college, unfortunately, because even there the curriculum didn’t offer much that pushed me in the right ways outside my comfort zone. I read some amazing works, don’t get me wrong, but I was still rather miserable, still not comfortable in my own skin. But I still read. And read a lot. Still focused on the books I was supposed to read, those recommended by friends, by professors, those that seemed to lead one into the other, huge series that replayed the same fantasies over and over and over again. A young man escapes a stifling life and becomes a hero, goes out and does…something!

Sometimes I wonder how I could have missed what seems so obvious looking back. Hello, yes, I’m bi, and it took until I was in my mid twenties to figure out and come to terms with that. And stories. It took a lot of stories. Just…not the ones that I had been reading. And I wonder what it would have been like to read the stories that ended up really opening my eyes at a younger age. At twenty, or eighteen, or fifteen, or younger still. If they had been normal, so I could have seen myself as normal. Sometimes the past is full of the ghosts of what might have been. Different versions of myself who got to grow up with the stories I needed, when I needed them.

The problem, it turns out, isn’t that these stories didn’t exist. They’ve always existed. It was that I had no idea where they were or how to find them. I didn’t even know that I might need them. They weren’t recommended in the right places, weren’t promoted, weren’t shared. There was no visible queer presence in my hometown, or else I was effectively shielded from it. Without much of an internet until college (and by then not a great idea of how to best use it), finding the stories that might have helped me was…well, it didn’t happen. And there’s no rewind on that. There’s no getting to find out what might have been different. For me. But for others, getting that right story at the right moment is still possible. For them to find a language to give voice to their identities. To push back against the pressure to self-erase. To connect with community, and with hope.

Which is why I feel projects to find, collect, and shout about queer SFF are so vital. Not just because I, now, continue to grapple with myself and my identity through these stories. Not just because they’re fun and frightening and sexy and inspiring. Not just because they have the power to offer people a world in which they exist and have presence and can see themselves. But for all these reasons and more. Because too often queerness is defined by loss. Loss of childhood, or loss of hope, or the loss of all those who history and injustice have erased, or tried to erase.

And so one thing we can do here, now, is help people to find these stories. And maybe, though fiction, find much more as well. So let’s not just talk about queer SFF. Let’s get the word out. Let’s be heard. Let’s shout.

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