Category Archives: Guest post

Guest Recs from Erin Ptah: Webcomics with Bi & Pan Characters!

Webcomic recs, continued! This is the roundup I promised last time.

It can be hard to make it clear when a character’s supposed to be bi/pan. A lot of webcomics aren’t long enough or romance-focused enough to give the characters multiple love interests, and there’s not always an organic way to have people just announce their preferences — especially in fantasy universes where words like “bisexual” don’t exist. (To be fair, it wasn’t a word in our universe until the ’60s. And “pansexual” is even younger….)

Here’s a set of strips that do pull it off. For purposes of this list, it’s all in-text representation. If a character’s sexuality is specified by the author but has yet to be involved or even referenced in the strip, I’m leaving those for someone else to rec.

Today’s theme: Webcomics with explicitly bi/pan characters!


sample-powerballad

(1) Power Ballad by Molly Brooks

As personal assistant to an international pop star, Meera Verma has her hands full trying to keep the gorgeous and talented Carina Peterson primped, polished, and mostly on time. As personal assistant to a Los Angeles-based masked vigilante, Meera has her hands full trying to keep the mysterious and reckless Skeleton alive and out of trouble

Superhero adventure drama, complete. Full of competence kink, especially for Meera — she figures out Carina’s secret superhero identity within days of working for her, and Carina learns about this when Meera has her costume clandestinely repaired. Plus: funny, snappy dialogue; identity porn with regard to other characters; interweaving of faux social-media reactions whenever their adventures make the news.

Meera is openly into women from the beginning; Carina eventually comes out to her as bi, in a scene with a realistic mix of sweetness and awkwardness. They spend a lot of the strip having mutual crushes that they’re too awkward to confess, but it feels natural and organic with the plot, rather than dragged-out for drama. It helps that they’re busy with the overarching plot (a case about a fashion designer’s work being stolen).

…And then eventually they do get together, and finish working the case as girlfriends, and it’s all-around great.


sample-girlswithslingshots

(2) Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto

Slice of life adventures of best friends gregarious Jamie and cynical Hazel.

Comedy, complete (but currently doing full-color reruns of the original B&W strips). Mostly-realistic (there’s a talking cactus thrown in) stories about a bunch of struggling twentysomething artists/retail workers.

A lot of the cast is straight, notably Hazel, but there are a couple of lesbians in their friend circle from the beginning — like Thea, who gets married over the course of the strip. And then there’s Jamie, who identifies as straight for the first few years of the strip. Especially after one instance of f/f experimentation, where they part as friends but it doesn’t rock her world.

Some time after that, she meets Erin. Things get romantic. And intimate. And…stop just short of sex, because Erin’s on her own little arc of self-discovery, with “asexual” somewhere at the end.

Jamie’s sexuality is complicated — she struggles with pinning down the nuances of exactly what she’s into, and hesitates over all the terms her friends suggest to sum it up. (Worth noting: the phrase “biromantic heterosexual” wasn’t in wide circulation at the time.) I don’t remember if she ever settles on a single label, just that she does get back to a place of comfort and self-understanding over the whole thing. And none of this derails the writing or characterization, or undermines the strip’s ability to deliver regular punchlines.


sample-oglaf

(3) Oglaf by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne

NC-17 fantasy comic. Better have a really open mind.

Sexy magical comedy, ongoing. Mostly-disconnected short arcs and strips, about a whole range of characters and situations. You can tell the authors have a generally healthy outlook about sex, even when the characters don’t. Sometimes pokes fun at fantasy tropes. Mostly NSFW. (To the point where, in the archives, the “safe” strips are the ones that are marked.)

The sample image here is from a short arc about the Snow Queen, who needs to have sex in order for winter to end, but every man who tries to satisfy her gets his relevant bits frozen off. At last, a female mercenary shows up with a strap-on. Which gives you some idea of the tone of the rest of the series.

To be clear, this isn’t an “all about sex, therefore everyone is bi” strip, it’s an “all about sex, and all sexualities are represented” strip. Obviously not for every reader! But if you like fun dumb sex jokes, this is the motherlode.


sample-homestuck

(4) Homestuck by Andrew Hussie

It’s a story about some kids who are friends over the internet. They decide to play a game together. There are major consequences.

Fantasy/gaming adventure, complete. Four human kids play a video game, which turns out to be an immersive-reality experience that destroys their universe, and they have to win the game in order to make a new one. They’re joined by a group of alien kids — the trolls — who played an earlier round of the game, the one that created our universe in the first placce.

It’s a huge, sprawling, ridiculously complex series. Includes animation, chatlogs, flashing images, and mini-games. If you’re just trying to get into webcomics, it might not be the easiest place to start. Or it might suck you in so hard that it ruins you for the rest of the genre. Could go either way, really.

Troll romance is…culturally complicated. (If you’ve picked up one thing about Homestuck by fandom osmosis, this is likely to be it.) The relevant point here is that they’re default-bi, which pays off in various relationships as the story goes on. There’s also at least one human whose romantic prospects include a male human and a female alien.

(If you look at both pre- and post-Scratch incarnations, at least. And this is the point where I hit the brakes on Trying To Explain Homestuck, because if I go any deeper into the backstory we’ll be here all day.)


sample-skinhorse

(5) Skin Horse by Shaenon K. Garrity & Jeffrey C. Wells

The stated mission of Project “Skin Horse,” a federal Black Ops department located in the notoriously pointless Annex One complex, is to aid and asisst the U.S. population of nonhuman sapients. Any humans willing and able to work there may be presumed deeply weird.

Supernatural comedy, ongoing. A government support agency that focuses on robots, demons, talking animals, and various mad-science experiments. Tip, the team psychiatrist, is a hot crossdressing human. Unity is a multitalented multiracial zombie, and by “multiracial” I mean “stitched-together parts of humans from multiple races.” Sweetheart, the leader and administrator, is a talking dog. Their job isn’t easy, but by golly they work hard at it.

Tip has an uncanny ability to attract women — including, in one instance, a female alternate-dimension version of himself. He’s also had at least one fling with a guy, Artie, who was human-shaped at the time but is technically a sapient gerbil, and recently described himself as “straight-ish” (before going on to seduce a mixed-gender crowd). Sweetheart has had male love interests in the past, and more recently has gotten crushes on women. Including an ambiguous thing with Unity (or maybe it’s gone unambiguous? I don’t remember, it’s been a while), although Unity is generally mostly interested in brains.

The strip is a sequel to the completed Narbonic, about a mad scientist and her assistants. You don’t have to read it beforehand to follow anything, but if you like Skin Horse’s general ethos and sense of humor, or if you want Artie’s backstory, it’s worth adding to your list.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (featuring bi librarian Bianca) and Leif & Thorn (where Leif is into strong handsome people of all genders). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

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Guest Recs from Erin Ptah: Webcomics About Magical Lesbians!

Today on the site, Erin Ptah’s webcomics recs continue! If you missed her recs on webcomics with major non-binary characters, you can find them here. For magical lesbians, read on!

Another webcomic reclist! At first I was just going to do Comics About Women In Love, then the list got way longer than 5, and had to be narrowed down somehow. (And that’s just comics where they’re explicitly in-text wlw, after weeding out all the cases of “don’t know if this is going to the yuri place, but I’m shipping it really hard.”)

All of our heroines in this subset have some kind of supernatural powers. All of them want to get the girl. Some of them even pull it off.

Today’s theme: Webcomics about magical lesbians!

(Some explicitly identify as gay/lesbian on-panel, and with some I’m just extrapolating from the way they’re only ever shown being into women. Bi characters will get their due on a future reclist — stay tuned.)


sample-ladyoftheshard

(1) Lady of the Shard by gigi d.g.

A comic about an acolyte in love with the goddess she serves.

Sci-fi romantic drama, complete. People living throughout the Distant Stars revere the Radiant Goddess, who brought peace to the galaxy. An enthusiastic but easily-flustered acolyte accidentally causes her to manifest. (She recognizes this particular Acolyte as the one who sacrifices cute decorated pancakes at her altar.)

Their fluffy temple domesticity is interrupted by an ancient evil. It’s out to dethrone the Radiant Goddess, and mind-control her worshippers into serving it instead. You can see how this sets up the Acolyte to save the galaxy with the power of love.

A comic with a bunch of twists, none of which I predicted on the first run-through, although in retrospect they all make perfect sense. The style is minimalist — mostly pixel lineart figures on a field of black — and at first glance you wouldn’t think an artist can do much with it. Then you keep reading.


sample-lovespells

(2) Lovespells by Ryan and Sage

A comic featuring a super gay witch who falls in eventually-reciprocal love with a gay (and also asexual!) lady magic knight.

Fantasy romance, ongoing. Esther, the witch, has a lot of power but a fantasy health condition that keeps her from going on adventures. Maria, the knight, is a painfully earnest do-gooder who uses a lot of magic and wouldn’t mind a coach. Esther jumps to agree, mostly because she is thirsty as all get out, and Maria is too innocent to notice the ulterior motives.

The tone is upbeat and feel-good — the “about” page has a whole list of depressing themes that the authors assure us will not be involved — without being shallow or boring. Our heroines are charming, well-rounded, and downright fun to watch.


sample-pizzawitch

(3) Pizza Witch by Sarah Graley

Your Favourite Pizza Witch is about pizza! young love! falling in love with beautiful lactose intolerant babes and trying to woo them!! cat familiars?? and so much more!

Fantasy comedy, complete. Roxy is a witch who mostly uses her magic for pizza delivery, and gets a major crush on a customer…who can’t eat cheese. Will the power of love overcome their differences??

This one’s very short, so don’t expect a lot of depth. It’s just cute wacky fun.


sample-tnbtu

(4) The Night Belongs To Us by L. R. Hale

Hank gets attacked by a werewolf. Ada saves her life. Hank then becomes a werewolf. Ada is a vampire. Hank discovers the underground society of vampires, werewolves and more. Ada sells weed for money, and is kind of a bounty hunter. Hank is a medical illustrator. Ada is complicated. Hank is attracted to Ada. Things get complicated.

Modern fantasy drama, ongoing. There’s a supernatural bureaucracy that handles new arrivals, and normally recently-turned werewolves get mentored by the wolf that bit them — but Hank was bitten by a murder-y creep, so her new sorta-friend Ada gets the job.

Slow-burn romance, on the back burner while they deal with conspiracies, kidnappings, and not always being around to feed Hank’s cat. There’s lovely attention to the practical details of surviving in the modern world as a horror-movie monster. (Bonus: sometimes this involves Ada being smuggled through broad daylight by turning into a bat and hiding in Hank’s cleavage.)

The strip has had some unexpected hiatuses, but it’s gotten back to regular updates. With any luck this means it’s not too much longer before we get a page where they kiss.


sample-serenityrose

(5) Serenity Rose by Aaron Alexovich

Serenity Rose is small, shy, and sexually confused. She can also conjure monsters out of ectoplasm, hover 20,000 ft. in the air, and shapeshift anything she sees. Serenity Rose is a witch, one of only 57 the world over, a real supernatural oddity. And she lives in the glare of a small town that THRIVES on supernatural oddities….

Goth fantasy, complete. Sera grows up in a beautifully-rendered town that has a whole gimmick about horror, which means it’s not too disruptive when her emotional issues spawn ectoplasmic ghouls that slink off into the woods. But a teenage meltdown prompts her to hole up in a mansion on the edge of town, where she mostly stays until our story begins.

She does have a couple of loyal friends, and end up getting a mentor, in the form of a much more put-together witch/popstar she’d been admiring from afar. They’re all supportive as she wrestles with various issues, including a much-delayed reckoning with her sexuality.

The magic and the alternate-universe worldbuilding are absolutely fascinating, and the comic would be worth reading on that count alone — but also, the basic portrayal of confused young lesbian angst is more relatable than a lot of “realistic” series that comes to mind. One of the few webcomics where I’ve gone and spent money to get the print version.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where lesbian Sparrow just learned to teleport) and Leif & Thorn (where lesbian Ivy can wipe the floor with water mages twice her age). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

Questioning Character, Questioning Author: a Guest Post by A.E. Ross

I’m thrilled to welcome A.E. Ross to the site today to discuss a topic near and dear to my heart: writing a character who’s questioning their identity when you happen to be questioning yours. Their book, Run in the Blood, just released on Christmas, so once you check this post out, check the book out too!

***

Some people have that one crystal clear moment where it hits them like a silver spoon travelling at high velocity towards the surface of a crème brule. One solid crack and they just “get it.” For me, it came in the form of seven words. “It’s okay if you don’t like it.” I had been agonizing over the why and the who and the how for so long that I hadn’t stopped to just accept that things were fine — that i was fine — the way I am.

Some people figure out their identity quickly, and experience little fluidity. Others will spend their entire lives trying to get to the bottom of who they are. These are just two extremes, with a million unique experiences in between, but I belong closer to the second group. When I wrote my fantasy novel, Run in the Blood, I was questioning pretty much every part of my identity and I was desperate to find any kind of reflection to reassure me.

In my experience, you mostly find questioning characters in coming out stories. It’s a brief stage the protagonist goes through before accepting their identity, for better or worse. In Run In The Blood, I really wanted to include a character who maybe didn’t quite figure it out over the course of the narrative. Not a romantic lead, just someone woven into the story who was realizing that maybe there were some big questions they needed to ask themselves. After all, we’re all out there, just going about our daily lives and at the same time, wondering why there are specific parts of us that just don’t make sense when held up against societal expectations.

In Run in the Blood, that character is Del. He’s a soft-spoken, humble scout with a big heart. His sexual identity isn’t even a question for him until he reaches that moment that many LGBTQ people come to over the course of our lives, where we find ourselves in a situation that just doesn’t feel the way it’s supposed to. The main representation of a long-term relationship in his life is his parents’, and it’s a deeply unhealthy one. It’s given him a certain expectation of how his own future relationships will work, and the moment reality clashes with expectation, he hears that tell-tale crack of the spoon hitting flambé’d sugar. The surface shatters and then suddenly all you can see is the pieces, and not the way they ought to go together.

The reason it’s important to me to see questioning characters in queer literature is that it normalizes the uncertainty of dealing with fluid identities. It reassures me that it’s okay to understand that there is an inherent disconnect between who we are and who we see ourselves as, and that it’s okay to investigate that chasm. Just make sure you bring a flashlight, rope, and maybe some snacks: it could take awhile. The most difficult part of questioning my identity has been asking myself “Why don’t I like this? Why isn’t this working” and coming up empty on answers. There was no representation in media where I could see my struggle reflected. All I could find was people who had figured it out, but no indication of how they got there. When we see these questions reflected in the stories of literary characters, it helps reinforce that validity.

For Del, I didn’t want to resolve his questioning over the course of the book. He wasn’t the main focus of the plot, and I didn’t think he needed a “eureka!” moment, I just wanted to leave him on a hopeful note. If I write a follow-up, he’ll get to explore what his feelings mean and what questions he may still need to find answers to.

I am a different person than I was when I wrote this book. I’m deeply grateful to know more now than I did then, but there are so many things I’m still trying to figure out. Regardless of when or how I get those answers, what I do know is that If you’re questioning your identity, that’s a positive thing. You’re asking yourself the hard questions, and trying to get a better understanding of who you are, and that’s admirable no matter how long it takes. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing your identity immediately, and there’s nothing wrong with never really being sure. Whether your identity is static or fluid, it’s valid. If you’re not sure what your identity is, and you’re still looking for answers to those questions, you are valid. The “eureka!” moment doesn’t have to be a solid and unwavering realization of your identity. For me, it was as simple as the realization that I am fine just the way I am, regardless of how long it takes to figure out who that is.

A.E. Ross lives in Vancouver, B.C. with one very grumpy raincloud of a cat. When not writing fiction, they can be found producing and story-editing children’s cartoons, as well as producing & hosting podcasts like The XX Files Podcast. Their other works have appeared on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Netflix (and have been widely panned by 12-year-olds on 4Chan) but the projects they are most passionate about feature LGBTQIA+ characters across a variety genres.

You can find A.E. online at their website, on Twitter, and Facebook.

Run in the Blood is now available via NineStar Press and Amazon!

Guest Post: LGBTQ Superhero Recs by Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of Girl Reporter!

Please welcome Tansy Rayner Roberts to LGBTQReads today! She’s the author of Girl Reporter, a bisexual f/f superhero novella, out today, and she’s here to rec some more LGBTQ superhero stories!

*****

I’ve been thinking about LGBTQ superhero stories a lot lately, because a) I’ve been reading lots and they’re great, b) I’ve been writing one! But also c) the kids in my life have always loved superheroes and so I’ve spent a lot of their childhoods looking at how those stories are shaped, and what they offer in the way of crunchy, learning-to-human content.

I know for my daughters, some of their first introduction to queer fictional characters came through comics and other superhero narratives –and there’s a lot more of this around than when I was a teenager. I think the only LGBTQ characters I came across in comics before I was 20 was one unrequited kiss between Fire and Ice Maiden in Justice League America, and a brief passing mention from Tasmanian Devil that he was gay, dropped into the background of a comic about something else. I didn’t even learn about Blue Beetle/Booster Gold slash fiction until I was in my thirties. Talk about deprived!

Ahem. There’s some cool stuff out there now. Here are some of my favourite LGBTQ superhero stories across various media.

Young Avengers — still one of my favourite comic series, often held up as a shining example of queer representation. Volume I (2005-2012 told across several mini-series, check out this post for reading order) introduced the epic love story of Billy Kaplan and Teddy Altman, whose romance has survived superhero boot camp, space invasion, depression, and family drama (where one side of the in-laws are magical and/or supervillains and the others are intergalactic royalty from two warring alien races, holiday dinners are always awkward). The fact that they’re two boys in a romantic relationship has actually been the source of least conflict in their lives, which is refreshingly normal.

Volume 2 of Young Avengers (2013-2014) now available as three trades or a fabulous hardcover omnibus, added bisexual genius Patriot, and heroic dimension-stomper lesbian America Chavez (who also had two moms).

Which brings us to America, written by Gabby Rivera, a comic that launched in early 2017 and brought us Marvel’s first queer Latin-American character with her own series. The trade of the first story arc has just dropped and is absolutely worth grabbing!

Another Marvel comic often singled out for queer representation is Runaways (one of my daughter’s all-time favourites). The original run written and drawn by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (2003-2004) introduced a bunch of teens who go on the run after discovering their parents are supervillains. Karolina Dean’s identity as a lesbian was brought out quite gradually through the original comic (though her awesome rainbow light “costume” was a heavy hint, and her sexuality was later made more overt. She ended up in a serious romance with Xavin, a shapeshifting and gender-shifting alien.

There’s a new Runaways comic just started this year, written by Rainbow Rowell. I’m loving this trend of giving popular superhero comics franchises to established YA authors. There’s also a TV show coming out soon (finally) which will hopefully stick to the diversity of the comics – the fact that they cast a slender actress to play Gert means I’m not getting my hopes up, but we’ll see.

In TV superhero-land, our family has recently discovered Steven Universe, which has some wonderful queer representation including an unusual family structure. Steven, the son/reincarnation of a fallen alien superhero, lives with her three female teammates/best friends the Crystal Gems who are training and raising him along with his Dad. Steven’s entire foundation story is built on the narrative of women loving women, romantically as well as platonically. Steven himself identifies strongly with female heroes, often imagines himself as a woman, and sometimes forms a female ‘fusion’ with his best friend/love interest Connie.

We’ve also been watching Season 2 of Supergirl, which has had its ups and downs but did present us with a coming out storyline around Kara’s sister Alex, including a reasonably healthy (eventually) romantic relationship with Maggie Sawyer — a character often linked romantically in comics with Batwoman, one of the rare lesbian characters of the DC superhero universe.

My favourite Batwoman portrayal is in the DC Bombshells series by Marguerite Bennett, a World War II Alternate Universe which features only female superheroes. Here, Kate Kane is a baseball player in the women’s league as well as a vigilante crimefighter.

The series is wonderful precisely because it is an AU — so openly queer characters allowed to be happy despite the historical background, as well as having superhero adventures without male characters getting in the way. Harley Quinn/Poison Ivy appear along with dozens of other beloved DC women — including Wonder Woman, depicted for the first time in a relationship with a woman in an official DC title (she has since been officially acknowledged as bisexual in the main comics continuity — here’s hoping the movies follow suit!).

But what about fiction? Superhero YA fiction is really just starting to gain traction in the market with some fantastic releases over the last few years, including Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane YA series, Shannon Hale’s Squirrel Girl, and C.B. Lee’s Sidekick series.

I really liked the supporting character of Bells (a shapeshifting trans teenager) in Not Your Sidekick (2016), and was delighted to see that the second book in the series, Not Your Villain (2017), featured him as protagonist since he was clearly getting up to all kinds of mischief when his best friend Jess wasn’t paying attention.

That one’s high up on my to-read list, as is Sovereign (2017), the second volume of the Nemesis series by April Daniels, which has a trans girl superhero as protagonist. In the first volume, Dreadnought (2016), I was deeply affected by Danny’s painful and at-times emotionally wringing story.

My favourite recent YA superhero story is still Superior by Jessica Lack, which was published by the Book Smugglers in 2016, as part of their Year of the Superhero. This fun story is a romance between a Jamie, a superhero intern and his counterpart Tad, intern to a supervillain. The classic set up of hero/villain romance works great with this story which is just so beautifully and cleverly written.

Though really, it’s worth checking out The Book Smugglers’ entire Year of the Superhero collection of stories, with a special shout-out for Hurricane Heels, a collection of “magical girl” superhero adventures, with f/f romance as well as friendship.

Superhero stories are a great way to tell stories about difference and diversity; so many of the classic tropes in the genre are about being outsiders, transition, metamorphosis, keeping secrets, the importance of teamwork and support systems, finding a new family, and perception vs reality. For a long time, superhero stories in the comics at least were so busy trying to distance themselves from being a ‘kiddie’ platform that they missed out on some great opportunities to bring in new readers and tell stories about young, new characters facing a superhero reality. Thankfully that’s in the past and some of the most interesting and successful superhero comics of the last decade or more have been about teenagers. I hope to see some new LGBTQ characters appearing in the superhero comics universes (and just as importantly, giving ongoing series and support to the characters who already exist, as happened this year with America and Iceman). But really, when it comes to superhero stories with influence, it’s the Marvel (and now DC) movieverse that needs to step up.

Where’s our Young Avengers movie? Why is Harley Quinn being stuck in a movie franchise with the Joker instead of Poison Ivy? Can Wonder Woman get a girlfriend in the sequel?

What are your favourite LGBTQ teen superheroes, and who would you like to get their own solo comics title or movie?

Tansy Rayner Roberts is a fantasy and science fiction author who lives in southern Tasmania, somewhere between the tall mountain with snow on it, and the beach that points towards Antarctica. You can hear Tansy ranting and raving about all things science fiction feminist on the Galactic Suburbia podcast, and all things Doctor Who on the Verity! podcast. She also reads her own stories on the Sheep Might Fly podcast.

Her new novella, Girl Reporter, published by Book Smugglers Publishing, is available now.

Guest Recs from Erin Ptah: Webcomics with Major Nonbinary Characters!

We are super lucky to have Erin Ptah on the site today, doing the first in a series of webcomic recs! You may recognize her name from this cover/excerpt reveal, and if webcomics are your thing, you’re not gonna wanna miss her posts or her work! Take it away, Erin!

Hey there, LGBTQReads, I heard you might be webcomic-curious. Let me hook you up with some recs.

The plan is to do a whole series of these, and I’m totally open to suggestions. So if there’s something you want to see more of in webcomics — whether it’s an identity thing like “f/f romance” or a trope thing like “queer stuff with robots” — just say so in a comment and I’ll give it a whirl.

Today’s theme: Webcomics with major nonbinary characters!


sample-hazardsoflove

(1) The Hazards of Love by Stan Stanley

The story of a queer teenager who made a few bad decisions and has found themselves in a world very far from Queens.

Fantasy drama, ongoing. The main character’s birth name is Amparo, and I bring this up because it’s not a deadname that was deliberately changed, they just inadvertently lost it in a bargan with a supernatural creature. Along with the rest of their identity. (Oops.)

So now they’re stuck in a fantastical alternate dimension, Bright World, which has these lovely designs and aesthetics drawn from the artist’s Mexican heritage. Nothing in Bright World gets given for free, and our hero doesn’t have much left to bargain with. As of the most recent comic, they’ve picked up a new name (Fawn), but lost some memories and a couple of appendages (hands).

Word of God is that Fawn would specifically ID as “agender butch” if they knew the terms, although it’s not something that comes up in-universe, because, you know, they have other stuff to worry about.


sample-chaoslife

(2) Chaos Life by A. Stiffler

Focuses on a queer relationship between A. Stiffler and K. Copeland, who create the comic! It also delves into politics, GSM issues, mental health, pop culture, cats and other randomness.

Autobio comedy, ongoing. Not nearly as much to say about this one because it’s mostly cute one-shot gags. The artist, A., is agender, and got married to K. over the course of the strip. They own an assortment of ridiculous cats. (Pet death does get addressed, when it comes up.)

This is the one comic in the list that’s grounded in actual reality, so it’ll have reactions to current events like the US’ legalization of same-sex marriage, and strip topics like Being Agender 101. Some of you may find this a useful resource…others may find it a minor annoyance to click past so you can get to the next joke. Either way, it also has a lot of good jokes.


sample-floraverse

(3) Floraverse by glip

Floraverse is a webcomic and open world project focused on making stories and music. Viewer participation and discussion is highly encouraged.

Surreal fantasy, ongoing. And when I say “surreal” I mean…look, it starts out linear enough, with a little story about a cute bird-pixie and an even cuter jelly-critter trying to make a delivery. Then it skips around to some other stories in the same universe without resolving the first one, and eventually it becomes clear they’re not in chronological order, but now there’s something to do with time loops and characters getting reversioned and maybe the whole thing is just a play Jupet is watching? Or is Jupet writing the play/story/universe?

I have no idea. What I do know is, it’s beautiful. The character/creature designs are lush and varied, the art goes through a couple different complex styles, the color palettes alone are worth reading for.

There’s no explicit discussion about how gender is treated in-universe, just multiple characters who go by they/them, without any fuss or slip-ups by the people around them. The major ones are Beleth, a cat-demon who shows up in two different incarnations (versions? re-embodiments? something like that), and Jupet, a childlike but deceptively-powerful critter who appears to be 90% fluff.


sample-jobsatisfaction

(4) Job Satisfaction by Jey

What is everyday life like for a professional summoner, their zealous assistant, and the demons who crash on their couch and help out with taxes?

Fantasy comedy, ongoing. Started out very slice-of-life, though it’s developed more drama and intrigue as it goes on. The nonbinary main characters are demon summoner Sinh Thùy — I’m not sure if they’re a demon themselves, or just a human who’s blue for some reason — and fussy assistent Lemme Laviolette, who seems to have a crush on their boss that may or may not be going anywhere.

Sidenote: Dr. Thùy uses forearm crutches, and there are scenes where you can see bars and other mobility aid architecture in the setting. I don’t remember if it’s been stated whether they’re for a chronic disease or a demon-inflicted injury or what, but either way it’s a detail that most artists wouldn’t bother to include, so it’s cool to see.

Most of it takes place in the normal world, where the general public knows that demons exist, they just mostly would rather not meet any. The trans characters get some misgendering from fellow humans, although ironically not so much from demons, which don’t seem to fit into human gender schemas anyway. Sure, they might eat you, but they can’t be bothered to figure out which pronouns would upset you.


sample-dropout

(5) Drop Out by gray

A comic about two girlfriends who go on a roadtrip.

Bittersweet drama, complete. You have to be in the right frame of mind to read it — girlfriends Lola and Sugar are actively suicidal for most of the story, which follows them on a trip to the Grand Canyon to jump over the edge. But if you’re in the right place, it’s cathartic and amazing, with some of the best writing about ongoing depression I’ve ever seen.

It’s also an anthro comic, with a pixel-y style and handwritten text that can be hard to read, but don’t pre-judge it on any of those things. You’ll miss out.

Both characters are different varieties of intersex, which comes up in their conversations, how the conditions have affected their backstories and interacted with their emotional issues. Lola seems to be comfortably nonbinary, in contrast with Sugar, who’s nominally a woman but talks about struggling with it, in a way you almost never see — characters either have their gender already settled when the story starts, or go through a linear discovery process along the way.

The whole thing is natural, and earnest, and comes in between silly random conversations about the finer points of ninja throwing knives. The author is also a depressed intersex nonbinary person, which shows through in how everything feels deep and well-integrated, not caricatured or pasted-on.

Seriously, it’s great and you should go read it.


ptah_profile_by_erinptah-dbwe6fuErin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (featuring bigender social worker Timothy/Camellia) and Leif & Thorn (featuring agender magic knight Juniper). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

Creating and Recreating in 2017: A Guest Post by Chicken Author Chase Night

I’m not gonna lie, dear readers. I did tear up at this post. It’s 2017 and it has been a literal hell of a year, and I know that for so many creators, it’s really hard to answer the question “Why keep going?” I think and hope this guest post from Chase Night, celebrating the revamped re-release of his gay YA, Chicken, helps answer that for many.

Starting December 19, a self-published version of Chicken will be available with a gorgeous new cover and several deleted scenes and other bonus material. And tonight, catch an exciting dramatization of the first chapter in “Welcome to Hickory Ditch, 2012” an episode of NPR’s Arts & Letters with J. Bradley Minnick, featuring music from some amazing artists like Daniel Martin Moore and Humming House. (Podcast link here.)

For sixteen-year-old Casper Quinn, there’s only one good thing about attending a fire-and-brimstone Pentecostal church in Hickory Ditch, Arkansas, and that’s Brant Mitchell, the pot-smoking, worship-leading golden boy he’s gone and fallen in love with. But just as the sparks between them finally start to fly, a political firestorm erupts over everyone’s favorite fast food chicken chain, Wings of Glory. Caught in the middle of the cultural crossfire, Casper and Brant will do whatever it takes to protect their secret. But feelings aren’t the only thing Brant has been hiding in this magical Southern Gothic romance, and when the truth comes out, Casper’s faith in him will be put to an unimaginable test. 

Fans of Jeff Zentner, John Corey Whaley, and Patrick Ness will devour this timely yet timeless tale of first love, fried chicken, and the things we give ourselves permission to believe in. Chicken will keep teens and adults alike swooning and swearing ’til the very last bite.

Buy it now with the original cover at Amazon, or revisit that link on December 19th to buy the brand-new one!

And now, the guest post:

At some point during the three very long years I spent writing Chicken, after I had finally let the editor who has agreed to publish it sight-unseen read a partial draft, he told me he was worried that it was going to be dated by the time I finished. He suggested cutting down on pop culture references from 2012 and setting the book in the vague future, “maybe 2017” instead.

I refused. For several story-related reasons, but also because the state of Arkansas, where I live and the book takes place, had just begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses in May 2014, becoming the first Bible Belt state to do so. That had seemed impossible on August 1, 2012 when I started writing Chicken after driving by a local Chick-Fil-A that required police presence to direct all the traffic our former governor Mike Huckabee had sent their way. So I told my editor that 2012 was non-negotiable because if things had already changed this much in two years then there was no telling how much better things would be by 2017.

*pause for everyone to look deadpan into the camera like Jim from The Office, another increasingly dated reference from  a simpler time*

After the election, like so many others, I had a crisis of faith. Stories are the closest thing I have to a religion, but it seemed they didn’t have quite the power I’d imagined. How does one read Harry Potter and still vote for Donald Trump? How do you vote for Donald Trump and then un-ironically cry during Rogue One (and not out of crushing guilt)? If some of the most heavy-handed warnings written since WWII couldn’t reach people, why bother writing stories at all?

After eighteen months of publication, I stopped trying to promote Chicken. And when its publisher announced this summer that they were closing and all rights would be reverted, there was even a moment when I thought, “Good. I can just take it down and get out of this business entirely.”

But wait.

There’s this kid. I won’t tell you how I know them, or what their gender is, because I won’t take even a tiny risk of outing them, and actually, it’s more than one kid anyway. And these kids watch the news and they hear their parents praise the President and they go to churches that blame them for everything that President hasn’t “fixed” and they sit through in-class “debates” moderated by the likes of Matt Lauer and they get shoved into lockers by teenagers already sporting Trump/Pence stickers on their bumpers and these kids are angry and they are afraid, but they wear pride buttons on their backpacks and hold hands in the hallways and there was even that time one of them punched a church girl in the stomach for saying something rude about an elderly transwoman in our town, which doesn’t make punching her okay, but you have to admit, it’s still a pretty heart-warming story.

And I’ve realized no matter how dark this thing gets, there will always be this: the first time a brush of someone’s hand turns your world upside down, the first time a friend calls you by the name you’ve picked out, the first time you kiss someone that matters, the first time they break your heart, the first time a stranger reads you with the right pronoun, or the first time someone doesn’t make you feel broken when you tell them you’re really not that interested in sex at all. I think about how many of those firsts are happening here, even in this hostile place, and I think about how many millions more are happening elsewhere, how they’re adding up, gathering strength, gaining speed, all of these kids hurtling toward that one really big first, the one that maybe matters the most.

You know the one I mean. It starts with a V.

The first time they vote in 2018.

God forbid my own despair, my own feelings of futility, convince even one of them that doesn’t matter! And so, I adjust my thinking. Let go of delusions of grandeur. Perhaps the purpose of a YA novel isn’t to win the battle for them; perhaps it’s to keep the soldiers on the front line from losing heart.

Look, here you are! Right here, pages 1 through 370. Beautiful. Brave. Beloved. Bad ass. You can do this.

Walking through a bookstore, one of these kids tells me they wish there were more books about people like them, and I say, “I know. But there’s more than you think, and I promise you a lot of people are trying to fix it.” And then I look down and spot A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I hand it to the kid, feeling like a very magical adult-type person. “Look, here’s one now!”

*****

Chase Night is an author, editor, and bookhat model, living in Arkansas with his wife and their animals. Chicken is his first novel.

A Cure for the Common Grump: a Guest Post by Erin Finnegan (Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press: Day 3)

Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press: Day 3

A kiss can lead to so many unexpected things…especially one that takes place under the mistletoe. Join authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles as they explore the most tantalizing literary kisses and their lasting impact in books in this new series, Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press. Every day from December 4th to December 8th, HEA USA Today, The Book Smugglers, LGBTQ Reads, All About Romance, and The Mary Sue will feature a new article from each author of the LGBTQ+ holiday themed collection, If the Fates Allow (out now from Interlude Press).

Buy it: Interlude * Amazon * B&N * iBooks * Kobo * Smashwords * Book Depository

A Cure for the Common Grump By Erin Finnegan

I’ll admit it: I love grumps.

In real life, give me friends with kindness and humor. But in between the pages, I want flawed characters, protagonists who are forced into a revelatory moment. And to make my reading complete, please make them tormented, and just a bit obtuse when it comes to love.

There’s one thing that can set the wheels in motion. You know it; I know it. It’s a kiss, or the promise of one, or even the moment that demands one but it somehow slips away, sending my beloved, brooding grump on a path of romantic self-discovery.

But until that moment, and sometimes after it, please, let them be grumptastic.

You can find them brooding on any bookshelf, from literary classics to science fiction (Han Solo? Space Grump.) to contemporary YA.

One of my favorite books is Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The consuming affair that unravels lives and may change the course of war isn’t every reader’s cup of tea, but this poetic and tragic story of the affair between cartographer and a woman married to a member of his expedition team in pre-World War II Egypt is filled with delicious angst.

Almásy is your classic distant, brooding character in the pre-war passages of the book. But his post-war recollections of the relationship are transcendent; the moment that he and Katharine end their brief affair would seem to demand a kiss, but it’s absence serves as a painful accent point to the moment.

Now there is no kiss. Just one embrace. He untugs himself from her and walks away, then turns. She is still there. He comes back within a few yards of her, one finger raised to make a point.

“I just want you to know. I don’t miss you yet.”

His face awful to her, trying to smile. Her head sweeps away from him and hits the side of the gatepost. He sees it hurt her, notices the wince. But they have separated already into themselves now, the walls up at her insistence. Her jerk, her pain, is accidental, is intentional. Her hand is near her temple.

“You will,” she says.

I try to treat my books with respect—no cracked spines, thankyouverymuch—but I may have thrown my copy of The English Patient against the nearest wall when I first read that scene…in a good way. Those two prescient words serve in lieu of a kiss that is desperately left wanting.

Frustrating? Yes, intentionally so. A kiss-that-isn’t and leaves you wanting more.

The classics are filled with angsty, romantic protagonists: Darcy, Gatsby, and of course Heathcliff, among the royalty of romantic literary grumps.

Let’s be clear, Heathcliff is no gem. He’s brutal, emotionally abusive. He’s also tortured, haunted, and, it would seem against his wishes, deeply in love with Catherine Earnshaw. Their love story isn’t resolved in a kiss—it happens on her deathbed, after all—but it is cemented by it. Heathcliff is haunted by Catherine’s death—emotionally and eventually, literally.

These characters are often male, but I would like to see more women in the literary grump club. It plays counter to romantic stereotypes and opens the character up for some wonderful tics and traits.

In my 2016 novel Luchador, Lola—a champion boxer-turned-luchadora in love with a ambitious burlesque dancer—served this role. I loved turning the tables on this trope. Lola was tough and threatening, but in the presence of Bonnie “Fanny Vice” McCreary, those rough edges smooth. Love heals, folks.

Which is the point of my Grump 2.0, Jack Volarde in Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille, a short story in the Interlude Press holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow.

Jack, a political consultant, isn’t so much grumpy as he is driven. It’s not ambition that fuels that drive, but a sense of loss that has numbed his senses—until a bartender forces his hand. Jack has no interest in finding someone new, but he soon finds himself into a slow dance in the shadows of Christmas lights.

Javi paused and angled his face to Jack’s. The kiss was brief, comforting, and gentle. Jack hesitated, but didn’t pull away.

“Mistletoe,” Javi said, smiling. “I had to.”

He laced a hand through Jack’s hair, and kissed him again. It was more determined, more certain—a cool, electric rush that started at Jack’s lips and rushed to his fingers and toes. It felt like life itself.

A kiss can represent so many things: a beginning, an end, a revelation, or a moment of healing.

And there are other kisses, the ones that bring both resolution and the promise of something new. Think of first kisses, of those eye-opening moments of “Oh.”

Think, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

A kiss, and kissing in general, is a bit of a theme in Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s beloved coming of age story. Ari and Dante talk about kissing quite a lot: what they expect from it, whether they should try it themselves, the differences between kissing girls and kissing boys.

But this book keeps (spoiler alert) the kiss that matters to the very final sentences of the book. The thing you know must happen, the game-changer, that 358-page build to a simple moment between friends who are clearly destined to be so much more, plays out in a simple, straightforward moment as Ari, reluctant in love and sometimes grumpy in friendship, accepts that he is in love with his best friend.

“Try it again,” I said. “Kiss me.”

“No,” he said.

“Kiss me.”

“No.” And then he smiled. “You kiss me.”

I placed my hand on the back of his neck. I pulled him toward me. And kissed him. I kissed him. And I kissed him. And I kissed him. And I kissed him. And he kept kissing me back.

Could the discovery of the joy of love play out more simply, or more believably, than a kid thinking in wonder, “I kissed him”?

And in that transcendent moment of revelation, love proves itself the cure for the common grump.

About If Fates Allow, out now from Interlude Press: During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles share their stories about the magic of the season.

About Erin Finnegan’s story, Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille

As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and a winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016, and along with her 2014 debut novel, Sotto Voce, received both a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award and a PW starred review.

Connect with Erin: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Guest Post: On Peach Bottom and Speculative Fiction, by Jackie Snax

“Queer ecofeminist speculative fiction adventure.” If that sounds like your jam, read up on Peach Bottom, a series story by Jackie Snax that’s just that!

There’s a nuclear power plant in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania.

It’s a small town. A bar, a church, a few trailers. A boiling cauldron, brimming with radiation. That kind of town.

Peach Bottom (the story) is a speculative fiction piece, which means a lot of things, but mostly: there is some great, incredible threat. That threat started with the power plant. It started with something solid.

What I came to realize the more I wrote, however, is that the threat of the power plant was redundant.

The realm of speculative fiction is dominated by men. Zombies and atom bombs and straight white males galore! It seems that folks like us never survive long enough to make it into the story. The villains are all fantastical – incredible and far off, removed from our reality. Because in speculative fiction, there must be a Threat.

To so many who have been published and remembered in the genre – that threat had to be imagined.

My heroes include a nonbinary queer mama, her gay daughter, and a trans lesbian activist. None are white, rich, or neurotypical. They all live on this great, drowning Earth, too. I don’t have to imagine a threat.

We’re already facing our villains. Our great and numerous threats – global climate change, institutionalized racism, transphobia, homophobia. The impossible climb out of poverty and debt. We already have too many things to beat. So, how would we win? How would we survive?

Beyond all that, I just wanna know, too – how would we be, in the future? So few stories have let us survive. How would we live, in a world drowned out by rising tides? How would we thrive, after war, famine, violence? What would our world be like? What would we be like?

More than the threat, speculative fiction is about surviving. It’s about overcoming.

I wanted that for us.

Peach Bottom is a serial story written by Jackie Snax, illustrated by Christine Kim, and designed by Heva Deer. PDF copies of the first issue can be bought here. Paperbacks coming soon! Check out peach-bottom.tumblr.com to read free content and get updates on what’s coming next!

Jackie Snax was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They traveled far, but always came home to their beloved city of red brick and startling honesty. Currently, they live in a crumbling ex work house with their pup daughter, artist bud, and cat roommate.

Why I Wrote the Nameless Series, a Guest Post by Matthew

Today on the site, please welcome Matthew Rossi, author of the Nameless series. As I’m sure so many writers and readers of LGBTQIAP+ lit are familiar with, putting and/or seeing your sexuality on the page can be both a cathartic and terrifying process, and it also is, for many of us, a necessary one. To that end, I love this post about taking that plunge and the surprises me find along the way. And now, without further ado: Matthew!

***

There are a lot of reasons to write. When I started working on Nameless, I was trying to deal with a lot of issues in my life – my going blind, the dark place politics seemed to be going, my personal identity crisis – and the cast of characters in the books evolved out of that. In some ways I’ve grown up extremely privileged. I’m white, cis (more or less) and I can pass for straight.

But I’m not straight.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize that about myself. It’s taken even longer to get anything like comfortable with it. In fact, I’m still not. And one of the reasons for that is there simply aren’t a ton of bisexuals who are anything like I am in the fiction I grew up reading. When bisexuals exist, they’re often portrayed as utterly indiscriminate, people who flirt with anything that moves, and of course the old canard that bisexuality is simply a lie, that it’s gay men and straight women experimenting only or that it’s people who can’t commit. None of this was helpful to me growing up, and it wasn’t until much, much later that I understood that I wasn’t closeted or in denial – I was simply attracted to a range of humans that included men and women. (Since discovering non-binary and genderqueer people, I’ve realized even those categories are flexible for me.)

Writing Nameless, I wanted to depict bisexual characters who weren’t forced into the ‘will have sex with anything’ box or the ‘really gay/straight’ box or any other box. I also didn’t want to erase sex positivity just because the characters weren’t completely defined by their sexuality. Being bisexual doesn’t mean I’m constantly wandering around having sex with anyone that moves, but neither does it mean I don’t enjoy sexual contact (and just plain contact) with people. I’ve been married for eleven years to a wonderful woman (also bisexual) and I’m fortunate to have met her and have her in my life.

So when I started working on the book, the first thing I did was make sure there would be a variety of relationships – Thea and Thomas, the main characters, are a bisexual woman and a man who could best be described as genderfluid, in a very literal sense. He can and does change between a man and a woman several times in the series, starting in the second book, Heartless. Their relationship is frankly sexual, but it doesn’t erase who Thea was with before Thomas, nor what she finds attractive now. Their sexuality is part of who they are, not all of it.

The character of Bishop is a bisexual man in a relationship with Thea’s cousin Joe, who is gay (not bisexual) and the two of them were helpful to me in taking conversations I’d had with friends on the topic of whether or not bisexuality was real and helping me work through them. I’ve had friends insist that it isn’t, that I’m just gay and in denial, and it hampered me. Bishop helped me finally reject that idea once and for all – he knows who he is, who he has loved in the past and who he loves now, and he is nether settling now nor was then. One of the most pernicious myths I find when trying to come to terms with it all is this idea that you’re only bisexual if you’re in a same sex relationship. That doesn’t even make sense to me. There’s a reason it’s bisexuality, after all. Gender doesn’t even boil down into two easily defined options anyway, so this idea that I have to be with X or Y to be a ‘real’ bisexual has always felt destructive to me. I didn’t create Bishop to explore these issues, I just ended up having to explore them because Bishop loves Joe.

Thea’s cousin Seri is a different case because when I started writing the books, she was dating a long term boyfriend named David, and in the course of the first novel she met a woman named Evvie and it became obvious to me quickly that Evvie was so impressed by Seri that there was an attraction there. I decided to get out of my own way as writer, abandon my original outline and see where the two of them ended up, and they’ve since settled into a relationship that has its ups and downs and faults, and in many ways is less intense and committed than either Thomas and Thea or Joe and Bishop. And in a large part that’s because sometimes, people are complicated and just because you love someone, and are sexual with someone, that doesn’t spackle over the personality conflicts. Seri is extremely strong willed and Evvie has baggage and them being committed to each other takes effort and work, because that’s the cast for a lot of us whatever we are.

Writing these characters has let me look under the hood of my own thoughts, although that’s not and never was the goal. Mostly, I wrote a book with a cast that’s mostly bisexual or gay because that’s what I wanted to see. The books are about magic and monsters and epic, over the top action but anyone can be the hero, even people who are just people, and I wanted there to be a bi woman, a gay man and a woman who doesn’t know for sure what she is right at the forefront of all that.

But the character I’ve been most consistently surprised by is Bry.

Bry wasn’t even supposed to exist. Nameless had a trio of antagonists working for the main villain, two brothers named Morgan and Jimmy. Their younger brother Byron had been warped by the main villain into a monstrosity, a 9 foot tall mockery of a human being. Said monster was supposed to die in a confrontation with Thomas on Thanksgiving while Thea fought a Hound of Tindalos and saved the rest of her family. And absolutely nothing happened the way I wanted it to.

Tom wouldn’t kill Byron. Instead he managed to undo what had been done, and the child inside the monster was free for the first time in years. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise. The biggest surprise was that Byron wasn’t Byron. The little boy wasn’t a boy. The scene where that came out was absolutely a shock to me – I was writing a scene where Joe and Bishop were watching Byron and the child, still relearning how to talk, explained in halting terms who she was. How her wicked grandmother (the villain of the book, and in her way a victim too) had simply refused to accept that Bry was a girl and not a boy, and had used magic to punish her for not being what she actually was all along.

Since then Bry’s grown a bit (she’s fourteen as of Faceless, the last novel in the series) and learned magic herself, which she’s used to heal others and even aggressively in fighting off monsters and protecting her family of cousins. Bry’s journey and transition isn’t typical (the same magic Thomas uses to switch genders was originally created for Bry to transition) but she’s aware of that, and is still dealing with who she can trust and what she really wants out of life. And writing both Tom and Bry helped me deal with my own dysphoria and dysmorphia (I still identify as cis, but I have issues I struggle with) and what it means to be accepted for what you are.

I hope that the characters help other people – that getting to see a bi woman or a trans girl kicking monsters in their tentacles can help someone who is in that same questioning place I was. But the fact is, I didn’t write them so that their representation would help someone else. I wrote them so that their representation of bisexuality, gender and identity would help me. When I was growing up, I needed to see these kinds of characters and I never did. Everyone was straight, by default. If a man ended up with a woman, he was straight. If he ended up with a man, he was gay. The idea that you could be something else – an identity that was different than either, with its own challenges and consequences – never even occurred to me until I was in my thirties.

I don’t want that for anyone. I hope as more and more writers realize they can deviate from the script, people growing up will see themselves in more characters. I don’t know if my books will help with that, but I would dearly love to discover they have. If I’ve even partially succeeded in representing people, I have many others who took time to talk to me about their lives. Where I’ve failed, I’ve done so hoping to do better.

Buy the books:

Nameless * Heartless * Faceless

***

Matthew Rossi writes things. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and has lived in Boston, London (the one in England), Chicago, Washington DC, Blacksburg VA, San Francisco, Seattle and now Edmonton, Alberta. He lives with his wife Julian, their three cats, their manic little puppy and more reptiles than could easily be listed. His first book, Things That Never Were, was published by Monkeybrain Books in 2003. He’s since written two collections of essays (Bottled Demon, At Last Atlantis) and three novels – Nameless, Heartless and Faceless.

On Being Out in the Trump Era: a Guest Post by Alysia Constantine

When I was writing the first draft of my novel Olympia Knife, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election was looming. I, like most folks (with the possible exception of election hackers and those who hired them) did not know what the outcome would be. I finished that first draft in September 2016, well before the November 9 morning on which I burst into tears in front of a fellow professor. (I’m not normally a public weeper, but I’d stayed up late watching election results, and was exhausted and devastated.)

I sent the draft of the novel to the publisher for editing, and, after months and months of daily hacking away at it, I gratefully took the reprieve. When it came time to edit, I had to read the manuscript for the first time I’d read it since sending it off, the first time since the election, and I’d forgotten much of it. Luckily, I’ve got the memory of a goldfish, so I could read with a clean slate and murder, as they say, my darlings.

Olympia Knife is the story of a turn-of-the-century travelling circus filled with cultural outsiders who, one by one, disappear. The queer woman at its center and the woman she loves must fight to stay solid (literally) as everyone around them vanishes under some insidious and pervasive force. Reading it anew, I was struck by how easily the novel can be understood as an allegory about being Other in the Trump era. I mean, Otherness was totally on my mind as I wrote, but Trump certainly was not, unless I was, for some reason, musing over Celebrity Apprentice, or thinking about orange things. As I finished work on the initial draft of the manuscript, the specter of Trump loomed, and one saw a distinct rise in America of what looked like Fascism and more anti-LGBTQ and racist violence because of his supporters, and that necessarily made its way into the manuscript. Now that he’s been installed into office, reading the book in this light is a more urgent reading.

LGBTQ folks like me in much of the US have gotten somewhat comfortable. I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone, but I am saying that it’s easier now for many of us than it was, say, in the 1980s. One has the option to be out in many places, one can have straight friends and be accepted into straight communities. When I attended college in the late 1980s, I hid in any closet I could find. Now as a professor, I’ve offered classes in queer theory that rapidly fill beyond capacity every time. Many of my students have been openly queer, and I’ve been able to be candid about my own queerness without being ascribed some nefarious motive.

Things have changed in most of America, to say the least. It’s easier for many of us to find love, get legally married, have children and settle happily into a gayborhood where we are not outcast, and thus it’s also easy to forget all the other folks (in the US and beyond) who are gay or bi or trans or otherwise Other who are still under dire threat because of that very Otherness.

Being out used to mean accepting a duty to work, to educate and agitate, fighting to stick around and helping others do likewise. People wrote and demonstrated and risked their very lives in order simply to live them. I’m not romanticizing; I’m not saying that’s a great state of affairs, but I am saying many of us have gotten comfortable enough that it’s easy to forget that we must still work, and that there are others (in the US and outside of it) who have no choice but to fight because otherwise they will die.

Olympia Knife now takes on new relevance for me in the US’s current Trump era. The novel is about a time when Othered folks—the queers, the outsiders—are being insidiously disappeared (made irrelevant, made powerless, made invisible, made gone), and the force that’s doing it is so pervasive it’s hard to predict or protect against it.

In the US, after all the apparent political gains of the last decade, we’re forced again to fight just to stay, to make our own families and cling to relevance, so that we are not disappeared, and we can’t even clearly see the monster against which we’re fighting. There is the imminence of a horrible thing—a more horrible thing than has already come—all the deaths of queer folk (both individual and massacre), the riots at certain political rallies, beatings by cops, denial of our rights to public space and safety, the swell of neo-fascism—this is all ramping up to something, and I, for one, am scared. I feel more powerless than I ever have (and I vividly remember the Reagan years).

Olympia Knife is a rallying cry, then, to all us queers and POC, crips and resisters and Others of all types: we must stick together, and we must resist. Making our own enclaves is no longer enough, because the awful thing that wants us gone is seeping in and getting us, even in our own spaces. We must fight fiercely and tirelessly simply to persist.

BIO

Alysia Constantine is a novelist and former literary and cultural studies professor. Her second novel, Olympia Knife, is a magical-realist adventure that takes place in a turn-of-the- century travelling circus and traces the struggles of Olympia and her lover Diamond in the face of the disappearance of one circus performer after another. You can find more at http://www.alysiaconstantine.com.