“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.
This terribly titled edition is dedicated to books with gay and bi male characters, and I really am sorry for the horrible pun. And yes, some of these books are well known as queer, but part of the point of this series is to help people find books they can safely bring home. So, stock up!
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley – an agoraphobic boy is befriended by a girl he doesn’t realize is using him as a psych project to pad her college applications…and he’s also crushing on her boyfriend.
Proxy by Alex London – probably the best-known queer YA sci-fi duology of all time, for good reason! But there’s nothing in the blurb that suggests Syd and Knox have anything more than a business relationship…
Satelliteby Nick Lake – A teen boy who was born in space makes his first trip to Earth and finds himself questioning his sexuality while he’s at it!
And I Darken by Kiersten White – This trilogy may be best known for the ruthless and hetero Lada, but her brother Radu very much has his own POV. And while the blurb tells the truth of him making a close friend in Mehmed, the text makes it rainbow clear that those are not Radu’s only feelings by a long shot.
They Both Die at the Endby Adam Silvera – I know for most of us, just the name “Adam Silvera” on a cover is a dead giveaway, but the cover reads like a friendship story, and it definitely is that too. (Just, you know, between a bi guy and a gay guy who totally fall for each other.)
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro – Not only is this excellent debut about a gay Black boy who’s forced to become even more political after a tragedy under the gaydar, but it is so, so inclusive in its secondary cast, it will make your heart explode in all the ways.
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert – This is a beautiful contemporary about an artistic Asian boy named Danny whose friend group is recovering from the loss of their own and just happens to be in love with his best friend.
Coda by Emma Trevayne – This Dystopian sci-fi with a bi MC does refer to romance in the blurb, but it’s only to the one Anthem currently has with a girl. There’s no mention of the ex-boyfriend who’s still very much in his life, for better or for worse.
In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.
Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.
As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.
Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.
But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.
Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.
Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.
Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.
But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.
Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.
Michael Sterling disappeared from his Maine town five years ago. Everyone assumed he was kidnapped. Everyone was wrong.
Now, at seventeen, he’s Sean Woodhouse. And he’s come “home,” to the last place he wants to be, to claim the small inheritance his grandparents promised him when he graduated high school, all so he can save Trip, the boy he developed an intense and complicated relationship with while he was away.
Sean has changed, but so has his old town and everyone in it. And knowing who he is and where he belongs is more confusing than ever. As his careful plans begin to crumble, so does everything he’s believed about his idyllic other life.
Told in gorgeous prose, Boomerang is an honest, authentic exploration of coming to terms with who you are, what you want, and how vast the distance can be between the two.
In the sequel to Fortitude Smashed, navigating the ins and outs of love is hard enough as strangers, but now Daisy and Chelsea must find a way to transform their friendship into something more. Meanwhile, Shannon and Aiden’s year-long relationship is put to the test when a horrific accident puts Shannon’s life at risk.
The first collection of Kim Reaper comics, contains issues 1-4!
Part-Time Grim Reaper. Full-Time Cutie!
Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife.
Like most university students, Becka has a super intense crush. Unlike most university students, Becka’s crush is on a beautiful gothic angel that frequents the underworld. Of course, she doesn’t know that.
Unaware of the ghoulish drama she’s about to step into, Becka finally gathers up the courage to ask Kim on a date! But when she falls into a ghostly portal and interrupts Kim at her job, she sets off a chain of events that will pit the two of them against angry cat-dads, vengeful zombies, and perhaps even the underworld itself. But if they work together, they just might make it… and maybe even get a smooch in the bargain.
Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.
Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.
With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane’s rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but ultimately ends with him on a path that doesn’t always offer easy answers, but one that leaves the reader optimistic about his fate.
If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.
Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.
As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.
The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (27th)
Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she’s ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.
Writer Vanessa Montoya-O’Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she’ll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.
Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn’t mean it’s her passion. Since her parents’ divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.
When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!
Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.
Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.
All historical, all queer, all out! This new anthology, edited by Saundra Mitchell, just released from Harlequin Teen and contains a host of queer historical stories by so many faves! (And also me!) Thankfully, many of those faves agreed to share a little about their stories here, so check it out, make good use of those buy links, and enjoy!
(Photographs are mine.)
Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.
From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.
“Roja” began as a reimagining of the story of Leonarda Emilia, better known as La Carambada, the legendary Mexican outlaw who flashed her breasts at the rich men she robbed, so they would know without a doubt that they’d been bested by a woman. But along the way, my imagining of La Carambada wandered, as my stories often do, into the realm of fairy tale. My Emilia became a Mexican version of Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf emerged as a transgender French soldier who garners his own fierce reputation. The forbidding woods became the hills of Mexico in the 1870s, a country in the aftermath of a brutal war.
Maybe the Frenchman the real Leonarda Emilia loved wasn’t a transgender soldier. Maybe most people don’t think of a Mexican girl when they imagine Little Red Riding Hood. But for the time it took me to write “Roja,” I got to imagine both Red and La Carambada as both queer and Latina. Writing “Roja” made these stories feel like they belonged to girls like me.
Natalie C. Parker, “The Sweet Trade”
I am a life-long fan of pirate stories, historical and fictional. As a kid, I believed that the only people who became pirates were boys and men. This was certainly what I’d learned from history—Blackbeard and Calico Jack—and definitely what was reflected in fiction—Long John Silver and Captain Hook. When I finally discovered that girls and women were also a part of the historical narrative (Anne Bonny! Madame Cheng!), I immediately wanted to find their reflection in fiction. They are there, but those who land in the adventure tend to find themselves sidetracked to the adventures of boys and are rarely queer in any way.
I wrote “The Sweet Trade” because I wanted to see queer girls choosing adventure and choosing each other. I wanted to explore the origin story of two girls breaking away from the expectations of others and striking out on their own. In that way, it’s sort of a pre-pirate story, the opening gambit in what will surely be a grand adventure.
Nilah Magruder, “And They Don’t Kiss at the End”
It’s all in the title, really. I wrote “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” because I needed a story with no kissing. Romance and sex always made me a little uncomfortable, not just in practice, but in theory. I ran from declarations of love and admiration from friends. I scrunched my face and turned away when the guy got the girl in movies. I thought I was a “late bloomer” when this aversion persisted into adulthood. I kept waiting to meet “the one” to cure my indifference, and they never came. This story is an exploration of asexuality in the 1970’s, at a time when terminology to describe asexuality was still being formed. It was a chance for me to imagine different choices than the ones I made in my youth. Getting to gush about Pride & Prejudice with roller skating as a backdrop was also a plus.
Dahlia Adler, “Molly’s Lips”
I used to fear writing short stories because I didn’t know how to make them feel like a complete story without death. I’ve grown since then, but death is still very much present in “Molly’s Lips”— specifically, that of Kurt Cobain, deceased frontman of my favorite band, Nirvana; the story is set at his big vigil in Seattle on April 10, two days after his body was found. And it isn’t about girls falling in love; they’ve already fallen. It’s about finding the voice, the confidence, the words to share those feelings, and the bravery they were given by someone who had the courage to push back against bigotry in his fandom. It’s also a love story with its own built-in soundtrack; what could be better than that?
Mackenzi Lee, “Burnt Umber”
My family is from the Netherlands–my dad grew up in a Dutch farming community in Iowa, my last name (which is not Lee) is very long and starts with a Van, and I have a fondness for all poetry from Delft. When this anthology invitation came my way, I was about to go to Amsterdam to research a different writing project. While there, my already-existing fascination with Dutch art from the Golden Age became an obsession. I wanted to know all about painting, why these paintings existed, what it took to become a master painter and the commodification surrounding art and masterpieces. Art that, in its day was considered commercial trash is now hanging in galleries people from all over the world visit. It was all a lot of information that had no place in the book about flowers I was researching, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to use it. But when I visited Rembrandt’s studio in Holland, I knew I wanted to write something set in the Dutch art world and this story was a perfect opportunity.
One of my favorite things to do in my writing is take the tropes of historical or genre narratives and give them to queer characters. This story is “draw me like one of your French girls” from Titanic. It’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. It’s the Vincent Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who. But it’s two boys, an artist’s studio, a significant lack of clothing, and a whole lot of awkward teenage crush.
Alex Sanchez, “The Secret Life of the Teenage Boy”
“The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy” takes place in 1969, when I was a teen bursting with romantic yearning. Although I was aware of my attraction toward other boys, I had no positive words to put to those intimate feelings—only negative slurs. People rarely spoke openly or honestly about sex. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. Acting on it was a criminal offense. I didn’t know of any openly gay people. The term “gay” had barely even come into use. In my teenage isolation, I fantasized for hours about a strong handsome young guy who would swoop into my life and carry me away to a place where we could be free to love each other. This story is a reminiscence of what it was like to live in that time and place, yearning for a life and a world that would take years to come.
Kate Scelsa, “The Coven”
Since I started working on my theater company’s adaptation of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” back in 2010, I’ve done a lot of reading about Hemingway and his peers in Paris in the 20’s, and something that’s always fascinated me was Hemingway’s relationship with Gertrude Stein and this whole community of lesbians that he used to hang out with. The vision of Gertrude Stein as a kind of den mother has always appealed to me, so I wanted to give her that role with two young women who were still figuring out who they were to each other. And then of course Hemingway himself needed to make an appearance. And, yes, there are witches.
Tess Sharpe, “The Girl With the Blue Lantern”
I grew up in Gold Rush country, in the shadow of a mountain that has many stories and myths attached to it. I also grew up writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy instead of the contemporary mysteries and thrillers I write now, so being able to create a historical fantasy piece was a special treat.
People still make a living pulling gold from the water and dirt in my childhood county. I’ve panned little flakes and tiny nuggets out of the creek that snakes through our homestead myself. Gold has been a strong motivator for many things throughout our history: war, destruction, greed, murder, exploitation, exploration, colonization.
But in “The Girl with the Blue Lantern,” gold leads us to a very different place: love. A story of escape and acceptance, of gold sprites, and of one very silly dog named Virgil.
Kody Keplinger, “Walking After Midnight”
“Walking After Midnight”is, at it’s core, a love letter to the trope of “two strangers meet and walk around talking all night.” I’m a sucker for stories like Before Sunrise, and I thought it would be fun to explore that sort of narrative between two young queer women. Betsey is an actress who hasn’t quite made the leap from child star to leading lady the way someone like Elizabeth Taylor did. Laura is a waitress at her family’s diner and isn’t sure she’ll ever escape her small town. I loved exploring these girls’ opposing situations, their hopes and fears. And getting to write about Betsey, whom I’d describe as gray-asexual, was a joy. Plus, I mean, I got to use all the things I’ve learned from the You Must Remember This podcast to good use!
Tessa Gratton, “Three Witches”
As a queer “recovering” Catholic and occasionally practicing witch, I’ve for years been aware of the threads of desire that can be found in medieval Catholic writing. Usually it’s desire for heaven or Christ’s touch, especially to the nuns considered to be “married” to Christ, but often this desire surpasses the flesh in queer ways, especially in the writings of the female mystics like St. Teresa of Avila. In “Three Witches” I wanted to explore the desire embedded in the prayers and explorations of medieval nuns, as well as the inherent conflict between desire and purity in the imagery and words associated with the Virgin Mary. The Inquisition was the strongest political force in Spain during the 15th century, hunting predominantly Jewish people and Muslims, but also available to excise anything unwanted from the Church. Including “unnatural” desire.
That’s all to say: I wanted to write a sexy, difficult story about two girls falling in love (and in lust) while grappling with what they’re told they should desire. And I wanted to write about witches.
Sara Farizan, “The End of the World as We Know It”
I know 1999 is a year that should not belong in a historical fiction anthology, but it was almost twenty years ago! I wanted to write a story that took place at the end of the twentieth century and encapsulated some of the hopes and fears people had going into the new century. Ezgi and Katie, two life- long best friends who have a strained relationship, also have their own hopes and fears for the future that come to light on New Year’s Eve while watching MTV’s countdown to midnight. When you think the world might come to an end, and tomorrow might mean the end of civilization as you know it (Y2K, man. What a trip), you have to hold on to the people you care about most, no matter how scary or daunting that may seem.
I love magic. And what’s more magical than finding love in an unexpected place? “The Inferno and the Butterfly” was a story I’ve been dying to tell. I’ve always been fascinated by stage magicians, and though Alfie and Wilhelm might be the assistants, they’re the ones performing the real magic.
You know what’s awesome about capital-R Romance? (And capital-E Erotica?) You don’t need a Valentine’s date to enjoy ’em! Here’s a shopping list of some great Valentine’s Day reads all over the map in terms of length, genre, and rep, and all under five bucks — no reservations, champagne, or chocolate hearts required.
(Trans rep has been noted with a T, for those specifically looking!)
This is one of my favorite under the radar YAs, and one of the earliest queer YAs starring a person of color. (And, while this cover is gorgeous, there’s a different one on the paperback that makes this one a perfect under-the-gaydar choice, too.) It’s a short, lovely book about grieving and finding support and love where you least expect it, and a great choice for those looking for more tentative, newly questioning and discovering representation. (Note that I’ve tagged the book as bisexual, but labels do not appear.)
Ellis only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places.
Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.
This YA about expectations, love, and friendship features bisexual and pansexual rep and releases on April 19! Here’s the scoop on The Weekend Bucket List by Mia Kerick:
High school seniors Cady LaBrie and Cooper Murphy have yet to set one toe out of line—they’ve never stayed out all night or snuck into a movie, never gotten drunk or gone skinny-dipping. But they have each other, forty-eight hours before graduation, and a Weekend Bucket List.
There’s a lot riding on this one weekend, especially since Cady and Cooper have yet to admit, much less resolve, their confounding feelings for one another—feelings that prove even more difficult to discern when genial high school dropout Eli Stanley joins their epic adventure. But as the trio ticks through their bucket list, the questions they face shift toward something new: Must friendship play second fiddle to romance? Or can it be the ultimate prize?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
(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.
Fellow fans of the enemies-to-lovers trope, this one has got to be on your to-read list. The couple is a trans woman and a bi guy, both academics, and the combination science geekery, tons of heat, serious emphasis on the “enemies” part, and the fact that they’re simultaneously clicking really well in an epistolary romance of sorts is just…*happy sigh*
Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…