Where in Science Fiction and Fantasy are the GLBT Characters?
Over at Mythic Scribes, Marc Davies has an essay up looking at the relative absence of GLBT characters in science fiction and fantasy compared to other genres. This post will echo and contrast with the argument and sentiments of that essay.
As a gay man (and as I’ve repeated a few times on this blog), I want characters with a GLBT orientation. And obviously, I’m not alone. There is a demand for a wider array of protagonists and supporting characters, not just GLBT.
So, what is my take on Davies’s essay? I largely agree with him, to an extent. The presence of GLBT characters in science fiction and fantasy is abysmally low. But, I think it is getting better. And I don’t think the situation is as bad as Davies’s argument makes it seem.
On television, I agree with him 100%. Besides Stargate Universe, Battlestar Galactica, Xena, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I cannot think of other science fiction and fantasy series that include GLBT characters. Ditto on movies.
Comics books are increasingly more inclusive. Both Marvel and DC are actively engaged in increasing the diversity of their characters. Have they both faced push back? Yes, but kudos to both companies (and their creative teams) for sticking to a commitment to diversity. Could they do better, yes. And I expect they will do better in the future.
With video games, I’ve read that there is strong homophobia in the gamer community. But those games that actively seek to add GLBT characters and include gay options should be applauded. Games like Dragon Age, Fable, etc. I wish I had more to say on this topic, but I’m not much of a gamer, honestly.
Now, on to books. Davies mentions two relatively recent novels as examples of GLBT inclusion: Iron Council and The Steel Remains. While these two novels have unambiguous gay male protagonists, there are several other novels and short stories that feature GLBT protagonists and secondary characters. And some of them are even decades old.
Finding and reading these works forms the challenge. Tanith Lee’s Tales of the Flat Earth have several bisexual male characters as protagonists. Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed has a gay character and The Left Hand of Darkness speaks for itself. Samuel R. Delaney has numerous GLBT characters peppered throughout his work. And there is Hal Duncan among many others.
Still, I do think there could be more GLBT characters out there. Especially in YA.
Now, I do have some strong disagreements with Davies’s essay. For one thing, his characterization of “gayness” is, unfortunately, stereotyped. Especially given that neither Cutter or Gil fit that stereotype.
This led, to my second major disagreement with his essay. Yes, fantasy is usually inspired by the medieval period in Europe. But fantasy does not have to blindly follow Earth’s history. Like Paul Cornell has said in a few interviews I’ve listened to, adding GLBT characters is the choice of the author not the inspiration.
Personally, I think representation is getting better. But more can and should be done. Perhaps my strongest area of agreement with Davies’s essay is his argument that art, in all forms, should challenge the beliefs and sentiments of the reader. Art entertains, yes, but it also does so much more.
Posted on August 29, 2012, in Books and tagged GLBT characters in SF and Fantasy, GLBT issues in comics, GLBT literature, Marc Davies, Mythic Scribes, Paul Cornell. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.