Happily Ever After is for Everyone
It may surprise some people to learn there is a world of sci-fi romance waiting for them where the characters are not straight and white. Diverse voices in writing continue to expand, but what does that mean for readers who don’t fall under those categories? Why should someone who is straight read something by someone who is gay or lesbian and/or features non-hetero characters?
If your answer is that you think sex between two women is somehow “icky,” remember sex isn’t everything in a relationship. But what is sex, in the context of a romance? It’s the culmination, or beginning, of an emotional relationship between the main characters. The yearning for connection, for relationships, is not very different in straight romance than it is in gay romance. Some of the expression varies, but in ways readers may find refreshing when compared to the mainstream work they’ve consumed for years. And that’s not to say that lesbian romances don’t have sex, that it’s all talking and hand-holding. Lesbian romance exists on a continuum, some are light on the sex, and some have love-making scenes (and lots of them!) that will blow your socks off.
A lesbian relationship doesn’t have one woman who’s “the man” and one who’s “the woman.” As a result, typical gender roles tend to be turned on their heads. You can’t take a straight novel and gay it up by changing the pronouns, at least not convincingly. I’ve heard of authors who have tried, thinking the LGBTQ market might be easier to break into, but such novels don’t succeed. There is a difference between sex scenes that are written for the male gaze, and ones written for lesbian readers. Many lesbians long for their happily ever after. Decades of watching lesbians die off as a result of their “lifestyle choices” in film and television translates to a lot of women starved for the kinds of happy endings that represent who they are. Lesbian romance is a validation that we are not diseased individuals who should either conform to that narrow mainstream ideal or die.
The world is still full of people who, sadly, need a hypothetical future in order to conceive of worlds where women are equal to men, and gays are completely accepted, to the point where they aren’t remarkable in their difference. Sci-fi lends itself nicely to – and is needed for – boundary-busting of this type. It also provides a fantasy space where scenarios can be imagined and dissected, and hopefully learned from. I write lesbian sci-fi romance because I like to imagine strong women dealing with exciting new situations, while exploring the bonds that tie them together.
My novels, Depths of Blue and Heights of Green, feature two strong female characters, both of whom are very different from each other. Torrin Ivanov can be seen as the more feminine of the two, and yet is a badass smuggler who rides a motorcycle. Jak Stowell, who spent much of her life passing as a man, may be more masculine on the surface and yet is much more emotionally sensitive than Torrin. The characters spend both books saving each other and themselves from peril. While one might be in trouble, she isn’t waiting for the other to bail her out, nor is she asking to be bailed out. In Depths, Torrin doesn’t ask Jak to save her from the evil enemy colonel, rather she’s working out how to save herself and Jak happens to turn up at the right time to lend a hand. (Rather forcefully and through the scope of a sniper rifle, as it turns out.)
In Heights, Jak is lost and disoriented as a result of a malfunction in her cybernetic implants, and she tries to make her own way back to civilization. When Torrin finds out about her predicament, she drops everything she’s doing to help find Jak, but Jak never sought her aid. Each woman is capable of standing on her own, she doesn’t need the other, but rather chooses to be with her. These women are able to negotiate true partnerships based upon their own abilities and the trust each has for the other.
That’s what lesbian fiction has to offer. It’s a point of view that is unique to queer fiction. Traditional gender roles built up over centuries are explored and defied when found lacking. What emerges is something altogether different, a subtle, yet profound shift from the so-called norm. If you haven’t tried queer fiction because you think it’s not about you, give it a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you find, and it just may open your eyes.